Professor as Leader of Students' Faith Development
Paul Harrison Alexander
College students have reported that their professors have positively impacted their faith development and that the reason they attend Christian institutions is that they are concerned with their spiritual growth. Existing research has found that professors who are open and approachable may positively impact student faith; however, there is no research explaining what faculty can actually do to lead this process of spiritual formation for the benefit of the students. This study sought to explore if a professor's willingness to share personal faith testimonials with students would positively impact student faith development. A west coast Christian university was the setting for this experiment in which two freshman-level theology course sections were compared. The experimental course section received weekly faith devotionals while the control group did not. The same professor taught both classes. Spirituality was measured using the Spiritual Well-Being Scale (Ellison, 1983); measurements were taken at the beginning and end of a 15-week semester. At the conclusion of the study, one-tailed paired t tests on each group examined changes within groups, and a one-tailed independent samples t test was used to compare the levels of change between groups. Data analysis revealed no significant differences between the two groups. Interviews with students in the experimental group revealed that issues such as age/classification, timing of devotions, and relevance of information might have limited the effectiveness of the experiment. The interviews identified a promising opportunity for future research.
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