Transformative Education: Ellery Pullman's Briercrest Journey
Dr. Ellery Pullman talks about how the rigorous and relevant education at Briercrest helps to instill students with Christian maturity and a desire to serve their fellow human beings. Through this transformative experience, our students gain the skills and values needed to succeed in life and impact their communities. Ellery’s view of education is rooted in teaching students to develop Christian maturity focused on Jesus and others rather than individual achievements or status. This helps equip the church to engage with the world by emphasizing the importance of gaining knowledge in a subject and putting it into practice. Furthermore, psychology is not just about studying the mind and behaviour but also understanding ourselves and the world in relation to scripture, which invites a transformational view of education for all involved.
The Value of Education that Disciples
For Ellery, Briercrest's mission statement, "Educating disciples who equip the church and engage the world," speaks to the transformation in students studying at Briercrest. Education that disciples teaches students about a subject and encourages them to put what they learn into practice. Ellery says the goal is" not just to know something but to do something with what you know."
Christian maturity has never been about us anyway. It is certainly not about how awesome we see ourselves as compared to others, how smart we are, how righteous we are, or how holy we are. It is about Jesus. And it is about others. It should never be about us.
To Ellery, psychology is not just about studying the mind and behaviour but also understanding ourselves and the world in light of scripture. He says this invites a transformational view of education that can help equip the church and engage the world.
First, he sees psychology as a process of investigation that is both descriptive and prescriptive. In other words, it's not just about understanding why people think and behave the way they do but also about helping them to change and grow into something different. Second, he sees soul care as a primary point of praxis, or practical application, for psychology. In other words, psychology is about understanding the mind and caring for the soul. Therefore, studying psychology from a Christian perspective enables students to mature and be better equipped to serve others.
Briercrest's ability to provide an education that is both rigorous and relevant is a draw for many students. But for Ellery, it is the community that makes Briercrest special. The opportunity to live in a community with other students and staff, to learn together and grow together, is something Ellery says is invaluable and makes Briercrest unique from other institutions:
We learn to love and serve in numerous ways in the community—we study, pray, fellowship, and break bread together (reminiscent of Acts 1:4 & 5). Mixed in with a whole lot of fun; if you want that, you want Briercrest.
Whether in the classroom, on the court, or around a dining hall table, community is emphasized and experienced at Briercrest. It was in this community that Ellery says helped him to grow and mature as a Christian. And it is this community he now serves as a faculty member and in leadership roles.
Briercrest in a Word: Transformational
The word Ellery would use to describe the education Briercrest offers is transformational.
I am a strong proponent of transformational learning. Transformative learning is most likely to occur when students become personally engaged with the material and perceive the subject matter to be directly relevant to their lives. Understanding the diversity of learning styles and student experiences is key to enhancing this engagement. The process by which I work to stimulate student engagement is unique to each individual and classroom. While students must ultimately take responsibility for their learning, an instructor can inspire their desire to learn. Learning about the students I teach and listening to their experiences has helped me to (re)consider ways of making course material relevant and fostering critical thinking skills. I am passionate about finding the most effective ways of stimulating and sustaining intellectual growth among those who enter my classroom.
At Briercrest, we believe that education is about more than just acquiring knowledge. Our goal is to prepare students for a successful career and a life of purpose and service. Students are challenged academically, spiritually, and socially as part of Briercrest's well-rounded education. Our faculty comprises experts in their field who are passionate about teaching and mentoring students. In addition to traditional classroom instruction, we offer opportunities for students to learn through service learning, mentorship, and community. As a result of our approach, Briercrest graduates are prepared to make a lasting impact in their communities and the world. And as Ellery says, it’s a fun place to be!
Thank you, Ellery, for your insights and for being an important part of the Briercrest community!
More About Ellery Pullman
Dr. Ellery Pullman, Professor of Psychology and acting Department Chair of Psychology, graduated from BRE (Briercrest Bible Institute) in 1976. He has been at Briercrest College and Seminary for 43 years and has served in multiple roles around BCS.
Ellery began his career at Briercrest as a full-time faculty member. While teaching over the years, he also served as Registrar, Assistant Dean of Faculty, Dean of Faculty, Dean of the College, Vice President of Educational Administration, and Vice President of Advancement. Later, he returned to the classroom for several years while also serving as Chair of the Department of General Studies, Director of Athletics, and, more recently, the Executive Vice President. Ellery is currently teaching full-time at the College. He also holds an adjunct faculty status in the Faculty of Educational Administration at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.
His journey to teaching at Briercrest began when Ellery was a student at Briercrest Bible Institute. He says that along with the guidance and mentoring he received from faculty, it was also an "opportunity to learn what it meant to lead as well as being [allowed] to lead as a student [that] helped to shape future decisions." Ellery also had an interest in teaching. He says, "Having been influenced by those who had invested in me gave me a desire to carry that forward in equipping other lives for service." In the same way that Briercrest had equipped and mentored him, Ellery wanted to do the same for others.
Ellery's areas of research include a wide range of interests. For example, he says the role of faculty vitality in higher education is always on his mind. He has asked, "What do we do as higher education institutions to enhance or diminish a sense of vitality among our faculty?" More recently, he has been interested in identity formation in Emerging Adulthood.
We asked Ellery to describe his teaching philosophy and how it impacts his teaching style:
The classroom is both an intellectual and interpersonal arena. Both need to be kept in mind when teaching—seek to maximize the teachable moments that come with the recognition that both those dynamics are present in every classroom encounter. I seek to actualize it by allowing the various aspects of myself, professionally and personally, to synthesize as I take an active role in my students' learning. My students not only see the teacher in me, but they also see the counsellor who is sensitive to the psycho-social-cultural context within which they learn, the researcher who is abreast of the current research and shares a healthy sense of skepticism by the need for scientific explorations, but most of all, I hope they see a person who is simply passionate about what he is doing.