Master Teaching

a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher

Professional Guidelines

A Review of Professional Guidelines for Christian English Teachers by Kitty Barnhouse Purgason

Book Coverby Aliel Cunningham

Professional Guidelines for Christian English Teachers[1] is an excellent resource for anyone in a position of influence in the TESOL world. By highlighting and unpacking critical issues that can either open or close doors when teaching English in an overseas context, Dr. Purgason presents a well-organized sequence of thought-provoking guidelines to consider when stepping into the often murky waters of cross-cultural classroom engagement as exemplified by the Master Teacher.

Dr. Purgason gives a sketch of her own background with the TESOL world in both US and cross-cultural contexts which include her childhood experiences growing up overseas and her husband’s connections with cross-cultural organizations. Her wisdom as a follower of the Master Teacher has been shared with many other aspiring teachers through her mentoring roles with US government programs and other educational organizations. As an award-winning veteran TESOL teacher herself and a respected professor at Biola University, Kitty Purgason is in a unique position not only to see the need for this practical guide but also communicate in a way which speaks a balanced word to both those inside and outside the Christian community.

Several topics that are addressed in the book would be of interest to teachers or administrators seeking to integrate character education, social justice issues, or themes related to forgiveness and reconciliation. The organization of the book is helpfully and intuitively divided into three sections: 1) foundational material, 2) guidelines explained and applied and 3) sample lessons and teaching resources.

Part I 

In the first few pages, Purgason frames the rationale for the book as a response to concerns that have been expressed at different times by TESOL researchers about issues of potential abuse and indoctrination due to the highly influential roles that foreign English teachers hold in cross-cultural contexts. Purgason points out that “Language cannot be taught without some content.”[2] The question then becomes, “What content?” or (more precisely) “Whose content?” This section ends with a chapter on formulating legitimate goals related to language, communication skills, learning strategies, learner motivation, social relationships, as well as mapping out different models for “other”-focused goals.[3] This first section can be used as a discussion springboard for those involved in establishing goals for a new ESL/EFL course or teaching program.

Part II

Section two presents twelve interconnected guidelines as the author invites the reader to consider different aspects of how the Master Teacher might approach the context of English language teaching. In this section, both the first and last chapters (Chapters 4 and 12) encourage readers to reflect and consider where their identity is grounded – both as an English teacher and a follower of the Master Teacher. Other than these essential bookend chapters, my favorite is Chapter 5 entitled, “Going Deep: Questions about What’s Important.” This chapter resonates deeply with me because it demonstrates the power of a single question to change the focus of an entire lesson. Another reason is that this chapter includes so many specific examples of thought-provoking questions (nearly 40)!  I found myself being challenged by these questions and reminded of how I can re-imagine my own teaching and cross-cultural work by simply being willing to ask a thoughtful well-placed question at the right time.  As Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”[3]

Part III

This last section includes a wealth of specific, step-by-step sample lessons which illustrate how a typical plan can embody the guidelines. The samples also incorporate a range of flexible options for learners with different proficiency levels, learners in multi-level classrooms, and a reference list of online resources where you can further adapt the sample lesson to your needs. One thing that is not addressed in this section is how to adapt some of these ideas for larger class sizes.

Dr. Purgason’s wide-ranging experience gives the book a simultaneous breadth of engaging topics and considerations as well as practical depth in picturing exactly how this kind of approach could be embodied in the classroom. I would recommend this book for not only English teachers in cross-cultural contexts but also those in administrative or teacher trainer positions as well as anyone considering using English as a way to connect with their community. From my point of view, much of the approach outlined can be applied beyond the English teaching classroom to many similar kinds of cross-cultural opportunities. Readers are challenged to consider the myriad ways to serve others with the heart and wisdom of the Master Teacher.


[1] Kitty Barnhouse Purgason, Professional Guidelines for Christian English Teachers: How to be a Teacher with Convictions while Respecting those of your Students, (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2016).
[2] Ibid, 9.
[3] Ibid, 21.
[4] Berean Study Bible.

Post Author

AlielAliel Cunningham, PhD currently teaches TESOL-related courses for LCC International University in Lithuania and Calvin College in the U.S. She has worked in the TESOL field for the past 18 years in a variety of US and cross-cultural contexts. In her free time, she enjoys taking walks, drinking tea with friends, and learning to play the hammer dulcimer.

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This entry was posted on June 12, 2019 by in Aliel Cunningham, book reviews.

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