The integration of faith and learning (IFL) has been defined as a multifaceted attempt to distinguish the underlying truth about one's academics and Christianity research study by Garzon, Milacci & Boothe (A Phenomenology of the Integration of Faith and Learning). Various IFL models have been developed by scholars, in which some have focused on the interdisciplinary engagement between theology and academics, and others on the intrapersonal and interpersonal elements (Research study by Garzon, Milacci & Boothe (A Phenomenology of the Integration od Faith and Learning).
Research studies in the past on have been conducted with the instructors rather than the students. But current studies have been on the students' perceptions of IFL experiences. Students have referred to IFL in various studies in terms of the methods used by the instructor as opposed to the learning of integration by the student. They described IFL as primarily being a teacher activity and not the result of the student's behavior (Lawrence, Burton, & Nwosu (Refocusing on the Learning).
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I ask, as Sherr, Huff, & Curran did in their research study, "What good are our efforts as Christian professors to provide IFL experiences if student do not sense these efforts? And if our efforts to provide IFL experiences are incongruent with the expectations of IFL experiences of students, how can we identify those differences and adapt to provide Christ-centered education?" (Research study by Sherr, Huff, & Curran (Salient Indicators of Integration). The results from various studies have shown that overall most students desire more real life examples by applying theories to real life situations. They want the opportunity to integrate their faith into their academics through assignments and practicum (Research study by Hall, Ripley, Garzon and Mangis (The Other Side of the Podium).
The research conducted by Hall, Ripley, Garzon & Mangis have found that students learn integration though relational attachments with mentors who personally model that integration. Students valued the quality of the attempt made by the instructor to integrate over the mere act of integration itself. Though they took note of attempts that were half-hearted, insincere, done out of duty, forced, or of poor quality ( all, Ripley, Garzon and Mangis (The Other Side of the Podium).
The participants in this study identified three areas that they perceived facilitated integrative experiences in the classroom. The first was the teaching method the instructor used to integrate. They identified five traits of the professor as being significant in effective integration: self-revealing (evidence of an active, personal relationship with God that was observable by the students), caring, welcoming, dedicated and open-minded (the professor must demonstrate genuine care for the students). The second area was in curriculum. The students perceived successful integration when time was intentionally allotted for prayer and integrative discussions and assignments. Sherr, Huff, & Curran found that some students did not perceive prayer as being an important factor (Sherr, Huff, & Curran (Salient Indicators of Integration). The third area was in the overall climate of the institution. The students welcomed the opportunity to express their Christianity openly and simultaneously with their academic learning. They expressed their satisfaction in not having to separate the two ( Hall, Ripley, Garzon and Mangis (The Other Side of the Podium).
Garzon, Milacci & Boothe (A Phenomenology of the Integration od Faith and Learning) research findings suggested that students perceived that integration can only occur within a caring relationship with a mentor (in this case a professor, administrator, etc). The mentor must be an individual who has spiritual depth and is able to integrate it both inside and outside the classroom. This would require the professor to take the time and effort to get know each student personally, placing a strong emphasis on the process of learning as opposed to solely the concept of learning. Garzon, Milacci & Boothe (A Phenomenology of the Integration od Faith and Learning). This proposes the importance of the type of professors that are hired with the intention of implementing IFL in the classroom (Research study by Hall, Ripley, Garzon and Mangis (The Other Side of the Podium).
Lawrence, Burton, & Nwosu's research concluded that students perceive IFL in terms of the content of the teachings through the methods used by the professor. Most gave examples in terms of the professor's actions rather than the student's activity. The methods utilized active learning approaches that gave the student opportunities to mentally manipulate and develop ideas (role play, inquiry training). The top three categories were teaching methodologies (conversations with the professor during class time), making connections (the teacher playing an active role in connecting faith with the area of study),and the atmosphere of the classroom (positive, safe, feels accepted and supported) Lawrence, Burton, & Nwosu (Refocusing on the Learning).
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The research of Sherr, Huff, & Curran (Salient Indicators of Integration) pinpointed two main indicators of IFL: faculty relationships with God and students, and faculty competence. In terms of the professor's relationship with God, the students needed to indentify the professor as being a genuine Christian with a passion for their relationship to the Lord. They also looked for accountability and commitment to God. In terms of the professor's relationship with the students, they believed the instructor should demonstrate a genuine care for every aspect of the student's live- physical, emotional and spiritual. This was connected to the amount of genuine time and interaction in and out fo the classroom the professor spent with the student. These were individuals who were concerned about helping the student personally develop (Sherr, Huff, & Curran (Salient Indicators of Integration).
When it came to the professor's competence and curriculum, the students belied the professor not only had to be competent, but also able to implement IFL experiences within the curriculum. They made references to using scripture as a reference, assisting students in applying Christian faith in different settings and the professor sharing their personal faith experiences. The students also mentioned the classroom environment as an indicator of IFL. They indentified a sense of belonging acceptance and commitment within the classroom is important. Prayer in the class was not necessarily agreed on as being an important factor (Sherr, Huff, & Curran (Salient Indicators of Integration).
Reports have indicated that there is no significant learning difference when students are taught at a distance as opposed to traditional face-to-face instruction, though attrition can be higher and satisfaction lower (2006). A blended training approach using videoconferencing for distance education. AND (Research study by Spector (Time Demands in Online Instruction) AND Research study by Muilenburg & Berg (Student Barriers to Onlin Learning). Though some argue that the interaction through traditional instruction has the potential for greater social presence, research has shown that online communication does permit high levels of interpersonal communication, thus social presence Research study by Beuchot & Bullen (Integration and Interpersonality). There are significant differences in the way students perceive their online learning experiences (Research study by Muilenburg & Berg (Student Barriers to Onlin Learning).
Asynchronous instruction is independently experienced by the student and does not require simultaneous participation of the student and instructor. It gives every student an opportunity to respond to a topic and encourages more in-depth discussions. It is a more inclusive type of interaction. It limitations include feelings of isolation from students, lack of quick feedback, and not enough time for discussions to mature. This method requires more time to manage and provides less social interaction than synchronous instruction.(Research study by Johnson (Synchronous and Asynchronous CMC) 2006, TechTrends.
Synchronous instruction requires simultaneous involvement between the professor and the student. This method allows multiple users to communicate in real time. Limitations include getting the students online at the same time and moderating conversations with larger groups. They are more difficult implement than asynchronous, though it generates a greater sense of presence and spontaneity. Chats and chat rooms can be utilized with this method (Research study by Johnson (Synchronous and Asynchronous CMC) 2006, TechTrends.
Research study by Johnson showed that students did not report a clear preference for synchronous or asynchronous instruction. 43% of the variance in perceived learning rested in the difference of the student's perception of learning. Both forms have advantages and both contribute to student cognitive and affective outcomes. Though the student's characteristics seemed to affect asynchronous online behavior and discussion. Perhaps the two methods can be blended in a systematic and object manner in order to maximize the student's learning experience (Research study by Johnson (Synchronous and Asynchronous CMC) 2006, TechTrends. There are significant differences in the way students perceive their online experiences during learning (Research study by Muilenburg & Berg (Student Barriers to Online Learning).
Results by Johnson have shown that there is no evidence of instructional superiority between the two methods- student achievement was equivalent. Although synchronous is often assumes to be more interactive- student's perceptions of such may differ. The reported advantages/disadvantages of both methods may reflect the student's personal preference due to characteristics. Students who prefer synchronous over asynchronous text-based computer mediated communication (CMC) may be more social than students who express the reverse preference. Students who expressed the perception that they learned the case studies best when using synchronous chat were at a learning disadvantage when using that CMC mode (Research study Johnson (20008- The Relative Learning Benefits of synchronous and asynchronous). Ng & Murphy reported that Some students in their study took an active role(ex: initiating discussion topics and responding to prior contributions), and their involvement did not rely on tutor's inputs. Ng & Murphy (Evaluating Interactivity and Learning) . This suggests that another factor, like personality, was the cause for such participation.
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Having two-way audio and video, enabling the students and teachers to see as well as hear each other in real time, is better than those in courses where communication is only one-way. This may increase the sense of social presence, increasing course satisfaction. Blending asynchronous and synchronous methods may eliminate attrition and isolation problems that affect distance education learners (2006). A blended training approach using videoconferencing for distance education
Research by Muilenburg & Berg (Student Barriers to Onlin Learning) found eight barriers to online learning perceived by students: administrative/instructor issues, social interactions, academic skills, technical skills, learner motivation, time and support for studies, cost and access to the internet, and technical problems. The most critical barriers were social interaction, administrative/instructor issues, learner motivation, and time/support for studies. A lack of social interaction was most severe barrier perceived by students. Findings show that social interaction is strongly related to the effectiveness of learning and course enjoyment. (Research study by Muilenburg & Berg (Student Barriers to Onlin Learning).
Research study by Beuchot & Bullen (Integration and Interpersonality) suggests that interactivity comes about through inner process variables, for example, the interpersonal content of messages. This suggests that online interaction participation may be determined by the type and degree of a student's socio-affective content in postings, therefore implying that online instruction should focus more on the development of the socio-emotional climate of virtual communities. It has been shown (Rafaeli and Sudweeks, 1998) that overall, interactive messages are likely to contain self-disclosure, indicating that interactivity may bring about a sense of involvement and belonging. This may be done through allotting additional time for interpersonal connections between students and between the student and professor. One suggestion would be to ensure that students make meaningful interpersonal connections before they engage in cognitive tasks (Beuchot & Bullen (Integration and Interpersonality).
Online teachers invest significantly more time than traditional face-to-face instructors. Online teachers at various universities believe that preparing and teaching online courses places more stress on the instructors. Research study by Spector (Time Demands in Online Instruction). Research by Dennen indicated that instructors balanced their own need to manage time with the affirming students through regular feedback, but the task was very overwhelming Dennen (From Message Posting to Learning). Based on research results, professors teach online courses out of personal interest, mainly for flexibility. Research study by Spector (Time Demands in Online Instruction). Again rises the importance of carefully selecting professors for clear goals of integration.(Research study by Hall, Ripley, Garzon and Mangis (The Other Side of the Podium).Â
Course designers and instructors in distant education need to have and understanding on how students interact and how groups develop in computer mediated environments. Research study by Beuchot & Bullen (Integration and Interpersonality) Online instruction needs to create and interactive environment for students and teachers through CMC. The Challenge is to balance independent study and bringing each student into contact with others, which is essential in forming any community (interaction/interactivity) (Ng & Murphy (Evaluating Interactivity and Learning.
Dialogue consists of at least two discussants who communicate in repose to each other. Research conducted by Denned noted that composing and posting messages did not necessarily result in dialogue. Students were going through the motions of dialogue but all aspects were not present.Dennen (From Message Posting to Learning). Conversational treatment by the instructor generated higher quality student contributions, Dennen (From Message Posting to Learning).
It has been suggested that moments of conversation within the forum need to be carefully designed themselves- the strategies need to support students' construction of meaning. It may not just matter how much instructors post messages that affects class dialogue, but also how why compose those messages. Distant learning activities must be relevant and goal based in order to attract student participation. The learning objective and relevance should be made clear to the students. Socialization can also incite participation. The discussion prompts that where effective in prompting student dialogue had clear guidelines and gave each student the opportunity to have a unique response. The instructor feedback also motivated students to participate more. Dennen (From Message Posting to Learning)
The Research study by Ng & Murphy (Evaluating Interactivity and Learning) results were that the number of genuinely interactive messages were limited. There was little evidence of the students participating collectively and building upon each other's contribution. The learners DID NOT use forum to share experience or self-reflections. Though evidence of cognitive skills in their responses was evident, higher-order reasoning skills- such as critical thinking and problem resolution- were not demonstrated. (Ng & Murphy (Evaluating Interactivity and Learning)
Research studies have given us an idea of some of the primary indicators of IFL experiences perceived by students: relational attachments with mentors Ripley, Garzon and Mangis (The Other Side of the Podium).; Teaching methods with an instructor who is self-revealing, caring, welcoming, dedicated and open-minded ( Hall, Ripley, Garzon and Mangis (The Other Side of the Podium); within a caring relationship with a mentor Garzon, Milacci & Boothe (A Phenomenology of the Integration od Faith and Learning); faculty relationships with God and students, and faculty competence Sherr, Huff, & Curran (Salient Indicators of Integration). Research has also shown that there is no difference in online and traditional face-to -face learning, as well as no significant different between synchronous and asynchronous teaching methods.
This study asks the question, "What are distant learners' perceptions of efficient faculty efforts in facilitating IFL experiences using current and intentionally increased and focused IFL goals, and current and various CMC (Computer Mediated Communication) methods?"
Purpose of Research
The purpose of this study is to assess whether the same indicators of IFL experiences are perceived by distant learners as traditional, face-to-face learners. If not, what are some of the different indicators? Although studies have proven no significant difference in asynchronous and synchronous methods in learning, we will assess whether or not there are differences when it comes to the students' perceptions of IFL experiences. Also, we will increase the focus and goals of IFL experiences, making them intentional and known to the students and assess if there is any differences between intentionally increased and focused methods of IFL goals and the current ones the institution uses.
The theoretical implication will be to compare the institution's current IFL goals and methods with the same goals but using primarily asynchronous methods, synchronous methods, and finally a balanced blend of both methods. Then increase the IFL goals and compare them to the same increased goals but using primarily asynchronous methods, and then synchronous methods. The results from the current goals will be compared to the intentionally increased and focused goals.
The study will be conducted over the course of one complete year, consisting of a 4 consecutive semesters (beginning with a summer semester and the following fall, spring, and summer semesters).Undergraduates and graduate students from three Christian higher education institutions will be surveyed. The institutions will be from different regions of the US, as well as from difference Christian denominations. There will be 8 professors used (2 female undergraduate professors, 2 male undergraduate professors, 2 female graduate professors, and 2 male graduate professors) to implement the current IFL goals and the intentionally increased and focused goals. There will be 8 courses (4 undergraduate and 4 graduate) randomly chosen from 4 various schools of study (education, arts and science, business, religion, etc.) each institution offers.
A survey questionnaire will be given to each student to fill out during the last week of the course. It will consist of open-end questions. This method of data collection will be identical between each institution and will be collected over the course of four consecutive semesters.
Qualitative data will be obtained by having each participant fill out a survey questionnaire. The survey will consist of open-ended questions. in order to give each student an opportunity to give their perception and initiate candid responses.
This experiment would be conducted in 2 parts: Study A and Study B. Study A will be conducted in three Christian institutions, assessing eight courses: four (2 undergraduate and 2 graduate) analyzing current IFL goals and various CMC teaching methods and four (2 undergraduate and 2 graduate) analyzing intentionally increased and focused IFL goals and various CMC teaching methods.
Analyze the current IFL goals using the institution's current methods in a Summer Semester, 20YY. Study will have no control over this particular instructor (male or female).
Analyze the current IFL goals using mainly asynchronous CMC methods in the Fall Semester, 20YY. Study will have control over instructor (male or female who will be trained in Asynchronous methods).
Analyze the current IFL goals using mainly synchronous methods in the Spring Semester, 20ZZ. Study will have control over the instructor (male or female who will be trained in Synchronous methods).
Analyze the current IFL goals using a balanced combination of asynchronous and synchronous methods in the Summer Semester, 20ZZ. Study will have control over the instructor (male or female who was trained in a balanced combination of asynchronous and synchronous methods).
Analyze intentionally increased and focused IFL goals using current methods simultaneously in study A's Summer Semester, 20YY. Study will have no control over this particular instructor (male or female).
Analyze intentionally increased and focused IFL goals using mainly asynchronous methods simultaneously in study A's Fall Semester, 20YY. Study will have control over instructor (male or female who will be trained in increased IFL goals through asynchronous methods).
Analyze intentionally increased and focused IFL goals using mainly synchronous methods simultaneously in study A's Spring Semester, 20ZZ, Study will have control over instructor (male or female who will be trained in increased IFL goals through synchronous methods).
Analyze intentionally increased and focused IFL goals through a balanced blend of asynchronous and synchronous methods simultaneously in study A's Summer Semester, 20ZZ. Study will have control over instructor (male or female who was trained in increasing IFL experiences through a balanced combination of synchronous methods.
There will be three researchers. Two of the three researchers will: STUDY A: Analyze and Compare current IFL methods against each group that received treatment; Analyze and Compare each treated group against each other; Come together and resolve any discrepancies. STUDY B: Analyze and Compare Increased, focused and intentional IFL goals through current methods against each group that received treatment of increased, focused and intentional IFL goals; Analyze and Compare each Increased, focused and intentional IFL goals that received treatment ; Come together and resolve any discrepancies. The third blind research will analyze and compare each group as mentioned above; join with the other two to resolve any further discrepancies along the way.