Approaching teaching from a holistic methodology enhances learning at all levels. Using theory as a methodological foundation ensures efficacy in the classroom and leads students to a well-rounded education, developing physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially. A key to effective teaching is understanding developmental stages and the importance of motivation, both extrinsic and intrinsic. Weaving technology into instruction not only engages students, but introduces them to the wealth of knowledge available in the cyber world. Classroom management is essential to academic productivity. A wise teacher manages the classroom well, while keeping students engaged and motivated. The Christian teacher integrates the Gospel into the classroom, whether public or private by living a Christian example before students, and intentionally engaging the whole student.
Keywords: holistic, technology, motivation, productivity, management
Four-Fold Growth Methodology
Luke 2:52 inspired the Four-Fold Growth Methodology (FFGM), “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” In this scripture, stature refers to physical growth, wisdom refers to mental growth, and “in favor with God and men” refers to both spiritual and social growth. Using a holistic approach to teaching ensures that the student will grow and development in these four areas. Greener (2016) posited that Luke 2:52 and 1 Samuel 2:26, “And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the LORD, and also with men,” define the importance of a whole child approach to learning, or FFGM.
Social and emotional learning (SEL), a part of the development process, must be done within a supportive environment (Burroughs, 2017). Blending ethical decisions, which is a part of spiritual and mental growth, with social and emotional learning, helps the child develop good decision-making skills. A foundational need of a child is a safe and secure environment. When the whole community (church, school, and home), comes together to create a safe learning environment for the whole child, the student is actively engaged, supported, and challenged (Murray, Hurley, & Ahed, 2015). Rasberry, Slade, Lohrmann, and Valois (2015) also discussed the whole school, whole community, whole child (WSCC) approach and concluded that it improves academic outcomes as well as the health of students.
Gold, Kauderer, Schwartz, & Solodow (2015), addressed the issue of examining the whole child when academic or social problems arise at school. So often these problems can be traced to particular circumstances in or out of school. When the FFGM model is used, each aspect of the child’s life is considered, not just one isolated portion.
Learning Theory and Its Importance
A good place to start with learning theory is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which was developed in 1943 (Slavin, 2015). The five basic needs of a student, adapted from Maslow’s are: 1) healthy, 2) safe, 3) engaged, 4) supported, and 5) challenged (Slade & Griffith, 2013). By addressing the whole child, physical, mental, social, and spiritual, each of these needs can be met.
Various theorists have built ideology that guides educators. Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development give solid insight into what a child can learn and do at various stages. The sensorimotor stage takes place between birth and two years of age. At this stage, the major accomplishment of the child is “object permanence” and the child progresses from “reflexive behavior to goal-directed behavior” (Slavin, 2015, p. 32). The preoperational stage is from ages two to seven when the child develops the ability to use words and images to represent the world (Santrock, 2011). This stage is followed by the concrete operational stage which spans seven to eleven years. During this time, the child moves into more logical thinking and can classify objects (Santrock, 2011). The formal operational stage is from eleven years to adulthood. At this stage, abstract reasoning takes place as the adolescent begins to think in more idealist ways (Santrock, 2011).
Vygotsky was another important developmental theorist. His theory and Piaget’s differed in how a child interacted socially, how language was developed, and how culture affected development. Vygotsky was well known for emphasizing the social cultural, and linguistic dimensions of cognitive development (Santrock, 2011). The term “zone of proximal development”, an important educational concept, originated with Vygotsky (Slavin, 2015, p. 41). Bandura was a social learning theorists and his observational learning has four phases: a) attentional, b) retentional, c) reproduction, and d) motivational (Slavin, 2015). Bandura relegated an important part of learning to observation and this theory is played out in the classroom every day; students learn by observation.
Kohlberg’s Moral Development theory has important educational applications. He defined six stages of moral development ranging from very young children to adulthood. Kohlberg believed that humans move through these moral stages as they grow and development (Santrock, 2011). The very young child sees rules as inflexible and absolute, while the adult may see gray areas of rules rather than black and white. Understanding these stages is important in the classroom; how the child in second grade responds to classroom rules may vary greatly from how a high school student responds to rules.
Knowledge of developmental theories gives the teacher foundational tools for guiding students using developmentally appropriate methods to deliver instruction. Knowing what the developmental level is for each age helps the teacher design and teach lessons that utilize skills appropriate for that particular level of development. Moving the students from the known to the unknown involves knowing the zone of proximal development for each student in the classroom and challenging students to push against the proximal development ceiling.
Description of an Effective Teacher and Learning Environment
Matthew 28:19 reminds Christians to “make disciples of all nations”. This is a reminder that Jesus Christ came to seek and save all mankind, and the Christian educator is compelled to work with all students, not just those who excel academically. Guiding students who are below par academically takes special guidance by a teacher who is willing to adapt to diverse students’ needs and use differentiated instruction to assist the individual student. Colossians 9:19-23 gives an example of the role of a teacher, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law …” These verses beautifully remind the educator that he or she must adapt to the needs of all students, whatever those needs may be.
Direct instruction has been found to be more efficient than discovery in conceptual development (Slavin, 2015). Lemov (2010) described the progression of direct instruction as I/we/you. The teacher starts the lesson (I); the student does with the help of the teacher (we); the student does part on his or her own (you); and finally, the student does the complete assignment on his or her own (Slavin, 2015). The parts of direct instruction, according to Slavin (2010) are: a) objective, b) prerequisites, c) new material, d) learning probes, e) independent practice, f) practice and review. By following these logical instructional steps, the teacher leads the student into and through the skill or concept being taught.
Research on the effect technology is having on children and adolescents today is expanding exponentially and the negative effects of technology have been documented (Aiken, 2016). Since technology has become a way of life, especially for school age children, educators are compelled to use it for good in the classroom. In order to use technology effectively in the classroom, the teacher should understand and practice the standards that the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has developed. These standards guide the teacher in the use of educational technology both ethically and in implementation. Many schools are now distributing iPads or laptop computers to students and most classrooms have at least one desktop computer. Smart phones are being used in the classroom, especially to access interactive programs like Kahoot. Word processors, spreadsheets, presentation software, and data bases are commonly used in the classroom by both teachers and students (Slavin, 2015). As a college professor, this writer cannot imagine teaching without technology. From lesson presentations, to editing student’s submitted assignments, technology is a part of every class.
Motivation is a critical part of learning, but is not easily measured (Slavin, 2015). Von Brummelen (2009) posited that intrinsic motivation is the most effective and long-lasting type of incentive. Intrinsic motivation is self-actualized learning brought about by the desire to learn. According to Brummelen, intrinsic motivation happens when teachers make lessons relevant to what students feel is important. Extrinsic motivation (stickers, grades, positive and negative reinforcements) is effective in the short term, but loses its effectiveness over time (Slavin, 2015).
The husband-wife team of Wong and Wong are figures that stand out in the field of classroom management. Texas Education Agency recommends Wong and Wong’s (2009) text on teacher effectiveness to teacher candidates; they are cited in important teacher preparation courses and are considered by Texas education leaders as authorities on effective classroom management and discipline (Texas Teachers, 2011). Their work gives sound guidance on starting the year out in a way that can be followed throughout the year by an effective teacher. Effective classroom management and a meaningful discipline policy is important in any classroom. A well-orchestrated and strategized classroom will lead to better outcomes for all learners. Traynor (2002) listed five strategies for classroom management: coercive, laissez-faire, task oriented, authoritative, and intrinsic. After examination of each of these methods, he found that authoritative and intrinsic were the most effective. Authoritative strategy lets the students know who is in charge without being overbearing, and intrinsic motivation builds the desire in the students to reach higher.
Some actionable steps that can be taken to ensure a pleasant learning environment are:
1) Leave troubles at the door and bring a Christian attitude into the classroom. Children have enough problems and anxieties that they bring with them into the class without the teacher adding his or her own to them. A cheerful, Christian attitude will lighten the day and add joy to the classroom. Smile, smile, smile, especially when it is not easy to do so.
2) Greet each student, every day.
3) Start each day with prayer – first personal prayer, then prayer in the classroom if permitted.
4) Create a classroom that is conducive to learning. Proper lighting, colors that spark interest without being over-stimulating, soft music during seat work, fun activities at the activity table, books that ignite the desire to read at the reading table, all create an atmosphere of safety and comfort, while inspiring and motivating.
5) Always be fair, impartial, and consistent in discipline and academics.
6) Practice good time-management with smooth transitions. Have all materials ready and easily at hand so wasted time is avoided.
7) Close the day with prayer (if permitted), and a positive word for the students to take home.
Learning Characteristics: Ability Groupings and Modalities
Ability groupings can be effective when used correctly. Between-class ability groups, within-class groupings, and mixed-ability grouping have all been used effectively. Within-class groupings have been found to be more effective, especially in core subjects, such as reading and math (Slavin, 2015). Grouping students with same level abilities enable the teacher to engage groups at their proximal developmental level and for them to move from the known to the unknown at their own pace (Slavin, 2015.) Utilizing mixed-ability groups enables peer-to-peer tutoring and is especially effective with students learning English as a second language. Between class-grouping can be effective when special attention is needed in specific areas, whether for students with learning deficiencies or gifted students. Another form of between-class grouping is grouping students with same abilities in a particular subject such as math or language arts. This is usually used in middle or high school classes. A student may be in an advanced language arts class while being in a remedial level math course (Slavin, 2015).
An understanding of the modalities will assist the teacher in engaging students who excel in various ways. Using visual, auditory, tactile, or kinesthetic skills to group students can be beneficial. Knowing and understanding the modality gifting of each students enables the teacher to better meet the needs of each student, utilizing the FFGM.
As a life-long learner, it is important to me to understand my communication and learning styles, as well as my modalities. I am a strong technology user and have been for many years. The interpersonal communication score indicated my comfort level with hands on technology and writing. I rarely write by hand; rather I prefer to type since my right arm was injured in an accident some years ago. I am very comfortable with new software and technology in general and am a hands-on learner, rarely taking time to read instructions or even watch a video with instructions. I like group discussions and I learn best by doing. My leadership management skills are all within two percent of one another, with my strongest being consulting. I spend about one-third of my teaching hours consulting with students and I also have a consulting practice. Consulting is an important part of education and I use leadership, persuasion, and negotiating skills to assist my students and clients. Through years of dedication to my professional, spiritual, family, and academic life, I have developed strong study skills. The study skills inventory reflected my life-long learning.
As a Christian educator, I focus on the whole child, using the FFGM recognizing that each child was particularly created by God. Psalm 139:14 states, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” One child may be gifted in math, but struggles in language arts, while another has a learning disability, but is exceptionally talented in music. It is my responsibility to help each child find his or her particular gifting.
Yount, (2010) describes the Discipler’s Model, with the foundation stones of education being the Bible and the needs of the student. The pillars of the model are helping students think, value, and relate. The capstone is helping students grow and the entire model is built within the circle of the Holy Spirit, the Discipler. This model is my philosophy of Christian education. I believe that diversity is the spice in the classroom. Ephesians 4:12-16 describes diversity of ministry so well. Some are apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers. Students in the classroom are diverse and have different learning styles, modalities, and giftings, and it is the responsibility of the teacher to reach the whole child, “But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head – Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
Learning theories are important to educational psychology and methodology. Knowing and understanding various theories assists the teacher in developing strategic class and lesson plans that are developmentally appropriate. Using the Four-Fold-Growth Methodology (FFGM), as modeled in Luke 2:52 and 1 Samuel 2:26, enables the teacher to engage the whole child.
Two quotes remind the educator of the essentiality of teaching the whole child: “You haven’t taught until they have learned” (Wooden, n.d. as cited in Nater & Gallimore, 2006, p. 105), and “Profound responsibilities come with teaching and coaching. You can do so much good – or harm” (Wooden 2004, as cited in in Nater & Gallimore, 2006, p. 121). Christian teachers are the salt and light in the classroom, especially in the public sector. By bringing the Holy Spirit with them into the classroom they make a difference in the lives of their students every day. Using every tool at their disposal, Christian teachers disciple each student ensuring strong physical, mental, social, and spiritual outcomes. Their students learn because they taught and they fulfill their awesome responsibility by bringing about good outcomes in their students.
Aiken, M. (2016). The cyber effect: A pioneering cyber psychologist explains how human behavior changes online. NYC: Random House LLC.
Burroughs, M.D. (2017). Educating the whole child: social-emotional learning and ethics education. Ethics and Education, doi: 0.1080/174496142.2017.127388
Gold, J., Kauderer, S., Schwartz, F., & Solodow, W., (2015). The space between: Educating the whole child. The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 69, 372-393. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1777659456?accountid=12085
Greener, S.H. (2016). Children-at risk and the whole Gospel: Integral mission “to, for, and with’ vulnerable agents of God. Sage Journals, 33 (3), 159-170. doi: 10.1177/0265378816631256.
Lemov, D. (2010). Teach like a champion. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Murray, S.D., Hurley, J., & Ahed, S R. (2015). Supporting the whole child through coordinated policies, processes, and practices. Journal of School Health, 85, 795-801. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/doi/10.1111/josh.12306/epdf
Nater, S. & Gallimore, R., (2006). You haven’t taught until they have learned: John Wooden’s teaching principles and practices. Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.
Rasberry, C. N., Slade, S., Lohrmann, D.K., and Valois, R. F. (2015). Lessons learned from the whole child and coordinated school health approaches. Journal of School Health 85(11), 759-765. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/doi/10.1111/josh.12307/ abstract
Santrock, J. W. (2011). Educational Psychology (5th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
Slade, S., & Griffith, D. (2013). A whole child approach to student success. KEDI Journal of Educational Policy, 10(3). Retrieved from http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1430480780?accountid=12085
Slavin, R.E. (2015). Educational psychology: Theory and practice (11th ed.). New Jersey: Pearson.
Texas Teachers (2011). Classroom management I-IV syllabus. Retrieved from http://www.texasteachers.org/courses/mod/resource/view.php?id=586
Traynor, P. L. (2002). A scientific evaluation of five different strategies teachers use to maintain order. Education, 122(3), 493-509. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/196424901?accountid=12085
Van Brummelen, H. (2009). Walking with God in the classroom. Colorado Springs: Purposeful Design.
Wong, H. K. & Wong, R. T. (2009). The first days of school: How to be an effective teacher. Mountain View, CA: Harry Wong Publications, Inc.
Yount, W. R. (2010). Created to learn: A Christian teacher’s introduction to educational psychology, (2nd ed.). Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group.