Biblical Integration in Real Life: Part Two

Recently, I sent out a short, anonymous survey to the some educators. My goal was to collect information on how real teachers and administrators are perceiving their growth and struggles—What’s working? What continues to be a burden or weight? This post is part two of a short series that interacts with a few of the successes and struggles that came through in the results.

Some teachers shared joy in their biblical-integration experiences, saying things like, “I love hearing and interacting with what the students think and feel about God.”

These responses encouraged me because they demonstrate that these teachers are listening to their students. Teachers must be good at delivering information, but we must also excel at receiving it. Our students feel loved, noticed, and cared for when we hear what they have to say. Essential questions are powerful because they open the door for student engagement and response. In the same way, biblical integration that gets students thinking and speaking is powerful because it allows them to be full participants in the conversation. We must allow students to be heard. Then we must, thoughtfully, respond to what they share.

Another survey response related to the question, “How can I make integration feel more natural?”

This is an important question. If biblical integration feels tacked on or supplemental, students will recognize it for what it is — extra. Therefore, the best way to make biblical integration feel natural is to build it into the DNA of your course. It is not ideal to plan all of your units, lessons, assignments, etc. and then try to add biblical content. When we do that, we are doing something unnatural. If that is where you are, don’t be discouraged. But do recognize that there is room to grow.

Instead of adding integration to our material, we should show how the biblical worldview informs and directs our work. Ask questions like:  Where did our subject come from? Why do we study it? What does this unit demonstrate about our world, humanity, God, the church, etc.? How can we use these skills be used to honor God? Where might our subject be affected by sin? Once you have identified some important questions and ideas, consider how you can best get your students to engage them as a part of the course material. Strategizing in this area can make it feel more natural. A few ideas would be:

1) Engage in a worldview-driven introduction at the start of each unit. When you begin the conversation on Lincoln, help the students connect some biblical dots related to his life, beliefs, work, etc. When you start to talk about the design of the eyeball, speak about the qualities of the Designer. Or speak to how we can wisely use our eyes.

2) Include worldview-reflection at the end of each unit. This can be as simple as asking the students to write (or speak) about what they have learned about God’s power, presence, kindness, brilliance, etc. from that particular unit. This kind of work invites them into a natural reflective type of integration.

3) Write the rubrics for your assignments that invite/require the students to integrate. If they create a paper, presentation, project, report, etc., they can show how it relates God’s Word and God’s world. This helps the students start to explore the reality that all things are God’s things. Integration will seem more natural to students when it is more usual for them to be integrators themselves.

4) Have your key integration ideas planned in your unit so that you can assess them. Teach them just like you teach the rest of the content. Biblical integration will seem natural when it is included (and tested) in a way that is congruent with the rest of the material.

Part three of this series will interact with survey responses like, “Integrating my syllabus and the design of my course really helped me as a teacher,” and “How do I deal with the unbiblical ideas or conflicts that arise from time to time in our worldview discussions?”

The Rubric and Biblical Integration

In Every Bush is Burning, I make the case that if biblical integration is in the syllabus and the assessments, it will be much easier to ensure that you really teach in an integrated fashion. As teachers, we want our students to be prepared for their exams. We want them to accomplish what is mapped out in the syllabus. However, as with most things, integrating assignments/assessments is often easier said than done.

Here is one area that can help you make great strides to integrate your class: Include integration in the grading rubric.

The purpose of a rubric is to assess student performance against stated expectations. Therefore, if you regularly include an integration component into your rubric, you will then teach students to integrate everything they do. Look at the (incredibly basic, bare-bones, lightweight) example of a rubric that might be used in any class that assigns papers, presentations, etc.

Style/Grammar (40) Good: … Fair: … Poor: …
Content (40) Good: … Fair: … Poor: …
Biblical Engagement (20) Good: Accurately, thoughtfully shows connection to biblical ideas/themes/principles. AND cites/references specific Scripture passages. 16-20pts. Fair: Makes some effort to show connection to biblical ideas/themes/principles. OR cites/references specific Scripture passages. 10-15pts. Poor: Does not engage biblical ideas/themes/principles. OR presents inaccurate/shallow understanding of biblical teaching. 0-9pts.

Notice that all students are expected to participate in biblical integration. It is not something that they consume, but something they contribute. They are expected to practice thinking about their topics from a biblical worldview. This means that they are growing in their critical thinking, Bible study, and gospel communication. That sounds like a win for Christian education to me!

PS: This really can be done across subjects and in many different ways. Here are some examples using themes from the book of Jeremiah. In English, a student might note the brokenness of the heart (Jer 17:9) that arises in so many literary themes. In Anatomy/Biology, they might note design that God employed in making his people (Jer 1:5). In Music, they might talk about the different ways that God has given us to express emotion (Jer 33:11; 48:36).