Professors learn to incorporate faith in teaching

On Nov. 10, Executive Director of the Office of Faith Integration Paul Kaak and assistant professor of exercise science Doug Crowell led a seminar seeking to link faith integration to a concern about the development of good and godly character. They spoke to four other faculty members about how to integrate faith into their teaching.

“We want to clarify how character development can become meaningful and appropriate faith integration in our particular classes and professions,” Kaak said.

Kaak and Crowell used a hypothetical situation about teaching a class on athletic training and faith. They talked about the virtues that an athletic trainer would want to have in terms of faith and skill.

“I believe that those who came will walk away with both the inspiration and the understanding of how to connect the development of moral virtue to what their students have come there to learn,” Kaak said.

Crowell spoke about what he thought employers would look for in an APU graduate. He emphasized the significance of future employment in the presentation.

“Our exemplars are people out there who are saying, ‘This is what we’re looking for in a graduate from your university, from a Christian university,'” Crowell said.

Crowell talked about a conversation he had with a recruiter for Kindred Healthcare who oversees about 11 hospitals. When looking at the significant number of résumés given to him per week, the recruiter said that he briefly goes through their skills and references, but looks for something more when they are a graduate of APU.

“He called them the intangibles,” Crowell said. “He said, ‘I’m looking for team players, people who are service-oriented, people who have good listening skills, people who are compassionate and people who love God first.’ That’s what we do here.”

Crowell and Kaak built their presentation around the idea of helping professors learn how to teach with virtue.

“In addition to the great knowledge and skills and the ability to do research, we can do something a little bit different from a Christian perspective,” Crowell said. “That’s when we ask, ‘What does good character look like?'”

Crowell and Kaak laid out a series of steps and described the virtues people should seek in each profession. The main characteristic was integrity, which can be applied across all professions and classes.

Kaak circled back to the importance of faith integration in teaching and working with not only students, but professors as well.

“It is the commitment of the Office of Faith Integration to provide resources and encouragement to faculty to continue to better the job of faith integration in their classrooms,” Kaak said. “It is our job to support our faculty so they can do what they need to do for you and your friends.”

Crowell testified to what Kaak said. He has personally learned how to become a better teacher and an even better teacher of Christian virtues through the Office of Faith Integration.

“I think the Office of Faith Integration has really given me the opportunity to develop myself as a Christian educator,” Crowell said. “That’s why I came here to APU, to become a better Christian educator and professional.”

One of the professors in attendance, Tim Heumier of the mathematics and physics department, said the seminar helped him gain an appreciation for other ways of thinking about faith and physics.

“We’ve got a nice handle on how to do some aspects of faith integration, but this gives me some new ideas on how we might enrich what we already do,” Heumier said. “We already do some dwelling on the characteristics of a good scientist and draw parallels between that and Christians. This represents a more focused way on drawing those connections.”

The Office of Faith Integration’s next discussion will be on Monday, Nov. 21 in the Ronald Board Room from 3-4:30 p.m. The session will discuss how learning outside of the classroom can incorporate meaning in faith integration reflection. For more information, visit their office on West Campus in the Duke Academic Complex.

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