Integration of Faith and Learning

Theory and Practice

Part II


Raquel B. de Korniejczuk, Ph. D

Uiniversidad Adventista del Plata


This second part of the paper describes teacher faith-learning integration according to the model, compares teachers', students', and administrators' perceptions related to teacher integration, and explores the factors which appear to influence teacher integration.

The model described above is structured upon seven levels of implementation of deliberate integration of faith and learning.  This is not a linear model.  Although it represents stages of teachers' deliberate implementation in integrating faith into subject matter, it is not a sequential design of hierarchical stages.  It may happen that a particular teacher fits in more than one level simultaneously, depending upon the subject or the theme he/she is teaching.  A description of the levels follows.

Level 0

Level 0 consists of those teachers who do not have a clear knowledge of what the integration of faith and learning means or are not interested in deliberate implementation.  These teachers may emphasize extracurricular IFL because they do not know the biblical principles and values that undergird their subjects, or, knowing the theoretical meaning of IFL do not know how to implement it in their classes.  Other level 0 teachers find difficulties in the subject they teach.  Teachers at this level may have other priorities in mind, or, knowing how to integrate, lack the necessary motivation to do it.  Hence, students of these teachers do not perceive any integration between faith and the subject.  If the teacher strongly believes that there is no relation between their subject and religion, students tend to identify with that dissociation.  In short, teacher course plans at level 0 failed to include evidence of integration.  Illustrative cases follow.

"I do not know how to implement integration

 in the curriculum": The case of Nancy

Nancy was a music teacher in her twenties.  She was the academy choir director and loved music.  She believed music can be used by the teacher as a means of teaching values.  However, she said that her course plan did not allow her to integrate: "I believe that all I can do right now is to relate my faith to other areas, rather than to music."  She explained in detail how she helped students to improve their self-esteem by encouraging them to list and share with the class the positive characteristics of their classmates, or by giving a religious music cassette to a student with problems.  "The most I can do is to bring religious music to my classes.  But not everyone enjoys that kind of music.  My students prefer secular music.  I do not know what to do."  She does not know any biblical principles that relate to music.  Her students did not remember any integration carried out, and course plans did not have any reference to integration.

"It cannot be implemented in my subject":

The case of Sonia

Sonia, a math teacher with more than 15 years of teaching experience, explained that IFL "is looking for an application where it is possible to share our faith…but you have to have splendid illumination to do it in each theme."  She explained a concrete example that she heard from a nun:

It is like teaching division. You take two numbers, if we take one and it is not enough, what happens? One number has to lend to another number. It is the same when we give something to those that are in need. It is simple, but that is what I understand (Teachers interviews were translated from Spanish).


She explained that she couldn't integrate faith in mathematics. She could not find any biblical principle relating to math.  Each relationship she cold thing of was artificial, and she rejected any artificial relationship.  However, she stated,

All my activity [in IFL] is extracurricular. In working daily with the students I care for their problems and needs. But not in the subject. I do not know how to do this with my subject. I do not know if it is possible.


Two of her students identified extracurricular integration such as singing spiritual songs at the beginning of the class, praying for students' special requests, and dialoging about students' spiritual concerns.  One of them, a senior, explained, "We have math early in the morning.  We sing and pray, but in this subject you cannot do much more than that."

"I have other priorities in mind":

The case of Mario

Mario, a music teacher, is too busy with other priorities to consider IFL.  Although he included some objectives toward IFL in his course plan, he did not follow through with it.  He said that if something came up that could be related with faith, he took advantage of that opportunity, "But right now I'm not doing much.  I'm working in cooperative learning, trying to teach students to work in groups.  I'm focused on that."  None of Mario's students mentioned him as a teacher who is accomplishing integration, and his course plans did not include integration.  He included in his course plans some of the school's general objectives, which related to IFL, but did not translate these objectives to his subject objectives or activities.

 "I know how to integrate, but I'm not doing it right now":

The case of Mary

Mary, an experienced chemistry teacher, had attended an IFL workshop a few years ago.  She was interested in IFL and made some concrete proposals on how to integrate faith and chemistry, but never applied any of them.  She understood that IFL was not just mentioning the name of God as Creator, but guiding students in investigation so they themselves can generate the IFL.  I asked her the reasons for not implementing the knowledge she has.  Mary gave three reasons: (1) lack of support from the principal ("Our academy is not concerned with IFL.  We do not have a leader to motivate us"), (2) lack of time ("I do not have enough time to spend in IFL.   The government course plan is quite strict"), and (3) lack of cooperation ("We [teachers] are not working together.  If we can collaborate with one another, we then can make IFL sense to students").

Mary was doing nothing toward becoming involved in IFL, although she knew what could b done.  During the interview she gave some good ideas on how her school could implement IFL more efficiently, and concluded by saying, "I hope these ideas can help you in your research."  However, she did not mention that she was going to implement any of them!  Her students did not mention her class as one in which integration is present, although one junior student explained that chemistry is "too scientific" to be related to spiritual issues.  Her course plans did not present any evidence of the integration of faith and learning.

Level 1

Level 1 includes teachers who believe that IFL can be intentionally incorporated within their subjects, but do not know how to do it.  They are interested in implementing IFL in their classes, and are therefore gathering information and looking for ways to do so.  Students of teachers in level 1 do not perceive any integration in their classes, and course plans do not include any kind of integration.

"I have little knowledge":

The Case of Daniel

Daniel is a physical education teacher in his second year at the school.  He had been teaching in public and Catholic schools.  He learned about IFL by listening to the principal talk about IFL at teachers' meetings.  Although he did not know exactly what IFL was, he believed that IFL was showing students how important Jesus is for them.

First I want to be a good model, having good Christian attitudes. Teenagers today need models, it is a pity that the ones they are using are not good ones. I always say to them that the best model is Jesus….I want my modeling to open a way to dialogue.


Daniel recognized that IFL was new for him.  He wanted to learn how to integrate, how physical education could be related to students' salvation.

Neither Daniel's students nor his course plans mentioned that any integration was being carried out by him.

"I am looking for appropriate ways":

The case of Paula

Paula, a skilled keyboarding teacher, relied on personal testimony, Bible classes, Week of Prayer, and other special weeks as the best ways to carry out faith-learning integration.  "I do not know if this is enough, that is why I try to do my part in the class."  She enjoyed working individually with each student and not giving general lectures to the whole class.  She gave me some concrete examples of the individual interest she has shown to students with problems in her class, and how they have improved.

Paula's concerns regarding IFL in the formal curriculum motivated her to create a keyboarding workbook, including Proverbs and other quotes.  Paula felt that students can receive the inspirational message while typing.  She still has not implemented her workbook, but had been trying some of her materials to see if students could profit from them.

Paula had been tying more or less systematically to infuse values such as order, neatness, and honesty, but did not include them in her course plan.  She is not sure if she is doing the right thing.  She would love to talk with other Christian keyboarding teachers.

The students I interviewed from Paula's classes did not recognize any integration in their keyboarding classes, and objectives an activities of her course plans did not include IFL.

Level 2

Level 2 teachers have not yet intentionally implemented IFL in their classes, but they already have enough information to introduce it systematically and have concrete plans to do so shortly.  Students do not recognize IFL in level 2 teachers, and course plans do not include objectives or activities toward integration.

"I'm going to incorporate in my course plan

some IFL I have tried": The case of Felix

Felix was an accounting teacher in his first year of teaching. After he graduated from a Christian university, Felix got a job as a treasurer in a small school, and, although he did not like teaching, was assigned to teach accounting.  IFL was for him something "canned."  "It was a forced way to introduce religion."  Felix told me that during student teaching they were required to find a spiritual application for each class, which was not an easy task.  Consequently, he rejected IFL.  But during that school year he had tried incorporating some Christian values--order, integrity--and he was pleased with the results.  Felix was surprised to find these values as basic principles for accounting, and decided to introduce them in the New Year's course plan.

Neither Felix's course plans nor his students identified integration.

Level 3

Teachers included in Level 3 are deliberately implementing integration of faith and learning in their classes, but no coherent worldview is presented.  Thus, their integration is either superficial or irregular.  If they are only using Bible verses, religious songs, or other religious material without any coherent or meaningful relationship with the subject, it is superficial implementation.  It is irregular when teachers relate only a few topics of the subject with values, religion, or faith, but do not continue the integration systematically throughout the subject.  Other teachers in Level 3 are against planned integration supporting, rather, spontaneous and unplanned integration.  Many emphasize either the modeling aspect, or the content aspect of integration, and do not have a clear profile of a Christian teacher in their subject.

The course plans of teachers in level 3 may include some integration at the level of general objectives in a particular unit, or in activities that propose a superficial integration.

Superficial and meaningless IFL: The case of Susy

Susy received her B.A. in Natural Science 6 years ago.  She stared teaching in a small Christian school, where teachers collaborated in student formation through individual relationships with students outside the classroom.  Last year she moved to a big Christian school, and found no collegial collaboration.  "It is a lot more difficult working here.  I found a professional student-teacher relationship where, it seems to me, students and teachers do not cooperate, but rather take a defensive position."  Thus, in attempting to integrate faith with the subjects, she systematically requested, in each test, comments from Bible verses related to the subject.  "Some students left that question blank in the first tests, but then they began to write something or other because I assign great value to that question."  However, there was not any further dialogue with students.  Susy expressed that she was eager to use her creativity in better ways, and to learn more effective ways of integration.

All three students I interviewed in Susy's classes recognized her integration.  A sophomore girl said, "In biology class it is very clear that God created man."  Another sophomore student mentioned,

What I remember most are the tests.  The teacher always included a question on one or two Bible verses, and we had to find out how they were related to the topic of the test.  At first, I had no idea how to figure this out, but now I am used to it because other classmates helped me.


She explained that they did not discuss these texts until after the test, which is why it was hard for her at first.

Course plans were not available, but the teacher provided me with nine sample tests where she included Bible verses.

Irregular use: The case of Nora

Nora has been teaching math in the same school for more tan 20 years.  She was concerned with the integral formation of students, and rejected artificial integration.  Most of her deliberate integration took place outside the subject.  "I stop everything when students ask questions.  I tell them that their formation is of more worth than math." Her emphasis on integration is on her modeling; however, she introduced some objectives in the course plan.  "In teaching percentage I have included the biblical tithe.  Maybe they will forget about percentages but I hope they will not forget about tithe."

Nora's course plans included one general objective related to IFL, which was "to value the infinite wisdom of God and His laws that rule matter and the universe."  One unit had separate activities for IFL that included the grouping of finite and infinite species.  One of her students mentioned one example of Nora's integration by saying that "when we studied quantities or measures, we looked to Bible measures and converted these measures into current ones."

Unplanned and spontaneous but deliberate: The case of Oscar

Oscar taught biology.  He explained to me that he has a personal idea of how to implement IFL.

To me, IFL is so sensible and dynamic that it may fit in at any moment. It may appear in ten consecutive classes, and it may not appear in another ten. I do not like systematic integration because it is too structured. I believe that IFL cannot be planned, because it may become fictitious. I do it spontaneously, so students perceive that we are living the faith, and we are not pretending. IFL should be natural.


Oscar thought that planning IFL may provoke negative effects in students.  He thought that including IFL in his course plan is like including extraneous elements in Science.  For this reason, he did not include integration of faith and learning in his course plans.  Three out of four of Oscar's students I interviewed mentioned that he related spiritual issues with the subject, but were unable to give concrete themes or examples.

Level 4

Level 4 teachers include both the modeling and the content aspects of integration in their definition of IFL.  They are concerned with presenting a coherent worldview to their students.  Although having incorporated IFL in their course plans, they think it should to be naturally implemented.  Teachers at this level focus their IFL interest on their role as teachers rather than on the IFL students may accomplish.  A stabilized implementation of IFL makes level 4 teachers satisfied with what they are doing and hence do not consider changing their strategies.  Students recognize integration with teachers at level 4 and are able to mention concrete examples, but perceive that they are not very much involved in the integration process.  Course plans include at least general objectives on integration, and frequently unit objectives and activities are related to IFL.

Stabilized implementation--Little change:

The case of Linda

Linda was also an experienced history teacher who believed, "We cannot spare any opportunity to integrate."  She recognized that at the beginning of her teaching she had missed many opportunities to integrate, and little by little composed a carefully planned integration for each unit: objectives, activities, and evaluation.  However, little change occurred.  "At the moment something occurs I may introduce some changes, but it is not frequent."

Linda's course plans are infused with IFL from the general objectives to activities and evaluation.   For instance, one unit objective stated: "To reflect on the Christian viewpoint regarding the war."  This objective was to be accomplished through the following activities:

Read Luke 21:10 and 26, and relate them with: (a) causes of the war, (b) consequences of the war, (c) what the Bible says about the condition of the world at the end of the history, (d) look for Bible texts relating to the selfishness and ambition of the human being, (e) compare Isaiah 14:12-23 with Ezekiel 2:8, (f) find an application to current issues in history after reading Matthew 24:6-8, 21; Luke 21:9-11, 26; Daniel 12:4; Isaiah 2:11, 12, 14-17, and 22.


One of Linda's students mentioned that, "the teacher talked about the Bible in history class.  She made us look up some Bible texts related to the issue we were learning." But the student also said that student participation is more passive than active and therefore not very interesting.

Level 5

Level 5 teachers focus their integration on students' responses.  They have a repertoire of strategies and vary approaches according to students' responses and needs.  They are constantly improving their integration of faith and learning.  Although they have planned integration of faith and learning, the implementation is natural and spontaneous.  Teachers at level 5 attempt to involve students in the integration process, and are alert to personal differences or concerns among students.

The case of Marlene

Marlene grew up in a non-Christian home.  She became a Christian 3 years ago, and accepted an invitation to teach math in a Christian school.  The principal and other teachers told her she should integrate her faith in her classes.  So she looked for information, read books, asked advice from the pastor of her church.  She also asked Mary--the chemistry teacher mentioned in level 0--for help in particular issues. "When I did not find the information I needed, I would ask an experienced professor like Mary, who was always happy to five some guidance."

Marlene enjoyed implementing integrating of faith and learning in a planned and natural way.

The other day, one student told me, "Teacher, why do we have to buy so many textbooks, when for you the Bible contains everything? It contains math, history, biology. Why do we have to buy textbooks when in the Bible you find everything?" Well, I have used the Bible to give them physics laws, and he was so astonished!


She was concerned with student response to integration.  "I just look at their faces and know what they are thinking.  I encourage them to draw their own conclusions."

Although at first Marlene was not included in my random selection of teachers to be interviewed, I decided to include her because every student I interviewed in her school mentioned her as the first and best example of integration, and they were enthusiastic about integration.  "Although it seems strange, the best relationship between subject and religion I see is in math," stated a freshman student.  "We look in the Bible for math and physics laws.

Everyone was surprised that these laws were there long before they were discovered by any scientist.  And we discussed why."  Another student said that "in math there are more relationships with faith because the subject is more appropriate.  We dialogue a lot; it is interesting.

Factors Related to Deliberate Teacher Implementation

of Integration of Faith and Learning

There are several factors related to the process of deliberate teacher implementation of the integration of faith and learning: (1) teacher knowledge of IFL, (2) teacher interest in implementing IFL in the formal curriculum, (3) teacher planning of implementation, (4) teacher management concerns, and (5) difficulty of the subject to accomplish the implementation.

Teacher Knowledge of IFL

The knowledge teachers have appears to determine the type of implementation they carry out.  This study determined two kinds of knowledge: theoretical knowledge about IFL, and knowledge about implementation of IFL.  The first deals with teachers' concept of IFL, teachers' worldview, teachers' knowledge of biblical themes that undergird the subject, and teachers' idea of the expected IFL integration in the subject they teach.  Gaebelein (1968) and Holmes (1975, 1977) expressed that a comprehensic concept of IFL that involves all areas of the curriculum facilitate the integration.  In fact, this research determined that teachers who included the informal, hidden, and formal curriculum in their concept of integration are in the highest levels of implementation in the formal curriculum.

Most of the current literature on IFL deals with worldview in general or particular issues of different subjects, but very little deals with a foundational basis of biblical themes that undergird different subjects; and there is no clear profile of the expected integration that can be accomplished in the diverse academic areas.  This lack of knowledge affects teacher implementation.  The greater the knowledge on biblical foundational themes that can be integrated, the higher the stage of implementation.  Regarding the ideal profile of teacher integration, my research (Korniejczuk, 1994) showed that teachers who were not implementing did not think about it, and those who were carrying out integration related the ideal profile to their actual situation, pointing out their perceived weak areas.

Partial or wrong ideas on integration do more harm than good. Teachers who had been trained toward superficial or artificial integration tend to reject it, and do nothing to implement integration in the formal curriculum in order to avoid artificiality.  Generally, they tried to develop students' faith with extracurricular activities, or to relegate integration to Bible classes.  A balance between all faces of integration, whether in the informal, formal, and hidden curriculum, tends to be accomplished by teachers who have a more comprehensive understanding.

Literature on teacher change and implementation suggests that translation from knowledge to implementation requires good training, teamwork, and support from leadership (Fullan, 1982, 1992; Hall & Hord, 1987).  During my interviews, several teachers expressed how they struggled alone for many years in looking for ways to integrate.  New teachers would like to have the advice of experienced ones in this journey.  They want to leave this isolated condition to share with other both successes and concerns.

Teacher Interest on IFL

Although the great majority of teachers (81.6%) I interviewed expressed being interested in IFL, there are differences in their interest in particular aspects of IFL.  Many teachers (83%) would like to know the experiences of other colleagues in their integration.  Eighty percent of the teachers expressed that they would like to know what their principal thinks about the IFL they are accomplishing.  In spite of this high general interest, a minor number of teachers (36.9%) were interested in the requirements or implementation. Interest in particular issues of implementation were expressed only by those teachers who were attempting to implement IFL in their classes, whereas those who were not implementing expressed no specific interest for any aspect of IFL.

Students' interest in IFL ran parallel to teacher interest.  Student interest was less related to their religious knowledge, background, or affiliation that as to their participation in the IFL process.

Teacher Planning of IFL

Fullan (1992) pointed out that "in order for implementation to succeed, implementators have to gain a clear understanding of what to do and change in order to put the innovation into practice" (p. 31).  Thus, clear objectives on all levels (system, school, subject) are important.  All the selected schools had a mission statement and had elaborated school goals toward integration, but teachers and students were not familiar with them.  Moreover, they were rarely transferred to the subjects.  In some schools, school objectives were reviewed only prior to surveys, were and kept in inaccessible places.

The importance of planning IFL is demonstrated by this study.  Only teachers who planned IFL were implementing it, and in general those who did not plan were concerned that the planning of IFL would promote artificial integration.

Emergent Teacher Concerns

Although in general teachers did not express major concerns, teachers' concerns varied from school to school and from teachers who implemented IFL to teachers who did not.  Common concerns focused on leadership and religious backgrounds of students.


The leadership of the school is very important in establishing the spiritual mode of the school (Fullan, 1992; Hall & Hord, 1984).  Teachers perceive principals' priorities.  Those who are in levels 0 to 3 tended to recognize the lack of coherence in presenting a Christian worldview in their classes, but attribute that situation to deficiency in promoting integration by the leaders of the school.  Nevertheless, teachers in levels 4 or higher seem scarcely to perceive that need.  Teachers are anxious for recognition.  Eighty percent of teachers who responded to the questionnaire I administered would like to know what their principals think about the integration they are accomplishing.  During interviews, young teachers in particular expressed that they would like to have an evaluation of their teaching, particularly in the area of integration.  Even though in faculty meetings principals frequently remind them to integrate, they are not sure that what they are doing is right.

Principals from every selected school described that the main purpose of their school is to provide integral formation from a Christian perspective.  But thy recognized that they were not quite acquainted with how the integration should look like in the formal curriculum for different subjects.  That is why thy are only encouraging teachers o do the best the can, and on occasion, invited a guest to provide more ideas.  However, principals with high spiritual commitment, who feel they are spiritual leaders as well as academic or administrative leaders, create an atmosphere where teachers are more involved in integration in the formal curriculum.  Students in those schools value the Christian atmosphere, and want to remain in that school, regardless of other deficiencies.

The vision the principal has for the school is the guiding light for the school community.  The vital role of vision appears in every book on educational and organizational excellence.  Both the content and the process of vision building and implementation are essential for leaders.  Although that vision may not have been written in the set of general goals, it is unconsciously perceived.  Fullan (1992) stated that "vision building is central to selecting and maintaining focus" (p. 93).  If IFL is not a part of the principal's driven goals, it is very unlikely it will occupy a fundamental place in the school.

Cultural environment

Hargreaves (1992) described that teachers' strategies are developed according to the context in which teachers work--"from beliefs, values, habits and assumed ways of doing things among communities of teachers who have had to deal with similar demands and constraints over many years" (p. 217).  Each selected school has its own culture of teaching that impacts teachers' beliefs, values, and habits on implementing IFL.  For one school, the religious background of the country may be seen as barrier to integration, whereas for another school it is seen as an advantage.  The high proportion of non-Seventh-day Adventist students is perceived as a difficulty to carry out integration, whereas in other schools it is perceived as a positive challenge and benefit.

Teachers' individual concerns

Teachers' individual concerns varied according to the level of implementation.  Teachers who were not implementing were mostly concerned with external factors such as the support of the administration or availability of resources.  On the other hand, teachers who were implementing IFL were more concerned with internal factors such as the lack of coherence in the presented worldview, and in the lack of student participation and commitment.

Difficulties of the subject

Gaebelein (1968) expressed that some subjects present more difficulties than others. He said that integration in history, literature, or Bible comes more naturally than in accounting or mathematics.  ST. Olaf College Self Study Committee (1957) described the law of closeness of relation that illustrated the relation of knowledge to the person. The movement is from the formal, more abstract sciences to the more personal, culminating in theology.  Teachers who expressed that IFL is difficult to implement, were in the area of mathematics, business, or computer science--this is the formal science.  However the majority of interviewed teachers perceived that the subject they teach does not present difficulties in integration.  They also perceived that some themes--those they are more interested in, or are more knowledgeable about--they can reach a higher level of implementation.

Recommendations for Practitioners and the Parochial School System

1. Since the degree of teacher implementation of IFL is mainly determined by teachers' knowledge and interest, it is imperative that teachers have the interest, skills, and resources necessary to implement IFL.  Administrators and curriculum consultants should promote the planning of IFL at subject level as well as provide follow up and support systems to teachers implementing IFL.

2. Parochial educational planners at all organizational levels should spell out a concise philosophy, set of goals, and essential biblical themes that undergird the subjects.  This would provide guidance in preparing textbooks and curriculum materials for each level thus making the task easier for classroom teachers.  Denominationally prepared curriculum materials based upon biblical principles and values may help teachers to translate faith into action.  In addition, a tentative ideal profile of integration for each subject can serve as a guide for teacher integration.

3. Regional or national teachers' conventions planned by the parochial school system can help build awareness on IFL, as well as provide opportunities for interchange of ideas.  Not withstanding the advantage of regional or national conventions, IFL concerns should be dealt with at the school level due to the particular concerns that affect each school.

4. Administrators should disseminate school objectives to the whole school community and encourage discussion and eventual consensus as to the role of faith and learning.  Having done this, the school staff should be expected to translate these objectives to their particular areas.

5. Administrators and the support system should provide opportunities for teamwork within the school and with colleagues of other schools that support a similar value system, in order to provide students with a coherent Christian vision.

6. Teachers should focus their strategies for integration in promoting active student participation in the IFL process.  They should coordinate their efforts trying to provide a coherent Christian worldview.

7. The model developed was not intended to be used as a tool for summative evaluation tool or anonymous corporate awareness instrument.

Although the model represents stages of teachers' deliberate implementation, it is not a sequential design or hierarchical stages.  It is not designed t be used as a developmental model, but as a descriptive model that describes the kind of IFL that the teacher is accomplishing.  It may happen that a particular teacher fits in more than one level simultaneously, depending upon the subject or the theme he/she is teaching.

8. Teachers, administrators, and policy makers should recognize that although this study was concerned only with the formal curriculum, the integration of faith and learning in the formal curriculum does not substitute the implementation in the hidden and informal curricula.  They should be aware that in the dynamics of the school there is a subtle interplay of all aspects of the curriculum.  This complex and symbiotic relationship impacts on the implementation of IFL.

Thus, the implementation of faith and learning should comprise all aspects of curriculum, involve all members of the school community: administrators, teachers and students, and transcend to the wider community.



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