Deborah L. Moore, Ed.D.
Abstract: Most Common Teacher Characteristics that Relate to Intentionality in
Student Spiritual Formation (2011)
A Christian school teacher has the influential task of guiding students in their spiritual formation from a biblical worldview so that students’ lifestyles exhibit character, leadership, and service to others. Given this task, Christian teachers are able to be intentional in the areas of classroom management, instruction, and individual modeling. Little research has been completed in this arena, therefore these areas were developed by using Stronge’s (2007) book, The Effective Teacher. Stronge (2007) uses four areas to discuss an effective teacher which include: the teacher as an individual, teacher preparation, classroom management, and instruction. Concepts from developmental theories, spiritual formation, and Christian schooling were incorporated with Stronge‘s effective teacher characteristics to provide a foundation in determining the common characteristics that are related to intentionality in student spiritual formation.
To gather data for this research, fifty administrators from the Southeast Region of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) were asked to forward a survey to their teachers. Teachers within these schools were then asked to complete this survey regarding intentional practices for student spiritual formation. The survey made use of a Likert scale based on the continuum of very important to not important for the first 20 questions. Teachers were then asked to rate these characteristics and in a later question, teachers were asked to explain spiritual formation. By using the Likert scale, a rating system, and an open ended question, a triangulation method was used to find the most common characteristics related to spiritual formation intentionality.
Three characteristics were found to be significantly related to teachers who were intentional in student spiritual formation. The first characteristic was “creating a classroom climate”. This variable was listed as the second most important characteristic in the ranking portion of the study and was also in the top five responses in the open-ended question of the research study. This characteristic is also supported within the related literature, Johnson (1989) suggests that teachers arrange the immediate environment and select the specific content and experiences that are intended to influence learning. Miller (2008) also contends that the teacher can encourage and nurture the students to engage in learning by putting in place a simple structure and well-thought out routines. With a nurturing environment, teachers can encourage students to learn (Dettoni, 1994). This characteristic was found in all three methods indicating that classroom climate is related to teachers who were intentional in student spiritual formation.
The second characteristic that was found to be significant was “to be intentional in the spiritual disciplines”. This characteristic was found significant in the regression analysis and in the top five responses when ranking the characteristics. Within the related literature, Pazmino (1998) suggested that with the privilege of teaching comes a corresponding responsibility to prepare one’s own heart because it is from the heart that transformational teaching occurs. Lockerbie (2005) asserted that teachers should lead by example. In I Corinthians, the Apostle Paul desired that the Corinthians follow his example as he followed the example of Christ. The results of the survey indicated that teachers relate being intentional in their spiritual disciplines to intentional student spiritual formation.
The variable,“exhibiting a Christlike attitude”, was found not to be significant in the regression analysis but was the first choice in both ranking the characteristics and in the open-ended question. In the related literature, Christians are to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Clark (1994) encourages the process of spiritual formation by nurturing and discipling a student through the work of the Spirit. This variable rated highly in the two methods to reflect its importance as a characteristic that is related to teachers who were intentional in student spiritual formation.
The characteristics found to be most common included exhibiting a Christlike attitude, creating a classroom climate that promotes spiritual growth, and being intentional in their spiritual disciplines. The results were also divided into three levels which included Pre-K to 5th grades, 6th through 8th grades, and 9th through 12th grades. A characteristic unique to Pre-K to 5th and 6th through 8th grades was: “respectful of all students as they progress on their spiritual journey.”
Three of these variables (Christlike attitude, classroom climate, and respect for students) were located in the classroom management category. Stronge (2007) writes, “Many studies show that classroom management is an influential variable in teacher effectiveness” (p. 41). For teachers to be effective in student spiritual formation, intentionality in classroom management is a factor. Stronge (2007) also suggests that an effective teacher will create an overall environment that is conducive to learning. A classroom climate allows for a student to know Christ and to grow more like Him. For students to learn and understand spiritual formation the environment must foster this growth. This should be accomplished at all grade levels.
The three variables, Christlike attitude, classroom climate, and spiritual disciplines, were found to be the most common teacher characteristics that relate to intentionality in spiritual formation. However, these characteristics seem to be interrelated with each other. A teacher must practice spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, and worship to grow in his or her own relationship with Christ. Without being intentional to develop one’s spiritual formation, a Christlike attitude would be difficult to cultivate and maintain. A classroom climate that encourages and fosters students to grow spiritually would be led and modeled by a teacher who places significance on spiritual growth. A teacher who is involved in personal growth which enhances a Christlike attitude fosters a classroom climate that encourages student spiritual formation. A teacher then is able to model love, patience, kindness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) when managing the classroom and instructing students. This attitude also encompasses respect for students which was also found significant at the Pre-K to 5th and 6th to 8th grade levels. By demonstrating love, kindness, self-control, and respect when students are reflecting opposite behaviors, a Christlike attitude is demonstrated within a classroom climate that fosters spiritual growth. This can be accomplished when a teacher desires to grow personally (spiritual disciplines) to become like Christ (spiritual formation) to model His characteristics (Christlike attitude) in an atmosphere that fosters growth (classroom climate).
For Dr. Moore's complete dissertation, click here to order (UMI Publication Number 3465633).