The Principle Approach to Teaching and Learning
Distinctives in Philosophy, Curriculum, and Methodology
The following is a basic overview of some distinctives of the Principle Approach. To learn more about the Principle Approach, read pages 88-110 of Teaching and Learning America’s Christian History, The Principle Approach, by Rosalie Slater. There are other resources as well, including the “Foundations” course and the “Renewing the Mind” online course. See www.face.net for information.
- American Biblical Classical Model
The education method during America’s colonial and founding periods can be termed “American Biblical Classical” in that every aspect of learning was based on Biblical truth while at the same time drawing from the treasure of classical writings that advanced human understanding of God and His creation. The Hebrew view of teaching and learning, rooted in the Bible, forms the primary framework of the Principle Approach rather than an overdependence on Greek, Roman, and later European writings and methods.
- Christian Character Development
All programs (public schools, traditional Christian schools, private schools, and classical schools, homeschools) have some kind of emphasis on the development of the child’s character. Socialization to changing societal norms is the chief aim of child development in most schools. In the Principle Approach school, Christian character development is seen as primary to all learning and is based on the unchanging standards of God’s Word. Character is seen as causative; the decisions and actions of one’s life are seen as the result.
- Teaching by Biblical Principles
The Principle Approach employs the Biblical principles that inform each school subject by giving them context and meaning. Teachers and students alike approach a subject by first studying the Word of God and deducing the Biblical principles that govern the subject. The seven Biblical principles of government identified by Rosalie Slater are central to gaining a comprehensive Biblical worldview of life.
- A Biblical Curriculum
The Bible itself is the primary source of all learning and is taught in a systematic and age-appropriate way throughout the years, giving students a comprehensive understanding of the people, places, events, and principles contained in God’s Word. Beyond that, the curriculum as a whole is infused with and expresses Biblical truth, which is highlighted and connected to every subject area, thereby, forming an authentic Biblical worldview of all of life. The Noah Plan® provides curriculum guides, unit plans, and lessons to begin the journey of a teacher toward becoming a master teacher and a living curriculum.
- Providential View of History
The Principle Approach emphasizes God’s superintendence over the lives of men and of nations. God is the ultimate director and disposer of all the events of our lives. Human history occurs within the greater narrative of “Christ, His Story,” following the course of liberty, internal and external. History reveals man’s response to God, either in obedience leading to blessing or in disobedience leading to negative consequences.
- Thinking Governmentally
“Thus, to some degree, Christians the world over are directed to think governmentally – to be alert to what is governing or controlling first, internally in their own thought life, and then externally in what is governing their daily domestic, social, political, educational, and economic experience…. But in traditional American Christian education, there was always a special emphasis on thinking governmentally…” (James Rose, 1987). Thinking governmentally utilizes logic to reason from cause to effect (internal to external); it begins with the young child and continues throughout life. It is a primary tool for bringing the government of God from Heaven to earth (Matt. 6:9-13; 16:18-19).
- Learning a Philosophy of Government
Teaching students the art of Christian self-government is a major concern of every teacher in the Principle Approach classroom. Because of this emphasis on seeing government as first internal and causative, students learn how to structure the various spheres of civil government Biblically. Another major emphasis in understanding government is grasping and applying the Biblical concept of jurisdiction. God, in His Word, has prescribed responsibilities and authority limits for each sphere of government (e.g., individual, family, civil, church).
- The 4 R Method of Teaching and Learning
To teach effectively one must first learn. The Principle Approach method requires the teacher and student to Research, Reason, Relate and Record as they study a subject, producing a record of their own learning in a notebook. While the Principle Approach uses textbooks as resources, the heart of this methodology relies on the extensive use of primary sources and excellent secondary sources to gain mastery in their subjects.
- Use of Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language (1828)
In the development of a Biblical worldview, it is essential to define words Biblically and with precision. Noah Webster’s masterful work is a tool for accomplishing this task. His first American Dictionary of the English Language was written during the founding period of America. It is an essential primary source for understanding what our Founders meant by the words they used when crafting America’s founding documents (e.g., the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America).
- Key Word Study
The Key Word Study is a tool for guiding the learner to think governmentally along a pathway of Biblical reasoning in any subject. The Key Word Study starts with understanding a concept Biblically, placing the Bible at the heart of education. The Key Word Study promotes reflective thinking as students reason from God’s Word and relate its truths to their own life and the world.
- Development of Lifelong Learners
Because students “learn how to learn” through the methods of this approach, they become lifelong learners. Not dependent upon others for education, these students, if necessary, could teach themselves whatever else they needed to know for the rest of their lives. This is why we say that the Principle Approach produces Christian scholars.
- Development of the Master Teacher
The Principle Approach emphasizes the distinctive role of the teacher as one who has mastery of his or her subject. Beginning with the Bible, other primary sources, and the best secondary sources, teachers research, reason, relate and record their own learning in the subject. This investment produces a reservoir of learning from which to draw in teaching others. Over time, the teacher gains mastery of the subject and, ultimately, becomes a “master teacher.” Every teacher in a Principle Approach school is in a training program to gain mastery in his or her subject(s).
- The Teacher as Living Curriculum and Discipler of Students
Most schools of education challenge their aspiring teachers to be a living curriculum in the classroom. Principle Approach methodology holds the greatest potential for realizing this goal. Principle Approach teachers learn to rely less and less on a published curriculum and more on what God has placed within them through their own personal and professional study and reflection. Free from the limitations of a canned curriculum, state tests, and unbiblical methods, teachers inspire, equip, and disciple their students to excel still more in Christian character and scholarship.
- Emphasis on Written and Oral Communication
Students are taught to communicate skillfully through the written and spoken word with clarity, credibility, and conviction. Participation in public speaking opportunities is encouraged throughout the grades levels. A culminating graduation requirement for seniors is to research and write a senior thesis paper on a topic of their choice; then orally defend it before faculty members, parents, and their peers.
- Tutorial Approach
One of the greatest challenges of all educators is the number of individual lives with which they deal. Most schools have capitulated and given in to the socialist idea of “mass education.” The Principle Approach says absolutely not, educating according to each child’s individuality and the Christian idea of the child. Therefore, education must be handcrafted for each student, regardless of the pressure to do otherwise. Individual learning styles, along with strengths and weaknesses, are identified and addressed so that students are able to exceed their own expectations for succeeding in their God-given calling in life.
- Assessment of Learning
The Principle Approach’s tutorial emphasis uses a variety of formative and summative evaluation techniques aimed at identifying gaps and weak areas of understanding on the student’s pathway of mastery in a subject. Essay writing, composition, and short answer is the norm as opposed to a reliance on true/false, fill in the blank, multiple choice, matching, etc.
- Other Tools and Methods to Inspire and Engage the Learner
- The T Chart is used to compare and contrast internal and external aspects of a subject being studied.
- Key Charts highlight significant issues that are being studied (e.g., Key Individual, Key Documents, Key Institutions, and Key Events).
- Timelines offer a view of the whole of a subject as well as the individual parts and how they are interrelated.
- Sketching provides a creative way to record something that is being examined or viewed.
- Hands-on opportunities offer creative ways to analyze and synthesize ideas, allowing students to express their learning in unexpected, novel ways.
- Employment of the fine and performing arts in the learning process to enrich the soul.
- Special Days culminate units of study in a way that highlights the individuality of the students and bring closure with celebration and joy for a job well done.
Dr. Max Lyons and Dr. Mike Myers, The Foundation for American Christian Education