Teaching for Success: Making sure your students see the big picture amidst the “trees”!

by Dr. Larry Ruddell
Dean, Belhaven-Houston

Modern education too often focuses on particular facts and doesn’t show how those facts integrate. The normal text book is often written this way. For example, in Organizational Behavior, various theories of motivation are covered (i.e. Maslow, Herzberg and others) with no real analysis of which is better or which is true. It’s like ordering a steak at a fine restaurant and they serve you a raw piece of meat on a plate … ugh! We need to help students analyze material from a Christian worldview to see how information fits. In other words, we need to cook the steak to perfection and serve it attractively so it is pleasing and edible!

Genesis 1:26-28 reminds us that we have a purpose in all that we do; to take care of God’s creation and use it well. So we need to help students see the point in all that we teach. Otherwise, learning becomes frustrating.

We also want to refresh students in their learning activities versus frustrate them. As Jesus tells us: “‘For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.'” (Matthew 11:30 English Standard Version) In other words, we want to give students a “pathway for success” in our classes by making sure assignment requirements are clear, giving timely feedback and making sure we cover in detail any topics covered in tests or quizzes.

Finally, we need to set a positive, professional example in the way we handle the class material and each student. As Luke 6:40 reads, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” So our modeling goes a long way to making a lasting impact on students!

So, how do we make it work? Consider some specific ideas:

– Constantly ask yourself the question “so what”? Make sure students can see how the particular points you are making in class “works” in their work, personal and societal worlds.

– Clarify the meanings of terms and concepts covered in class. As Ecclesiastes (1:9) says, “… there is nothing new under the sun…” Often scholars will invent new terms to show they are offering unique insights when often the concept is not new at all. For example, business literature talks about “emotional intelligence” which simply reflects the Biblical concept of “wisdom” so help the students understand the secular term from the richer, Biblical concept.

– Give students a vision for why they are studying. For example, in the introduction to graduate studies class, we remind students that a Belhaven graduate business degree is equipping them to run an organization as CEO. That is why they need to understand all aspects of how organizations work; from finance to marketing, to business ethics. They need to look at themselves not only as what they are now but where they will be.

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