Group of students

Isaac Calvert, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, accompanied six BYU students to the International Network of Philosophers of Education in Copenhagen, Denmark. There, the students presented an in-depth textual analysis of several sacred writings, including Sikhism’s Guru Granth Sahib, Buddhism’s Nidana Katha, Hinduism’s Bhagavad Gita, Daoism’s Dao De Jing, and Confucianism’s Analects of Confucius. (One student presented on a separate topic at the convention.) Their analysis searched for themes about the sacred nature of teaching and learning within these religious texts.

The six BYU women found commonalities between each of these religious texts that support an idea expressed by Boyd K. Packer: “If you were to ask, ‘What did Jesus have as an occupation?’ There is only one answer: He was a teacher. It is He who should be our ideal. It is He who is the master teacher.” Not only can educators learn to be better teachers from our Savior, we can also strive to learn from the sacred works of other faiths. Those texts, as well, support the idea that teaching is sacred.

One of the biggest shared ideas from several of these texts also occurs in Matthew 7:7–8: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” Buddhism teaches that it is the responsibility of the learner to seek education. In the Analects of Confucianism, students must desire to learn and be willing to put in the effort. Hinduism emphasizes that sincere desire and devotion are prerequisites to learning. Each of these texts has a similar message: a student must have a desire to learn, or they cannot be taught.

Calvert is exceptionally proud of the accomplishments in Denmark of Jessica Ashcraft, Anna Moon. Ariahna Groesbeck, Alissa Christensen, Avery Barnes, and Christina Sikich. These are undergraduate students who wrote an application for a conference that only accepted doctoral students or faculty.” He says, “There were no undergraduates, because the people who read the papers thought they were graduate students.”

The students were simultaneously completing their undergraduate programs and doing practicum (teaching elementary school), all while researching and preparing for the conference—conference at which they (technically) weren’t permitted to present. “It was amazing to do something I had never thought possible for me to do,” says presenter Alissa Christensen.

Calvert says his students’ presentation reaffirmed not only the sacred nature of teaching, but also that “there are, in our tradition and traditions around the world, sacred ways of teaching and learning. Like methods of how to go about [teaching] that are sanctioned by God. And they’re accompanied by promises that can fundamentally alter the way you learn. Not just how efficacious your learning is, but how eternally durable your learning is, and how transformative your learning is.”

Presenter Jessica Ashcraft says edified teaching and learning builds the courage to continually improve: “I hope that other educators would learn from our research that exploring unfamiliar traditions is not scary or risky, but incredibly valuable.”

Writer: Felicity Kohler

Contact: Michael Leonard