Standards of Excellence: Community

August 17, 2020

By David Williams, President, Taylor Seminary

A few weeks ago, we began talking about the important dimensions of standards of excellence associated with the Kairos Project. Last week, we discussed a first observation about the educational journey of Kairos: context. This week, we will look into a second observation. This observation is that standards of excellence are communal.

Standards emerge from communities which are involved in a common practice moving toward a particular end. The “community of practitioners” both create and are governed by these standards. Think about it this way, who is it that sets the standards for good medicine? Doctors do. Doctors determine what medical care leads to health and which doesn’t. Then they are held accountable to those standards in the care they provide. Who is it that set the standards for being a good lawyer? Lawyers do. Who is it that sets the standards for good therapy? Therapists do. That’s one reason peer-review is so important. Standards immerge out of and govern the community of practitioners.

Now, we shouldn’t think that these standards are determined solely by the community of practitioners, they are not. There are more aspects than just the community of practitioners but that community is inherently related to the standards. And, the standards are not arbitrary. They are arrived at by reason with rigor and care. Another dimension we shouldn’t miss is that these standards are created by the community to help the practitioners arrive at the result the practice is striving to achieve. It is important to recognize that practices are always moving toward an end or goal. That is, there’s a purpose for why the community does what it does.

Recognizing the communal dimension of our standards of excellence is important because our participation in these communities deeply impact our lives.  We all participate in a variety of different communal practices and attending to them more intentionally can give us critical leverage over forces that shape us. In our series on Romans, we talked about the way culture shapes us, molds us, forms us into particular types of people often through habits and patterns of behaviours to which we pay very little attention. Our participation in these communities of practice do the same thing. Though often unseen their power is real and permeates many aspects of our lives. Later, we will pay particular attention to the way the practice of education forms us.

Recognizing that practices always strive toward a particular end helps us recognize the ways in which the activities, skills, habits, and even the language we use in the practice are in service to that end.  It is only when we know what we are trying to do that we can assess whether or not we are doing it. Thus, recognizing what we are trying to do is essential in developing the appropriate standards of excellence for hitting our target.

Next week, I will share a third observation about the standards of excellence.

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