Last August, I published a simple model for helping students engage in better synthesis and integrate scholarly thought, personal experience, and biblical truth & Christian wisdom into discussion forums and academic writing. I am convinced these three domains represent distinct but crucial arenas essential for vibrant Christian higher education. The model labels these as Academic/Scholarly, Practical/Experiential, and Biblical/Spiritual.
The model has now been updated to a new, improved version based on experiences of several of our faculty using it this last year in OKWU’s adult degree programs. This new 2016 version is much more visually interesting and cleaner. It also now includes a separate tool for learning to use it in critical thinking, asking good learning questions, class discussion, or reflective writing and analysis.
It can be tempting to read this as a variation on the head/heart/hands motif often used in Christian ed and discipleship, but it isn’t for the simple fact that cognition, emotion/belief, and behavior are intrinsic in all 3 domains independent of the other. Rather, each of the three dimensions is differentiated on the raw ingredients and kind of learning that happens in that domain. The model emphasizes that the best learning occurs where these three meet.
Academic/Scholarly is more than merely cognition and the mental thinking processes involved in learning. It relates to objective data, research, information, the raw “content” around which learning and practice happen. It emphasizes that learning, belief, and practice is and ought to be more than one’s own preferences or inclinations, that learning must be more than subjective affirmation or experience.
Practical/Experiential is more than just behavior or action. It focuses instead on the skills, systems, processes, and environment in which learning and life are lived out and understanding or assessing one’s own experiences within that environment. It emphasizes that knowledge and learning must ultimately be useful to an appropriate end — thought I vehemently oppose utilitarianism or functionalism as a base educational philosophy — and that it can or ought to shape the way we act.
Biblical/Spiritual is more than just the affective domain of value or emotion, though those are certainly vital. It emphasizes the role of one’s worldview and fundamental value systems as the foundational lenses through which learning and behavior are often governed. It deals with the underlying ethical questions about the nature of truth and right/wrong in both intellectual and behavioral endeavor.