How Do Our Embedded Biases Affect Our Classrooms?

Independent learningIn their book A Vision with A Task: Christian Schooling for Responsive Discipleship,[1]Gloria Stronks and Doug Blomberg make the following observation about the hidden curriculum of North American schools:

“Schools in our society feel the persuasive and pervasive effects of individualism. Students want to choose their own courses, decide their own amount of effort, and develop their own rules. Teachers want to decide their own methods and content, limit their own workloads, and control their own classrooms. Parents want schools to fit their personal purposes, to use their own reading preferences, and to allow them to decide their children’s courses.

“Although schools often lack an official common purpose, both the curriculum in use and the hidden curriculum show a great deal of commonality in North America. The implicit goals of schools are remarkably similar: to enable students to become productive members of an individualistic, consumeristic, and relativistic society. Frequently Christian schools promote “the Christian good life” more than they encourage the growth of discipleship…”[2]

This focus on individual learning is often present in many Western-style international schools as well.  Our classrooms frequently favor individual work and achievement. This bias is present in many of our pedagogical routines, and most definitely in our methods of assessment. We want to know how well each individual student has mastered the material taught.

While there is not anything inherently wrong in these educational biases, it is important for educators to acknowledge them and examine them in light of a Biblical worldview. How do assumptions about the individual nature of cognitive learning affect the way students come to understand other areas of personal development? Does the focus on individual achievement help or hinder our students’ ability to live in community? To love others? What are the strengths of such an approach in a Kingdom centered classroom? What are the weaknesses? How does this approach affect learners who come from more communal backgrounds? What is the role of discipleship within this approach?

Becoming aware of the deeply embedded beliefs that we bring with us into the classroom is essential as we engage the question of what it means to be a Kingdom educator. When we begin to examine these beliefs, submit them to the lordship of Christ, and discuss them within our educational communities, we open ourselves and our communities up to the transformational work of the Holy Spirit. Whether we find that our focus and pedagogy shifts or simply becomes more intentional, asking these questions will help us to become better teachers and more faithful servants of the Kingdom. And that is definitely a goal worth pursuing!

Becky Hunsberger
Teacher Educational Services
TeachBeyond


[1] Stronks, Gloria Goris & Doug Blobmerg (eds). A Vision with a Task: Christian Schooling for Responsive Discipleship.  Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship. 1993. Available on-line as a PDF document at www.calvin.edu/academic/education/news/publications/monoweb/vision/preface.html