Developing Critical Thought in the Classroom

Posted by Kiana Nordskog on 12/1/20 2:15 PM

Critical thought in the classroom (1)

Every class at Patrick Henry College aims to teach its students how to think, not simply what to think. From the syllabus down to the final exam, classes are structured so that students learn to examine, think critically about different viewpoints, and discuss what they've read in class. 

But what does that look like in practice?

Here's a look into three unique classes at PHC and how those classes look to impact their students.

1.Prophecy, the Millennium, and Eschatology 

This class, offered the spring semester in alternating years, studies mainly Daniel and Revelation inductively. Dr. Darrel Cox, Professor of Biblical Studies, teaches students the main viewpoints of eschatology but encourages them to study Scripture on their own and come to their own convictions.

Students write exegetical worksheets to help them study and meditate on Scripture. Initially, Cox will provide questions for them to ponder and answer, but eventually, students will have to develop their own questions. 

"I'm so excited to learn what both of those books [Daniel and Revelation] say about what we have to look forward to because the believers in the past had Christ to look forward to. They were waiting for God to save them and bring someone to save them, but we have Christ. And now we look forward to his second coming into the promise of renewal that is in both of those books," said Chiara Baldacci who will take the class next semester.

2. History of Women in America

The "History of Women in America", taught by Dr. Robert Spinney, Professor of History at PHC,  is really a history of the family and how that has changed over time. Instead of focusing on famous women throughout history, Spinney teaches students about the different ideas that motivated women. 

"I think it's unfortunate that some conservatives and some Christians assume that a history of women class must be unbiblical or politically liberal or something like that. That's not true," Spinney said. "History of women means you examine American history but you look through a window called women's experience. People typically examine U.S. history by looking through a window called elections and wars," said Spinney.

By looking through this "window", students are able to understand and detect the different changes that occurred throughout history.

Ethan Snider, a Junior, took the class in the Spring of 2020,

"It helped me realize that if we truly believe that there is an actual distinction between man and woman, then we should also believe that man and woman are affected by different things in different ways and studying women's history helps me confirm that distinction," Snider said.

3. Arts and Worship in the Church

Dr. Kristina Tanner, the Professor of Music, teaches the "Arts and Worship in the Church". The class is similar to "Prophecy, the Millennium and Eschatology" in the sense that students read material and come to class prepared to discuss what they read.

The discussion is primarily focused on what is the role of Christians in art and other areas of culture.

"This is more about an open discussion of what is 'better' and how do we formulate conclusions based on Scripture then based on what other people have written about the concepts," Tanner explained.

At the end of the class, students have the option to write a summative paper or use their artistic skills in a performance project.

Because these three classes are primarily discussion based, students are encouraged to develop their own beliefs and thoughts according to what the Bible says. Learning how to think is a valuable skill that helps you through life. 


To learn more about how the classical liberal arts encourages students to develop an active mind, click bellow to learn a little more about our philosophy of education. 


PHC's Philosophy of Education

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