Kairos Series: From CBE to CBTE

November 23, 2020

by Greg Henson, President

We’ve been exploring the Kairos philosophy of education the past few weeks.  Last week we took a deeper look at outcome-based and competency-based education and why they begin with the end in mind and how that differs from the approach often taken in modern higher education.  Today, we introduce the concept of competency-based theological education.

Kairos is an attempt at approaching learning in a way that invites us to reconsider not only the structure of learning (i.e. the delivery method) but also the philosophy that undergirds it.  Our prayer from the beginning has been to envision theological education as a non-linear, messy, organic, and transformational journey of discipleship.  In this approach, the work of integration is meant to be the very thing that drives the journey rather than something we work on at certain points along the way or in certain outcomes or competencies.  As such, Kairos is not strictly a competency-based education program focused on developing discrete competencies – though we do care about discrete competencies.  It is also not strictly an outcome-based education program focused on aethereal program outcomes, what one critic called “inane counting exercises involving meaningless phantom creatures (see Robert Shireman’s article “SLO Madness” in the April 7, 2016, issue of Inside Higher Ed) – though we do care about discrete outcomes, as well.

Instead, Kairos seeks to embrace the reality that following Jesus requires us to see how each part of our lives is deeply connected to the other.  How we see, understand, and practice those connections will be deeply impacted by our faith tradition, context, vocation, formational history, and much more.  As a result, we need a journey of discipleship – a journey of human development – that empowers followers of Jesus to flourish in their vocations, whatever those may be.

This is what many people call competency-based theological education.  It is a phrase that is intended to draw attention to the fact that emphasis is placed on demonstrated competency or proficiency AND on the fact that God is at work in the world and in the lives of those who call Jesus Lord.  In short, competency-based theological education is a formational journey as much as it is an educational one.  It cares about the competencies that students develop and the way in which those competencies extend beyond simple acquisition of skill.

Next week, we will explore the principles of competency-based theological education.  See you then.

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