Mary Dirksen

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)


Graduate Education


Christian educators have a unique calling to equip their students to become active disciples of Jesus Christ. In 2001, the staff of Unity Christian High School was challenged to examine its teaching practices in this light. After a review of the current literature, two goals were adopted: (1) to provide greater opportunities for students to “unwrap their gifts” and (2) to broaden the use of authentic assessment. The staff began by amending the graduation requirements of the 2002 graduating class. Second semester exams were no longer to be administered to the seniors, and students were required to make contributions to portfolios. As an alternative closure experience, seniors were required to write reflection papers and to plan and perform a presentation. The purpose was to provide an opportunity for students to reflect upon their years of Christian education, to tell their stories and to share their gifts, burdens and joys. From this “experiment”, a research question soon emerged: Which closure experience is more meaningful for Unity students: senior examinations or senior projects?

Both the anecdotal evidence and the survey results indicate that the graduating class of 2002 was far more engaged in its work at Unity during the final weeks of school than the students of 2001 who completed senior examinations. The senior reflection papers resound with a positive reception of this process. Alumni surveys 15 months after graduation further indicate strong approval for the alternative culminating activity.

Other stakeholders in this process (teachers, board members, parents and supporters) have less formally voiced their support. Even though Unity is now in its third year of the new program, more development is necessary. The goal remains the same: for the senior project to evolve into the “Capstone of the K-12 Christian Education Experience.”


Action Research Report Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Education