It is time to begin a discussion on the second of our summer reading selections---Heart and Mind: What the Bible says about Learning by Ruth Beechick. If you have not already done so you might want to also review the previously posted comments regarding J.P. Moreland's book on Loving Your God with All Your Mind.  Participate in this forum by replying to one or more of the following conversation starters:

1) Professional educators should be continually encouraged to develop a distinctively biblical theory of teaching and learning. In what way does the reading of Heart and Mind provide insights into teaching and learning that are distinctively biblical? How do these insights impact your learning theory?

2) How does your understanding of Beechick’s model impact the levels of thinking in Bloom’s taxonomy?

3) What will you do differently (or encourage teachers to do differently) as a result of having read Heart and Mind

4) Additional discussion points are welcome. Please share your “enduring” ideas.

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"What will you do differently (or encourage teachers to do differently) as a result of having read Heart and Mind?

At the front end I think I would encourage teachers to stop teaching that the seat of all emotions is in the brain, the mind. Man is both material and immaterial, which has been largely ignored in schools for a long time. I would keep in mind that the heart and brain interact with each other, and that teaching "heart to heart" has a bigger impact on students than focusing only on the mind.

1) Beechick's approach to understanding the learner first is distinctly biblical in that she acknowledges man as an image-bearer of God. Without this foundational point, understanding man is disordered; we cease to study man in order to know God, instead studying man as the ultimate end. Beechick discusses man as a soul and heart, not just a brain that directs chemicals. Her learner is one who interacts with the eternal. Secondly, Beechick openly acknowledges that all there is to know about the heart and the mind is beyond our reach. We cannot fully understand because our understanding is darkened by the fall. Learning theory, then, should have a sense of humility tempering careful and thorough research. Pursuing understanding always should have God as the objective, knowing Him and serving Him. As an instructor, I want my students to know and trust this God who made man, this complex creature of heart and mind.   

1) Let me first say I love Beechick's down to earth writing style! Beechick makes the case time and time again that there is so much more going on in learning besides just what is going on in the brain. The brain is not where we find purpose. We may be able to make sense out of things there but ultimately the heart is where we find our purpose. When we find purpose we learn, create, we build. As psychologists seek to disregard the heart's involvement, Beechick proves that "Reason works better with emotion." (pg.77). 

The fact that man does have an immaterial side, a part of him that is controlled by sometimes unseen and unexplainable forces, is rooted in Biblical truth ("out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks"-Matt:12 :34). In her chapter on learning models (ch. 4) another Biblical truth is presented when contrasting the "pleasure principle" and the "reality principle." She talks about the reality principle is that of delayed gratification. Additionally, students also operate under a certain level of fear ("the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge"-Prov 9:10) This is not a terror kind of fear but a fear that understands real consequences and is motivated to take steps to avoid them. This gives way to conscience then to learning.

I very much agree with Beechick's foundational perspective on the way we learn especially as young children. In dealing with heart sets and conditions we really have a starting point for what comes after. 

3. I would encourage teachers to focus on discipline as well as teaching information. I know that most schools have a discipline system in place, but i would encourage teachers to look at the system they are using to see if it is for the benefit of the students. Beechick talks about how the Hebrew word yacar means to chasten or discipline or instruct. "The two ideas of punish and teach are inseparable" (129). While discipline needs to take place in the classroom, it should not be used merely to control students by force, but rather to help them develop self-discipline in order to move up to higher levels of learning. Teachers need to consider how the discipline they are implementing impacts the students and if it is being used to help them develop self-discipline or just being used to control the students by force.

3. The tree diagram (Growth model of the learner's progress) serves as a good reminder for me that growth takes place as we learn. Gospel bears and grows fruit (Colossians 1:6). As we abide in the true and living God, we (including and especially teachers) should also bear and grow fruits. We can transmit great knowledge in the classroom, but without the truth, everything is mere knowledge that makes us puffed up. It is important for educators to slow down sometimes, not only to assess our learners but also ourselves, and see if we've grown in any area of life than when we first started the school year. 

Heart and Mind brings some scientific evidence to our attention that supports truths the Bible has emphasized all along. Many Christian educators (and others with a biblical worldview) know from experience the great impact the heart has on all of life, including learning. One can fill the mind with all kinds of technical knowledge and jargon, but it has no lasting or meaningful impact if it does not reach the heart. I found Beechick’s description of the scientific research on the heart to be very intriguing, and the fact that science is validating these principles gives me a new sense of wonder at God’s creation. This is an encouraging reminder of the way God’s truth is relevant to every part of our lives including teaching and learning.

3) What I walk away with from this book is the importance of the heart-set as a prerequisite for knowledge. We cannot change students' hearts, but I think that by working hand in hand with parents, and by a wise choice of teaching methods, we can help students gain the motivation to learn, the inner purpose. Without this heart-set, our teaching is in vain. Ruth Beechick rightly points this out, "Those with purpose learn."

3. What will you do differently (or encourage teachers to do differently) as a result of having read Heart and Mind?

First, I would encourage teachers to remember that their students are image-bearers, a point that Beechick reminds us of in her book.  Our students bear the image of God, whether they know it or not.  How can we, as educators and fellow image-bearers, treat our students with disrespect or irritation?  No, it is not easy to keep our cool and be patient.  But it is our duty to view these kids as image-bearers.  Secondly, I would encourage (Christian) educators to remember that it is not of ourselves that we get to learn, but it is of God.  He has given us the ability to learn and to grow.  We cannot take that into our own hands.  We must acknowledge that He gives us knowledge.  And third, I would encourage educators to teach to the heart, not just the mind.  Yes, there is much intellectualism, reason, and logic in the Bible and in education.  That cannot be ignored.  But there is also the heart.  Our students need the heart medicine that through Jesus we can give them.  Don't forget that students have a heart that needs to learn just as much as the mind.

3. One thing that I took out of this book is that I need to assess my students’ understanding using different methods rather than just testing. I remember being great at tests. But now that I look back on it, all I was doing was regurgitating what I read. I realized later in undergrad that I had no idea why we had to do certain calculations for math. I just knew what equation was needed. I thought about these memories when reading this book. I need to keep in mind.

3. What will you do differently (or encourage teachers to do differently) as a result of having read Heart and Mind?

After reading Heart and Mind, I will encourage teachers to explore the three learning that Beechick mentions in the beginning of her book. Behaviorism, Humanism, and the Biblical learning theory each determine a different nature of the learner. Behaviorists believe that man's value is determined by the exterior, and does not have an immaterial side. Beechick says, "that is where current popular learning theories go wrong" (16). Both humanists and Christians believe that man has both an immaterial and material side that need to be considered for a learner to be taught correctly. The humanist bases his knowledge of the human on the study of people. Christians base their knowledge on the study of God. There are distinct differences and implications for each view. For example, a Christian will teach students that God has established absolutes, truths that we submit to. Humanists will teach students that they create their own truth and each truth is valid on it's own. Their theory contradicts itself because truth is universal and applies to all despite a choice to accept it or not. I would encourage teachers to be well informed of these three learning theories because they will be working alongside coworkers who believe in behaviorism or humanism. The teacher will have to know each view point, and be able to defend their position if they want to influence education. In conclusion, be informed!

1/3) I really enjoyed Beechick's valuable critiques of various learning theories. I thought she made a great point about how  the theories only address students from a "materialistic" perspective. This leaves them open to failure because people are more than material, they have an immaterial part. I thought this was well put and her emphasis on teaching both the material (mind) and the immaterial (heart/soul) really helped me want to maximize my desire for students to gain both knowledge and apply it with their heart. It was  a great way to come at teaching from a biblical perspective. I really want to challenge students to take what they know and put it into action. I think action helps believe it more deeply in the heart. I also think it is important for the teacher to be modeling both active mind and believing heart.   

As a result of having read Heart and Mind, I encourage myself and other teachers to teach to the heart. Teaching/schooling should be heart to heart; homeschooling is a reflection of this and as a result homeschoolers do so well. This idea works so well because the methods and even the curriculum do not matter nearly as much as the relationship between child and parent. This method would be extremely beneficial in the school system, especially in the public school setting, where a christian educator may have the opportunity to build a relationship with the students and share their faith.


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