Resolving Classroom Issues Biblically

As a new faculty member at a public university on the West Coast, I was curious about the different ways I could integrate my faith into the classroom.

In addition to publicly identifying myself as a Christian on the first day of class, could my faith make a difference in not only what I taught, but also how I taught?

It didn’t take long to learn that many students avoided courses with team projects. The ability to work together is an important skill, yet they (like many adults) tend to steer clear of the inevitable conflict that comes from working with others.

Since the spring of 2022, I’ve tried to implement the principles of conflict resolution outlined in Matthew 18. During class time, I explain the 5 steps to conflict resolution:

Step 1: resolve it between 2 people – ask for forgiveness and forgive (grade impact: none). If the issue is not resolved, move on to Step 2.

Step 2: officially bring the issues up for a discussion item and resolve it within the team (grade impact: none). If the issue is not resolved, move on to Step 3.

Step 3: the team leader emails the instructor, objectively describing the issue and cc’ing all team members (grade impact: negative 20 points).

Step 4: The instructor sets up a 30-minute Zoom with the entire team and all members must be present (grade impact: negative 20 points when Zoom call has been set up).

Step 5: All team members write a public apology essay on what you could have done better to prevent this from happening and submit this to the instructor (grade impact: positive 50 points when apology is accepted).

The key to this 5 step process is Step 1– asking for forgiveness and forgiving others, which should happen between the two people who are in conflict.

If the conflicts are not resolved at Step 2, the team leader can escalate to Step 3 and 4, which will deduct a total of 40 points from their personal scores. This step helps team members to see that unresolved conflict impacts their entire team. Then, in Step 5, I ask all team members to write a public letter of apology, which gives an extra 10 points for following through the process – reflecting the grace of Jesus Christ when we repent of our own sins.

There was a team project that involved a young female leader whom I will call Megan. One of her team members was a young man I will call Nathan. Toward the end of the semester, Nathan scheduled an office hour with me. He confessed that he had been used to being a slacker in team projects. He didn’t show up to team meetings for my course, just like he has been in other courses. He went on and shared that several weeks into the semester, Megan called Nathan and confronted him about his behavior, gently but firmly.

Since then, he felt motivated to show up and complete the assignments on their team project. On the last day of class, Nathan stood up and thanked Megan for admonishing him early in the semester, which motivated him to push further and show accountability in my course and other classes as well.

At least so far, no team has gone to Step 3, practically eliminating all emails I receive regarding team dynamics. In fact, 95% of the students say they had better team dynamics compared to any other courses they have taken.

Conflicts happen in every part of our lives. God gave us wisdom through Scripture on how to address them. With the Matthew 18 principle of asking for forgiveness and forgiving, I’ve found I can equip my students with practical wisdom they can use throughout their lifetime.

Damon Moon

Entrepreneurship and Innovation

San Jose State University

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