While teaching pre-service teachers, I have always begun my classes with a devotional thought and prayer. These devotional thoughts were meaningful and to the point, allowing me to share Jesus with my students before we continued with the class. Although this was good, I felt like there was a greater opportunity during these first few minutes of class to really reach out to my students and make them think critically about the devotion throughout the class time and beyond. I wanted to integrate faith and learning more while still achieving the learning outcomes for the class.
In order to change my devotional approach, I embarked on a new way of planning for the devotional. To teach my students how to integrate faith in their own classrooms, I needed to model this for them by implementing best practice. So, I began a new devotional approach utilising an adapted version of the curriculum cycle: I do (teacher models), we do (teacher and students practice together) and you do (students do independently).
I begin by planning my class period, then I search through the Bible and other Christian material for material related to aspects of the class topic. This allows me to use the devotion to introduce one aspect of the class topic. Then I continually refer back to the devotion and demonstrate to my students how it linked to the lesson topic throughout the class period.
This approach has changed a number of things for my classes:
- The devotion is relevant and applicable to the lesson content.
- My students arrive to class on time, not 5 minutes late. The devotion is part of the lesson topic and they don’t want to miss out on the information.
- Because the devotion is embedded throughout the class and is repeated, my students experience and discuss the connection with the topic and the integration of faith and learning. They learn by observation how to embed faith into lesson material, a skill they will need when they begin their own teaching.
- My students leave class with the devotional thought and class topic integrated. The students tell me they continue to discuss the devotion outside of class. One student shared that she shares the devotion with her family in the evening. Another group of students meets later in the day to discuss the class and this discussion usually results in a Bible study because of the devotion. Interestingly, a few non-Christians have been part of these out of class groups and they are now actively asking questions and engaging in the devotional discussions.
Implementing this change has required intentional planning and critical thinking on my part; however, the extra effort is yielding transformative learning as well as successfully integrating faith and learning in my classes. Making a short devotional link to the current learning in each class can be very helpful for bringing our Christian faith into our classrooms.