April 5, 2021
by Greg Henson, President
As we engage in our call to steward followers of Jesus who flourish in their vocations for the sake of the world, we do so with the recognition that high-quality educational journeys must be developed with care. To help us achieve this goal, we embrace the following quality framework. As a series of cascading interests that mutually reinforce each other, the quality framework has four key points to remember:
1) it is rooted in the fact that standards of excellence are contextually defined,
2) a shared set of principles and practices inform and give shape to everything we do,
3) quality is governed through shared processes not shared content, and
4) the power of program development, assessment, and engagement is distributed throughout the learning community rather than held within a small number of internal voices.
By approaching quality in this way, we not only create a more inviting and engaging learning experience, but also help students and mentors learn how to define and develop mastery. As a result, we can ensure that students will reach the level of mastery that will help them flourish in their current and future vocational contexts for the sake of the world. Read on to see the outline of the Kairos Quality Framework.
Institutional and Programmatic Characteristics That Are Shared Across All Programs in Kairos:
Standards of Excellence are Contextually Defined
Our approach to education is built on the fact that standards of excellence are always contextually understood. As an important starting point, this reality requires us to recognize that one community’s definition of quality cannot be superimposed or forced on everyone. Within our quality framework, this requires us to develop systems and processes that keep students, mentors, and programs “close to the ground.” In our experience, institutions often under-estimate the time it takes to develop a list of values & principles that are clearly articulated, understood, and embraced across the entire institution. They are, however, the bedrock for the quality framework.
A commitment to contextually defined standards of excellence is integrated into the construction, administration, and practice of the educational enterprise, by ensuring that everything we do flows from a set of reinforcing principles. Those principles are:
• 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 (i.e., churches, denominations, businesses, educators, administrators, parachurch organizations, etc.) are working together on it.
• Mentored Teamwork – Discipleship happens in community, and relationships carry more authority than roles. That means mentor teams co-learn alongside students.
• Contextualized Discipleship – Followers of Jesus are always developed within a particular context and that context should inform and shape the journey.
• Customized Mastery – Since everything is integrated and discipleship is contextual, definitions of mastery must be customized as well (i.e., standards of excellence are contextual).
• 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).
• 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.
Principles provide helpful scaffolding for developing people and programs, but that scaffolding must have a strong foothold in order to be stable. Stability comes through a set of organizational practices that undergird and integrate day-to-day functions of the organization and the educational journeys it claims to offer.
• Affordable Programs: Scholarships do not make education affordable rather they shift the burden of cost to other parts of the church. If CBTE is really collaborative participation in the Great Commission, we must create programs that are inherently inexpensive to operate.
• Unified Systems: Everything from the way a school thinks about transcripts to the way it sends emails is inextricably linked. We need to build systems that embrace this reality.
• Flexible Technology: The technology we use and the way we use it must be as flexible as the educational journey is for students.
• Collective Governance: The siloes of the traditional approach to governance does not support CBTE well. Instead, we need to build trust and empower voices that were previously not welcome at the “governance table” in seminaries.
• Continuous Improvement: CBTE organizations will recognize that ongoing and unending change is a natural byproduct of being Spirit-led. That is to say that CBTE will invite practices that allow for, and even encourage, ongoing improvement.
• Quality Framework: This is what we are talking about in this article! To manage all of this well, a CBTE system will need to articulate its understanding of quality and then develop a framework that allows this understanding to be lived out in practice.
Shared Assessment Process/Rubric (Generalized & Holistic Rubrics)
The mechanism/process we use for assessment (i.e., institutional, program, and student learning assessment) and the philosophy that undergirds that process is shared by all programs, faculty, students, mentors, and partners. Flowing from the commitments outlined in the principle of holistic assessment and the practice of continuous improvement, each program must use the same general and holistic rubric. This means that the rubrics we create cannot be task-specific (meaning they require each student to complete the exact same assignment) nor can they be analytic (meaning they are focused on one particular result). In doing so, the rubrics empower mentor teams to review and asses student learning across several artifacts, conversations, and performances (i.e., it is generalized) while integrating learning across disciplines and learning categories (i.e., it is holistic). Such rubrics embrace contextualized mastery by inviting the mentor team to particularize general and holistic rubrics in conversation with the student and the student’s current or anticipated vocational context.
Finally, by leveraging a shared assessment process and rubric, the institution can invest in the training and support necessary to develop fully engaged mentors who embrace and live out the educational philosophy. A shared assessment process creates clarity while also being effective in a broad array of programs.
Shared Development Path
A shared development path is what helps mentor teams, students, partners, and faculty walk through the process of particularizing definitions of mastery in light of a student’s context and vocation. As Kairos programs are developed, partners, contexts, licensure boards, and others outside the walls of a school must have a strong voice in: 1) defining mastery, 2) describing the nuances of how mastery is demonstrated, and 3) the particular way a student’s journey might be adapted to better fit a given context.
Particularized (but still shared) Goals and Learning Outcomes
Each program has unique goals and learning outcomes. That is to say that the purpose of the program or what the program is trying to provide or make possible is unique to that degree. For example, a master of arts in counseling is not trying to do the same thing as a master of divinity. However, while the programs have unique goals, they all share a common set of commitments. In practice, this means programs cannot be built with goals that oppose each other in some sort of philosophical manner or with outcomes that are not aligned with the mission of the organization. For example, if the institution is focused on developing disciples, all programs need to embrace that shared goal. In addition, each program will have exactly one set of goals – not different goals for different “tracks” or “specializations” or “emphases” within a degree. For example, a Doctor of Ministry will have one set of goals, not a set of goals for a DMin in Spiritual Direction or a DMin in Leadership. The specification comes by living out the practices and principles listed above (which allows for contextualized particularization). As a result, much attention must be paid to how the goals and learning outcomes are articulated so that they are broad enough to encompass several different contexts yet focused enough to provide direction.
A competency is a discrete learning goal that has relevance within a given context. Note that we define it as something that has relevance within a context. That means “leadership” is not a competency because it is too broad a term. It must be contextually defined and that definition must emerge from a conversation between practitioners in that context, the academy, and organizations who might be interested in working with particular students. If we impose an institutional competency of “leadership” all we are doing is replacing what was once a course entitled “Christian Leadership” with a competency called “Christian Leadership.” Competencies are measurable, understood within a particular context, and can be nuanced by mentor teams who are actually on the ground with the students. They are developed in conversation with a mentor team using the shared development path.
Within a CBTE program, indicators are observable behaviors that demonstrate a student’s achievement of a particular goal or learning outcome. You could also describe them as the outputs or circumstances that signal achievement. Indicators are what students are held accountable to and what determine or signify progress within a program. They are what give form and shape to the shared rubrics used by mentors within a given program. Indicators are also where contextualized mastery intersects with programmatic outcomes. As stated above, “All things must be assessed with full awareness of what ‘mastery’ looks like within a given context.” This means that while a school may have particular outcomes for a given degree, the indicators that signal mastery of an outcome may vary from context to context
Suggested Inputs and Interactions
Inputs serve as the suggested means by which students may encounter, acquire, investigate, and integrate content, experiences, and ways of being. In conventional programs, inputs are often the courses students take and the particular readings, experiences, or activities that reside in those courses. In Kairos, inputs are “suggested” because they are simply the inputs the school believes could be helpful for students as they develop mastery within a given outcome. Because the mentor team is working with the student to demonstrate contextualized mastery, it is possible (even probable) for the team to allow and encourage students to engage with resources other than those listed in a program.
This is also true for the means by which students interact and reflect on content or other inputs. In conventional educational models both the content and the way in which students should interact with the content (i.e., the assignments) are prescribed. In CBTE, students and mentor teams have the freedom to adapt not only content, but also how students reflect on the content and the way in which they engage with it.
By adhering to this framework, Kairos is positioned to meet people where they are and then to walk with them as they discern and discover what God has in store for them as they participate in God’s mission!