Anthony Stockton Dr. Hayes CED 2020 21 Oct. 2012 Toward a Philosophy of Christian Education Christian education is one of the most important things an individual can participate in throughout their lifetime. It is a lifelong process, beginning when we reach an age of awareness and ability to learn, and does not end until we reach our physical deaths. This is an ever-evolving progression that changes over the course of a person’s life.
People have the capability to constantly grow in spiritual maturity, and it is imperative as teachers and educators to aid students in perceiving, accepting, and fulfilling the Gospel. Jesus provided the Great Commission to make disciples until the day of his return. This is something we must consider carefully and intentionally. As Christian educators, we have the responsibility of first making disciples of Christ, and secondly to prepare them for their participation in our culture and society with God’s word at the center of all they do.
Educators should have a desire for others to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. People must learn how they can know God and follow him in their daily lives. “We . . . need to be clear on our purpose and creative in our design of educational strategies and use of methods that promote the knowledge of God and a growing relationship with Him” (Anthony 25). Every faucet of the purposes and goals of Christian education should be Christ-centered and biblical.
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According to Michael Anthony’s book, Christian Education, “the philosophical foundations of Christian education are derived from systematic theology, which in turn emerges from biblical theology” (26). A correct observation and high view of the Bible, as well as thinking and teaching according to Christ’s view of Scripture, is the Christian educator’s ultimate frame of reference. There has to be an awareness of the indispensable theological keystone of the faith for this education to be successful. In the Bible, Jesus says, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17. 7). Therefore, teaching with the groundwork of God’s word is teaching the truth; the Bible tells Christians how to live in this world and gives His people morals to stand by and believe. An educational philosophy that is biblically informed provides stability in the midst of the never-ending changes in our society. “The only constants in our world are God and Scripture. The Lord of the church is the Lord of theology and philosophy” (Anthony 34). Educators need to use theology and the Bible as the foundation for moving toward any philosophy in their Christian education.
The purpose of my first education program is to lead people in worship of our Lord and Savior through music, which evokes their feelings and emotions as they celebrate His greatness, unconditional love, and presence in their lives. The goals for worship are for individuals to feel free to express their love of Christ and thankfulness for His mercy, grace, and eternal salvation during Sunday morning services. They will learn the powerful words to these songs, and will then be able to feel the truthfulness in them, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
When people worship and celebrate God, those feelings are released, which then leads to them wanting to grow even closer in their relationship with Him; one goal from this experience is for them to bring others to church, becoming witnesses and bringing people who don’t know Christ to services, thus fulfilling the Great Commission. By singing songs with words that come from the Bible, they will become familiar with verses that are God-breathed, making it a strong foundation for Christian education.
The purpose of my second education program, leading small group meetings for adults, is to create a safe environment and atmosphere, where students are surrounded by not only their peers, but friends, which allows for a positive setting to learn. The goals are to educate people regarding the Bible and God, so they will know Him more intimately; they will feel the acceptance of others, and in this emotional climate, be able to openly ask questions they have regarding Christianity that they might not feel comfortable doing in a larger group, or among people outside their age range.
They will be able to both know and feel the non-judgmental attitude of the group itself, as they get to know one another more as well. Also, just as with Worship, they will want to bring others to these meetings to experience it and become more involved. Through the use of biblical materials, this program and philosophy also has a solid foundation for education. To best educate people and implement these purposes and goals I have stated, it is vital to understand how individuals learn and grow in Christian faith. At the foundation of Christian education is iblical studies and theology, but it also seeks to integrate them with knowledge that is gleaned from the social sciences of education, sociology, and psychology (Anthony 13). By utilizing various teaching strategies that encompass learning theory systems, such as cognitive, humanistic, and behavioral, teaching objectives can be created. These explain what the educator wants the students themselves to think, to feel, and to do; however, there needs to be a personal relationship with God, as the Holy Spirit helps one to grow in the image of Christ.
When studying the social sciences of education, there is an emphasis on development; humans grow, mature, and develop in varying ways throughout their life ps. In an excerpt from Anthony’s book, “cognitive development refers to the orderly changes that occur in the way people understand and cope with their world. Cognitive theorists are concerned with how we know, that is, with how we obtain, process, and use information” (68).
Jean Piaget first proposed the design of this type of growth, and maintained that there are four major periods, each age-related, of cognitive development: sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operations, and formal operations. By knowing these stages in cognitive development, one can apply the concepts in teaching. The educator must focus on what the person at each stage can do, as well as avoid what they can’t understand. They need to be intentional and effective in comprehending and meeting learners’ needs. Moral development is also an important issue that Christian educators need to understand.
Bonnidell Clouse noted four general approaches to this type of development: psychoanalytical, learning/conditioning, cognitive/moral reasoning, and moral potential (Anthony 73). The psychoanalytical approach was advocated by Sigmund Freud, and describes development that occurs due to psychological conflict between the ego, superego, and id, where morality results from conflict; B. F. Skinner supported the approach of conditioning, where development occurs due to the individual being exposed to external stimuli and subsequently conditioned with a behavioral response to a given situation, and morality results from action.
The cognitive/moral reasoning approach that Jean Piaget proposed is a process that accompanies cognitive/intellectual development, where “higher” levels of authority make moral decisions, concluding that morality results from knowledge; the fourth and last approach of moral potential was campaigned by Carl Rogers, where development of morals is innate to humanity and is progressed through the process of self-actualization as needs, basic and advanced, are fulfilled, and morality results from potential. These four approaches to moral development are based on the scientific perspective.
Though Christian educators have both praised and ridiculed these theories, one of the basic criticisms is that the definition of morality is simple, narrow, and solitary. “Christian educators have often turned to Scripture and theology to supply the foundation for understanding moral development. Dennis Dirks notes the development framework presented in the metaphor of moral growth throughout the New Testament, as well as the concepts of internalization of values and moral transformation” (Anthony 78).
Donald Joy describes moral development’s path as a pilgrimage, and believes it must have insights from theology, not just the social sciences, in order to provide a comprehensive view of the process. Since Christian educators have incorporated both the theorists’ approaches, as well as the theological ideals, their concept of moral development is more comprehensive. “It must include reasons, actions, and characters that require knowledge, behavior, virtues, and principles” (Anthony 81). Faith development is another issue for Christian educators to take into consideration.
James W. Fowler is the founder of this theory, devoting his time to studying the nature of faith and its development. In order to understand his theory, it is necessary to realize that his primary conceptualization of faith is generic; he assumes that all human beings have some form of faith that proceeds through a rather predictable process of development (Anthony 83). According to Michael Anthony, “in faith development, a distinction is made between beliefs and faith. Beliefs are significant means by which faith is expressed.
But faith is much deeper and includes both conscious and unconscious motivations” (83). Fowler defines faith in terms of loyalty and trust, such as devotion to ideas or persons that have worth to us (“centers of value”), loyalty to power centers in life that give a sense of security, and devotion to a “master story” that gives direction and hope in life (84). The calling of God upon believers is emphasized in relating the development of faith to Christianity, where vocation is the response a person makes.
The image of God is placed within each person, and the stages of faith symbolize one way in which the potential of that image unfolds. Conversion and transformation are two aspects of faith growth that correlate with New Testament teachings. These insights contribute to the process of Christian education, but one must also be aware of its weaknesses and limitations. “God’s perspective as given in Scripture must be the ultimate and most important benchmark by which faith development is measured” (Anthony 89).
However, this theory does imply that the faith of adults has the potential to continue to develop throughout adulthood; this is a valid reason to include adult ministries, such as small group meetings, to the educational ministry of the church. As mentioned previously, there are multiple learning theory styles which are used to help teach the student and attain the goals and objectives in a curriculum, three significant ones being cognitive, humanistic, and behavioral theories. These describe ways in which people learn and grow, and should be utilized by Christian educators. While specific theories of learning do not translate directly into principles of teaching, they provide maps and compasses to aid the inexperienced teacher-traveler in charting the course to learning success” (Anthony 101). Educating is more than expressing subject matter and demonstrating the knowledge of the teacher; it is facilitating the convergence of the needs of the learner, as well as subject substance. These two aspects fall into three fundamental areas of life: what we think (meaningful understanding), what we value (personal convictions), and what we do (skilled behavior).
There needs to be from any learner/student a deeper understanding, the development of appropriate values, and the sharpening of skills (101). The first primary area of life, what we think, involves the cognitive theory of learning. These focus on the internal mental processes people use in their effort to make sense of the world. Cognitive theorists view learning as a reorganization of perceptions. Michael Anthony describes perception as “the meaning we attach to information we receive from the world around us. Perceptual reorganization allows learners to develop a clear understanding of the subject” (104).
Jean Piaget is one advocate and leading thinker in this area, and describes the process through the use of terms, such as organization (the natural tendency to make sense of experiences by incorporating them into logically related cognitive structures), schemes (the cognitive structures produced as a result of this development process), equilibration (the natural tendency to maintain a balance between what one already knows and what one experiences in the world), and adaptation (the natural process of adjusting our thinking or environment so that balance exists between what we know and what we experience).
Assimilation and accommodation are two parts of adaptation; assimilation interprets experiences so they fit what we already know, and accommodation adjusts schemes so they fit what we experience (105). Another advocate in cognitive learning theory is Jerome Bruner, and “he believes the goal of teaching is to promote the general understanding of a subject and that the facts and relationships children discover through their own explorations are more usable and tend to be better retained than material they have merely committed to memory” (Anthony 105).
In his research, he proposed that this discovery type of learning increases and creates improved problem-solving skills and a higher degree of confidence in the capability to learn as they “learn how to learn. ” He proposed the structuring of subjects, allowing them to be arranged in a way to aid in student’s learning; this structure is facilitated by the three components of presentation, economy, and power. Discovery learning highlights student’s activity, initiative, and solutions. Later, Bruner’s theory was adjusted to include more teacher intervention and direction, called directed discovery.
The second learning style incorporates what we value, and is called the humanistic theory. “Educational humanism, or affective education, emphasizes the affective domain of learning: receiving (personal openness), responding (personal response), valuing (personal conviction), organizing (personal value system), and characterizing (personal lifestyle)” (Anthony 107). In this theory, true human learning involves attitudes, emotions, and values, stressing the uniqueness of each learner. Three leading psychologists who influenced humanistic methods of education are Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Arthur Combs.
Maslow focused his efforts on those who were mentally healthy (self-actualized), and believed that children make wise choices for their own learning when given the opportunity; teachers assemble meaningful learning conditions, and students select from those they find personally valuable. Rogers created person-centered methods in his counseling as a psychotherapist, which revolves around the client, standing against directive therapy, which revolves around the counselor. “He focused more on phenomenology (the world as it is perceived by individuals) than reality (the world as it may actually be).
In his view, teachers should trust students to do their work to the best of their ability and provide opportunities for learning” (Anthony 107). According to Rogers, students will then take responsibility for their own learning. Combs, in his specific beliefs on humanistic learning theory, accentuated and advocated that teachers should serve as catalysts for learning, facilitating the experience for students. His research is similar to Bruner’s, but Combs placed more emphasis on sharing personal views and less on objective problem solving. For Combs, meaning is not inherent in the subject matter; it is the individual who instills subject matter with its meaning. His dilemma was not how to present subject matter but how to help students derive personal meaning” (Anthony 107). All three of these specific theorists, Bruner, Rogers, and Combs, explored and researched certain ideals that encompass, in the broader view, humanistic principles of learning. The third and final fundamental area of life, what we do, involves the behavioral theory of learning. Ivan Pavlov (Classical Conditioning), E. L.
Thorndike (Connectionism), and B. F. Skinner (Operant Conditioning) are three of the most prominent theorists of behavioral learning. Pavlov is the founder of classical conditioning, discovering through experimenting with dogs a connection between food, the stimulus, and salivation, the response; this connection is called a stimulus-response bond. “This link provided the foundation for behavior modification – behavior shaping as well as brainwashing . . . classical conditioning in classrooms focuses on involuntary behaviors that are outside conscious control” (Anthony 102).
Thorndike, the second theorist, is known as the father of educational psychology. He demonstrated the mechanism by which new responses are formed, whereas the work of Pavlov emphasized only simple reflex actions; Thorndike showed that stimuli occurring after a behavior had an influence on future behaviors. He postulated three laws of learning: The Law of Readiness (stating that learning proceeds best when learners are prepared to respond), The Law of Exercise (stating that repetition strengthens the timulus-response bonds), and The Law of Effect (stating that any response followed by pleasure or reward is strengthened, whereas any response followed by pain is weakened). Skinner created the Operant Conditioning theory of behavioral learning, and it was an expansion of Thorndike’s Law of Effect. “In classical conditioning, responses are involuntary and elicited by specific stimuli. Operant conditioning emphasizes the acquisition of new behaviors as organisms operate on their environment in order to reach goals. The responses are voluntary and emitted by people or animals” (Anthony 103).
Skinner used pigeons in his research, placing them in observation cages; when they behaved desirably, he reinforced that behavior with food, and was able to teach them through providing reinforcing stimuli for the desirable behavior. This educational application is seen best in programmed instruction. Learning programs begin with a desired competency, and then breaks this competency into small steps of learning. “Programmed instruction maximizes learner reinforcement (reward) and also the amount of interaction between learner and information” (Anthony 103).
These systems are used today, found in textbooks as well as some forms of Christian school curriculum (the Accelerated Christian Education). Pavlov, Thorndike, and Skinner all used behavioral theories of learning, expounding on certain principles and ideas that are useful in teaching for educators. In terms of my own leading and teaching of Christian education, my focus will be through the use of Christ-centered music as I direct the worship and praise team for my church congregation; I will also teach and lead a more specific group of people, adults, in small group meetings.
For the contemporary service, Sunday mornings at my church will begin and end in worship, with the people singing and praising God. There will be more modern and upbeat Christian music, with a live band that I intend to lead, and this genre of music is tailored toward the younger generations who attend this service; there will still be the formal church service, where hymns are sung, creating a more somber atmosphere for the elder generation who grew up and are accustomed with this type of music.
I believe through the use of songs that are more recognizable to the individuals, such as singing the music that many of the attendees (youth, teenagers, and young adults) love to sing with and listen to on Christian radio stations, they (the students, in this setting) will be inspired and feel the calling to lift their voices and hearts to the Lord in praise of His Glory. This is something our Heavenly Father has asked us to do, and pleases Him as a part of ministry. In 1 Chronicles 25, this entire chapter is devoted to listing “The Singers”, and was called a service. All these men were under the supervision of their fathers for the music of the temple of the Lord, with cymbals, lyres, and harps, for the ministry at the house of God” (1 Chr. 25. 6). As many of the verses of these songs come directly from scripture in the Bible, they will be singing out His words and the teachings from the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ; for people who don’t recognize the songs, the musicality and melodies themselves being current and upbeat will allow them to have a more enjoyable experience, while praising God through worship, as well as learning the powerful words.
Music is something most everyone cares for, to varying degrees, and has the ability to evoke strong emotions and feelings. By leading this band, I will also be able to teach the members who are involved in this service to the church and its congregation, incorporating their ideas and musical talents into the worship each week. When I think upon social science’s influence concerning different learning theories for teaching, such as cognitive, humanistic, and behavioral learning as mentioned previously, I seem to be drawn more toward the humanistic view of how people learn.
John Dewey is considered the father of progressive education, though the foundation had been laid for a new approach toward the teacher-learner process prior to him by people like Luther, Melanchthon, and Sturn, all of whom had advocated the importance placed upon students to have a firm understanding regarding education. Humanistic theories of learning are more personal, accenting the significance and role of feelings and emotions, which I find imperative for both the teacher and student in learning and teaching. Arthur Combs was one of the most prominent promoters of this theory. Effective facilitators, according to Combs, are well-informed, sensitive, believe in their students’ abilities to learn, have a positive self-concept, and use many methods to engage students in the learning process” (Anthony 107). The tendency is a desire to create an environment for learning that is free from fear, punishment, harsh discipline, and manipulative methods. In my opinion, these are all concepts that Jesus Himself used in his own teachings, and I will use this technique in my own teachings, and in leading worship for my church.
I will also teach individuals attending small group meetings each week, leading them with the use of, and emphasis on, God’s word. This will include a more particular set of people, as these meetings will be for young adults; the ages will range anywhere from 18 to 40’s, though most will be in their 20’s and 30’s, as there are small group meetings already created specifically for both the much younger adults, as well as for the older ones. However, anyone over the age of 18 will be welcomed.
These meetings will be a much smaller target area in my teaching and leading, unlike worship, which includes the entire congregation – children, teens, young adults, as well as older adults who might choose to attend the contemporary service. This smaller setting will allow for individuals to be able to participate in discussions more easily than if it were a larger group; it will permit for one-on-one talks between myself and them (the students), as well as fellowship among themselves.
Also, biblical material will be used, such as videos pertaining to themes that will be set up (lasting anywhere between four and eight weeks each); by utilizing courses created by other pastors and teachers, there will be the added benefit of learning important issues and studies through others, and I will lead the group in any discussion questions that arise. At these meetings, we will begin by “breaking bread” through eating together. Each individual will contribute, if able, to the meal every week; this will allow for great fellowship and people becoming more familiar and friendly with one another.
As this will help to make everyone more comfortable prior to the lesson, I believe this will aid in the students being more open, feeling an acceptance from the group and encouraging them to ask questions and become involved in the studies. In the Gospel of Luke, The Last Supper is described, with Jesus speaking to his apostles. “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. ’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. ” (Luke 22. 19-20). In the same way that Jesus shared meals, especially his last meal – which we observe during church services as Communion – we will share meals together as a group. My teaching strategies for these small group meetings will be more intense than for leading worship, as there will be studies and further available learning material. With this in mind, I believe that the cognitive theory of learning will be helpful, as I intend to aid my students in thinking through issues and discussions that will be presented.
As mentioned, both Jean Piaget and Jerome Bruner shaped this learning theory system, and many fundamental perspectives come from them. Piaget believed that intelligence is not something given to people, and that understanding is structured by them; Bruner also proposed subjects are to be organized and structured, determining the primary principles and their relation to one another. Cognitive learning was also found in Gestalt psychology, which is the view that learning takes place best when people see the relationship or pattern of one element to another. Gestalt psychology stressed the significance of relationships in the learning experience. Three early German gestalt psychologists were Ernst Mach, Max Wertheimer, and Wolfgang Kohler” (Anthony 104). Ernest Mach held that human learning was determined by interaction between the world and our perception of it, not by mechanical bonds, like behaviorist John Watson believed. Max Wertheimer proposed that focusing on the smallest parts of learning was pointless, instead embracing that the whole gave meaning to the individual parts.
Wolfgang Kohler, through his experiments with chimpanzees, demonstrated learning by insight, while behaviorist E. L. Thorndike had emphasized trial and error learning instead. “These differences underscore the vast divide between behavioral and cognitive learning theories” (Anthony 104). Through reading about the various learning theories, I have found that, in my opinion, there is truth and insight to be gained from each; the cognitive, humanistic, and behavioral theorists’ opinions, research, and viewpoints all have the ability to aid in teaching.
I want to take into account all I have myself learned, and use it in my small group meetings. I feel there is no need to limit myself to one specific theory or belief, but to acknowledge the various ideas that have been put forward by these prominent thinkers, and use them in my own teaching; people are different, and therefore learn in different ways, so having a firm grasp of these techniques is an asset in leading.
While I intend to use the social sciences and psychological theories of learning in my teaching, I know that the ultimate teacher is Jesus Christ. He taught us to love one another, give forgiveness to our enemies, to teach through gentleness and understanding, as well as giving us the Fruits of the Spirit; “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5. 22-23).
I want to be led by the Holy Spirit, walking the path that God has set for me, and allowing Him to work through me as I teach His word and promises to others. I will continue in my prayers, striving everyday for a closer relationship with Jesus, and ask Him to give me the wisdom to teach and lead; as I dig deeper into the Bible, I myself will increase in spiritual maturity. There must be attentiveness to this indispensable and crucial theological keystone of the faith for my Christian education program to be successful.
In conclusion, my philosophy toward a Christian education through the medium of leading worship with Christ-centered music for my church congregation, as well as in teaching small group meetings for adults, has been discussed throughout this paper. By creating my purposes and goals for students in these areas of teaching and leading, and by having a solid foundation in biblical principles, I address how I want my students to perceive, accept, and fulfill the gospel; that is, to think, to feel, and to do.
These teaching and learning strategies encourage students to think (cognitive theory) about God, His word, and the promises He made to His children, to feel (humanistic theory) His presence in their lives and be on fire for the Lord, and to fulfill (behavioral theory) the Great Commission through going out into the community and spreading the good word, The Holy Bible, as well as developing a closer relationship with Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide them in their life decisions.
These goals use the multiple social sciences’ theories on learning, and how people grow in their Christian faith; my beliefs and opinions on how to lead and teach in Christian education are also expressed, as I state the need to incorporate all information available to educators for the best outcome in teaching students.
The most important aspect is to have a Christ-centered learning experience, utilizing biblical material and God’s word; this will have the most impact, as the Lord will lead me in leading and teaching others. Works Cited Anthony, Michael J. Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001. Print. The Holy Bible. Intl. Bible Society. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984. Print. New Intl. Vers.
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