Effective teaching is not the result of teachers knowing their subject matter well or having a broad knowledge about pedagogical practice alone. Having an understanding about content and practice certainly enhances the instructional process; however these are not the only factors that contribute toward effective teaching, student learning and achievement. As Hashweh (2005) suggests, teachers also bring their values and beliefs which are intertwined with their subject and pedagogical knowledge.
There is good research to suggest that teachers’ beliefs about taught content, or education in general, become powerful filters through which a plethora of instructional judgments and decisions follow (Shavelson, 1983; Chen, 2008). After gaining knowledge about a particular strategy, concept, or educational approach, teachers are free to believe or disbelieve, accept or deny, dismiss or impart such information or plan or not plan a strategy or approach into their lesson preparation. In other words, teachers possess personal, epistemic assumptions about the nature of knowledge, educational beliefs, theoretical constructs about teaching in general, and religious beliefs that impact and influence teaching and learning.
Research reports that teachers’ personal, epistemic, pedagogical, and religious beliefs impact how other disciplines are taught and learned too. Rupley and Logan (1984) denote causal relationships between teachers’ philosophical beliefs about reading literacy and the instruction offered to students in their classrooms. Teachers who carve out more instructional time to teach phonics believe phonemic discourse and phonetic skills are integral for reading literacy whereas teachers who espouse a whole-language belief will set aside more time to teach students to derive meaning from words using different types of reading strategies.
Cady, Meier, and Lubinski (2006) report beliefs influence the teaching of mathematics. For instance, some teachers may or may not spend as much classroom time on the memorization of mathematical formulas or may or may not provide more opportunity for their students to explore different solutions to the same problem as might others.
Teachers truly believe that technological content and knowledge is a relevant component for twenty-first century learners. Teachers further believe technological skills enhance learning and provide students a more efficient means to solve problems and complete tasks. Yet, even when school districts make available computers and software packages to students, teachers use technology in superficial ways unless the technology is beneficial to students and improve teaching (Chen & Chen, 2009; Albion & Ertmer, 2002). The reality is the beliefs that teachers are exposed to become salient qualifiers and influence their observed behavior.
What about the teaching of creation and evolution? Student textbooks embed untruths about the age of the earth and the origin of life. Yet, Christian teachers are compelled to bring into their lessons their Christian faith and expose such misinformation and deception. And this is so because teachers’ Christian beliefs underpin the type of instruction offered to students. And, teachers modeling and teaching their students about their Christian faith remains steadfast even in the presence of external persuasion, cultural distraction, confrontation, or even persecution. Why is this so? Christian teachers believe and teach God’s Word as absolute truth.
We (Body of Christian Believers) give thanks to God for Christian teachers and Lutheran schools throughout the Indiana District and LCMS. Lutheran schools are great places to grow because Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of our instruction and activity. Christian teachers in our Lutheran schools, providing that Christian instruction, enable the Holy Spirit to work through that Biblical instruction to strengthen the faith of young adults, children and families. Our beliefs are rooted in the Holy Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – Three in One.
A Christian teacher’s propensity to deliver instruction is rooted in their Christian beliefs and impervious to change. As a result of their conviction to teach these Biblical truths, students in our Lutheran Schools receive God’s grace, mercy and love every day. That grace, mercy and love is revealed in a kind word, friendly greeting, or redirection back to the Cross of Jesus for calm and heal.
Teachers believe instructing children in a Christian environment engenders quality instruction. Furthermore, teachers in our Lutheran schools realize that faith development must become a way of life, ensconced in one’s actions, and not limited to an instructional period that happens sometime during the instructional day.
Below are eleven themes/indicators of effective instruction identified by Christian teachers in LCMS districts contiguous to the Indiana District as well as the Indiana District.
- Integrate one’s faith into their teaching
- Reflective evaluator
- Differentiate according to student need and ability
- Maintain a safe and positive learning environment
- All students can learn
- Engage students in the learning process
- Inspire students to want to learn
- Integrate technology into one’s teaching
- Prepare students to be upstanding citizens
- A competence to communicate to constituents
- Build relationships with students
In closing, the teaching of one’s faith separates faith-based schools from private and public institutions. The integration of one’s faith is of particular interest to all of us as we, together, provide the best possible Christian instruction for our students.
May God continue to bless your ministry and the ministry of the Indiana District!