December 26, 2016
As we look to the new year, we thank God for his provision in 2016. Turning the page to a new year is always exciting, but it is also a good time to reflect on what has been done the previous 12 months.
In a series of articles that were posted just before Advent, we shared what we have learned through our work with the Kairos Project. As we look toward 2017, we are stepping into a new series of articles that will focus on our classic educational tracks. Over the next several weeks, we will explore how enhancements to our classic tracks are offering unique opportunities for people to engage in theological education. We will take a brief look at the events that have encouraged the continued development of our classic tracks, what we see occurring in the near future, partnerships we are creating, and more.
To begin, however, it is probably a good idea to clarify what we mean when we refer to a “classic” track. As you might recall, the Kairos Project is a unique track within our Master of Divinity, Master of Arts (Bible and Theology), and Master of Arts in Christian Leadership programs. It is not a new or different degree program, but rather it is a unique way to complete some of the programs that we already offer. A classic track, on the other hand, is the educational track that most people imagine when they think of a traditional degree program. Students in this track complete courses that meet consistently throughout a semester, usually pay for courses based on the number of credit hours associated with that course, and progress through the program in a somewhat chronological nature (i.e., a student takes Theology 501 before taking Theology 502).
For many students, there is much value in a classic track. It is for this reason that we are renewing a focus on how students can participate in a classic track while also taking advantage of some of the good things from other initiatives at the seminary. That’s a good segue to the primary focus of this article: sharing what is bringing about this renewed focus.
The Principles of Outcome-Based Learning
Each of the educational tracks available through the Kairos Project were built from the ground up with a laser focus on Outcome-Based Learning. In this model, a coherent educational program is designed to help students progress toward specific learning goals. Primary emphasis is placed on whether or not students achieve these goals, rather than the way in which a particular student might arrive at a particular goal. In short, the focus is on measuring learning and impact rather than on the delivery of content. This philosophy is very noticeable in the Kairos Project. It undergirds our classic tracks as well but is not as obvious. Later in this series, we will touch on this topic more deeply.
Degree Program Assessment
Seminaries tend to be very good at evaluating the progress of an individual student. Faculty care deeply about students and seek to provide the best learning opportunity for them. What is sometimes not as clear is the way in which a seminary holistically assesses its degree programs. At the end of the 2015-2016 academic year, Sioux Falls Seminary implemented a new Degree Program Assessment Process that was designed to help the seminary get a glimpse of how well it is achieving the learning goals it has created for each degree program. Data from that process is already impacting the way that we enhance both the Kairos Project and the classic track.
Perhaps the greatest shift will come in the way that we integrate contextual learning into our classic tracks. Such learning forms the foundation of the Kairos Project. In a classic track, the process of contextual learning or supervised ministry is often not as clearly integrated. Yes, we have supervised ministry courses and yes students are engaged in some form of ministry for those courses, but we believe we can do better.
Over the next few weeks, we will continue to look at the ways in which we are enhancing the classic tracks within our degree programs. We will touch on the items listed above and introduce a few new items as well. Be sure to check back each week to see what’s in store!