Two of my favorite professors, Drs. Glenn Kreider and Mike Lawson, have impressed upon me the importance of defining terms. When you have uncertainty as to what you mean, then others will too. Therefore, I want to talk about the five methodologies in Christian education and what I mean by them.
Why would I want to do something as dull as that?
For one, because I want to be clear in communication. Two, as I work through this idea, this process will help me solidify my own thinking and distinguish it from other lines of thought. Three, as I think through the implications of how to apply it in various settings, it will help that process the more precisely I can identify the methodologies themselves. Four, I realize that I conceive of these definitions in their ideal sense, recognizing that when you take institutional realities and sin nature into account, distortion occurs.
My caveat: these working understandings may change as I gather more information and incorporate it.
- Communication and rhetoric: strategies for persuading others for behavioral change. This involves a good faith transaction on the part of the hearer and the speaker, where the hearer acts in good faith to assume the speaker has something useful to say, and the speaker acts in good faith that the hearer will give consideration to the words of the speaker. These fall under the broader term of dialectics.
- Leadership and management: strategies for organizing people and processes for the purpose of creating an meaningful change, or resisting change, in the environment. Leadership involves the people side while management tends to involve the process side (although it’s difficult to draw a hard line between the two). These fall under the broader term of administration.
- Teaching and learning: strategies for shaping the mind (knowledge, values, and will) of the individual. Teaching refers to the acts and strategies of the teacher while learning refers to the acts and strategies of the student. These fall under the broader term of education.
- Policy and evaluation: strategies for developing and implementing operational principles and determining the effectiveness of those principles. These fall under the broader term of governance.
- Research and modeling: strategies for gathering information, and for predicting outcomes based upon that information. Recognize that specific research methodology varies by field, even though the general strategies remain the same; natural science research looks different than social science research, even though both generally employ the scientific method of hypothesis, testing, conclusion.
Parents, your children use these strategies when encountering the world, and you need to encourage and cultivate them. Churches, consider how you might use these to organize your volunteers, to structure your ministerial strategies, and to train the people in your church. Teachers, recognize these as the primary drives of your students and teach them how to harness these drives in order achieve academic success.
May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts help others to be acceptable in God’s sight.
I think you can match conative styles to methodology. How so? Let me show you.
- The Philosopher. Considering the philosopher’s desire to understand God’s revelation and then communicate it to others, it seems to me that the philosopher’s chief methodologies are communication and rhetoric. They need to understand how to speak to others in every medium, and how to effectively organize their message in order to create the maximum impact in a person’s life.
- The Administrator. The administrator’s desire to organize people and processes manifests in the methodology associated with leadership (people) and management (processes). They need to understand how to direct groups and organizations in carrying out tasks.
- The Educator. The educator’s desire to help others understand themselves causes them to understand the methods of teaching and learning. They need to understand how people change in their affections, knowledge, and in their methods.
- The Practitioner. The practitioner’s desire to create meaningful change in their environment manifests in methodology related to policy and evaluation. They need to understand how to create and evaluate operational principles and then implement those principles.
- The Scholar. The scholar’s desire to understand their environment relates to methodology associated with research and modeling. They need to know how to gather and process information, and come up with predictions for future behavior.
So as I see it, the five methodologies are communication and rhetoric; leadership and management; teaching and learning; policy and evaluation; and research and modeling. Note that the student in Christian education can use any of these methodologies in any cognitive field. For example, the Christian artist who is a philosopher/administrator might learn skills of communication and management in order to function in her role as an art director.
Let me take this a step further. What if you organized your school around these five methodological disciplines? We employ these general disciplines in every field, recognizing that the application of these methods to specific fields varies. For example, research in the behavioral sciences looks different than research in the natural sciences. Research tools and languages in biblical and theological studies looks differently than research in ancient far east religion and philosophy. The general methodology is the same, but the tools and practice are different.
What if, in the Christian home, parents had a strategy and program of study to train their children in all five methods, but also focused on the one or two that their children naturally employ? What if, in the Christian elementary school, we structured our learning around these five methods, using the content of the various cognitive subject matters to teach the methodology. In other words, we taught the subject matter (mathematics, science, Bible, theology, etc.) but all in the context of understanding communication, or research, or leadership, or teaching, or policy. What if, in the Christian church, we organized our Christian Education programs around teaching the values associated with the methods, rather than on the demographics. Fundamentally, I believe that we need to find the universal commonality in education and start there, and I think it should start with conation and methodological disciplines.
We call for educational reform. I say Christian educators should pursue an educational revolution by deconstructing the whole thing and rebuilding from the ground up.