Created to Learn: A Christian Teacher’s Introduction to Educational Psychology by William R. Yount

Through this book, Yount hopes to expand the understanding of educational psychology in the field of Christian teaching. He does this by using a model of teaching that he has called, “The Disciplers’ Model.” According to his model, there are seven elements: Content Mastery (“letting the Bible speak”), Learner Needs (individual differences and development), Thinking (cognitive and behavioral development and theories), Feeling (empathy and sharing oneself with others), Relating (group dynamics), Growth (maturation and human growth), and Holy Spirit (spiritual growth) (22). His book is devoted to outlining the concepts in each element.

Yount believes teachers ought to provide three things for their students: (1) help learners think objectively, (2) help learners unmask, and (3) help learners build relationships (17). Teachers (who are also “disciplers”) can see indications of spiritual growth in their students through the learners’ reduction of “fleshly behaviors” and development of more “godly behavior” (19). He explains the intricacies of learning-how one learns, how one teaches, how information is cognitively stored, and how the Bible can be taught and integrated into a person’s life. The basics of teaching is illustrated in the two principles Yount shares: One principle is to “become great, serve,” and the second is to live one’s life as an example of Jesus’ own life which is “the Son of Man, as a ransom for many.” He states that a teacher’s place is to serve the learner (43).

I found the section on the history of behavioral change interesting. Yount shares that “secondary reinforcers” included such things as “acceptance, hugs, attention, money, grades, prizes, free play, games, and trips” (166), but he never provided practical application of “secondary reinforcers” in Christian education. He provided practical applications in other sections of the book, for example he said that Bible classes are verbally taught and teachers tended to “spoon feed” scripture to their students rather than having them realize the meaning on their own (203). In order for students to find the meaning of scripture for themselves, he suggests writing three questions on 3×5 cards and passing it out to small groups. The groups will study certain passages using the Bible and other resources and answer the questions. Each group then shares their answers and discusses the variations (203).

The inclusion of Kohlberg’s stages of “moral reasoning” seemed more appropriate for an ethics book rather than one on education. Yount featured the findings of Duska and Whelan in an effort to legitimize his use of Kohlberg’s work. Although Duska and Whelan suggest that Kohlberg’s theory “fits well” with Christian principles, it was a “stretch” to include it in a book about education and the process of learning. In fact, Yount states that Duska and Whelan’s stages “provide helpful filter for various levels of Christian practice” (116). On the other hand, James Fowler’s “Stages of Faith” was a good addition to Yount’s book primarily because Fowler’s study was based on “how a person believes” (122). In understanding where the learner and teacher “stands” in regards to personality, approaches in life, and personal drive, proper adjustments in the learning environment can be exercised.

Yount took the reader through several aspects of secular and biblical models of learning, so his emphasis of Jesus’ teaching methods was a good concluding chapter for his book. Many features of Jesus’ teaching ministry were basic ingredients that are easily overlooked. For instance, Yount shared, “Jesus established relationship with His learners,” “Jesus recognized the worth of His learners,” and “Jesus stressed long-term rather than immediate results”(354-62).

Overall, Yount’s book provided a wholistic approach to education as he utilized the works of cognitive psychologists, behaviorists, and psychoanalysts by reframing their findings in Christian terms. He makes a good effort to tie everything together as he examines Jesus as the “Master Teacher” (340). This was a fitting end to his book.

Copyright © 2007 M. Teresa Trascritti

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