Just as biblical worldview can be integrated into each academic subject area, we also must use every tool available to properly assess it in each course. Whether it’s engaging with literature through a biblical lens, or thinking critically—and biblically—about ever-changing social norms and popular cultural views, it’s important to evaluate what students are actually grasping and applying in regard to what the Bible teaches.
So, with that in mind, what are some ways we can measure how well students are grasping a biblical worldview within the online classroom?
It’s important to remember that a worldview is just that: a world-view—something much bigger than merely a subject matter. Therefore, we need to make sure that student progress is measured not only in terms of biblical knowledge but in terms of biblical praxis—putting that knowledge into action. Of course, praxis begins with knowledge, but we need to ensure that our assessment of students’ biblical worldview goes beyond measuring whether they know biblical facts.
It’s important to remember that a worldview is just that: a world-view—something much bigger than merely a subject matter.
It’s critical that our faith—and our exercising of it—is growing in proportion to our knowledge, and that our assessment methods capture that. In other words, the real goal is to determine whether students’ views of the Bible indeed affect every part of their world.
Another more modern term (but not concept) that applies here is “spiritual formation.” The late theologian Dallas Willard, one of the biggest champions of spiritual formation, also used a much older term to describe it: discipleship.
Spiritual formation in the tradition of Jesus Christ is the process of transformation of the inmost dimension of the human being, the heart. . . . It is being formed (really, transformed) in such a way that its natural expression comes to be the deeds of Christ done in the power of Christ. . . .
I think that what we found, beginning some years ago, was that [hearing and believing the Bible only] really does not do everything that is needed or that we thought it would do. And . . . we came to accept the marginalization of discipleship to Jesus. We came to see it as something of an option that we might choose to exercise should we wish. . . . And as a result we have now come to the place where we can be a Christian forever without becoming a disciple.
When we talk about spiritual formation, we are talking about framing a progression of life in which people come to actually do all things that Jesus taught. So we are obviously going for the heart. We are aiming for change of the inner person, where what we do originates.1
This is what we want to try to measure in our students—not just to know, but “to actually do all things that Jesus taught.” The human heart, of course, is deeper than any educational methodology, and therefore not the easiest thing to evaluate. But biblical integration—indeed, discipleship—demands that we teach our students how to understand the Bible, thoroughly, so that they can grasp and apply it to every part of their lives . . . including the academic areas they’re studying.
Learning Styles and Their Impact on Assessment
So how can we measure how well students are not only remembering, but believing and applying, the biblical principles they’re learning, in every part of their world?
As with everything else about discipleship, it’s important to remember that one size doesn’t fit all. The body has many parts (1 Corinthians 12:12–27), and each part expresses its role differently (Romans 12:4–8). Therefore, different students will respond better to different types of teaching—and therefore, to different types of assessments.
For example, those who are more gifted in speaking will likely better demonstrate what they’ve learned through oral presentations, discussions, and in small-group settings. More technologically gifted students will not only likely better thrive through online education, but also be able to better demonstrate what they’ve learned through the use of PowerPoint presentations, web designs, Skype talks, etc. Those who are servant-leaders will probably respond better to more socially oriented subjects and projects, including collaboration and service projects. And so on.
And again, while we need to be able to assess more than just biblical knowledge, we do need to assess biblical knowledge, to ensure that students have a solid biblical grounding for their beliefs and the actions that stem from those beliefs. Therefore, regular testing of biblical knowledge—quizzes, exams, etc.—is important, and a way to get a “quick snapshot” of where students are at. Essay questions can also help considerably in determining not only how well students are retaining knowledge but how well they’re making connections to the world around them with that knowledge.
Christian teachers are called not only to develop better students but to develop better Christian men and women—better disciples of Jesus Christ.
But we need to do even more, using methods of instruction and assessment where students are interacting directly with instructors and other students. As 1 Peter 3:15 encourages us, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Discussion times—both one-on-one through discussion-based assessments with instructors as well as proscribed online discussion times with other students—can therefore take students’ knowledge and their application of it to the next level, as students are encouraged not only to make connections but to think critically about those connections and to develop the necessary skills to communicate those beliefs and convictions to others. And while this will naturally look different online than in a traditional classroom, course collaboration projects can also encourage students to partner up and work out their faith together, as they address questions and/or cooperative projects together.
Assessing Levels of Biblical Integration
Another grid for considering biblical integration and how best to assess it is through the three levels of biblical worldview instruction:
Level 1 – Biblical Connection: Here, curriculum references Scripture, offering biblical examples or analogies to the subject matter at hand. For example, a literature course might provide examples of irony through the Joseph-Judah story (Genesis 42–44), or a science course might relate metamorphosis to the Christian’s growth in sanctification. This more basic approach nonetheless helps pique students’ interest in God’s Word and keeps Scripture at the top of students’ minds throughout the course. At this level, quizzes and exams are often enough to assess student understanding.
Level 2 – Biblical Application: At this level, students learn how to apply Scripture to the academic subject matter. Examples include showing how biblical commands to love others support the development and use of software for refugee and disaster relief, or demonstrating how Psalm 19 and Romans 1 encourage students to worship God, in light of the vastness and complexity of the universe. In order to understand what’s taking place in our students’ hearts and minds, we’ll need to go deeper in our assessment methods: discussions, individual and collaborative projects, and presentations are all possible approaches toward assessing what students are internalizing and applying.
Level 3 – Biblical Discernment: Here, a biblical integrated curriculum will question established cultural assumptions and principles and/or replace them with biblical teaching. One example would be the questioning of strict scientific naturalism in a biology, chemistry, or physics course, coupled with the articulation and exploration of how the Bible frames human existence. Biblical discernment is required for students to approach academic content from a distinctly biblical perspective. Students must learn to see the beauty of the biblical perspective by being immersed in the biblical imagination, so that they can recognize the discrepancies between what Scripture teaches and our cultural assumptions. This allows them to make their faith their own and confidently champion and demonstrate the biblical perspective on controversial topics and ideas in the public forum.
At this level, it’s especially important to ensure that students are not only parroting “Christian responses” but are thinking critically about the subject matter and responding to it in a thoroughly biblical manner. Thus, more in-depth and interactive projects will often be needed to “flesh out” what students are learning, believing, and communicating. While essays and research projects are still helpful and informative, more interactive activities such as synchronous debates, discussions, and collaboration projects will make it clearer how students are actually responding to the tough questions they face every day, both academically and socially.
The more we know about how students are progressing in their knowledge of the Bible and its application to their lives and studies, the more we will be able to help them to grow in that knowledge. In the end, Christian teachers are called not only to develop better students but to develop better Christian men and women—better disciples of Jesus Christ. Establishing better methods of assessing biblical worldview, therefore, is a critical piece in developing students’ biblical worldviews, and in giving instructors the information they need to help students go deeper in both their academic and biblical knowledge—and in making the two increasingly inseparable.
1 Dallas Willard, “Spiritual Formation: What It Is, and How It Is Done,” DWillard.org, https://dwillard.org/articles/spiritual-formation-what-it-is-and-how-it-is-done.