Monday, May 09, 2011

Can research affect you spiritually?

Describe a course assignment that affected your spiritual growth.

This was a prompt for a small group discussion during a professional development workshop for theological librarians hosted at Hope last week. It was an excellent question as it brought to mind for each of us a practical personal example of the leader’s point about the purpose of theological librarianship.

In my group Anna (The Master’s Seminary) told of an assignment that required her to take the book of virtues, define them, and apply them to characters in the Bible. She has used this method for character study throughout her life, applying it to other readings as well as to personal relationships. For her, the tools she learned to apply in that assignment have continued to inform her intellectual and spiritual development throughout life.

Michelle (Azusa Pacific University) struggled with the question because the assignment that came to her mind affected her negatively. Early in her graduate program in theology she was given an assignment which was based on assumptions that appalled her. Being a new student, she was intimidated and left class feeling incapable of completing graduate school. She overcame her fears, however, expressed her dissenting perspective on the assignment and got a C. What she learned was that her spiritual understanding did not require an A for approval from every professor and a confidence in developing "her own voice" and that has served her well ever since.

My assignment was from a Psychology course on Motivation that I took here at Hope (Pacific Christian College). Dr. Leark assigned us to write a paper about what we believe motivates people. I had been thinking about this question for some time and had recently read two books by John Powell with which I resonated Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? and Why Am I Afraid To Love? I was also taking Johannine Literature and may have had I John 4:18 on my mind, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…"

In my paper, I concluded that there are two main human motivators; fear and love. If we see that negative behaviors come out of a sense of fear, then those who have the love of God working in our lives can see past objectionable, sinful actions and attitudes to have compassion. It is easier to extend grace, mercy, and love to those who we believe are weak from fear rather than irreparably evil. (On a side note, I first received a C on that assignment because I didn’t cite my sources! Thankfully, Dr. Leark allowed me to resubmit the paper for a better grade.)

So, what did Dr. Berryhill, our workshop leader, intend for the forty of us in attendance to get out of this exercise? Our purpose, she said, as "library professors" is to contribute to the spiritual formation of our students. How do librarians do this? We do this by using best practices as professional librarians to put our readers in contact with sources of knowledge and voices of wisdom at their point of need.

We know that students often are not able to articulate their need when they come to us, so we are to be equipped to draw it out with our reference interviewing skills. We listen and look for cues from their syllabus – what does the professor intend for the student to learn from this assignment?

Although the assignments that affected us spiritually were done years ago, we are still using the tools we gained then. This is what we hope for our students as we strive to put them in touch with the right information resources at the right time. This fulfills our mission to prepare students for lifelong learning and makes our work rewarding.


rodney.vliet said...

Thank you Robin. Great question and I am sure a focused discussion followed. I am running several experiences through my memory banks even as I enter this comment.It may be that any or every assignment impacts us spiritually in some way, some more or less than others. My incident involves a student response to an assignment I gave at Pacific Christian. The student admitted having purchased a paper on moral decision making. The student could not in good conscience hand it in. I accepted the explanation and adjusted the assignment, asking the student to describe how the decision was made not to submit the purchased paper. The assignment was fulfilled, and my attitudes toward student honest were impacted.
Rod Vliet, formerly of Hope, now of Biola.

Sheryl said...

I know this is a long delayed response - but thank you for this post. I'm sorry I couldn't attend the program. This will certainly give me something to mull over this morning.