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I teach an online section of ECEN 160 - Introduction to Digital Systems. I want to support the teaching standard of building faith in Jesus Christ but don't always know how to do it effectively in the context of an engineering course.

When doing my weekly reflection last semester and assessing myself for building faith in Jesus Christ I often felt like I was only achieving "I kept a neutral stance as to my testimony or the connection between course content and gospel principles this week." I don't have any problem integrating gospel insights and baring my testimony when I teach gospel classes but I didn't know how to do it consistently when teaching an engineering course.

That experience prompted me to make improving building faith in Jesus Christ the basis of my development goal this semester. As I paid more attention to this aspect of my teaching I realized I had been doing more than I thought. I sometimes include a scripture in my weekly announcement to the class. Like quoting Mosiah 4:27 when encouraging students to make a schedule and budget their time. Other times I make an analogy between something we are learning and a gospel principle like the following:

A computer without a program counter to maintain the orderly execution of software would not be a very useful device. Speaking of the church the Lord said "For all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith" (D&C 28:13). Likewise our lives are less productive if we don't follow the order prescribed by the Lord and be led by prayer and faith.

My focus on improving building faith in Jesus Christ made me aware of other opportunities to bring in gospel insights and bare testimony. During an office hours session this semester we were discussing reducing Boolean equations. I took the opportunity to present the following analogy:

Gospel principles can be applied to some of the concepts we are learning in the course. Just like we create simplified Boolean expressions that cover more complex expressions, the two great laws taught by Christ cover the more detailed laws of the 10 commandments. If we obey the two great laws we will inherently be obeying the 10 commandments.

I feel like I am achieving "I mostly integrated gospel insights into my course communication" although I don't know that I could say I have "presented some faith-building examples or testimony." There has been some of that when communicating individually with students struggling with issues but not so much with the class as a whole. When communicating with one struggling student I suggested some sources he could exercise to get help, like the tutoring center, then added he should pray that he could be more effective in his studies. When I told him that I realized I needed to take my own advice. I needed to make prayer a more integral part of my teaching activities. I have been working on that.

So that is where I am now. Where I want to be is "I integrated gospel insights into my course, and bore testimony consistent with course content."

What can you suggest to help me integrate gospel insights into my course and bare testimony consistent with course content?

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  • These are great insights! As long as it feels natural for students - I think this works. Thanks again!
    • I agree with Jason. I think it is better to feel natural, or students may be turned away by the forced feeling. It sounds like you are doing a great job! As for me, I always share a spiritual thought in my weekly announcement, and throughout the week I often find way to bear testimony, but it's not everyday- and I think that's okay. I also think it takes time. Just like our students are doing, we are learning. Every semester, I learn something new or have a new spiritual insight into a concept, but I have to work at it and talk about concepts over and over again, in a 100 different ways to see it. :) My best advice, Steven, is to not be too hard on yourself. :) 

  • You could think of Nephi building a boat or how The Lord asked the Brother of Jared to create a way for Him to give light in the barges as examples. In one scenerio, the Lord guided Nephi to build what he needed to advance his brethren according to his faith. The Brother of Jared was tasked with creating something and then asking the Lord to make up the difference in what he couldn't do. I am sure your students could find and discuss a lot of interesting things on how both of these stories emphasize the creation process in engineering.

    I will say sometimes I think we get to occupied trying to make the Gospel fit a subject, when rather, we should let it happen naturally. We have very intelligent students who are able to make connections. Maybe you could try prayerfully considering Gospel principles we should be applying every day and then giving students an opportunity to try and find ways that it fits into the course material as well. I hope that you continue to listen to the Spirit as you move ahead in trying to help the Gospel be stronger in your course!

  • I really enjoyed your post Steven as I to feel that I struggle in meeting this standard. I teach a math class and sometimes I find it hard to relate it to the gospel. What I have been trying to do this semester is just share something I learned during my personal study of the scriptures and or other gospel references (i.e. conference talks). Since doing this I find that during my studies I will feel promptings that I should share it with my class. Even though they don't relate to math I feel that maybe its more because there is a student in the class that needed to hear that message as well. Anyways, I think your doing great and thanks for sharing this concern as I am sure many others are in the same boat.

  • Thank you for sharing! I think that you are doing a great job, and I think I can find ways to do a better job with my course!

  • Thanks for sharing your journey in applying this concept. I know several instructors in the sciences have struggled with meeting and exceeding expectations in this standard.  When I first took this task on for myself a few years ago in Biology, it seemed difficult as well- integrating gospel principles with specific course content- I could share a spiritual thought, experience, scriptures but having it tie into the content was a challenge.  I know most people believe Biology-related concepts would easily fit as dealing with God's creations but sometimes trying to seamlessly incorporate the gospel with action potentials, fluid dynamics or the urinary system was hard.  What I discovered was as I searched to relate these principles to the gospel, and I relied on the Lord and thoughtful prayer, it became easier as I practiced tying the principles together.  I have had some spiritual insights that worked beautifully that I'm sure I would not have had without the Holy Ghost prompting me.  I know when I don't follow this practice of praying and pondering or I do so with a time crunch, I have not been as successful. Although you asked for suggestions, know you are on the right path- relating the content to a principle and giving an analogy, "likening" the engineering principle to the scriptures, using prayer and having the desire.  To me, engineering is a wonderful testimony of the order in which the Lord works. So many vital characteristics are necessary: precision, accuracy, the art of mathematics and physics and the ability to "see" a problem and solve it in an orderly manner.  As a daughter of an engineer and having studied it early in my schooling, I have a deep respect and reverence for the process :).  Thank you again for presenting possibilities of gospel integration in the sciences- I've learned from your examples and plan to implement them in a physiology-related way next semester!

  • This is great!  I have struggled this semester to integrate gospel insights into my CIT260 course.  I think on an individual level I do fine, but as a whole class I struggle.  I appreciate your thoughts and how you have developed this into strength in your teaching.  I realized this weekend while I was discussing my class with my wife that I need to take my own advice and make prayer a more integral part of my teaching.  I commonly ask my students, "have you prayed about this principle and asked for help in applying it to what you have learned?"  I even do this with my own children, but I do not apply it as well when it comes to my own efforts.

  • Alma said "...all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator." (Alma 30:44).

    As I pondered your question, Steven, I settled on two things:

    1. The truths of the scriptures, general conference, etc. are given for all people in all walks of life. Occasionally, these general teachings may help provide context for principles and skills we are teaching in our discipline. There are many other truths in our disciplines that are not detailed in the scriptures but they are still true. We bring two integrated roles to our teaching -- we are experts in our discipline and we are disciples of the Savior. Of any people on the earth, we are uniquely positioned to see and bear witness of the truths of God in our specific discipline.
    2. The principles of learning, i.e. the BYU-Idaho Learning Model, are eternal principles and motivate skills that apply in any discipline. One way the gospel is part of our teaching is in the way we help students develop learning skills, i.e. learning by faith, love, serve, and teach one another, act and not be acted upon, true teaching is done by and with the Holy Ghost, etc. These fundamental gospel truths inform learning skills and are at the heart of our teaching even if we don't specifically use scriptural references or quotes from the brethren in a particular lesson.
  • I appreciate what you have said and the comments also.  I agree with all of them and know that sharing a testimony of our individual place in the Plan of Salvation and of our Heavenly Father's love for us and watchful care and interest in our lives is very important.

    One thing I also do when I am thinking about integrating the gospel into my course is I think about how the Savior taught.  He taught in parables using the things that were a part of people's lives.  He taught using sheep and shepherds, a widow and her money, things that people were sowing and growing, etc.  He taught using things familiar to them.  When I think of this I think "Okay, if the Savior could use things around the people and relate them to gospel principles then He can help me do it too."  This is the perspective I share with students who have questions about why we have a Gospel Insight Discussion Board in our course.  In our course (Medical Terminology) we have a Gospel Insight Discussion Board each week.  I didn't develop it but those people who did developed questions which relate each lesson to the gospel.  A common comment from students begins with "I never would have thought of connecting those two things but...."  I have a few students who do not like this discussion board and don't like relating these things to the gospel.  However, the majority of the students tell how this strengthens their testimony and helps them see that there is a connection between the gospel and everything else.  The last Gospel Insight Discussion Board of the semester asks something about  how this has influenced them.  Most of the students have very positive comments about how it has strengthened their testimony and helped them see Heavenly Father's hand in all things.  As I read through the posts throughout the semester it also helps me to think more about eternity being a part of everything around us and to recognize Our Father in Heaven in everything.

    I don't know too much about engineering but when my husband talks to me about amazing engineering things in some of our conversations I can see the reflection of an eternal plan designed by our Father in Heaven. 

  • Steven,

    How difficult is your course?  In my course (pathway math) I have made this our course motto:

    we know that we can turn to our Heavenly Father in all our challenges and inflictions - even if that challenge is figuring out a homework assignment :)

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