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LeRoy Ford

By Sophia Steibel & Daryl Eldridge


LeRoy Ford (1922-present): Professor-author-consultant, known for his interest in curriculum design and interactive instruction, LeRoy Ford has left a legacy where he served in local congregations, the Baptist Sunday Board, the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and in various international schools. He is best recognized through his titles Design for teaching and training (1978) and A curriculum design manual for theological education (1991). He invites Christian educators from all backgrounds to engage in creative and dynamic teaching as guided by his organizing principle, “Somebody-learns-Something-in Some Way- for Some Purpose.”


Growing Up, Education, Teaching and Writings

The youngest of nine children, LeRoy Ford was born to Walter and Lucinda Ford in Sayre, Oklahoma, on January 14, 1922. Ford’s heritage was one of strong faith, discipline, honesty, uniqueness, and endurance amid the hardships of life. On his mother’s side, Ford’s roots go back to Quaker immigrants such as Jeremiah Brown, Simon Hadley, Ford's grandfather, John William Lakey, and many others “who left house and kin in England and Ireland in search of religious freedom” (Ford, “Letters to our Children,” January 30, 1984).

Ford spent much of his childhood on an Oklahoma farm between Erick and Sayre. He characterized his home life as marked by piety, honesty, and discipline. Lucinda Lakey, Ford’s mother, was a woman of strong will and faith, a deeply religious woman who cared for others. Ford recalled when she prayed “until the answer came” concerning his brother Marion’s polio (Steibel, 1987).

Ford remembered his father, Walter Cynthia Ford, as an ingenious person who would make do under any circumstances. He was a farmer who invented his own plow, made his own mill, hammered out his own tools, and carved his own fiddles. Ford was convinced his father was an engineering genius equivalent to Thomas Edison (LeRoy Ford to siblings Harry, Marion, Etta, Rosa, and Lucille, February 28, 1973). His father’s honesty made an impression on young LeRoy. “I can still see his pondering whether to make a note for ten dollars to help us out ‘till crop time.’ I always knew, and the bankers knew, that he would pay it back” (Steibel, 1987, p. 7).

At the age of 14, Ford made his public profession of faith. It happened in a revival meeting where a preacher from an independent Baptist group spoke. Ford knew he should make the decision. “I’m sure part of the motivation came from fear of not being ready when Christ returned. The preacher had emphasized the second coming. It was not a highly emotional time.” (Steibel, 1987, p. 12). Prior to this experience Ford’s church attachment was limited to Sunday School and sporadic revival meetings, because he and his family lived in the country and his father did not like his mother to get involved in church that much.

Ford attended Sayre, Delhi, and Hext Schools in Oklahoma. In the fifth grade, his teacher, K. C. Davis, introduced him to experience-centered teaching. In a tenth grade Shakespearean class, he had an activity-centered learning experience that made an impression on him. In a math class, the teacher asked students to figure costs for chicken houses. Ford later recognized these experiences as examples of teaching at the level of meaningful activity (Steibel, 1987, p. 18).

Ford’s life continued to be shaped in college. His interest in languages was stirred during his two years in Sayre Junior College, where he majored in French. He was salutatorian of the graduating class and vice-president of the student senate. Ford continued his studies at Southwestern State College (now Southwestern State University), Weatherford, Oklahoma, 60 miles from his home. He majored in business education rather than French because he was told by a teacher that he already had more knowledge of French than they offered at the time; however, Ford’s love for languages persisted and led him to learn Spanish on his own at age 50 by using a dictionary, grammar books, and Good News for Modern Man (Steibel, 1987, pp.19-20).

During his years at Southwestern State College and later in seminary, Ford became convinced that practice must demonstrate theory in teaching. At both institutions he observed that teachers did not apply their knowledge of learning theories. He began to realize that teaching must be both content and technique oriented.

Ford taught business education and social sciences at Delhi High School, Delhi, Oklahoma, from 1943-44. He was teaching such things as typing, shorthand, and history when a friend advised him to apply for civil service work in Washington, D.C. (Steibel, 1987, p. 31).

Ford applied and received an appointment to the War Department. He became an instructor in a unit which gave refresher training in typing, math, and shorthand to the many new secretarial and clerical workers who were coming to Washington. Ford became a training specialist. The job involved teaching Job Methods Training, Job Relations Training, and Job Instruction training. Each of these courses followed a detailed manual. Ford later used the manual as a model for other curriculum materials (Steibel, 1987, pp. 31-32).

The teaching experience at the War Department greatly influenced LeRoy Ford. He saw teaching and learning theories demonstrated in real teaching situations. It was at this time that he began to realize that a person can, in a systematic way, plan for learning (Steibel, 1987, p. 32).

While in Washington, Ford’s commitment to church activities changed significantly. He was invited to go swimming with the youth at First Baptist Church, Mount Rainier, Maryland. This was the first time a group had enlisted him in a fellowship. Later Ford participated in this church through solo singing, an event which led him to serve as a combination education and music director at two churches, one in Wichita Falls, Texas, and one in Erick, Oklahoma (Primary Source Document, p. 11-12).

Ford’s call to ministry came in the summer of 1947 at Ridgecrest Assembly in Asheville, North Carolina. At one of the services, Ford answered the invitation for church-related service. After the service, Ford received counseling from two Christian educators, W. Forbes Yarborough, Professor of Religious Education at Oklahoma Baptist University, and Sophia Dirksen, Consultant in Youth Work for the Oklahoma Baptist General Convention. From Dirksen, Ford learned about the role of educational directors. She suggested he go to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS).

Ford served as the Minister of Education and Music at First Baptist Church, Erick, Oklahoma, while he was a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He practiced on the weekends what he had learned in seminary during the week.

LeRoy Ford married Freda Jeanette White on June 3, 1950. They had three children, Judith Carol, Daniel LeRoy, and Cynthia Joan. Jeanette played a supportive role in Ford’s ministry in the raising of their children and as an occasional editor and continual encourager of his writings.

Around 1950, he became the Education and Music Director at Southside Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, Texas. The music responsibilities were demanding due to his lack of training in that area. He tried to keep a balance, but he felt that he did a better job in guiding the church educationally. During this same year the First Baptist Church, Norman, Oklahoma, voted to invite their first full-time “Educational Director,” LeRoy Ford.

Ford’s call to the teaching ministry occurred while he was serving in Norman, Oklahoma. He discovered he enjoyed the teacher training aspect of his work more than any other. He asked his friend, W. Forbes Yarborough, for guidance on a decision to return to Southwestern Seminary to work on an Ed.D. Yarborough in turn asked him two questions: “What do you like most about your work as a minister of education?” and, “What has God let you do up to this point?” These questions, along with the promise from 2 Corinthians 8:11, helped him make his decision to return to the seminary (Steibel, 1987, pp. 15-16).

During his graduate work at SWBTS, Ford earned his living teaching at Texas Wesleyan College. He taught such things as typing, shorthand, and personnel and business management. He relied a great deal on the skills he developed during his work in the War Department. During that time, he wrote a style manual for use in writing papers. This broadened his interest in editorial work, which he later applied at the Baptist Sunday School Board (Steibel, 1987, p. 35).

During the mid-50s, Ford began his work at the Baptist Sunday School Board (BSSB) in the audiovisual department. Ford later transferred to the Church Training Department when Ray Rigdon asked him to serve as the editor for the Baptist Adult and Baptist Young Adults. Later he became the supervisor of the Adult/Youth Union. Don Fearheily, one of Ford’s coworkers, remarked, “Even that early in his career … he talked about how people learn … how to train people to learn better and more effectively… he became quite an authority in that field” (Steibel, 1988, pp. 59-60).

Ford’s work at the Church Training Department evolved from his first assignments. As editor he had to consider a set of “guides in planning for learning,” which included a six-point outline:

  • determining the aim
  • relating the session to the unit
  • preparing learning aids
  • selecting the best methods
  • planning for follow through
  • evaluating results

In the 1960s Ford played a role in the study of the correlation of the curriculum for the Southern Baptist Convention. The curriculum plans were designed around the tasks of the church, with each program responsible for teaching one or more of these tasks. It was also during these years that Ford became involved in producing curriculum materials that included multi-media components. Units of study would include learning aids, tests, lesson course articles, and teaching procedures. The learning leader would not have to search for helps “to go with” a lesson course article. As Ford indicated, “It is the difference between the approach of having one clothing designer create a complete, coordinated outfit—and the approach in which the customer purchases one major piece of clothing at one store then goes shopping for additional items which will ‘go with’ or match the first piece (Steibel, 1987, pp. 53-54). These years at the BSSB built Ford’s reputation as a designer of curriculum materials.

Ford recognized four important achievements from his work at the BSSB: (1) the development of a model for a multiple sub-systems approach to unit design as evidenced in the units on The Baptist Training Union Magazine; (2) the introduction of publication of multiple sub-units; (3) the introduction of a unit selection plan which gave study groups opportunity to develop their own curriculum plan; and (4) the design of the resource unit Adults Learning to Witness (Steibel, 1987).

Ford left the BSSB to become a faculty member at SWBTS in July, 1966. Joe Davis Heacock, the Dean of the School of Religious Education, recommended Ford to the seminary. He was impressed with Ford’s work at the BSSB, especially in the area of educational innovations such as programmed instruction (Steibel, 1987). James Williams, chair of the curriculum committee for the School of Religious Education, said that Ford was the man for the job (Steibel, 1987).

Ford’s obligations as a faculty member at SWBTS were diverse. His first title was Professor of Programmed Instruction in Religious Education. Later he became Professor of Foundations of Religious Education. He was chairman of various committees—especially those related to curriculum changes and innovations in learning.

Ford became involved with the idea of a learning center as early as 1968. He began a small learning center that was equipped with seven audio playback machines. He chaired the Learning Center Committee, which led to the development of the audiovisual learning center now housed in the A. Webb Roberts Library.

During the 1970s, Ford was instrumental in the development of the course description book for the degree programs in the School of Religious Education at SWBTS. Up until that time, course descriptions varied based upon the style of the professor. A standard was established for the course descriptions that included the name of the course, a brief course description, rationale for the course based on the school’s stated competencies, course goal and objective, unit goals and objectives, methods of instruction, tests and evaluations, and bibliography. Although the first copy was printed in 1973-74, it took 10 years for the course description book to be written in competency terms. Ford felt the weakness of the competency-based design lay in its implementation. Simply stating goals and indicators was not enough. Faculty must implement all three components of the design: goals and objectives, learning activities, and evaluation (Steibel, 1987, pp. 92-95).

The curriculum lab at SWBTS was another of Ford’s many contributions. During the years of 1976-78, Ford and a group of students from his curriculum class built the physical equipment for the lab (Steibel, 1987, pp. 76-77). The lab contained current curriculum materials and non-dated resources provided by the BSSB.

Ford was also connected with the development of a continuing education program at SWBTS. In March 1971, he chaired the committee which helped to delineate for the faculty the assumptions, philosophy, definition, objective, relationship approaches, and structure of the continuing education program. This was the first complete program design or document worked out for a program at the seminary (“The Most Important Activities at Southwestern,” in Steibel, 1987).

A lot can be learned from a person’s life by examining what he has accomplished and what he would do differently. In 1998, LeRoy Ford was honored with the Distinguished Service Award by the North American Professors of Christian Education. For that meeting, he had assembled excerpts from letters to former students into a piece entitled “If I could begin over, I’d like to think I would …” (1998). The list includes the following:

  • Learn at least one other language.
  • Find ways to make memorable the study of Christian history.
  • Affirm women students in their call to ministry.
  • Read the Bible more expectantly.
  • Learn to play without feeling guilty.
  • Preserve in retrievable form my own documents.
  • Simplify my concept of the purpose of Christian Education.
  • View part of my calling as simply to “walk among the people.”
  • Minister more consistently “to the least of these.”
  • Regard teaching as a fine art.
  • Apply more deliberately what the foundation disciplines say about teaching.
  • Share more often my own life-changing experiences.
  • Attend more to the teachable moment.
  • Minister to my own family, too.
  • View the church as teaching in everything it does.
  • View process-generated meanings as part of content.
  • Surround my children with the stimuli of the fine arts.
  • Review occasionally the events surrounding my own call to ministry.
  • Practice with greater delight giving encouragement to others.
  • Apply Cardinal Newman’s advice in interpersonal relations.
  • View the work of the church in a more ecumenical way.
  • Attend more to what the world’s great literature says about my work.
  • View the home as the primary context for the running of life’s race.
  • Sharpen the use of curriculum-related terms.
  • Grade personally all non-objective tests and assignments.

The life of LeRoy Ford continues to surprise all who had the privilege of being molded by his tutelage. In the 1990s, from his retirement home in Colorado, he organized a memoir of his life and contributions, a voluminous notebook, containing his personal correspondence with colleagues such as D. Campbell Wyckoff, and former students. His diversity continued to be observed when in 1992 he translated the theological aspects of the works of Netzahualcouyotl, a pre-hispanic intellectual of Mexico (NAPCE Newsletter, Winter 1992/93).

In 1995, he compiled “Noble thoughts from the Aztec World,” and in 1997 he arranged a booklet entitled “Lessons About Learning from the World’s Great Literature.” Not even a fight with lymphoma or diabetes stopped him. In 2002, now back in Forth Worth for health reasons, he managed to write a companion to Design for Teaching and Training as A Teacher’s Guide for Interactive Learning and Instruction: A Self-Study Guide to Lesson Planning, in which he unfolds Bloom’s taxonomy for usage in a Christian education setting. In it he also offers the lesson plans he so carefully crafted over the years to instill in the lives of future teachers the ardor of their profession, as a statement that they too would have something to offer to generations to come.

Contributions to Christian Education

LeRoy Ford played a significant role in the development of good learning theory and practice in Christian education in the 20th century. Campbell Wyckoff, Professor of Christian Education Emeritus, Princeton Theological Seminary, wrote: “No one has done so much as LeRoy Ford to put good learning theory to work in theological education or been so utterly consistent in theory and practice. LeRoy Ford is today’s leading exemplar of rationale lesson planning and curriculum planning” (Wyckoff, n.d.).

Distinguished between Curriculum, Curriculum Design, and Curriculum Plans. Ford’s contribution to Christian education began with his precise definition of curriculum terms. Ford defined “curriculum design” as “an elaboration of the objectives, scope, methodology, contexts, instructional and administrative models, and timing factors inherent in a church’s educational ministry” (Ford, letter to Eldridge, October 28, 1999). Curriculum design is the operational theory for the curriculum plan. The curriculum design reflects the values and guiding principles upon which the curriculum plan is built. Ultimately the purpose of these multiple elements of the design is to lead ‘learners in the conformation of their minds to the mind of Christ” (Ford, 2002b, p. 38c).

Ford would quickly point out when students used the term “curriculum” inappropriately. What we typically refer to when we speak of curriculum is really a curriculum plan. A curriculum plan is more or less a detailed blueprint for implementing a curriculum design. A curriculum plan resides in lesson course outlines, lesson plans, and study materials (Ford, letter to Eldridge, October 28, 1999).

Curriculum is the sum of all learning experiences resulting from a curriculum plan and directed toward achieving educational goals and objectives. Curriculum is what happens to persons as they run the course (curriculum plan). “The difference between a curriculum and a curriculum plan is the difference between a curriculum ‘had’ and a curriculum ‘planned,’ the difference between a race already run and a blueprint for continuing the race” (Ford, letter to Eldridge, October 28, 1999).

Ford recognized the complexity of the meaning of “curriculum,” for it embraces all of life’s experiences. As a matter of fact, he believed these experiences are so intricately “interwoven” that a teacher should make no claim that one single experience is to be credited for the learner’s achievement of his or her goals and objectives (Ford, 2002b, pp. 38d, 38e). In Christian education this complexity is particularly significant because one learns as “experiences join hands and exert their force in unison in the light of the gospel” (Ford, 2002b, p. 38e).

Campbell Wyckoff contended that curriculum is the key to the development of the field of Christian education and that working on curriculum theory and design would do more than anything else to further our discipline. Wyckoff valued Ford’s leadership in this area as he wrote:

Curriculum theory and design is, then, a matter of the most probing search for theological and educational foundations for designing and re-designing the teaching-learning process (including its objectives, procedures, and ways of evaluating), which in turn must be undergirded with the most rigorously effective organizational, administrative, and leadership training instruments and agencies. All of this LeRoy Ford understands in its broadest scope, context, and implications, and it is on the basis of this kind of understanding that his sharp contributions have been made. (Wyckoff, letter to Cannell, March 9, 1977)

An Artist in Writing Goals and Objectives in Performance Terms at the Level of Meaningful Activity

At the heart of Ford’s contributions to Christian education is his insistency on instruction at the level of meaningful activity. To accomplish this type of teaching and learning it is necessary for goals and objectives to be written as clearly as possible. Ford (1991) believed that goals provide the basic rationale for the development of programs, departments, courses, and units of study (p. 8).

Ford referred to goals as relatively broad statements of learning intent that state what the students is to learn. Goals identify the kind of learning “outcome” that will occur (knowledge, understanding, attitude or skill) and state the subject to be learned in a “chewable bite” (Ford , 1978, pp. 16-23). According to Ford, goals should be stated in terms of the learner and not the teacher.

Likewise, Ford offered guidelines for writing objectives or indicators. Ford never used the term “behavioral objectives.” Instead, he referred to performance objectives as “objectives” or “indicators,” or ways to evaluate whether or not the student would be learning. Thus indicators offer a means to evaluate the learning taking place as well as “how well” the student is performing (standard), and under what conditions. A thorough lesson plan should include both goals (broad statements) and indicators (narrow statements).

In order to write effective objectives, Ford felt educators could benefit from a taxonomy model that classified the complexity of learning outcomes. Ford customized the taxonomy model of B. S. Bloom and David R. Krathwohl. He did not interpret Bloom’s taxonomy as sequential, that one ascends the six steps in the cognitive domain in order. Rather, each level of learning “is a way of expressing the degree to which an activity requires the pupil to rely on what he has learned before” (Ford, 1978, p. 81).

He also felt that there should be no separation of domains, i.e., cognitive, affective, or psychomotor. While acknowledging that it is helpful to separate the domains for planning purposes, Ford pointed out that it is impossible to teach for one learning outcome, such as understanding, without affecting other learning outcomes, such as attitude or knowledge. He referred to this process as “diffusion of learning” (Ford, 1978, p. 15). Ford was quick to affirm that no one should be subject to Bloom or Krathwohl or anyone else. In Christian education, any educational model or theory must be evaluated in “light of the gospel” (Steibel, 1987, p. 71).

Ford was a master at helping students write objectives at the level of meaningful activity. He defined performance at the level of meaningful activity as competency. He defined meaningful competencies as “those tasks which the learner goes around doing in a meaningful way the rest of his life” (Ford, 1983, p. 38). The curriculum designer must identify those tasks that would qualify the learner to perform effectively once the person is out of school. The idea of learning at the meaningful level should permeate each and every aspect of the “curriculum,” the learner’s race. Each learning activity or test should contribute to the overall achievement of performance at the meaningful level. En-route activities should not constitute ends in themselves but means for great outcomes in the learner’s life.

Ford contended that the ability to limit goals and objectives to the meaningful ones is one mark of an artist-teacher. For him, “an artist-teacher who creates a dynamic learning situation experiences the same delights which an artist-composer experiences when he composes the Sound of Music, or which a painter experiences when he paints ‘The Creation’ on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel” (Ford, letter to Sophia Steibel, July 21, 1997).

For Ford, objectives and evaluation were two sides of the same coin. The evaluation or “tests” should mirror the goal-indicators. If you knew the goal-indicators, you would know what was on the test and vice versa. The goal-indicators identified what the student would do to perform. The test evaluated whether or not the student demonstrated the performance expected (Ford, 1978, pp. 333-335). Examples of goal-indicators may be found in Design for Teaching and Training (1978), A Curriculum Design Manual for Theological Education (1991), and Design for Teaching and Training: A Teacher’s Guide for Interactive Learning and Instruction (2002a).

Interactive Writing and Teaching

Roy T. Edgemon called LeRoy Ford “the father of interactive writing for Southern Baptists” (Edgemon, 1998). Ford led the first workshops in interactive writing at the Baptist Sunday School Board during the 1950s. His efforts resulted in the development of many interactive courses for LifeWay Resources, including curricula like The Survival Kit for New Christians, Masterlife, Experiencing God, The Mind of Christ, and many other Life Courses, and the Life Support Courses.

Ford adheres to the truism, “Teaching isn’t telling, and learning isn’t listening.” Learning must be an active process. “If not, then the teacher can go merrily along teaching himself” (Ford, letter to Steibel, July 21, 1997). In a curriculum workshop at Southwestern, Ford remembered Herbert LaGrone, then dean of the School of Education at Texas Christian University, emphasizing that we must make that 180 degree turn from the teacher telling to the pupil learning. “Once the teacher makes that decision, he or she as an artist can inject pupil involvement into almost any methodology, whether the method is active or passive in nature. The woods are full of ways to inject learner response into the most passive of 'content' presentations. Once one accepts that premise, the world of creativity in teaching explodes into a many-splendored thing!” (Ford, letter to Steibel, July 21, 1997).

For Ford, content included both meanings and process. Ford wrote:

Let’s assume that an instructor in pastoral ministry gives small study groups a case study consisting of the section about the parson in Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village. The teacher asks the groups to:
  • identify the characteristics of effective pastoral ministry embedded in the narrative—a cognitive outcome;
  • arrange the characteristics in what they think is the order of importance—cognitive, evaluation;
  • reflect on their own ministry and personality and determine which of the desirable characteristics represent weaknesses in their own ministry—affective;
  • write an essay on what they ought to do to improve their own ministry—affective;
  • compare Goldsmith’s characteristics with those outlined by C. W. Brister in Caring for the Care-givers—cognitive outcome;
  • determine biblical admonitions which underscore the parson’s actions. Now, try to separate the ‘meanings’ from the process. It cannot be done. (Ford, letter to Steibel, July 21, 1997)

Ford felt that “teachers who focus on a few pregnant, meaningful-level goals and objectives, as opposed to a torrent of less meaningful ones, have no reason to feel conflict between interactive learning and transmitted learning” (Ford, 1998, p. 8).

Ford recognized that learners differ in learning styles. Passive transmission of content assumes that all learners learn in the same way and at the same speed. Once a goal-indicator has been determined, and you have recognized the different learning styles of your students, a variety of learning activities may be employed to accomplish the learning objectives. He encouraged teachers to enrich normally passive transmission methods with response-eliciting methods. Ford contended that lectures should not be cognitive dumps. Lectures can be enriched through the use of questions, listening guides, group discussions, panel discussions, and other interactive techniques.


Ford wrote, “The Christian educator who has something to say, but does not express it in retrievable form, forfeits the right for a continuing ministry.” He continued, “I would preserve by whatever medium (written word, video recording, audio recording, computer records) my own insights and syntheses of ideas—and I would put a date on each of them” (Ford, 1998, pp. 4-5). Like many of us, he watched colleagues who had much to contribute to Christian education, but failed to leave their wealth of understanding in a retrievable form for future generations.

Fortunately, through his books, articles, letters, and other writings, his legacy continues. He attributed his practical writing style and use of cartoons to the fact that his parents had very little formal training. When he wrote his second book, Primer for Teachers and Leaders (1963), he assumed that the average Sunday school or church leader was not interested in theories of learning. Eventually he designed a way to make the rudiments of learning theory palatable to church leaders, which resulted in the series of cartoon books on methodology (Steibel, 1987, pp. 108-10).

There was diversity among Ford’s intended audience. Although he considered the person in the church, his books appealed to the academic community as well. His books have been used on college and seminary campuses in the United States and abroad. Several of his books have been translated into many languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Indonesian, and Japanese.

Ford’s writing dealt primarily with the teaching and training process. According to Ford, all his books came from experience. He could not recall having specifically planned to write a book. He first developed and tested the ideas over a period of years in workshops, church conferences, and the classroom. Then he put the ideas into writing and pictures (Steibel, 1987, pp. 56-60).

Emphasis on the Affective Domain

Ford was the lead person in compiling and editing the course description book for the School of Educational Ministries at SWBTS. This book contained detailed descriptions of each course in which were identified the course and unit goal-indicators. It was one of the first, if not the first, such efforts of a seminary to identify the competencies expected of its graduates. Campbell Wyckoff praised the effort, but also challenged Ford to write affective indicators for the school’s degree programs and courses. While much of Christian education involves changing attitudes, values, and beliefs, Ford recognized that very little had been written to assist curriculum writers and teachers in writing affective goal-indicators.

In A Curriculum Design Manual for Theological Education (1991), Ford provided guidance for persons writing affective indicators. He suggested using attitudinal nouns to describe the behaviors expected from a change in attitude and gave examples such as assurance, commitment, compassion, contentment, contrition, conviction, faithfulness, and gratitude (p. 117).

Ford contended that affective learning is a by-product of learning in the other domains. However, it is important to write goal-indicators for attitude change, just as you would for cognitive or psychomotor change. In theological education, he felt it essential to write competencies based on the job requirements of a church staff member, but also to determine the character requirements. Character requirements describe the kind of person that the Christian worker ought to be (Ford, letter to Eldridge, July 28, 1997).

Ford was keenly aware of the problem of measuring achievement of affective goals and objectives. However, while affective goal-indicators may defy measurement, writers and teachers must continue to sow affective learning activities. Proof of achievement in affective learning may not come for months or years and teachers must learn to adjust to the fact that they may never see the fruits of their labor. One can evaluate only the kinds of activities the teacher sows—analyzing their educational value on the basis of whether or not they are the kinds of activities that tend to produce affective change (Ford, letter to Eldridge, July 28, 1997).

For Ford, the chief factor in developing attitudinal outcomes lay not in curriculum designs and plans but in each faculty member exemplifying the desirable attitudes and values. That means that learner-teacher relationships play an enormous role in Christian education. Ford raised the question, “Teachers are role models of the Christian life. If attitudes ‘are caught not taught’ (however true that may be), what does this suggest about the selection of faculty members?” Job descriptions for faculty members should give attention to the character of the teacher as well as to their specific teaching and writing skills (Ford, letter to Eldridge, July 28, 1997).

Ford questioned the validity of spiritual formation being relegated to a specific course. He advocated that spiritual formation should be part of every course in a theological school. This understanding and conviction came from his understanding of the purpose of Christian education, that “the goal and objective (purpose) of Christian education is to lead learners to become w-a-l-k-e-r-s in the Word” (Ford, letter to Eldridge, July 28, 1997). Therefore, spiritual formation, Christian ethics, theology, and biblical revelation should be threads that run through every course.

Applied Learning Theory to Practice in the Classroom

The greatest compliment made to a teacher is “he practiced what he preached.” Ford not only understood learning theory and the process of designing effective lesson plans, he lived it out every day in the classroom. He never considered himself a dynamic, charismatic personality in the classroom, but every lesson plan was a well-crafted art form. He rarely lectured; if he did, it was for only a few minutes. He involved students through a variety of learning activities.

Students often commented that they thought they weren’t learning anything because the class wasn’t difficult, but when they reached the end of the course they realized how much they had learned. Ford had an amazing ability to break difficult concepts into understandable forms and apply them in practical ways. An example of his teaching is found in Design for Teaching and Training: A Teacher’s Guide for Interactive Learning and Instruction (2002a).

Without knowing Ford, an outsider might look at the entire process of designing lesson plans and comment that he had a mechanistic approach to teaching. This was far from the truth. Ford could be serendipitous in the classroom and would often deviate from his written lesson plan to insert a story, illustration, or activity that helped accomplish the learning objectives. From his deep reservoir of learning activities, he was able to use the right activity to help students accomplish the learning goals.

Tall and lanky, Ford was a gentle giant. He never seemed to get perturbed at students. He welcomed comments and would carefully consider a question before answering. While not a pied piper in the classroom, he communicated a deep passion for the teaching-learning process.

After retiring from his faculty position at SWBTS, Ford continued to write and consult in the area of curriculum design. His archives are located in Fleming library at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.

LeRoy Ford was a participating member of several professional organizations including the Southwestern Baptist Religious Education Association in which he served as a vice-president (1969-70) and president (1970-71), the Baptist Religious Education Association of Oklahoma, the Religious Education Association of the United States and Canada, and the North American Professors of Christian Educators.

Professional engagements included serving as a lecturer at the Universidad Autonoma De Queretaro, Universidad Autonoma de San Luis Potosi, and the Universidad Autonoma de Guanajuato. Ford was a sought after speaker for national conferences including the National Asssociation of Professors of Religious Education, National Association of Directors of Christian Education, National Association of Christian Correspondence Schools, and Professor in Medical Schools in the States of Jallisco, Michoacan, Colima, Aguascalientes, Nayarit, in Mexico.

During his ministry at the Baptist Sunday School Board and throughout his lengthy teaching career at SWBTS, LeRoy Ford influenced the field of Christian education through his teaching and writing about learning theory and curriculum design. Art Criscoe referred to Ford as “pure gold in a brown paper bag” (Criscoe, n.d.). Christian educators will continue to mine that gold for years to come.

Works Cited

  • Criscoe, Art. (n.d.). Private correspondence with Daryl Eldridge.
  • Edgemon, Roy T. (1998, July). Oral conference presentation. Glorieta, NM.
  • Ford, L. (1963). A primer for teachers and leaders. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
  • Ford, L. (1978). Design for teaching and training: A self-study guide to lesson planning. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
  • Ford, L. (1983). A manual for curriculum design in theological education by extension: A competency-based approach for TEE in missions. Fort Worth, TX: Alpha Graphics.
  • Ford, L., & Ford, J. (1984, January 30). Our niche in history … Letters to our children.
  • Ford, L. (1991). A curriculum design manual for theological education. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
  • Ford, L. (1997, July 21). Personal letter to Sophia Steibel.
  • Ford, L. (1997, July 28). Personal Letter to Daryl Eldridge.
  • Ford, L. (1998, October). If I could begin over… I like to think that I would. Compiled excerpts from letters to former students.
  • Ford, L. (1999, October 28). Personal letter to Daryl Eldridge.
  • Ford, L. (2002a). Design for teaching and training: A teacher’s guide for interactive learning and instruction. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock.
  • Ford, L. (2002, December). Further reflections on what curriculum means. Compiled excerpts from letters to former students. #138.
  • Steibel, S. (Comp.). (1987). Primary source document. Archives, A. Webb Roberts Library, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.
  • Steibel, S. (1988). An analysis of the works and contributions of LeRoy Ford to current practice in southern Baptist curriculum design and in higher education of selected schools in Mexico. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, TX.
  • Wyckoff, D. C. (1977). Personal letter to Linda Cannell, March 9, 1977.
  • Wyckoff, D. C. (n.d.) Personal letter to LeRoy Ford.


Books and Monographs

  • (2003). A curriculum design manual for theological education. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers. Active record.
  • (2002). Design for teaching and training: A self-study guide to lesson planning. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers. Active record.
  • (2002a). A primer for teachers and leaders. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers. Active record.
  • (2002b). A teacher’s guide for interactive learning and instruction: To accompany design for teaching and training. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers. Active record.
  • (1991). A sourcebook of learning activities. Nashville: Broadman & Holman.
  • (1983). A manual for curriculum design in theological education by extension. Forth Worth: Alpha Graphics.
  • (1977). Temptations of Jesus. Nashville: Bible Correspondence Lesson, Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
  • (1975). Evangelism in action: Ecclesiology 51. Nashville: Seminary Extension Department of the Southern Baptist Convention.
  • (1974). Using audio-visuals in religious education. Nashville: Convention Press.
  • (1972). A workbook for Galatians: Freedom through Christ. Nashville: Convention Press.
  • (1970a). Using problem solving in teaching and training. Nashville: Broadman Press.
  • (1970b). Using the panel in teaching and training. Nashville: Broadman Press.
  • (1970c). A workbook for an introduction to the Bible. Nashville: Convention Press.
  • (1969). Using the case study in teaching and training. Nashville: Convention Press.
  • (1968a). Developing skills for church leaders. Nashville: Convention Press.
  • (1968b). Study guide for the work of church officers and committees. Nashville: Broadman Press.
  • (1968c). Study guide for working together through the church council. Nashville: Broadman Press.
  • (1968d). Using the lecture in teaching and training. Nashville: Broadman Press.
  • (1958). Tools for teaching and training. Nashville: Broadman Press.

Books in Spanish

  • (1988). Avudas visuales. Casa Bautista de Publicaciones. Out of print.
  • (1987). Actividades dinamicas para el aprendizaje. Casa Bautista de Publicaciones. Active record.
  • (1986a). Capacitese como lider. Editorial Mundo Hispano [Imprint] Casa Bautista de Publicaciones. Out of print.
  • (1986b). Modelos para el processo de ensenanza-aprendizaje. Casa Bautista de Publicaciones. Active record.
  • (1985). Pedagogia Ilustrada. Casa Bautista de Publicaciones. Out of print.
  • (1980). Sugerencias para avudas visuales. Casa Bautista de Publicaciones. Out of print. Sound Recordings and Video Recordings:
  • (1982). Discovering, training and putting leaders to work. Fort Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • (1980). Curriculum design and theological education. Fort Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • (1979a). Design for teaching and training. Nashville: Broadman Press.
  • (1979b). Methodology in teaching. Jackson: Video Dynamics.
  • (1979c). Teacher training. Jackson: Video Dynamics. Co-author.
  • (1978a, January 5-6). Approaches to evaluation of learning. Fort Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Lectureship at Winnipeg, Canada.
  • (1978b). Critique: Goal indicator evaluation sheet. Fort Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • (1978c, January 5-6). Deliberate use of levels of learning. Fort Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Lectureship at Winnipeg, Canada.
  • (1978d). Kinds of experience. Fort Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • (1978e). Kinds of experience; learning aids. Forth Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • (1978f). Learning aids. For Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • (1978g, January 5-6). Related functions of learning goals. Fort Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Lectureship at Winnipeg, Canada.
  • (1978h, January 5-6). Teaching and training for affective change. Fort Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Lectureship at Winnipeg, Canada.
  • (1978i, January 5-6). Teaching and training for cognitive change. Fort Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Lectureship at Winnipeg.
  • (1978j). What learning means. Fort Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • (1977). TEE production seminar: Interviews with TEE directors. Penang: Malaysia Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • (1975). Training adult leadership. Fort Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • (1974a). Basic learning techniques,” parts I and II. Nashville: Broadman Press.
  • (1974b). Purpose of theological education by extension oversees. Fort Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • (1973). Criteria for church curriculum selection. Fort Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • (1970a). Developing a church curriculum plan. Fort Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • (1970b). Introduction to educational principles 435. Fort Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • (1970c). Systems approach to unit planning. Fort Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • (1968). How to study the independent study unit on theories of learning. Fort Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


  • (1986). How’s your learning attitude? The Lifelong Learner, 3.
  • (1977). Twenty-one ways to involve pupils in learning. Outreach, 5, 24-27.
  • (1976). Methods of learning: listening teams. Church Training Magazine, 8, 19.
  • (1974, Winter). Developing performance-oriented learning purposes. Search, 4, 31-40.
  • (1972a, Fall). “Individualizing instruction.” Search, 3, 27-34.
  • (1972b). Schools of the 70’s. Co-author. Home Life, 10, 46-47.
  • (1971). The case for the case study. Interaction, 7-8.
  • (1970a). The nature of learning. Church Training Magazine, 10, 36-38.
  • (1970b). Use of teaching aids in unit studies. Adult Leadership, 10, 13.
  • (1969a). Learning to be a creative group member. Royal Service, 3, 59-60.
  • (1969b). The church council evaluating and selecting curriculum. Church Administration, 7, 26-27.
  • (1969c). New ways to train leaders. Baptist Training Union Magazine, 10, 17-21.
  • (1969d, Fall). Teaching helps for January Bible study week. Southwestern Journal of Theology, 12, 85-88.
  • (1968). How do adults learn? The Sunday School Builder, 2-3, 16.
  • (1967a). Take a look at your span of leadership. Church Administration, 4, 14-16.
  • (1967b). The church council evaluating curriculum. Church Administration, 7, 14-15.
  • (1967c). How early can evaluation begin? Church Administration, 11, 8-9.
  • (1967d). Let’s show them what we learned. International Journal of Religious Education, 44 (11), 14-16.
  • (1967e). Parenthood enrichment program. The Sunday School Builder, 11, 20.
  • (1966a). Announcing an alternate curriculum. Baptist Training Union Magazine, 1, 10-13.
  • (1966b). Life story of la fe bautista. Baptist Training Union Magazine, 4, 20-21.
  • (1966c). Which skills do you need? Baptist Training Union Magazine, 5, 8-9.
  • (1966d). How to establish a climate for learning. Adult Training Guide, 10, 8.
  • (1965a). Presenting la fe bautista. Co-author. Baptist Training Union Magazine, 2, 18.
  • (1965b). How to use recordings to teach. Church Administration, 7, 26-27.
  • (1965c). Where is religious education leading us? Church Administration, 8, 26-29.
  • (1965d). What is organization? Church Administration, 9, 7-8, 35.
  • (1964a). Christian ethics. Baptist Training Union Magazine, 1, 10.
  • (1964b). Tasks of a church staff. Church Administration, 1, 20-21.
  • (1964c). Select learning methods. Baptist Training Union Magazine, 2, 20-21.
  • (1964d). There must be an easier way! Church Administration, 3, 32-33.
  • (1964e). Adults and Baptist heritage week. The Sunday School Builder, 4, 68.
  • (1964f). Lesson course study plan in the church study course. Baptist Training Union Magazine, 7, 11.
  • (1964g). How many can you supervise? Church Administration, 8, 30-31.
  • (1964h). The training union aids the adult thrust. The Sunday School Builder, 10, 11.
  • (1964i). The significance of the alternate adult organization plan. Baptist Training Union Magazine, 11, 14.
  • (1963a). Your Southern Baptist Convention. The Church Library Magazine, 4-6, 8-9.
  • (1963b). Have your learned to work through people? Church Administration, 6, 30-31.
  • (1963c). Golden rule of management. Church Administration, 8, 5-6.
  • (1963d). Alternate adult union organization. Baptist Training Union Magazine, 10, 18-20.
  • (1963e). Five study programs for training union. Baptist Training Union Magazine, 10, 16-17.
  • (1963f). Made for each other. The Sunday School Builder, 10, 18.
  • (1962a). Empathy—a leader’s most valuable quality. Church Administration, 2, 4-5.
  • (1962b). Audio-visuals in church library tomorrow. The Church Library Magazine, 4-6, 21.
  • (1962c). When you must give criticism. Church Administration, 9, 18-19.
  • (1962d). How to share and accept responsibility. Church Administration, 12, 16-17.
  • (1961a). How we use the Bible in training union curriculum materials. Training Union, 1, 5.
  • (1961b). Group learning clinic. Training Union, 9, 22, 65.
  • (1960). Adult feature: you have looked …it has been found! Co-author. Training Union, 11, 22-23.
  • (1959a). Films should be tested. Educational Screen and Audio-Visual Guide, 2, 75.
  • (1959b). The unchanging function of the church library. Church Library Bulletin, 9, 1, 6.
  • (1959c). Jesus the master leader. Church Administration, 11, 8-10.
  • (1958). Polytechnic church accepts the challenge. Church Library Bulletin, 7, 4-5.

Book review by Ford

  • (1970, Fall). [Review of Change and the teacher, by Reichard Sanford]. Search, 1, 58.

Reviews on Ford’s Works

  • Steibel, Sophia. (1988). An analysis of the works and contributions of LeRoy Ford to current practice in southern Baptist curriculum design and in higher education of selected schools in Mexico. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, TX.
  • Bergen, Martha S. (1986, Spring). [Review of A sourcebook of learning activities, by LeRoy Ford.] Search, 16, 59-60.
  • Bergen, Martha S. (1975). [Review of Using audiovisuals in religious education, by LeRoy Ford]. Church Training, 3, 15.
  • U.S. Army Chaplain Board. (1970). [Review of Basic Learning Techniques, by LeRoy Ford]. Education and Audiovisual Journal, 1-3.
  • Davis, Robert A. (1969, Spring). [Review of Using the lecture in teaching and training, by LeRoy Ford]. Southwestern Journal of Theology, 11, 132.
  • Crowe, Jimmy P. (1969, Spring). [Review of Developing skills for church leaders, byLeRoy Ford]. Southwestern Journal of Theology, 11, 131-132.
  • Crowe, Jimmy P. (1968). [Review of Developing skills for church leaders, by LeRoy Ford]. Baptist Training Union Magazine, 9, 10-11.
  • Hockman, William. (1959). [Review of A study in perspective, motion picture by LeRoy Ford]. Educational Screen and Audio-Visual Guide, 4, 204-205.

Articles written about Ford

  • (1984a). Dinner marks appreciation for retirees. Southwestern News, 42 (6), 14.
  • (1984b). Luncheon honors four retirees. Southwestern News, 42 (1), 1.
  • (1982a). Winter, spring continuing education program offers 20 workshops. Southwestern News, 41 (12), 5.
  • (1982b). Conference schedule packed. Southwestern News, 41 (10), 10.
  • (1982c). Workshops offer variety. Southwestern News, 40 (7), 4.
  • (1978). From the President Russell H. Dilday… Southwestern News, 37 (10), 2.
  • (1977). TEE provides special mission field helps, by Dale Helmbold. Southwestern News, 35 (6), 4.
  • (1976). Class to validate new teacher training plan. Southwestern News, 34 (3), 3.
  • (1973). Sabbatical results from trip mishap, by Bob Stanley. Southwestern News, 32 (10), 7.

Excerpts from Publications

Ford, L. (1961). Tools for teaching and training. Nashville: Broadman Press. (p. 9).

“Teaching is a fine art. It involves the taking of things that are known to fashion a creative product. A full-grown Christian does not just happen. He is the result of a join[t?] enterprise. As an individual is placed in the hands of a teacher and the Master Teacher, he is invested with new form and begins to grow toward the standard of perfection exemplified in Jesus. He begins to appropriate the privileges he has as a creation in the image of God.”

Ford, L. (1968). How do adults learn? The Sunday School Builder 7, 16. (p. 16).

“Adults learn when they apply to life situations the truths that they discover. ‘Become doers of the word, and not deluders of yourselves by merely listening;’ James told his readers, ‘for whoever hears the message without acting upon it, is similar to the man who observes his own face in a mirror; he takes a look at himself and goes off, then promptly forgets how he looks’ (James 1: 22-24, Berkeley). Adults learn when they apply to life the Bible truths that they study. This article deals with two levels of application. Some ‘application’ occurs when class members recognize the relevance of God’s Word to their lives. This level may be called the level of transfer. The member learns to transfer Bible truths to his own situation. Here are examples of how two teachers helped their members transfer to life situations the Bible learned: Members of one class, in studying the biblical injunction ‘Bear ye one another’s burdens’ (Gal. 6:2), found in newspapers these examples of person in special need of ministry: (1) a family whose house burned in a fire; (2) the death of a young man in a car accident; and (3) the tragic desertion of a family by the father. They recognized that the biblical admonition related to their own situation.”

Ford, L. (1968). Using the lecture in teaching and training. Nashville: Broadman Press. (p. 35).

“Teachers use the lecture…
  • When pupils are already motivated.
  • When they need to transmit a lot of information in a short time.
  • When the learner’s experience level makes words take on meaning for him.
  • When they have unusual insights or information not shared by the group.
  • When the group is too large for using other methods.
  • When they have the necessary skills.

Ford, L. (1974). Using audiovisuals in religious education. Nashville: Convention Press. (p. 40).

“Use audiovisuals which invite the learner to respond actively—This principle applies equally to teaching in all areas of learning: knowledge, understanding, attitude, and skill. However, the applications here relate to teaching information. Learners may respond covertly (internally through non-observable activity) or overtly (externally through observable activity). Both represent active responding. The teacher who simply displays audiovisuals misses a prime opportunity to make it more probable that the pupil will learn. If the teacher involves the learner in some way through active responding, he recognizes learning as an active process.”

Ford, L. (1978). Design for teaching and training. Nashville: Broadman Press. (p. 73).

“Teachers and leaders need to decide whether they will teach primarily for change in knowledge, understanding, skill or attitude and values. We know a lot about how persons gain knowledge; how learners develop understanding, attitudes, and skills. We can use certain principles of learning to help bring about certain kinds of learning. If we teach for understanding, it helps to use certain principles of learning to cause understanding to take place and endure. Assume that the learning goal pinpoints skill as the primary learning outcome. For example: The learner demonstrates skill in tying seven kinds of knots. Skill means the ability to do with ease a motor act—such as typing, skiing or tying knots. The term skill tells the teacher-trainer that he should use those learning principles which tend to result in skill. One learning principle says a learner develops skill more easily when he sees the skill demonstrated. We might call this the ‘principle of demonstration.’ Another says he gains skill more easily when he practices the operation himself. We might call this the ‘principle of repeated performance.’ Use these two principles and others, the teacher-trainer designs learning activities. He provides opportunities which permit the leaner to ‘see the skill demonstrated’ and to ‘practice the operation himself.’ In this way he applies in the classroom what he knows about how people learn skills.”

Ford, L. (1984). A sourcebook of learning activities. Nashville: Broadman Press. (p. 50).

“Purpose: This activity should help the learner comprehend meanings. As a secondary value, it helps learners express ideas simply. Activity: Ask learners to describe a concept or define a word using words of only one syllable. Examples: Ask the learners to define sin using no word of over one syllable. (One student defined the term this way: Sin means to say “I will do my own thing. God does not know how to run my life. I can run it. I do not need him.”) Ask students to rewrite the Preamble to the Constitution using no word of more than two syllables. Variations: Link activities such as these onto the examples. Ask the learners to define a word using a set of number of words. For example: Define sin, but use no more than ten words. Ask learners to define a term as if for an audience of children only. Ask learners to define a term using as many words which begin with the same letter as possible.”


Ford, L. (1978). Design for teaching and training. Nashville: Broadman Press.

Ford’s self-paced interactive workbook is a classic in designing lesson plans and the explanation of how to write instructional goals and objectives.

Ford, L. (1991). A curriculum design manual for theological education. Nashville: Broadman Press.

This is a must read for persons in Christian higher education and responsible for teaching curriculum theory or involved in the curriculum design of their institution.

Ford, L. (2002a). Design for teaching and training: A teacher’s guide for interactive learning and instruction. Nashville, Broadman & Holman.

This book contains the teaching materials for the course he developed entitled “Principles of Teaching.” It contains a syllabus, lesson plans, transparencies, activity sheets, two forms of quizzes for each unit of study, and tests. The book is a companion to Design for Teaching and Training and a perfect example of the interactive teaching of Ford.

Author Information

Sophia Steibel

No information available.

Daryl Eldridge

Daryl Eldridge (Ph.D., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) served as the Dean of the School of Educational Ministries at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, until 2003. He now serves as President of Rockbridge Seminnary. Eldridge was a teaching assistant for LeRoy Ford. Sophia Steibel (Ph.D. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as associate professor of religious education at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. Steibel’s doctoral dissertation at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1988) explored the works and practices of LeRoy Ford.