August 18, 2008 | Myrna Anderson

A psychology professor and a counselor co-author a book on the integration of faith and the teaching of psychology.

It’s a book that tackles, via a variety of approaches, such issues as whether depression is purely a spiritual issue, the effectiveness of prayers for healing, and brain damage and free will. And it’s available online.

Learning Activities for the Integration of Faith and Psychology (3.5Mb, PDF), a book co-authored by Lavonne Zwart, a Calvin professor of psychology, and Cynthia Kok, a counselor at the college’s Broene Counseling Center, is a resource for psychology professors—a text to help them combine faith and the teaching of psychology.

Intro to psych—with faith

“We really tried to integrate Christianity into the psychology classroom,” said Kok of the book, which was funded through a grant from the Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning. “There are a lot of textbooks that do a good job of teaching introductory psychology, but there isn’t a resource for teaching it from a Christian point of view.”

The book was created as a companion to an introductory psychology textbook. “It’s actually a complement to the curriculum,” said Zwart. Learning Activities for the Integration of Faith and Psychology offers psychology professors activities for communicating the many points at which Christian faith touches their field.

“Any Christian professor of psychology can look up a topic they have to teach as part of the first-year psychology program and find their colleagues' best ideas about how to teach in a way that connects with Christian faith,” said Kuyers Institute director David Smith.

An array of resources

The book offers an array of resources—lectures, discussions, classroom exercises, students assignments, Bible readings, surveys and videos. “What we tried to do was take these different activities and make them varied pedagogically,” said Kok. “The idea is that professors could choose from these varieties of activities.”

Zwart and Kok had plenty of help in creating the book from Calvin students Nate Madeiros-Ward and Jenny Hossink, both of whom were supported by McGregor Fellowships.

Too much material

The authors also drew on the resources of their colleagues who teach psychology in colleges and universities belonging to the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities; they surveyed professors at those schools to ask them for effective activities in teaching psychology from a Christian perspective. “We had so much material, we were swamped,” Kok said.

Some profs provided workable examples (all contributors are credited in the text), Kok said, and some offered lists of books where activities could be found: “We’d go to the library to check out massive numbers of books,” she remembered the research.

Smart basics

One challenge in assembling the book was making the materials accessible for a range of readers: “We worked at keeping it both basic enough and challenging enough,” Zwart said.

Smith said the book was a good example of the kinds of materials the Kuyers Institute likes to provide to Christian educators. “We want to help people teach in a way that connects teaching with faith,” he said.

Broene Counselor Cynthia Kok and psychology professor Lavonne Zwart

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