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Research

[1] A STUDY COMPARING GRADUATES’ OF CHRISTIAN AND SECULAR UNIVERSITIES KNOWLEDGE, ABILITY, AND ACTIVITY IN FAITH-LEARNING APPLICATIONS

 by Mark Eckel, Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Crossroads Bible College

This is a summary of an original research study comparing the application of faith-learning integration in teachers’ current classroom setting between graduates of Christian and secular universities.  The ultimate goal was to delineate possible changes in both Christian higher education and K-12 Christian schools toward the practice of faith-learning integration.  

Four research questions inform the outcome variable of a Christian school teacher’s personal practice of faith-learning integration (referred to as Total FLI).  This research asked whether or not the independent variable of a Christian school teacher attending a Christian versus a secular university affected faith-learning integration application in a teacher’s current classroom. 

Research Questions

The following questions were used to guide this study.

Do graduates from Christian universities self-report a greater knowledge of faith-learning integration in their current Christian school teaching situations than graduates from secular universities?  

     1.  Do graduates from Christian universities self-report that they are better equipped to do faith-learning integration in their current Christian school teaching than graduates from secular universities? 

     2.  Do graduates from Christian universities self-report a greater ability to do faith-learning integration in their current Christian school teaching that graduates from secular universities? 

     3.  Do graduates from Christian universities self-report that they are more intentional in their faith-learning integration in their current Christian school teaching that graduates from secular universities?

In short, this study seeks to compare the knowledge, equipping, ability, and intentionality of graduates from Christian and secular institutions and the impact on how these Christian school teachers presently practice faith-learning integration within their Christian school classroom.  

Review of Applicable Literature

The study is based on self-reporting, well established in the literature  (Korniejczuk 1994; Pressnell 1994; Hardin, Sweeney, and Whitworth 1999; Burton and Nwosu 2003; Morris, Smith, and Cejda 2003; Lyon et al. 2005; Lawrence, Burton, and Nwosu 2005).  The individual teacher will tend to be more open about performance when concern for review or retention is not an issue.  Were administrative oversight or comment contained in this study, grave concerns about teacher reliability would have been rightly raised.  Anonymity is best to maintain a more forthright self-report.

A survey was compiled based on Korniejczuk’s work (Korniejczuk 1994).  Although based on a different population, Korniejczuk showed how important teachers’ beliefs could be about their own practices of faith-learning integration.  Since teachers in the classroom are only being evaluated periodically, they have first hand knowledge of their own classroom practices.  Since Christian school teachers in ACSI had previously not been questioned concerning their faith-learning integration beliefs and practices, it was thought best to include their input in research.

The comparison between Christian and secular graduates is the basis for this study.  It is not surprising to discover that those individuals who graduated from a Christian university had more knowledge and were better equipped in faith-learning integration overall, the first two research questions.  If it is in their mission statement, Christian universities tend to emphasize their commitment to faith-learning integration (Dockery and Thornbury 2002; Harris 2004; Litfin 2004; Poe 2004).  Leaders in Christian higher education, however, do note deficiencies in college delivery of faith-learning integration which could give pause to the absolute acceptance of graduate self-reporting of individual performance (Johnson 1983; Nwosu 1998; Harvey and Dowson 2003; Miller 2004).

 So, while graduation from a Christian university may improve the knowledge and equipping of Christian teachers, precedent literature suggests the need for leadership oversight as a mediating variable (Sumsion 1994; Moore 1994; Masterson 1999; Nwosu 1999; Hagan 2003).  Administrative encouragement of the faith-learning integration process was included in this study because current practice of faith-learning integration was the focus.  It was important to separate the impact of the mediating variable from Christian university graduation.  By keeping the independent and mediating variables separate, the research was better organized and more objective.  Further, the passage of time may create a more favorable memory whereas response to an immediate authority may have been more harshly perceived.  As was demonstrated from the research, administrative oversight of faith-learning integration in any school far surpassed the impact of graduation from a Christian or secular university in the life of the Christian school teacher.

The use of multiple regression validated the significant change in predictability gained by adding the mediating variable of administrative oversight toward faith-learning integration.  The mediating variable accounts for 53% of the ability of the model to predict Total FLI scores.  The percentage of change between steps two and three in the multiple regression model also shows the significant change gained in predictability by adding the mediating variable.  The difference between steps two and three, when the mediating variable of administrative support is added to Christian university graduation, accounts for 48.6% variance in the Total FLI score.  While it is clear that graduation from a Christian university retains benefit, the inclusion of administrative support for faith-learning integration is clearly a more important factor.

How school administration provides faith-learning integration oversight may be suggested by the current study.  A shift in the significance of a teacher’s faith-learning integration ability to .03 was noted as a statistical change from the first two research questions at .000.  The fourth research question of faith-learning integration intentionality showed there was no significant difference at .06 between graduates of Christian and secular institutions.  So, current intentional practice of faith-learning integration in the classroom suggests teachers may need ongoing mentorship which is also supported by precedent literature (Nwosu 1999; Sanderson 2002; Evans 2003).           

Research Question 1 Analysis and Interpretation

This research question identified the comparison between graduates of Christian and secular universities in their knowledge of faith-learning integration.  Statistical indications reveal that teachers who matriculated through Christian universities understand the basic idea that the phrase “faith-learning integration” communicates.  Knowledge of potential content changes in classroom delivery due to faith-learning integration was recognized by the Christian university graduates.  Additionally, the results of self-reporting denoted some self-confidence for preparation to train others in subjects from a biblical point of view.

Knowledge of a subject, however, does not necessarily translate into classroom practice.  Current teaching performance is dependent upon a wide array of gifting that must enhance a teacher’s latent skills.  While this research shows that gaining faith-learning integration knowledge at a Christian university may be significant, the content or interpretation of any knowledge may differ between individuals or institutions.  As the literature suggests, then, a continual commitment to and review of theological foundations (Wilhoit 1987) as evidenced in assumptions (Wolterstorff 1975; Wolfe 1987; Clouser 1991; Holmes 2001; Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard 2003) and knowledge (Holmes 2003) is necessary. 

The data validated the need to continue teaching the knowledge of faith-learning integration at the Christian university level in tandem with continuing education after graduation.  The research is in line with precedent literature which suggests that teaching of faith-learning integration be a paramount concern for Christian higher education (Matthews and Gabriel 2001; Chiareli 2002; Holmes 2003).  Knowledge acquisition and retention while teachers are in the classroom continues to be a concern, the foci of leaders in the Christian education field (Nwosu 1998; Van Brummelen 2002; Agee 2004; Ream, Beaty, and Lyon 2004).  Personal acquisition of faith-learning knowledge necessitates a continued commitment to study Scripture and Christian theological thinking (Genesis 1:28; 2 Chronicles 17:7-9; Psalm 111:2; Proverbs 2:1-6; 2 Timothy 1:14; 2:15; 3:14-17).  

Research Question 2 Analysis and Interpretation

This research question identified the comparison between graduates of Christian and secular universities in their having been equipped to do faith-learning integration.  Statistical indications reveal that teachers who matriculated through Christian universities self-reported that they were better prepared to undertake faith-learning integration in the classroom.  Teachers equipped with a Christian higher education background understood Christian thinking toward instructional approaches, feeling prepared to think biblically about their subjects.  Graduates of Christian institutions were practiced in self-reflective and collaborative application of faith-learning integration.  Background knowledge of biblical resources further shaped Christian teachers educated in Christian universities.

This research examined teachers’ self-reporting of their being equipped in classroom faith-learning integration.  Again, it should come as no surprise that a setting dedicated to Christian thinking would produce teachers who would agree that they were equipped to think Christianly about the world.  At the same time, what was accomplished in a university setting must be consistently reinvigorated in the life of the Christian school teacher.  Knowledge discovery should be an ongoing development (Smith 2002).  Processing thought from a Christian point of view must be a continuous enterprise (Holmes 1985).  Equipping in the Old Testament was inaugurated at a certain point (Numbers 7:10; Deuteronomy 20:5; Nehemiah 12:27) involving community action over time (2 Chronicles 7:9), while reinforcing the training time and time again (Deuteronomy 6:7).  Equipping in the New Testament meant present availability for service (1 Corinthians 9:27), readiness for action (Ephesians 6:15), and mental preparation (1 Peter 1:13) based upon maturing growth (Ephesians 4:15-16).

Past preparation is not the end of progress as a Christian teacher.  Precedent literature affirms the necessity of equipping once begun, should be maintained (Van Dyk 1990; Van Brummelen 2002).  Multiple ideas for continuing education while teachers are in the classroom have been suggested.  Self-evaluation is the end result of reflective learning.  Collaborative endeavors between educators give opportunity for cross pollination of ideas.  Mentoring inexperienced teachers is crucial.  Learning from conferencing, discipline specific study groups, and the input from alumni are all considered as constructive educational directives in the literature (Hodges 1987; Fowler 1990; Van Dyk 1990; Stevenson and Young 1995; Willlimon and Naylor 1995; Nwosu 1998; Van Bummelen 2002; Ream, Beaty, and Lyon 2004).

It is understood that while Christian school teachers may be anxious to teach their subjects from a thoroughly biblical viewpoint many are unequipped to do so.  The question becomes how best do Christian school teachers learn their craft?  How well equipped do Christian school teachers believe they are to practice faith-learning integration?  Is it most appropriate to teach content apart from a theological base for any given subject in undergraduate education programs?  And will lifelong learning also apply to Christian school teachers in the Christian understanding of their subject? 

Research Question 3 Analysis and Interpretation

This research question identified the comparison between graduates of Christian and secular universities in their ability to do faith-learning integration.  Statistical indications begin to shift at this point.  While graduates of Christian institutions have a statistically significant advantage over their peers graduating from secular universities, the gap has decreased from .000 to .03 in their ability to do weaving of faith with learning.  Performance of faith-learning integration means active practice.  Faith-learning integration includes monitoring of impact on students from faith-learning integration.  The organization of time and person to accomplish the intersection of Christian belief with subject area of study is also important for the teacher.  Some can feel so overwhelmed by all their responsibilities that there is little energy to think Christianly about a teacher’s class or subject discipline.  Additionally, some of the results of self-reporting denoted a conflict between teachers’ views of their classroom responsibilities versus faith-learning integration.

The data validated the need for synthesis between knowing about and doing faith-learning integration.  In Christian higher education “one discipline (i.e., theoretical) aims primarily at teaching its students to know something, the other (i.e., applied) at teaching them to do something” (Hasker 1992, 239, emphasis his).  Evans argues that commitment to a discipline because it is God-given is just as much Christian education as is the overt conclusion of Christian truth through any given research (Evans 2003, 34-36).  To think as a Christian may inform both knowing and doing with a design toward bringing the two into coherence. 

For K-12 Christian school teachers, the need to bring the practice of their subjects under the authority of Scripture is just as imperative.  The literature claims no dichotomy between secular and sacred insisting upon a Christian unification and intersection of all of life (Schaeffer 1968a, 1968b; Blamires 1978; Green 2002; Claerbaut 2004).  In this regard, Chadwick championed the promotion of continuous training for the Christian school teacher (Chadwick 1982, 1983, 1990).  Consistent facilitation of skills in classroom practice of faith-learning integration mirrors the New Testament teaching of learning to think and live from a Christ-centered perspective (Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 1:28-2:8; 1 Timothy 4:15-16).  Using personal teaching gifts (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12; 1 Peter 4:11, 12) points toward the abilities of a teacher committed to faith-learning integration in the Christian school classroom. 

Research Question 4 Analysis and Interpretation

This research question identified the comparison between graduates of Christian and secular universities as it relates to their intentionality in their faith-learning integration.  What had been a significant difference (.000) in the first two research questions between Christian and secular university graduates, diminished in the third research question (.03), becoming no different in question four (.06).  Christian university graduates did have a higher average than the graduates of secular institutions but this was not statistically different. 

Administrative encouragement was the most important ingredient for faith-learning integration in classroom practice.  Graduates of both Christian and secular universities were intentional in faith-learning integration.  Implementation of faith-learning integration based on student feedback was practiced mutually with the two sets of graduates.  The purview of both institutional backgrounds was dedication to and deliberate planning for faith-learning integration.  Desire for improvement, coordination with other faculty, and communication with others about the benefits of faith-learning integration were also equally accepted.

Precedent literature points toward the necessity of an intentional aim in faith-learning integration.  The practice of internalized ideas is the best integration process (Matthews and Gabriel 2001).  Teachers whose objectives focus on faith-learning integration engage student interaction through variant methodologies (Nwosu and Burton 2002; Lawrence, Burton, and Nwosu 2005).  Writing assignments using activities promoting integration are key (Gustafson, Karns, and Surdy 2000).  Affective student integration, worldview comparison, and discovery learning are all tools demonstrating intentionality of instruction bearing the marks of faith-learning integration (Holmes 1994; Knowlton 2002; Harris 2004).  Self-evaluation ultimately internalizes what has been learned toward faith-learning integration objectives in the classroom (Knowlton 2002).  In the end, the reclaiming of the wholeness of all things should be the Christian’s focus in any educational endeavor (Proverbs 4; Micah 6:8; Romans 8:5-9; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Titus 2:1-10). 

Total FLI and the Mediating Variable: Analysis and Interpretation

The mediating variable probed whether or not teachers received administrative support for their practice of faith-learning integration.  Assistance in the process necessarily includes training, an objective delivery of teaching.  Time for planning and provision of resources is also crucial aid.  Affective encouragement whether verbal or otherwise builds up the interiority of an individual’s commitment.  Review of the process through lesson plan review by school principals, for instance, shows the teacher that faith-learning integration is truly important to administration, and thus should be important to the teacher in the classroom.  The institutional leadership as a whole needs to deliver provisions confirming their backing for faith-learning integration throughout the school. 

Using a three-step multiple regression model, the study revealed an increased variance in the Total FLI scores at each step of the mediating variable.  Step one included baseline demographic data, accounting for 13% of the variance in Total FLI.  Step two, indicating graduation from a Christian university, accounted for 14.6% variance from the Total FLI score.  This produced a 1.6% change between the first and second step.  The percent change itself is significant p = .012 showing that graduation from a Christian university lends significant knowledge toward the prediction of Total FLI scores.  But in step three, where the mediating variable of administrative support was introduced, the percent variance accounted for the Total FLI score jumped to 48.6%.  The percent change between steps two and three when the mediating variable was added was significant at .000.   Multiple regression displayed that school leadership in faith-learning integration was the largest influence in predicting Total FLI scores.          

The data validated the need for faith-learning integration training at both the Christian collegiate level and continuing education in current classroom environments.  In line with precedent literature, biblical thinking should be an established objective of student outcomes in Christian higher education (Nelson 1987; Wolfe 1987; Hasker 1992; Heie 1998; Green 2002; Braley 2003; Evans 2003).  The necessity of continued educational support in current classroom practice by school leadership has also been expressed (Gaebelein 1954; Gangel 1988; Korniejczuk 1994; Hood and Simpson 1998; Knight 1998; Hagan 2003).  Personal commitment to faith-learning integration necessitates accountability outside oneself encouraged by relationship with an administrative, shepherding leader (Acts 20:28-31; 1 Peter 5:1-4). 

A paradigm shift is necessary but unattainable apart from understanding the difference between Christian educating and Christian education.  With a long history in Christian school education, Hull argues that if Christian school teachers hear rhetoric incompatible with daily classroom challenges, they will always allow the former to slide when pressed by the latter (Hull 2003, 215).  Only transformation of “deep structural changes” including pedagogy and curriculum can remedy the lack of commitment to faith-learning encouragements (Hull 2003, 216).  “Status quo” in daily school activity will always inhibit innovation (Hull 2003, 216).  Hull’s conclusion assails the problem of Christian theology having little or no connection to educational theory.  When theological intention fails to intersect educational consequence little is left but “God talk” (Hull 2003, 222-23). 

Summary of Research Implications

The principal aim of this study was to explore the classroom practice of faith-learning integration between graduates of Christian and secular higher education institutions.  Christian schools are dependent upon Christian teachers who will teach from a Christian point of view.  Theological education founded within a coherent Christian framework produces teachers committed to continual, intentional, interdisciplinary Christian studies.  Based on the precedent literature and preceding research in the analysis and interpretation sections, a summary of the major implications is discussed.

Need for Theological Training for Educators

Everything from educational foundations to classroom methodologies must be considered theologically if knowledge in Christian education is to be understood Christianly.  People grow sustained by the roots of their core belief.  For the Christian, there should be commitment to a biblical way of life: Scripture is the foundation and permeation of all things.  The God who has spoken through the written Word has also communicated through The Living Word, Jesus.  Jesus’ coming in flesh sets the standard for incarnational theology.  In the same way, the Christian school teacher becomes the living curriculum.  Having reconciled everything under heaven to Himself, the vocational commitment of Christian school education mirrors Jesus’ accomplishment: seeking the redemption of all subject disciplines and their application throughout the whole world, through Christian lives.  In essence, the craft of Christian teaching is training the next generation in the Christian way (Acts 9:2; 19:8, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22).

 Since the Heavenly authority has transformed Christian thinking, the believer must then question so-called authorities in the culture.  Educational paradigms in general should be biblically evaluated.  Christian school administrators or teachers who read the latest research from non-Christians on curriculum, management, learning styles, psychology, assessment, classroom management, as well as a plethora of other educational interests must invest time to question theological, philosophical assumptions and arguments.  A biblical mind-grid must be in place that filters truth from error.  Evaluation of the data in such a way will point out possible disjunctions between Christian and non-Christian schooling then making it possible to address, align, or correct the differences (Henry and Beaty 2006; Craig and Gould 2007).

Need for Coherence Studies

In essence, faith-learning integration is a study and application of coherence: all things held together by Christ (Colossians 1:17).  There is no dichotomy, no bifurcation of “spiritual,” “physical,” “social,” “emotional,” or “intellectual.”  The Greek concept of segmentation goes against the Hebraic concept of wholeness, completion, fulfillment in shalom.  Instead of separating aspects of life into pieces, the responsibility in the Christian academic community is to restore all things because of Jesus’ reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Colossians 1:15-20).  Equipping future teachers in Christian schools to think about the whole world and all of life in a comprehensive manner will prompt the next generation of K-12 Christian school students.  Integration must necessarily include all disciplines (Worthington 1994; Mannoia 2000).  Interdisciplinary studies are the end result of a Christian holistic view of life (Maatman 1978; Lewis and Demarest 1987; Dennison 2007). 

Continuing Christian Education Instruction

If, as the research shows, just as much if not more training takes place after graduation, how much more should Christian schools focus their teacher training on faith-learning integration while teachers are in the classroom?  One’s ability to practice the craft of Christian school instruction would be greatly helped by ongoing, consistent teacher development (Fowler 1990; Coe 1994; Wuelfing 2002; Mathisen 2003; Agee 2004).  Truth should be the uniform of our lifestyle.  While “it is not good to have zeal without knowledge” (Proverbs 19:2) it is also wrong to be out of “step with The Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).  Consistency happens when knowledge and practice become one.

Importance of Instructional Intentionality

Knowledge means little if not linked to practice as is indicated by the lack of difference in intentionality between Christian and secular university graduates.  Learning how one teaches all things from a biblical point of view is the cornerstone of what it means to teach in a Christian school (Korniejczuk and Kijai 1994; Burton and Nwosu 2003).  Comprehensive Christian curriculum developed by Christian school teachers may be the first objective step toward instructional intentionality (National Union of Christian Schools 1953; Van Til 1971; North 1976; Chadwick 1990; Van Brummelen 2002; Graham 2003).  But it is the age-old adage “People do what is inspected, not what is expected” that holds the key for maintaining institutional aim.  Oversight and accountability are key ingredients for thinking, living, and teaching as a Christian (2 Corinthians 8:16-24; 1 Timothy 4:15-16; 2 Timothy 2:2).

Need for Christian Leadership Training

Since the mediating variable of administrative encouragement caused the largest shift in the Total FLI score for teachers, it stands to reason that the most important future factor in Christian schooling is the theological training of school boards and principals.  Imitating positive role models has ancient roots with philosophers, rabbis, and teachers.  But Scripture takes it another step as Timothy the modeler becomes the model for others (1 Corinthians 4:17). Paul was not asking the Corinthians to practice anything different from what was done elsewhere “everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 7:17; 11:16; 14:33, 36). The Corinthian believers were to become what the Thessalonians had already become—the developmental model which was now the model for others (1 Thessalonians 1:6-10).  Leaving a pattern, something to be copied and followed, is the essence of being a leader whom people desire to model (2 Corinthians 12:18; Titus 2:7; 1 Peter 2:21; 5:3).   Ultimately, personal authority is directly tied to being a role model (Hebrews 13:7; 3 John 11).

Research Applications

The need for immediate application in Christian higher education programs, national Christian school leadership, administrative encouragement, and classroom practices of faith-learning integration in the classroom could not be greater.  Loss of distinctiveness in Christian schooling is a direct result of paucity in faith-learning integration instruction in the classroom. 

Christian Higher Education Applications

The Christian mindset commitment to faith-learning integration as a whole has been questioned and addressed by leading higher education Christian leaders (Noll 1994; Plantinga 2001).  Four years of college education suggests that time is important in the formation of an individual’s mindset.  The necessity for the Christian university, then, is the infusion of interdisciplinary theological training over that span to train students to think differently than their university counterparts.  A Christian worldview grid is the structure of thought, through which all other thoughts pass.  The integration of biblical truth with all of life and learning is a crucial outcome for any person matriculating into the Christian school movement.

Christian College Commitment

Some Christian universities are making more specific forays into directed faith- learning categories (Mannoia 2000; Dockery 2002; Litfin 2004).  Definition is crucial as constructs and models are built (Holmes 1999; Harris 2004).  Intentional practice within and across departments demonstrates commitment (Heie 1998; Claerbaut 2004).  Some have sounded the alarm of concern that Christian universities have lost their clear Christian mission (Burtchaell 1998; Benne 2001; Miller 2004; Kennedy and Simon 2005).  But there is hope that the wedding of faith with learning is being reconstituted throughout Christian universities (Migliazzo 2002a; Ringenburg 2006).  Leaders—boards, administration, faculty—all bear responsibility to consistently recommit themselves to a school mission driven by Christian thinking (Schwen 2002; Sanderson 2002; Evans 2003).  “Many students attend Christian institutions because they are interested in an educational model which integrates faith and learning . . . Thus, the leaders . . . need to stay focused on their uniqueness and their mission to integrate faith and learning” (Morris, Smith and Cejda 2003, 348-49).  Without biblical clarity in collegiate vision one is left to ask with Covenant College “Where is the salt?” (Covenant College 1997).

Christian College Faculty

Key to the conscious construction of a faith-learning mindset at the Christian collegiate level is the faculty (Walsh and Middleton 1984; Agee 2004; Lockerbie 2005).  More and more Christian university faculty members are writing on the necessity but more importantly the processes of faith-learning integration for classroom instruction (Harris 2004; Poe 2004; Cosgrove 2006; Craig and Gould 2007; Dockery 2007).  Others are putting forward evaluation criteria to provide accountability between colleagues (Coe 1994; Mathisen 2003; Lawrence, Burton, and Nwosu 2005).  But as is the case with every facet of faith-learning integration, it is the internalization of biblical principles informing daily practice which alters faculty instruction (Matthews and Gabriel 2001).

Teacher Education Programs

Hardin cites that while faculty members believe that development of a strong religious faith is important for future teachers, few programs exist to encourage it (Hardin 1999). 

Kemp’s study suggests that Christian teacher education programs need to focus on intentionality if they hope to shape “explicit connections to the enhancement of student learning” (Kemp et al. 2002, 6).  Creating a procedure whereby faith-learning integration can be nurtured includes development of processes, skills and study groups, teachers should be able to “pass on their faith to the students” viewing professional development as discipleship (Nwosu 1998, 9, 23, 25). 

Burton and Nwoso suggest that students’ perception of the connection between the supernatural and natural worlds encourage certain types of learning experiences that prompt students’ active participation in faith-learning integration (Burton and Nwoso 2002).  How students perceive the work of the instructor in the faith-learning process is a marker of success (Lawrence et al. 2005).  If the student only sees the teacher doing the faith-learning integration themselves, the contention is that the student may be seeing only “integration of faith and teaching” instead of learning taking place (Lawrence et al 2005, 47, emphasis theirs).  “Unless teacher educators are prepared to reconceptualize their roles and expectations, there is little likelihood that pre-service programs will lead to development of autonomous, empowered, and reflective student teachers able to cope with the complexities of teaching” (Sumsion 1994, 1). 

National Christian School Leadership Applications

What is true for Christian higher education is also true for K-12 Christian schools: faith-learning integration must be practiced in order for the institution to be distinctive.  Commitment to biblical thinking and teaching should be defined, exercised, and evaluated.  Formal discipline specific and interdisciplinary approaches must be developed.  Self-study for accreditation must identify faith-learning integration as the core of a school’s ethos, working itself out through every academic, administrative interaction.  The role of Christian undergraduate programs must include the establishment of programs that will equip teachers for faith-learning integration in the Christian school.  The future of the Christian school movement depends upon the readiness of Christian school teachers to practice faith-learning integration whether they have graduated from Christian or secular universities.

Core Commitment to FLI

Nwosu contends that in her experiences attending faith-learning conferences “there was no provision made for practicing and internalizing what they learned” where she concluded “without practice and internalization, transfer does not happen” (Nwosu 1998, 8).  National, regional, and local meetings for Christian school administration and teachers must recapture the center of why Christian schools exist.   

Administrative Training

Leaders in faith and learning education are seen as crucial at every level.  The person of the leader is biblically understood to have been internally transformed (Romans 8; Galatians 5).  In order for Christian thinking to be prompted in the classroom oversight, administration must be given to the process by a Spirit-led believer in Jesus as Lord of all creation.  For the future development of K-12 faith-learning programs, national efforts to train Christian school administrators must be accelerated.  Academic leadership is responsible to fulfill school mission by encouraging believing educators to become transformed persons who will practice faith-learning integration in their classrooms.

Scripture is clear that accountability is expected of everyone within The Body.  Instructions to Christians go both ways: leaders to people, people to leaders (1 Timothy 5:17-22).  Those in authority are to be respected (1 Thessalonians 5:11-12; Hebrews 13:17) but must be held to account as much as anyone else (Ephesians 5:21).  While administration and faculty each have various roles to play (Ephesians 4; 1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; 1 Peter 4), all are accountable to each other (2 Corinthians 8:16-24).  Administration, just as much as faculty, should be evaluated in a 360 degree review of the institution.

Faculty Hiring

The distinctiveness of Christian education is largely dependent upon professors and curriculum which are intentionally Christian in nature.  Teachers, then, are the catalysts that create the opportunity to develop student mindsets which are Christian.  Because Christian school teachers are so important in developing the philosophical thought process it is incumbent upon the Christian school movement to assess how best to educate those teachers so that they in turn teach Christianly.  Furthermore, a general rubric should be developed by each school based on their mission statement identifying what they prioritize as marks of a Christian teacher.  A teacher vocational description should be written.  A series of essays and interview questions could be attached to applications being proactive in teacher assessment prior to interviews.  Personal interviews could then assess the verbal communication skills of FLI from each candidate.  Ultimately, there would be a theological expectation for all faculty members on which they would build their integrative grid for interpreting their subject of study. 

Classroom Practice Applications

If institutional mission, administrative oversight, and faculty readiness are all important, so too are the everyday practices of faith-learning integration in the classroom.  Theological cohesiveness unifies all things in God’s creation as should the paradigms for both content and communication of all things academic in the Christian school.  Curricular philosophy would then grow from the soil of doctrinal integrity.  Purposeful guidelines for faith-learning integration could then be established.  Departmental directives would drive a subject’s consistency and sequence in faith-learning integration

Interdisciplinary interaction would be the result of a comprehensive Christian curriculum:  horizontal interaction between content areas and vertical interaction between grade levels would synthesize the faith-learning integration process.  Lesson planning would be the natural result of teachers discovering biblical principles within their subjects.  Grade level adaptation would create assignments, discussion starter questions, everything through to exams so that student practice of faith-learning integration may be developed.  The end result of thinking and teaching would be applying and living faith-learning integrative lessons through the lives of pupils in the classroom. 

Research Limitations and Directions for Future Research

The intended scope of this study has inherent limitations.  Care should be taken to interpret properly the data for the current study as it relates to Christian school teachers.  One obvious limitation is that Christian school administrators were not included as part of the research population.  While the mediating variable concerns itself with administrative encouragement of faith-learning integration, it was deemed best to exclude administrative input.  Within the scope of work relations, it would be difficult to gain honesty from respondents in the classroom if they knew that their administrators would be involved in the research.  To this point, the data gained from a teacher survey would have become useless with less than forthright self-reports skewed by the perception that leadership would be cognizant of instructor responses.

The unique philosophy of Christian school education poses another clear limitation.  There can be no application to the educational public sector.  The disconnect between public and Christian schooling may be obvious.  What is of greater concern is the unfortunate incongruity within Christian higher education K-12 programs that claim a Christian distinctiveness while training students for public schools.  Certainly the issue is not that such programs exist but that so few programs exist to train Christian school teachers for Christian schooling.  What better place than a Christian institution to train Christian educators?  So while education programs train Christians for education under the auspices of faith-learning paradigms, public educational systems do not necessarily allow sectarian influences in public schools, rendering any faith-learning models for Christian institutions of higher learning difficult to practice when their students go to teach in the public sector.

Finally, the implications of this study should possibly be limited to ACSI schools and their higher education partners alone.  Christian Schools International (CSI), for instance, has a storied American heritage of well over a century in the wedding of faith with learning.  Places like Dordt and Calvin, CSI oriented colleges, have strong faith-learning emphases with more direct connections to CSI K-12 schools.  ACSI schools, on the other hand, do not depend on denominational directions for their teaching staffs, hiring, instead, from a wide variety of bachelor’s programs.  The Association of Classical Christian Schools (ACCS) has a much more narrow curricular and theological focus which necessarily limits their teacher hires.  Since ACSI schools hire their teachers from a broader educational spectrum, to expect a one-for-one correspondence to other associations or groups should not be expected. 

The following foci could be possible thematic ideas providing contributions to the field of Christian school education as it relates to the implementation of faith-learning integration. 

     1.  How do administrators directly affect the implementation of faith-learning integration for the classroom teacher?  A study using surveys combined with interviews could be conducted to assess the importance, benefit, or commitment to the process of faith-learning integration training by leadership directives.  Cross-validation of these studies could be implemented between various administrators, their leadership style, and the training that each administrator may have had specific to the implementation of faith-learning integration. 

     2.  What is the potential impact of establishing a “director of faith and learning” for any given school given the on-site tutelage of faith-learning integration that such a person may bring to each individual Christian school teacher on the premises? 

     3.  A study could be conducted assessing ACSI Christian school teachers’ implementation of faith-learning integration based on an evaluation tool that would judge their competency in faith-learning integration. 

     4.  Previous research has been conducted assessing the implementation of faith-learning integration in the Christian university classroom by the students in those schools (Pressness, 1994).  A new study which interviews students from ACSI Christian schools could assess faith-learning integration implementation by ACSI schools and their teachers.

Further Demographic Research

Additional research designs that could or need to be explored as a result of the current study might include:

1.     Personal, theological positions may impact faith-learning integration in the classroom.

2.     Church attendance—whether that is in terms of personal commitment to a local body or denominational choice—could have an impact on a teacher’s faith-learning integration capabilities. 

3.     A comparison could be made between the ongoing efforts of faith-learning integration in the Seventh Day Adventist movement and the leadership of ACSI.

4.     How would Christian Schools International (CSI) teachers respond to this faith-learning integration survey?

5.     How would K-5 teachers respond to this faith-learning integration survey?

The current design could be modified to enhance replication by using any of the above mentioned additions to research design as continuous variables. 

Summary of Conclusions

Central to this research is the Christian intersection and unification of all things: the reason for the hyphen in faith-learning integration.  Coherence should mark the life of the believer as much as it defines Christian thinking.  Neither bifurcation of life nor dichotomy of thinking should create the artificial distinctions of “sacred” and “secular.”  Individuals and institutions should adhere to the unity true of Josiah, “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength“ (2 Kings 23:25).  Fulfilled in Christ, “In him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).  Teachers in Christian schools, more than anyone else, should bear both the joy and responsibility of thinking Christianly about every subject of study.  As the data showed, Christian training may begin in undergraduate studies but should continue, lifelong. 

An excellent example of thinking and teaching as a Christian marked the life of Jonathan Edwards.  Like many pastors of his day, Jonathan Edwards had a coherent, unified Christian view of life, the liberal arts and theology understood together: “Edwards was determined to know everything and how it all fit together in God’s universe” (Marsden 2003, 62).  Studying the natural sciences, Edwards’ “corollaries”—statements of Christian understanding within the scope of his studies—seem to be appropriating overarching themes set forth in Scripture that seek the harmony of all creation; perhaps the initiation of American faith-learning integration. 

Edwards believed that he could develop a unified account of all knowledge, but it could not be discovered by experience and reason alone.  God might speak in all of nature and in all of life, but the only place where one could find the key to unlock the whole system was in Scripture.  All knowledge must begin there.  Scripture was not just a source of information but the necessary guide to a radical life-changing perspective. . . . The starting point for unraveling the mysteries of the universe must be the shattering revelation of one’s total inadequacy and a recognition of God’s love in Jesus Christ.  One who was so changed could then experience how all creation was one harmonious hymn of praise to the glories of the Creator and the mercies of Christ.  Without the grace that gave sinful and rebellious people ears to hear, they would never hear the sublime Christ-like choruses or see how the particular notes of reality all fit together. (Marsden 2003, 81)

In order for Edwards to be confident handling God’s Truth, he first had to humble himself before The God of Truth: a key discipline for investigating truth in God’s world (Marsden 2003, 373).  The presuppositions, definitions, processes, and outcomes of faith-learning integration seem consistent for any era: the core of coherence found in the second person of the Trinity, Jesus (Colossians 1:15-17).

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Dr. Eckel is the Dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies and Professor of Old Testament at Crossroads Bible College, Indianapolis, Indiana.  His website is warpandwoof.org.

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