Core Values & Worldview Impact School Outcomes

Core Values & Worldview Impact School Outcomes
By Toby A. Travis, Ed.D.

A leader’s worldview affects all that they say, do, and think. When it comes to the development of the school’s curriculum, there is no way to approach the task without it being impacted by one’s worldview. Therefore, it is essential that leaders first recognize their bias and address the influence of their individual perspectives.

Every teacher teaches from a point of view, a point of view determined by his fundamental convictions, philosophical, theological, psychological, scientific, and so on. Those convictions are not something separate from his education, but are shaped by it as it is shaped by them. An atheist sees history, and everything else, differently than a theist; and his atheism may be the result of his education or may simply confirm what his education has taught him.[1]

When school leaders discuss the core values that are the basis of curriculum development, it is important to recognize that curriculum and education are distinct from each other. Often in news reports and presentations at conferences and events, we hear about what needs to take place in education today. These reports and talking points typically address methods of how learning should happen in a contemporary setting. However, curriculum, and the core values related to curriculum design, is focused on the what and the why of learning.

Curriculum forces us to think about ethics, whereas education is frequently discussed as if it can be divorced from questions of right and wrong. Curriculum is about the substance of what should be taught (an ethical matter), whereas education is often presented as if it can or should be a social science disconnected from the moral question of curriculum.[2]

There are moral and ethical questions, as well as theological and spiritual ones, to address through the curriculum. This truth reveals an area in which trust greatly diminishes if not approached correctly. For example, in a faith-based setting, if the school’s purpose is to propagate a specific belief, dogma, or perspective through the manipulation of the curriculum – then it is not authentically doing the work of a school (i.e. developing the critical thinking ability of students from a distinctively Christian worldview). This problem is common in faith-based schools owned and operated by a specific denomination or extension of a local church where students are not exposed to a wide range of Christian thinking. This problem is common in faith-based schools owned and operated by a specific denomination or extension of a local church.

A Christian school whose purposes are primarily religious or psychological or social is not a school… It is not a school when it is a church or counseling center, a youth group or Bible study… If your goal is to help young people in some psychological or spiritual way, you should be in counseling or youth work, not teaching. [3]

Yet, many Christian schools struggle over how to accomplish the ministries and functions of a church, counseling center, youth group, or Bible study through the manipulation of the curriculum. This may be well-intentioned, but ill advised. D. Bruce Lockerbie, founder and CEO of Paideia, Inc. makes the emphasis that “A school is a school.”[4] If school leaders lose sight of the essential purpose and function of a school, and they set expectations of the school to meet the full emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs of their students, as well as the educational and developmental needs, they will never be able to accomplish adequately that end – and they will be continually frustrated in the process. A school cannot and should not be expected to meet all of these needs.

In 2011, the Cardus Education Survey reported for the first time, and with the largest sample ever of Christian school graduates and Christian school leaders in North America, findings related to spiritual formation, cultural engagement, and levels of academic development.[5] One finding revealed in this study is that students graduating from Roman Catholic schools went on to higher levels of academic achievement in comparison to graduates of Protestant schools – but “at the expense of developing students’ faith and commitment to religious practices.”[6]

The report goes on to show that “Protestant Christian schools, conversely, are providing a place where students become distinct in their commitment to faith, but are not advancing to higher education any more than their public school peers.”[7] The Cardus report revealed these two outcomes are directly tied to the core values identified in the school’s curriculum and priorities. Roman Catholic school leaders ranked university as the highest priority, while Protestant school leaders ranked family as their top emphasis.

This principle holds true in all school settings – whether faith-based or not. Core beliefs matter. The worldview embraced and articulated by trusted school leaders, to a large degree, molds and shapes the school’s curriculum – and learning outcomes.

So… what are your core values? Are they well defined? Do those core values, and the worldview they represent, support your curriculum goals? When the school leader’s worldview and values, along with the expected student outcomes are in alignment, then high levels of trust are present. When high levels of trust are present, schools excel in every way. Learn more HERE.

©2017 Toby A. Travis, Ed.D.

[1] Riesen, Piety and Philosophy, 1382-1385, Kindle.

[2] Wesley Null, Curriculum: From Theory to Practice (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2011), 270-272, Kindle.

[3] Riesen, Piety and Philosophy, 1754-1756, 1880-1881, Kindle.

[4] In 2008, Dr. Lockerbiee spoke to the faculty and staff at the Alliance Academy International in Quito, Ecuador about what it means to think Christian. For more information see Paideia, Inc., accessed 25 August 2016, http://www.paideia-inc.com.

[5] “Research Programs Cardus Education,” Cardus, accessed 30 June 2016,  https://www.cardus.ca/research/education/publications/surveys/.

[6] Cardus Education Survey (Pasadena, CA: Cardus, 2011), Page 6.

[7] Ibid.

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