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Kairos Series: Principles of CBTE

November 30, 2020

by Greg Henson, President

Last week, we introduced the concept of competency-based theological education (CBTE).  Today, we will explore its principles.

Several schools within the Association of Theological Education are attempting to live into this new reality. Currently, Kairos is the most widely distributed community of learning built around the concepts of CBTE. Now that we have been doing this for the better part of a decade, we have learned a bit about how this works in practice. It has helped to have conversation partners along the way. One conversation partner has been Kent Anderson and his team at Northwest Seminary and College in Vancouver, BC.

The Immerse program at Northwest shares some of the same impulses as Kairos. As such, Kent and I have been able to learn from, challenge, and support each other over the past several years. One of our goals has been to develop a series of CBTE principles. It seems that CBTE programs could be based on the following attributes: collaborative mission, contextual discipleship, integrated outcomes, customized mastery, mentored teamwork, and holistic assessment.

Collaborative Mission: The work of CBTE should involve voices outside the walls of any institution. In short, the mission is simply the Great Commission, and all of us (churches, denominations, businesses, educators, administrators, parachurch organizations, etc.) are working together.

Contextual Discipleship: Followers of Jesus are developed within a particular context and that context should inform and shape the journey.

Integrated Outcomes: Nothing in a CBTE program is “discrete” in the sense that it can be viewed entirely separate from anything else. As such, the outcomes are the telos not the discrete competencies (or “targets” in Kairos).

Customized Mastery: Since everything is integrated and discipleship is contextual, definitions of mastery must be customized as well (i.e. standards of excellence are contextualized).

Mentored Teamwork: Discipleship happens in community, and relationships carry more authority than roles. That means mentor teams co-learn alongside students.

Holistic Assessment: If we are using integrated outcomes then we must assess everything in a holistic fashion, meaning we need to consider mastery of content, character, and craft as a collective whole.

Now that we have introduced the principles of competency-based theological education, we can explore the practices of CBTE.  Join us next week to learn more.

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