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StudentsThe following is an excerpt from a letter by Karl Barth to Prof. Georges Casalis on 26 June, 1964. (Barth, “162a” in Letters 1961-1968, 167). I liked it because of its implications for educators/teachers and students like me.

Barth wrote this letter to Casalis, after an article titled “Students” appeared Le Semeur, a French Christian student journal, No. 3, 1964.

“…these students are people who neither can nor will study. Work bores them… this does not prevent them from acting like gravediggers [studying dead philosophers who have nothing of value to say, even]… Barth–myself. And to call all this “the search for a new ethics!” And to publish it all….
“What does all this mean? I implore you… to try to make these poor sheep understand–by your teaching and example–what it is to study, not in order to pass examinations, but because of the necessity and beauty of serious and regular intellectual work the savor of which seems to be strange [to them].”

To ask if God educates by distance is not a question asked for the sake of being silly. I’m wondering this because our college is exploring the possibilities of online education (earlier called “distance education” but now I guess no one likes the negative connotation of distance). The college I teach in is encouraging the faculty (including me) to do a few online courses ourselves. It’s a wonderful idea to help skeptics become comfortable with the process and see first-hand the possibilities in store.

But as I embark in my reading about online/by-distance study, I’m quite surprised by the overwhelming positive literature around the subject. It’s hard to find critical (negative) material that argues against online education. Recently, I read one article (It was course reading, author was not named) that stated that “transforming” students was the goal of education, and that we should also focus on the “end goal” of teaching—the transformation of students. The author shows is to be theologically consistent, because, according to him, even Paul was focussed on the end goal, the transformation of the believers. The implication is if the “end goal” is the transformation of students, then the delivery method (online or on-campus) of getting there, should not matter. The article further argues that “presence” of the community and the teacher need not be a face-to-face presence. A virtual presence, especially where the teacher is able to listen to the real concerns of students and interact with/responds to it, is just as present. Furthermore, this presence if acted out well, it is as effective (sometimes even more effective) to achieve the end goal.

This argument is tough to refute because it challenges the notion held by educators like me who state that transformation can only (can mostly) happen on-campus. We think that face-to-face learning is the (best?) way (method) students learn to apply ideas, learn to practice what they have been preached, and even be transformed in the likeness of Jesus. But now, this article, argues that transformer does not need face-to-face, physical presence, rather a virtual presence is just a real and effective.

If this is true, if physical presence is not necessary for transformation, then, to visit the opening question, could God actually be the ultimate distance educator?

To the world, and even to many of us Christians, God is mostly invisible. We know He is here, but we cannot see Him. He communicates, but to most of us it is not through an audible voice (that we associate with face-to-face), but with his word (Holy “text book”, even a holy “email”?!). And while he encourages us to join a cohort (local church), the larger church seems to be virtual (a “universal” church that we cannot see, but believe exists).

I’m not trying to be funny. Though it could be (esp. the Holy email part). But my point is to ask whether we’ve gotten distance all wrong and rather than focus on presence or absence, we should focus on effectiveness to transform. The idea that God’s presence is actual can be debated… because if we cannot see God, then perhaps we need to redefine what is meant by “actual” presence. And again, what if the fact that we can feel/experience his EFFECT, becomes the argument for presence rather than material presence. So, rather than the fact that we need to set a seat for him to sit next to us, we see God’s effect because we are being “sanctified” in the daily grind of life, guided by the word, through the invisible Spirit. So, it can be argued, that God cares more about whether we are changed/whether we grow, rather than whether we can see him face-to-face.

Something seems wrong. But I’m not able to put my finger on it. Ok, maybe I can.

It’s the incarnation. If God could change us/transform us through His invisible presence working visibly for an effect on our behalf, there may have been no need for Jesus to walk amongst us. The necessity of the Son of God, becoming human/coming to earth, walking with the disciples, challenges us to think of God in purely “distance” terms.

After Jesus, the Spirit, yes, is present. Yet apart from some charismatics/Pentecostals, I doubt many Christians experience the Spirit as a being who walks next to them. The reality, again, becomes invisible. So we’re back to the first question, does God eventually become a “by distance” educator?

Well… the problem of seeing the spirit as an invisible being is really where the theological problem lies. We cannot see the Spirit, not because the Spirit cannot be seen, but because “we” are not able to see the Spirit. Our eyes our not clear enough, our vision is not capable of seeing the all-present, all-powerful One. That invisibility does not make God invisible, but rather it points to our inability to see. Perhaps like blind students in a class, we use other senses to see and experience God’s “presence” but God is still present. He is not far away, he is not absent, He is not even invisible. It is that reason why Jesus comforts his disciples that he is not leaving them (us) like orphans. Another (the Holy Spirit) is coming. Has come. Here. With us. God is here.

So, is God a by-distance educator? No. His invisibility should not be thought of as lack of material presence. God is here, in time-and-space. In the living Church. In our lives. He is affecting the change, not giving us suggestions to change. He is helping us understand His word, he’s not giving us an assignment/test to understand His word. He is here.

All this does not mean that by-distance education is bad. Distance (online) education can, and probably is, still good. But I’m glad that God is not a by-distance educator.

online-learning

Whose online is it anyway? (image source: dynamicrecruit.com)

(edited heavily two hours after I first wrote this article)

Oh I hate it! I really hate online education. It seems everyone is being forced to move in this direction. And so, inevitably, even I’m being made to do a course to learn its supposed benefits and learn how best to do online education. Grrrr!!

OK, with that rant out of the way, tone down time. :)

My “hate it” is an overstatement. Because I do value online education. Much of my own learning has shifted online. Even as I continue to learn (informally), I rely on online books/journals, online news, online discussions and even online Bibles. Almost all my learning requires the internet in some way or the other. So, you can see, “irony!”

So, let me rephrase. I don’t “hate” online education. I fear it. I fear the trend towards online education is not fully thought through by the many colleges that are using it (this is not a factual statement, only a gut feeling). I fear that many of the faculty who deliver online education are not trained in using its strengths. I fear that many of the students who want online education only want it for the sake of easy certification.

But as I think about it, nothing I’ve said above is the fault of the online medium. Poorly prepared faculty and poorly motivated students are problem that residential seminaries have been facing for ages.

So what’s the big deal? Why is it that I resist online education so much?

I think I resist online education because I fear/dislike bad education. Whether its online or not, “bad” education hurts the learner. For instance, “bad” education is when the teacher expects without empowering; when the teacher discounts the student’s prior learning, ignoring how much the student already knows and instead reinforces the notion that the student does not know, or does not know enough. In a similar way, by failing to recognise the true level where each student is at, the “bad” educator is unable to help (empower) the student to move from a “C” grade to a “B” grade, and instead makes them feel guilty for not meeting the “A” grade. For the “bad” educator, a “bad” student is always to blame.

The reason why all the “bad”s above are in quotes, is because I’m aware that my designation of “bad” is problematic, whether it applies to teachers or students. Motives are indiscernible. I am in no position to judge an educator, even as educators rarely understand their students. I remember, for instance, having some teachers in school who labelled me as good, when I was actually slacking in their class. And some teachers who labelled me bad, even though I was trying really hard to survive in their class.  I felt that teachers had no real clue (or seemed to have no clue) what was really going on in me, and so I developed  a kind of cynicism of learning. I tried to fool my teachers into believing something positive about me (controlling the narrative), rather than use the class time to engage in the pursuit of knowledge (an example was to ask questions at key moments in class, to look like an interested learner).

Sadly, to my loss and discredit, some of my teachers were excellent (from what I can remember). Many made an extra effort to reach out to me, to try to help me understand. Some were gracious to me and helped me pass, even when I didn’t deserve to. But I think I was too far gone down the path of educational-cynicism to recognise their sacrificial efforts.

Ironically, a transformation for me began in college when the “teacher” was removed from the equation, when there was no teacher to impress. Funnily, it was the Indian examination system, where all that matters is an external exam and not what a teacher thinks, that gave me a new desire to learn. All I had was the college library and an examination date, and I had to find my own motivation to study. I could have gone off the rails, so to speak, but by some miracle I didn’t. And instead, that’s when I had my biggest breakthrough. I became self-motivated and started learning, for learning sake.

And if what I’ve just written looks like an affirmation to self-directed learning of the online system, it’s not. My realisation then was that now that I understood what I was reading, I would have loved some more help. I would have loved guidance on whether I was on the right track. But when my designated teachers were not able to sense my change, and incapable of helping me improve, I had to rely on myself and somehow (through a miracle) I survived. Not everyone does. Not everyone will.

So when, through another miracle, I became a teacher, I decided to be the opposite of the “bad” teachers I remembered. I decided to be alert to the challenges of the educational system. I  walked with my students to the library, much like one of my favourite teachers had done. I tried to be a guide, a helper. I attempted, even though the workload would make it difficult, to stand as much as is possible with students. I also tried to break institutional status quo’s (which I felt worked against learning). All this I tried to practice outside the classroom. But also inside the classroom. I tried to develop lesson plans after seeing what level each of the students were in, and try and adapt courses accordingly. In effect, every course I ever taught was different. I would have talks with the students before hand, to try and see what they needed, and meet those particular needs through classroom discussions. I would also be open to changing course directions mid-way, especially if something was not working right. It was an obsession, to help students. To understand them. To, as much as is possible, learn with them. This, I believed, was “good” education.

Sadly, while sometimes I succeeded, many times I failed. I found that when I adapted courses to meet student needs, students felt I was erratic. When I tried to move against status quo, it was said that I made students uncomfortable. When I tried to walk with students, and work with them, I was “over helping” and not allowing them to think for themselves. And when I still did all of the above, and more, I was stressed, over-worked, and feeling there was no point of “good” education because there was no visible positive result. With all good intentions, I was neither understanding the students, nor doing myself any favours.

I realised, then, that it was probably not that my previous teachers were bad. Perhaps it was the system that was problematic, a system that did not provide the teachers with adequate resources (time, training, space) to truly understand the students, or even work individually with each one. Similarly, it was not that all students were bad. But that some students were just too far down the road of cynicism to benefit from the efforts of teachers. And even the good teachers must have struggled with disappointment when students like me showed no sign of improvement.

All this above points to the failure (challenges) of on-campus education, but it makes me all the more guarded against online education. I feel that the effort that I have (and continue to) put into on-campus education must at least have some limited benefit. There is hope that somehow the hours spent with students is part of their holistic development. But with online education, even the little that has been possible, would no longer be possible. I would no longer be able to look into a student’s eyes, would not be able to see their body-language, would not be able to gauge where the student really is (regardless of where they think they are). I feel that adapting course work to suit students need would no longer be possible and instead, students would hide behind their online presence and easily manipulate their teachers.

Even as I type this longish note, I realise that my fear of online learning emerges from a sense of current disappointment with on-campus learning. I believe in good education, but I don’t think I am a successful educator.I feel I still need to improve in sensing what the students need and how to truly meet that need.

I also realise that if knowing a student better, and moulding content to suit her/his needs is good teaching, then I need to find out ways to do that online. Not everyone knows how to hide their “real” self online. There are clues, there are ways to determine what a student knows and what a student expects. The easiest way, perhaps, is to simply ask them. Not everyone is a closed book, not everyone is impossible to read. And importantly, if I’m not able to discern the signs of students online, then I’m the one that needs to change and grow/improve in that ability. If it’s important for me to understand who the students really are, then I should try to find out ways to determine that through the online medium. There is no absolute knowledge of a student possible, even if I was face to face (as I have demonstrated in my on-campus frustrations), so perhaps only “adequate” knowledge is possible online as well.

All this to say again, I doubt whether we can argue that “knowledge of a student” and “flexibility in course design” are sure ways to guarantee good learning. In my case, for instance, it was a terrible examination system that led to my biggest learning opportunity.  Could then the online medium, still be a successful learning medium, so that true learning happens despite it or even because of it?

So, what began as hate note, has become a hesitant call to action. An assertion that we (I) must be willing to give online education a chance. So that what I think is important in “good”education, will be preserved (even if differently) through a different medium. After all, all learning is learning, all good education is good education, regardless of medium.

———————————————————

With all this said, here below is a link to a site that criticises online educators/education. I hope I will not fall into these traps:

http://www.geteducated.com/elearning-education-blog/5-things-real-students-hate-about-online-learning-degrees/

I just saw this photo, and thought it was really cool… and has education implications. :) ie. DON’T PLAGIARISE!!!

Of course, by saying don’t plagiarise, I am using an image by someone who used (modified) a copyrighted image, probably without permission. Hmmm. The irony is stark. I could get sued for a message about honesty.

Comes from: http://cheezburger.com/6296473600

Today was a focus on change; especially how institutions deal with large-scale changes, especially keeping in mind the political nature of curriculum formation. The session then concluded with a period of questions and assessment.

The concept of change was taught through the perspective of Salerno and Brock’s The Change Cycle. Keeping in mind, feelings, thoughts, and behaviour that are affected during the change process, we went through several tasks that was geared to help institutions identify significant potential change events occurring in the near future (for SAIACS it was the Mysore accreditation of MTh programme).  Using the primary change, we identified factors of fear/discontent during the change process, and we identified several strategies we could use to help address the change-factors.

This session was quite good, especially in view of the tasks. Of course more time could have helped… but it was much better to focus on tasks rather than simply lectures to deal with aspects/problems of change.

When we moved to the assessment section, it was good to have plenty of time for review. That was commendable. Personally I would have preferred a learning task as a proof that we have indeed learned something. For instance, we could each institution identify questions/comments about curriculum… and other seminaries look to provide a comment/assistance to those questions… that would help us to prove that we indeed learned something.

This public assessment was then moved to a private (without GATE facilitators) assessment… that helped raise specific critique of the workshop.

An important point was the lack of contextual analysis… an intentional attempt to see the relation to Indian context. It’s not enough to say that “you” do the context and we do content. That’s a fundamental error of education if it is not defined by context… and importantly we need to improve in modelling contextual learning.

Summary: it was a week that was well-worth the effort, though with room for improvement. Definitely, such initiatives help institutions, such as SAIACS, improve, to be better effective to do their mission.

Today’s session at the GATE workshop left me with mixed feelings. The structure, especially the early part… allowed for a lot of institutional engagement. For the first time, it actually felt like a workshop. However, it was a process that could have been significantly improved.

The morning began with each seminary working on a description of the ideal graduate for their respective seminary degree programmes. In particular, they were to identify the character and skill goals (expectations). These were developed in conjunction with one of the facilitators.We spent close to 2 hours… working on this.

So what was the problem? We had already done it the previous year, and yet there was no mention of the previous exercise… no relation to the difference between the past and present activity. Worse… many seminaries / participants didn’t even remember that they had done it. So in effect, neither the facilitators nor the participants added to the knowledge gained from the previous year. It was almost as if the last year didn’t need to happen.

Only after this concern was raised… the relation between past and present was addressed (late in the evening, last session). Which already suggested that within the context of adult learning… determining prior knowledge is of crucial importance.

Similarly, by the afternoon session, the input sessions dominated and once again there was no time for tasks… nor the workshop method. So the gains of the morning could not be extended.

Finally, however, right at the end, the SAIACS group had the opportunity to work through a “curriculum matrix” an interesting diagnostic tool. The activity engaged our table and also was quite significant in helping us related the “Theory” of curriculum to our actual application. Such activities, I feel, should have been the focus rather than just an add-on.

Nevertheless… some positive gains today. But tiredness and some disappointment has set in. Is it even possible to achieve the ideals of good education, good teaching?

Today we made the transition, from Year 3 to Year 4. Which is to say: we shifted our focus from “Leadership and Transformation in Education,” to “Curriculum Development.” For some of the participants, this was about time… as we all felt that we were supposed to be focussing on education all along. Personally, while I could understand the importance of leadership and governance issues for education, the facilitators did not make the education application/implications overt enough.

Nevertheless, it was a breath of fresh air, with the sessions being more engaging and diverse.

The input session of conflict management (morning session) had some interesting thoughts. I felt it could have been done better, especially, as I have said earlier, kept “tasks” as more central to the process than teaching. We were dealing with so many biblical models of reconciliation… but we could have spent more time in seeing how to improve conflict resolution practices personally or corporately (in the seminary context). Nevertheless some of the ideas were actually helpful: for eg, Duane Elmer’s ideas of cross cultural conflict resolution (like keeping the preservation of relationship as the paramount focus of any confrontation).

An important education lesson occurred as soon as the facilitator finished his session and began the next topic. We were dealing with heavy issues of conflict and reconciliation, and then, when that session ended, we moved immediately to curriculum development. Suddenly the facilitator stopped and admitted that transition was too soon, and he paused for prayer.. and gave us a break… and then re=began the new session on curriculum development. A good example of a teacher admitting mistake and recovering.

The afternoon session continued the discussion method… and the focus was also on curriculum development; this time on the assumptions that were evident (or needed to be explicit) in the development of curriculum. Now here, as expected, there were excellent pedagogical models. For instance, for a case-study discussion, the facilitator split the groups (shook comfort zones) and made us discuss. Also, every group’s results were given equal attention (and not hastily summarised). Then, the facilitator affirmed the group by showing that his own observations about assumptions were less than the whole assumptions noted by the groups. While most of us were critical of the central character in the case-study, then the facilitor urged us to think differently by identifying positives. Another helpful exercise.

However, here is when it fell away… when back in our college groups, we ran out of time… and were not able to have enough time to apply the lessons of assumptions on our own curriculum. In fact, even before we identified all our assumptions (no time to critique/evaluate them)… we had to move to the next topic.  Once again, the importance of keeping the main-thing, the main-thing was felt. I felt that the exercise of discussion is really good… however, the cost is time. So perhaps the discussions should be reserved to what really needs to be discussed… like how organisations see themselves… and we can rush the setup. (but this can have other sides… so it’s more a personal feeling).

The session concluded with another “input” session where developing curriculum was the focus. Again, the weakness of the input method was made explicit, even by the facilitator, but he pressed on. To his credit, there was the freedom to ask questions at anytime (in fact all input sessions allowed good question opportunities). However the predominant Input method just made questions feel like interruptions rather than the genuine addition to collective wisdom.

Anyway… I had a much better time today… and felt there were helpful ideas related to teaching/education to watch out for or incorporate.

Today’s workshop (focussing upon Governance/leadership that impacted implicit curriculum) was divided in two halves… through two methodologies. The morning was all input, with a few tasks. The afternoon was mostly discussion (participation), with some input.

It was surprising how engaging the afternoon session was (despite afternoon sessions being traditionally weak), and how difficult to participate in input session in the morning (despite “alert” morning time).

And once again, it showed (for me) how for adult learning, input through lecture is the worst, or at least an ineffective way, to communicate.

It was also interesting to see our education facilitators make certain mistakes… which taught not just by good example, but also bad.

For instance, the professor who used the lecture input method… put a lot of content in his session and ran out of time to do the tasks effectively. We rushed through tasks… and also the theoretical discussions could have been done so differently.

Similarly in the input session, the facilitator kept using his own example as a positive example… which (unintentionally?) put him as the teacher-authority. Alternatively, he could have spent more time in tasks, getting discussion over what he wanted to talk about. I’m sure that would have resulted in better (contextual) answers… without drawing attention to the examples that could arise from the institution faculty/leaders. That (according to what we were taught last year) would have given us participants more ownership on the content.

In the afternoon session, again focussing on leadership patterns that would affect implicit curriculum… the session was almost entirely discussion oriented.  Exciting and engaging. Yet two mistakes (according to me) here. The first discussion was based on two biblical case studies. However, because the texts were slightly controversial (or the method of deriving principles from Acts being controversial), it was easy for our group to get distracted from the main point of the discussion. Relatedly, it was the sum-up (the relation between leadership and curriculum) was not made explicit. And could have been the central focus of the discussion. So, rather than focus on the biblical passage and the principles… think about our own instition and see how we could do things differently by “learning from” these biblical examples.

The second error was structural… in the sense that the facilitator, interacting with our table (that talked a lot), spent a lot of time talking to “us”… with his back turned against another group that was not talking much. That I think sent the wrong signal… and made me feel a little uncomfortable with our participation… and also perhaps feeling a little bad for the other group who may (or may not) have felt ignored. Perhaps in large groups… every comment should be brought to the group… rather than limit to the group that asked the question. That would have allowed the other participants to feel more involved.

I also reacted strongly against what was called “S1 model of leadership,” by Blanchard?). It was interesting… but the problems were highlighted when “directive leadership” was thought to be appropriate in certain cases. While I did relent (especially where directive leadership is helpful in cases of counselling in extreme cases). But I really felt that in cases of teaching… no student (especially adult) is in need for directive teaching. But some seminaries actually felt that for the BTh level it was necessary. Which I really felt sad to hear. Do we not respect our students to participate in their learning… help them think for themselves… guide them (ie. more participatory) rather than telling them to learn something in a particular manner or else. This over-directive method of learning is a problem of education in India… and sadly we tend to justify it. I hope I can continue to fight against this malice… in myself… as well as in the systems that think it is appropriate.

Anyway… that’s my view for today. I really want to focus on education… so let’s see what’s in store tomorrow.

 

Currently the review of the day’s learning is happening. According to the facilitators, the following plan was implemented. I’m taking their structure and making some notes below each point.

WHAT DID WE COVER TODAY (14/May, Monday)

1. What has changed – REVIEW

The facilitators had begun the day with the question, “What of last year was helpful/meaningful for your teaching/institution?” I felt the session was a little rushed. Beginning with the question presupposed that we even remembered what we did last years. It would have been good to have some kind of review statement… what was taught… and then see if we (participants) remembered… what struck us, and what we tried / failed in etc.

2. Expectations – NEEDS

The facilitators had then asked what our “expectations” were. I personally don’t like these kinds of questions, because the participants are so keen to please (not offend) the teacher that oftentimes true feelings are hidden/suppressed, or even participants tend to over-state high expectations.  Personally, I begin with the view that students may not be keen to learn, and so don’t ask questions that force students to be positive.  Another idea of “hook” (from Perry Shaw), is perhaps more helpful for the beginning of classes lectures. (hook being, grabbing students/participants attention).

3. Joseph Story – SENSITIZE

The Joseph story was a case study given about a student who had a good experience in bible college, but bad experience in “ministry” and then went back to bible college. We were supposed to draw attention to failure of seminaries in training students for ministry (which is largely true) but I find case studies disturbing. Their manipulative nature… especially in trying to get predetermined answers… that help the facilitators, is distracting. But I liked the rationale the facilitators gave… to get the discussion closer to home… get people aware about the implicit curriculum in a non-direct way. I think in that sense, the story was successful.

4. Biblical Qualities – INPUT

According to Jane Vella, “Input” is an important part, but only a part, of the whole teaching-learning tasks. And usually, input means lectures. The facilitators tried to have “input” (theory of biblical qualities that shape leadership) in a non-boring non-lecture way, however I felt that the discussion under-sold the participants… because most of the participants, I’m sure had already done some/most of that kind of thinking.

5. M.V.V. case studies – INDUCTIVE

M = Mission, V = Vision, and V= Values. There was a discussion about what is a mission statement, what is a vision statement and what are values. I found the distinctions very gray… and the priority of one (like mission over vision) over another, problematic. At least the facilitator admitted that these were just words and could work either way (in terms of priority). However the clarity that mission statement should be repeatable by the whole institution was a helpful reminder of its importance and relevance.

6. M.V.V. lecture – INPUT

Honestly, the input sessions could have been better… more engaging. I really don’t like learning by negative example… and more and more it feels that “input” sessions on the whole are not as successful as they are made out to be. A truly “ouch” moment for any teacher (including me).

7. GATE Values – IMPLEMENTATION

We were asked to identify what the GATE values were… I felt it was a little “narcissistic” at first… especially since we would be forced to answer only positively. Still… it was helpful to identify someone elses values before applying that to ourselves. I don’t quite understand how this was “implementation”, but maybe after reading Vella again it will become clearer.

8. Your values and Mission – INTERPRETATION

This activity was most helpful… where we looked at SAIACS stated values… and its “actual” (what is visible) values. It was a wake up call (again) to the need to be aware of our implicit curriculum. Do we really do what we say we do.

On the whole, I liked the ending of the session… it was engaging and relevant. The other sessions made me wish that there was a more direct focus on education and teaching.

SAIACS faculty are currently going through a workshop on Education conducted by GATE. According to the GATE website, there is a four year curriculum for the workshops. I’m going to quote the GATE Curriculum in verbatim for reference. Source: http://www.gateglobal.org/curriculum.html

GATE’s Workshop Curriculum

GATE offers a series of four annual workshops. We refer to them as workshops because the room in which we meet becomes a “shop” in which, together, we work to understand the implications of our theological commitments for the way we plan educational programs and the ways we teach. As a GATE team, we bring to the workshops a robust integration of biblical theology, grounded theory, and educational research in human cognition, the psychology of learning, and organizational change. Our methodology in the workshops is to set a context in which faculties can interact with theory, theology, and their cultural and institutional realities in ways that facilitate and encourage institutional change.

Theological and Philosophical Foundations for Transformational Education / Year 1

This workshop engages the participants in a discovery process to determine how factors such as the characteristics of entering students, the nature of the church, and the realities of their own cultures impact the designs and outcomes of educational experiences. Special emphasis is given to introducing relevant biblical/theological categories as well as modeling established educational practices. Faculties set institutional and individual goals for the year ahead.

Teaching Methods for Transformational Education /Year 2

In this workshop participants explore classroom methodology that leads to life transformation rather than the mere processing of information. Participants discover that designing educational experiences that promote transformational learning involves more than just organizing and delivering content. Special attention is given to the wide variety of methods used by Jesus as well as the purposes he had for using different approaches. In this and each succeeding workshop, faculties report on how well they achieved their goals from the previous year and set institutional and individual for the year ahead.

Leadership that Transforms Education / Year 3

This workshop considers how administrative practices such as leadership styles, decision making, personnel management, and conflict resolution impact the learning of students in a school. Participants examine the values that inform these practices and what students are learning through this hidden or implicit curriculum of the school. Biblical metaphors for leadership and leadership development are discussed with a view to making appropriate changes in practice for given situations.

Developing Curriculum for Transformational Education / Year 4

The final workshop addresses the school’s curriculum and how it should be shaped based upon the ministry context that its graduates will encounter. Participants consider how the state of the local church, the local culture, as well as biblical and cultural requirements for church leaders impact the school’s curriculum design. A key component of this workshop is the creation of a ministry profile describing the skills and character traits necessary for ministry in the local context. The workshop is intended to produce significant short-term and long-term institutional adjustments and individual course refinements for those participating.

What we are doing at SAIACS (along with four other seminaries) is to combine Year 1 and 2 (which we did last year) and Year 3 and 4 (which we are currently doing this year.

The format can be roughly understand as “theoretical issues for improving theological education” and “practice lessons in improving theological education.”

This year (year 3+4), while the broad focus is on curriculum development, the theoretical part looks at shaping leadership and governance so that the implicit curriculum of the institute can be strengthened (to make it more transformational). After the leadership discussion, we will then look at the practical aspects of developing curriculum in theological colleges.

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