Teacher preparation for distinctive evangelical schools
Stoner, Thomas Steven
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In the current atmosphere of expanding school choice, evangelical Christian schools provide a distinctive alternative consistent with deeply held beliefs of what is required for human flourishing, and represent a significant resource for parents seeking education based on a perspective diverging from those promoted by popular culture and public schools. However, current research reveals a pervasive gap between the ideal of a school integrating Christian faith with academic instruction and the actual practice found in most evangelical Christian schools. One key to closing the gap is specialized teacher preparation. Using a conceptual model of the characteristics of distinctive schools, this research identifies beliefs, knowledge, skills and characteristics that teachers should possess in order to promote distinctive evangelical schools. The dissertation reviews literature on the philosophy of evangelical Christian schooling and conceptual models for the integration of faith in learning, and contrasts the teacher-training model for evangelical schools with that for Montessori and Waldorf schools. Surveys of education professors at evangelical Christian colleges, administrators of Christian schools, and teachers currently working in Christian schools provide extensive evidence on prevailing beliefs about the characteristics of successful teachers for such schools. Interviews with faculty of colleges in different evangelical traditions document how they provide pre-service teachers with specialized training to work in Christian schools. The research found a striking lack of alignment between the major stakeholder groups with regard to teacher preparation for evangelical schooling and a series of bad ideas and practices that further undermine evangelical schooling, including a tendency to neglect the study of the truth of general revelation and a distorted hermeneutic that views the Bible as a textbook for the academic disciplines. These factors contribute to widespread confusion concerning the academic mission of evangelical Christian schooling and limit the ability of Christian-school students to engage the culture in the various academic disciplines with a cohesive and defensible faith. The conclusions include specific recommendations for the professional associations, education professors, administrators, and teachers to promote teacher preparation for distinctive evangelical schools.
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