Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

A Relationally Integrated Systems Model for Faith and Learning in Developmental Psychology

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

A Relationally Integrated Systems Model for Faith and Learning in Developmental Psychology

Article excerpt

In writing this paper, we were asked to talk about faith-learning integration within a developmental psychology classroom. For developmental psychologists, integration necessarily takes place on two levels: one's developmental theory, which should apply to faith development as well as development in other areas, and one's developmental practices in the classroom. This complexity is endemic to developmental psychology and yet there is a scarcity of writing from developmental psychologists in the field of integration. This paper therefore has two primary purposes: (a) to introduce a theoretical model (actually a meta-model) of integration that is grounded in the developmental literature and that attempts to capture the complexity of development, including faith development; and (b) to describe pragmatic approaches to integration in the classroom that developmental psychologists typically use.

Within faith-learning integration, there are few models that have emerged from Christian developmental psychologists. Although a course in Developmental Psychology is in the catalog in all but one of the 118 schools in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU.org), none of the authors of the works included in the "Bibliography for the Integration of Faith and Learning" (Dockery, 2007) and only one of the 30 first authors in the "seminal works" (Stevenson, Eck, & Hill, 2007) appears to have been trained in Developmental Psychology. The dearth of theoretical material is a loss given the distinctive approaches within developmental psychology to describing the complexity of our humanness. Perspectives from developmental psychology, if better integrated into the literature, could advance understanding of the process of integration and the whole of the Christian's life. (1)

The American Psychological Association currently defines developmental psychology as the branch of psychology concerned with interaction between physical and psychological processes and with stages of growth from conception throughout the entire life span (including developmental disabilities and animal behavior). Historically, however, the purview of developmental psychology was limited to research and training in children's development. Along with a broader purview, developmental psychology has been transformed by recent advances in genetics, longitudinal analysis, and neuroscience. New, more complex theories have emerged within the field along with these changes: systems approaches, longitudinal methodology, biological advances, and holistic views of person-hood--from which we draw our subsequent ideas.

Developmental psychology introduces unique challenges (as well as contributions) that are the result of asking difficult questions: What is our nature as relational beings? How is Christian maturity and faith development best described? How do we make sense of atypical as well as typical development, spiritually as well as in other areas? How can we best capture the interrelatedness of our biological and psychological natures and their implications for faith development? Theoretically, we propose that these challenges can best be addressed, and the strengths of developmental psychology can best be realized, by a unified paradigm that emerges from relational spirituality and developmental systems theories.

Our purpose is to introduce a paradigm--the integrated systems model of relational spirituality or the relationally integrated systems model. This paradigm unites two perspectives in developmental psychology, one that is primarily drawn from the integration literature (relational spirituality) and the other from developmental psychology (developmental systems). Our integrated paradigm provides a strong framework for conceptualizing development in general, and faith development in particular. We will then apply this paradigm to teaching in developmental psychology classrooms. In order to clarify its use, we will first summarize responses about current practices in developmental psychology classrooms, given in response to a survey we distributed to faculty in schools in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). …

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