Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Integration in the Classroom: Ten Teaching Strategies

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Integration in the Classroom: Ten Teaching Strategies

Article excerpt

Teaching integration involves engaging students as active participants in the unfolding relationship of psychology and Christianity, with a particular focus on integration. Ten specific teaching strategies are offered to help students enter into the challenges and opportunities of integration. The teaching strategies are organized according to Moon's (1997) four directions for integration: practical, personal, classic, and contemporary.


When Bain (2004) reported the results of a 15-year study on what the best college teachers do in the classroom, he emphasized the importance of lively engagement, where students are ushered into the drama and mystery of a particular discipline. Bain writes:

The best teachers often try to create what we have come to call " a natural critical learning environment." In that environment, people learn by confronting intriguing, beautiful, or important problems, authentic tasks that will challenge them to grapple with ideas, rethink their assumptions, and examine their mental models of reality. (p. 18)

Though Bain's research pertained to a variety of disciplines and worldviews his notion of crafting a "natural critical learning environment" seems particularly fitting for those attempting to teach the relationship of psychology and Christianity.

There are various views regarding the proper relationship between psychology and Christian theology (Johnson & Jones, 2000), ranging from those who perceive that the two disciplines should be relatively independent to those who believe one should be mostly quieted by the other. In this article-crafted by two professors and a graduate student each with a variety of experiences and perspectives on integration-we begin with the assumption that a mutually transformative integration is a worthy endeavor. That is, our faith ought to be influenced by what we discover in psychology, and our psychology ought to be influenced by what we discover in Christian theology. We explore possibilities for creating a learning environment where students enter into the realm of integration as active participants more than passive learners. We do this by revisiting the 4 directions for integration offered by Moon (1997): practical integration, personal integration, classic integration, and contemporary integration. In each case, we offer teaching strategies designed to engage students in the integrative process.


Today's integration is strongly influenced by the growth of clinical psychology doctoral programs housed in Christian institutions. Not surprisingly, integrative conversation. For example, "Should I pray with clients?" "What sort of integrative work is possible if the client and therapist do not share a Christian faith commitment?" "Is forgiveness a reasonable goal for Christian survivors of sexual abuse?" Students often enter graduate training with the expectation that their professors will offer dear and compelling answers to these questions and more, and then feel disappointed-even disenchanted-when they discover wide-ranging opinions on issues of practical integration. Offering students access to this range of opinions is an important goal for teaching practical integration.

Teaching Strategy: Talking to the Integrators (McMinn)

Once students work through the disappointment or realizing there is not a single textbook on how to do practical integration, they are often eager to understand the variety of perspectives that Christina psychologists hold. One way to do this is to assign a textbook that offers multiple perspectives on the relationship of psychology and Christianity, such as Psychology & Christianity: Four Views (Johnson & Jones, 2000). Another way is to assign more than one book-each offering a different perspective on how psychology and faith are related. At this point the professor faces a challenge of self-disclosure. Should the professor simply present the various perspectives for how psychology and Christianity can be related, or should the professor advocate for a particular perspective? …

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