Assignments as Contracts: Improving Expectations with Integration Clauses

A contract is “a binding agreement between two or more persons or parties.” It lays out the expectations and needed components. Contracts are important in everything from home purchases to landscaping work to employment and more. And we can think of every classroom assignment as a contract as well.

Students need to know what is expected of them. When work is assigned, students agree to accomplish a certain task in a specific way. These tasks and means will vary based on age, subject, unit, etc. However, students in every class need to fully understand what success looks like. Do your students understand that biblical integration is an essential part of success in your class? This is where integration clauses in your assignments can help.

If we include biblical integration clauses in our contracts (assignments), students understand that they are expected to participate in integration. When we explicitly ask for integration in our expectations, students can leverage their creativity, effort, and critical-thinking skills to accomplish the goal set out before them. Further, if students realize that they are expected to recognize, report, understand, explain, and celebrate God’s glorious ways in their work, they will be able to rise to the occasion.

Educational assessments are the means by which we can measure how much our students are learning. If we want our students to learn Christ through academic content, we need to write our contracts (assignment instructions) in a way that allows us to see if they are actually getting it. If we don’t include integration in our assessments, we cannot know if our integrated teaching is getting through.

Therefore, when you assess (at the start, middle, or end of a unit) you should assess biblical integration. If you assign a paper, review, lab report, science experiment, quiz, creative writing prompt, worksheet, bell-work, or test, you should try to include elements of biblical integration as a part of the assessment. This means that it should be mentioned through integration clauses in your rubrics, study guides, and assignment instructions.

Here are a few examples of integration clauses in contracts (assignments):

  • Math Quiz: In 1 Kings 3, Solomon was faced with a problem. While we have to solve problems to find x in this class, he had to solve a problem to find a mom. He was able to use his wisdom and problem-solving skills to find the truth and serve justice. What is one way that you can use your problem-solving skills to help others?
  • History Essay: In our study on the American Revolution, we investigated the lives of many leaders. List 3 examples of Christian characteristics that you saw in them.
  • Science Project/Lab Report: After completing the report, include one sentence on what the results of the experiment tell us about God, God’s design, or ourselves.
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Portraits of Teamwork in Biblical Integration

One of the best parts of being a teacher at a Christian school is being a member of a team. Different team members might have different roles, but we are all called to work together to accomplish the mission. At my school, we are working to “produce academic, social and physical excellence through a program where minds and hearts are coming fully alive in Christ.” We need each other, and we can rely on one another. Since biblical integration is what makes Christian education Christian, we are called to support each other in this most important endeavor. Here are a couple examples that I hope will encourage you to engage with your team more:

The Guy Across the Hall

On our spread-out campus, I have the privilege of being one of the few that works in a building with other teachers around. There are only are four teachers in our area, and we are all different. However, my building-mates are all excellent instructors and often teach me by setting an example. Their skillful instruction, thoughtful assessment, and improvement-focused feedback show me what a strong teacher does in real life. One of them recently asked this conflict question in class as a part of of biblical integration:  “How is being entertained without thinking dangerous?” He was helping them grow in worldview thinking. The students were challenged by the fact that all the media they consume has a message—movies have motives, Snapchat posts have intent, songs have underlying assumptions, books have agendas, etc. Therefore, we must think about what we are taking in. We must be aware of it and respond to it.

This teacher shared this great question with me. As a result, I have been able to have similar conversations with students, or follow up with his students on the topic. We have been able to start discussions related to 1) Does all media have presuppositions? 2) Does watching/listening/sharing affect me? If so, how? 3) What can we do to more effectively use media to share the Good News with others?

This teacher helped me practice integration and I love it!

The Moment of Need

Throughout this year, I have gotten numerous emails from fellow teachers about biblical integration. Many teachers find themselves in challenging subjects and feel stuck at times. But, when this happens, they usually just need a starting point. They need a little spark, and then they use that spark to burn down the forest.

For example, this is the content of an email from last week: “I need your help. I am going to be teaching Probability, Tree Diagrams, Line Graphs, Bar Graphs, etc.  Do you have any insight on what I bring in to the lesson? In Science, we are studying the ecosystem (producers, consumers, the food chain, food web). Any ideas that I could use?”

I cannot tell you how much I love to receive these types of emails. Why? Because this teacher is working hard to engage the students with biblical integration, and is not afraid to seek out some help. I responded with a couple of quick ideas:

Math: Probability/Graphs/Diagrams

– Probability: You could share about mutual exclusivity in regard to our faith… That if we are new creations, the old is GONE and the new is here (2 Cor 5:17). It is mathematically impossible to be both new and old.

– Graphs: You can show how these might be used to for self-assessment to chart growth. How often am I reading the Bible/praying? (make a chart for the week)

– Tree Diagram: Make a diagram that shows how amazing it is that God is able to be in perfect control even when it seems like there are so many possibilities. Use the graph to show that with Him, nothing is left up to chance.

Science: Ecosystem

You might make the connection that in an ecosystem everything works together (because God designed it), and everything has a role. We are like that too, in fact, 1 Cor 12 talks about how we are like different members of a body that work together too. But, we are not like animals because we are made in God’s image, so we should look out for the needs of others (Phil 2:1-4).

This teacher may have used these ideas, or she may have developed other, better ones. She may have been able to work out some questions/thoughts that worked better with her long-term unit-planning… or these might have fit well with her class goals. The important thing is that we were able to work together.

Being a part of a team is big. You can contribute when you have help to offer, and you can receive assistance when you need it. God has brought us together, and we can model cooperation, humility, creativity, and commitment to our students and peers as we grow as integrators.

 

Math: A Biblical Integration Starter Guide (Part 3)

This is a look at the third approach in this short series on integrating math (You can see the other two ways here: The Worldview Question Approach and The Perspectives Approach). There are certainly lots of other ways to think about biblical integration, but these are three good places to start.

The Stewardship Approach

Stewardship is about rightly spending what God has given us. The big question of this approach is simple:

How does my course content (math) help students be better at ordering the world and making disciples? What skills can they learn here (through math class) to be more equipped for a faithful life?

The two questions above can be fleshed out into many areas that can be regularly considered. Here are a few:

  • Mission: What is the purpose of my life? God put me here for a specific amount of time at an exact moment in time. How should I spend the amount of life God gave me? Math helps me grasp that time is limited, that I am here to multiply the church, and that, if I have Christ, I have it all.
  • Worship: What is so amazing about God? He is unlimited. He is beyond me. He is the starter and finisher. He put all the laws in place that govern math (and life in general).
  • Leadership: How can I point others to the truth? Math illustrates that there is true and false, right and wrong. The same is true in life. I must share truth because people believe lies. We must confront falsehoods because they can break lives. When we break the Lawgiver’s laws, it leads to pain and problems.  I need to be invested in solving problems — spiritual, physical, and other. Math can help me grasp the problems and solve them. Math is meant to help me love my neighbor.
  • Transferable skills:  What can I learn from working through math that will help me be more like Christ in my life? Humility, hard work, perseverance, wisdom to seek help.

These are just a few areas of stewardship. The list can go on and on. However, I hope that the above questions and ideas will point you in the right direction.

 

Math: A Biblical Integration Starter Guide (Part 2)

This is part 2 of a 3 part series on starting to think through integrating math. Check out part 1 (the worldview questions approach) here.

The Perspectives Approach

In Every Bush is Burning, I highlight the prophetic, priestly, and kingly roles of teachers. These connect directly to each perspective listed below. The prophetic teacher shares needed information about God and the world. The priestly teacher helps the students understand and rightly relate to God through the content on a personal level. The kingly teacher leads the student to lovingly live out the what is learned in real world action.

Information (Norm/Head): What do we learn about math from the Bible? It is always wise to have the Bible in mind when helping students know God better. Here are a few elements to note:

  1. Math is powerful. It can be used for great good (planning and building an ark – Gen 6) or evil (executing a pride-driven census – 1 Chron 21, or engineering a tower intended for reaching heaven – Gen 11).
  2. God is engaged in mathematic activities (counting hairs – Luke 12:7, collecting tears – Ps 56:8).
  3. Math can help us understand wise choices (the use of money – Prov 13:11-13).

Understanding (Existential/Heart): How does understanding math affect me? It should lead to worship. God is unique, and math shows that. For example, He is one in being but three in person. He is infinite in power. He is eternal. On the flip-side, everything else is limited and finite. All of our measurements show the contrasting brevity and weakness of the created when compared to the Creator. Further, God’s knowledge of all things (“all” is a math idea) should lead us to praise. Math can help us better understand God, the world, and our relation to both. In other words, math can help us worship.

Action (Situational/Hands): What are the facts about math?… And what do I do with them? Well, we live in a real world that is often measurable through math. And we are moral beings called to live well in this world. Therefore, we should note that math can help us live as good stewards of our money and time. Math can help us plan (count the cost before building – Luke 14). It can help us see the greatness of God and his plans (descendants that outnumber the stars – Gen 22:17). Math can help us better understand the needs of the world (How many people need Christ? How many people are hungry? etc.). And math can help us wisely and creatively meet those needs.

Math: A Biblical Integration Starter Guide (Part 1)

This is a starter for math teachers who want to improve their thinking on biblical integration. The goal is not to be exhaustive, but to get the ball rolling.

So, when thinking about integrating math, where should we start? In a couple of different posts, I will try to help you work through three approaches to integration that I mentioned previously. to get the process started. 

The Worldview Question Approach

How does math speak to these four questions–origin, meaning, morality, and destiny?

Origin: Math illustrates the need for a creator. While mathematicians and scientists are often characterized as secular, the nature of math as a tool for measurement points to an outside cause of the the existing universe. The concept of zero (0) is a measurement of nothing or no quantity. If zero (0) things existed before the universe, then the universe could not come into existence. Something cannot come from nothing. Math helps us grasp our origin because it shows us that we were put here. When we count all the complex elements of creation, we see that our Creator must be wise. When we measure the height and depth, we see that He must be strong and big.

Meaning: Math helps us understand and accomplish the mission of life. John 17:3 says that eternal life is knowing God. Using math to measure the world shows us certain realities about the God who made the world. For example, when we show that a tornado picked up a car and moved it 100 yards, we are able to better understand the power of the tornado. Measuring elements of God’s world helps us understand Him too. In Genesis 1:28, mankind is told to rule over the whole earth, subdue it, and multiply to fill it. Clearly multiplying is a math term. We cannot know what God means here if we don’t grasp the mathematical concept. The idea of a “whole” is also a math concept. In Matthew 28:18-20, the disciples are told to make disciples of all nations. We cannot know what “all” means without math. All this to say, math can help clarify our meaning.

Morality: Breaking the laws of math leads to bad outcomes–incorrect and unhelpful answers. Similarly, breaking God’s moral laws leads to pain. Just as God gave the laws of nature, He also gave us laws of morality. Math illustrates what it looks like to break the rules. Math also gives us moral clarity about our place in life. Psalm 90:12 is a prayer asking God to help us number our days so that we can gain a heart of wisdom. In Matthew 21:12-13, Jesus recognizes dishonest money practices. He does this through an understanding of math concepts like interest. We can see injustice and measure brokenness in many situations through the use of math.

Destiny: Finally, math is helpful in thinking about our destiny. Eternal life is an application of the concept of infinity. The Bible also explains that we reap what we sow. In Mark 10:28-31, Jesus figuratively says that those who sacrifice for Him will receive a hundred times more. Math helps us understand the worth of following Jesus.

More to come on the Perspectives and Stewardship approaches soon!