Paul Yoder (right) and Peter Wiens, professors of education at Eastern Mennonite University and University of Nevada, Las Vegas, respectively, are sharing findings from recent research conducted among educators working in Mennonite PreK-12 education in a variety of venues this spring. (Courtesy photos)

Survey reflects deeply-rooted values of Mennonite education

Two researchers have taken the pulse of Mennonite PreK-12 education in the United States. Paul Yoder, a professor in Eastern Mennonite University’s teacher education program, partnered with colleague Peter Wiens, a professor at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to survey nearly 400 teachers from Mennonite Council Schools.

The survey asked educators to reflect on their values and practices as educators, to identify reasons for choosing to work in Mennonite schools, and to evaluate their self-confidence in teaching some of the core tenets of Christian education.

Among the results: Educators in Mennonite schools describe the purpose of Mennonite education as teaching peace and pacifism, social justice, love, restorative justice, and service, among other Anabaptist/Mennonite values.

Words used more frequently when describing Mennonite education feature prominently in this graphic. (Courtesy of Paul Yoder and Peter Wiens)

Further, educators generally feel the context of Mennonite education in which they’ve chosen to work supports them in the goals of building a community with students that shares these values.

Finally, the prioritization of these values reflects a strong and fertile context for the implementation of restorative justice in education, specifically as defined by Kathy Evans and Dorothy Vaandering in the Little Book of Restorative Justice in Education: “Restorative justice in education can be defined as facilitating learning communities that nurture the capacity of people to engage with one another and their environment in a manner that supports and respects the inherent dignity and worth of all.”

Yoder and Wiens reported some of their findings in an article that appeared in a recent issue of The Mennonite focused on restorative justice.* 

In February, they will also report findings at the upcoming Feb. 7-9 Mennnonite Education Conference in a session titled “Igniting Creativity in Teaching: What Research Has To Say.” In April, they will present a paper at the annual conference of the American Education Research Association in San Francisco.  

Both professors were students at Mennonite K-12 and higher education institutions, and bring varied professional education experiences.

Yoder is a graduate of Eastern Mennnonite School and Eastern Mennonite University. He taught in Virginia public schools before finishing his doctorate in curriculum and instruction at the University of Virginia.

Wiens graduated from Eastern Mennonite School and Goshen College. He was a teacher and administrator for more than 13 years at K-12 schools, including Penn View Christian School and schools in Taiwan and Niger. He also earned his PhD in curriculum and instruction from the University of Virginia.

*The issue also included articles by Center for Justice and Peacebuilding graduates Katrina Poplett MA ‘19, available behind a paywall, and by Michelle Jackett MA ‘13, in a web-exclusive posting.