February 28, 2022
by Greg Henson, CEO, Kairos University and President, Sioux Falls Seminary and David Williams, President, Taylor Seminary
When serving as a mentor within the Kairos community, you are embracing the opportunity to steward followers of Jesus who flourish in their vocations for the sake of the world. To put it another way, you are walking alongside another citizen of the Kingdom as part of a team of people who are learning together what it looks like to be a faithful follower Jesus in a particular context and vocation.
Admittedly, that can sound like a daunting task – especially for someone who has never served in a mentoring role of this nature. Keep in mind, however, that the primary gift you bring to this process is you – not your expertise or experience. It is your commitment to being available and responsive to the student and team that is on this journey with you. To aid you in this endeavor, Kairos provides several resources and various opportunities to interact with others engaged in similar work. Today, we are sharing one of those important resources – the Development Process.
One of the underlying theological and educational assumptions we make within Kairos is that “knowing” is an integrative task. This reality invites us to recognize that to “know” something one must not only understand content within a particular area but also that one’s character (i.e., their way of being) and craft (i.e., the work they do) are overtly shaped by that content in observable ways. We will say more about this in upcoming articles. Another assumption is that the standards for what is “excellent” or “proficient” are defined within particular communities of practice. This means that the definition for “excellent” biblical literacy is contextual, not universal.
We share those assumptions because they provide a helpful background when using the development process tool with your student and mentor team. This tool is designed to help you foster, with the student and the mentor team, generative conversations that guide and shape the student’s educational journey. Rather than submissively completing a series of tasks or courses required by the institution, students within Kairos are invited to take ownership of their journey of discipleship. The development process helps students consider various aspects of their journey in conversation with their mentor team and community while taking into account their context and call. So, let’s take a look at the various steps of the process.
The Development Process guides a student’s journey toward proficiency within each outcome-level course in Kairos. It is what provides intentionality, consistency, and flexibility. As students progress through an outcome, they engage in an ongoing and iterative process of development. Regardless of the program or outcome, the process of development is intended to remain the same. While each of the seven steps in the process builds on the steps that come before it, the process is not meant to be rigid or linear. It is an iterative process, which means that the student and mentor team may often revisit the various steps as the student makes progress in a particular outcome. It is also true that the first time a student and mentor team consider an outcome, it can be helpful to walk through the first five steps in a somewhat linear fashion. Here are the steps in the process:
Discuss what proficiency of content (i.e., vocabulary, cognitive framework, and historical understanding, etc.), character (i.e., what that outcome looks like when integrated into a student’s life or way of being, etc.), and craft (i.e., skills and practices, etc.), looks like in your tradition, context, and vocation. Doing this will result in a more robust understanding of the master assessment process and rubric. In this step, the mentor team and student are asking questions like, “What behaviors, skills, and cognitive understanding are indicative of someone who is proficient in this outcome?” or “When we look at people deemed to be proficient in my context, tradition, or vocation, what seems to be true about them relative to this given outcome?” or “Given the vast array of what we could learn in this outcome, where are we going to focus our attention in light of the student’s context, tradition, and call?” If the student doesn’t have a readily identifiable context, tradition, or call, then perhaps the best first step is to begin by reflecting on the student’s life and faith journey thus far by beginning with a conversation about the spiritual narrative of the student.
Discuss the student’s current level of competency, that is, what does the student bring to this journey? Take time to describe the student’s prior learning and experiences with a specific focus on how they relate to the definition of competency articulated in step 1. Everyone comes into their Kairos journey with some sort of prior learning – some body of integrated knowledge that has helped them learn and grow in their walk with Christ and in their vocational context. In this step, we are identifying those areas of prior learning. This learning could be formal or informal; it could be classes, webinars, readings, or life experiences. We might ask questions like, “How do you (the student) feel prepared to engage in this particular outcome?” or “How would you (the student) describe your familiarity with the various aspects of this outcome?” or “What experience do you (the student) have with the various aspects of this outcome and what have you learned from them?” An important thing to note here is that we are not simply asking, “What have you (the student) already done and how does that count toward your degree?” or “What work do you (the student) not need to do because you have already done it elsewhere?” The first set of questions invites us to think through what we have learned in order to consider where God might be leading us next in our journey of discipleship – they are generative and forward-looking. The second type of question assumes that learning (and therefore discipleship) is simply about “completing assignments” or “digesting content,” which focuses attention on task completion, not discipleship.
In light of the definitions of proficiency and assessment of prior learning, the next step is to identify areas in which the student needs to develop further. This is an ongoing process that continues even after graduation, so give attention to the fact that the student and mentor team may continue to have this conversation over time. In the same way that everyone begins their journey through Kairos with some level of prior learning, everyone also has areas of needed growth. In this step, the student and team are asking questions like, “Where does the student need to deepen their understanding, more thoroughly integrate or be transformed by, or sharpen their skills relative to this outcome?” or “Given the vocational goals of the student, where do they need to invest time and energy in this outcome?” or “What aspects of this outcome are most interesting to the student?” or “Are there aspects of this outcome that the student ‘doesn’t know they don’t know?’” In plain terms, this step in the process is where the student and mentor team are invited to lean into the reality that discipleship is an ongoing and unending process. There is always room to grow and if someone doesn’t see a need for growth, then perhaps the most pressing area of growth within an outcome is related to the character dimension of knowing?
Determine the resources that are available for the student to progress through this learning journey. In our world of such abundance, there are actually many opportunities for deep learning and practice. It is in this step that the mentor team and student work together to consider the vast array of resources available to progress through the Kairos journey. Of course, there are scheduled and self-paced learning experiences available through Kairos University and its global network of partners. In addition, mentors can help students consider other resources that might be available to them. Perhaps there are people the student could interact with, podcasts or blogs that might be useful, or experiences that might help them. In this step, all we are doing is opening our eyes to the potential resources that are available.
Outline the various tools, learning experiences, projects, etc. that will be used to make progress toward proficiency. The student may start with a path that is already developed or choose to work with the mentor team to completely adapt the learning journey or come up with something in between. After considering resources, the team and student can begin to outline a potential path forward. The path a student takes to identify, develop, and demonstrate proficiency within an outcome can be as unique as the student. No one needs to take the same path because no two people are exactly alike. As the team and student engage in this step, it is best to approach the conversation with the mindset of “What will help the student identify, develop, and demonstrate proficiency?” rather than defaulting to “What classes does the student need to take?” or “What assignments need to be checked off the list?” As their mentor, we want to encourage you to invite the student into a time of reflection as to how they journey best. Rather than thinking about the path as a set of activities or tasks, picture it as a series of encounters, each of which provides greater clarity regarding the next step to take and an opportunity to demonstrate and integrate what is being learned.
As the student and the mentor team begin to understand each other, the student’s context and vocation, the areas of growth or prior learning, and the particularities of their journey, together they will naturally assess and adjust definitions of proficiency, areas of needed growth, resources that might be helpful, and the path that might be most helpful for the student. We urge everyone to embrace this iterative nature of development as it is what encourages growth. As the short description of this step implies, the sixth step of the development process is an ongoing process of assessment and adjustment. In this step, the mentors and student are reflecting on the student’s journey thus far and then making adjustments as necessary to the path outlined in step 5. For example, the student may discover that she had more prior learning than she considered in step 2 which, in turn, requires adjustments to the path. Likewise, the mentor team may become aware of areas of needed growth that were not evident until some initial work was done. It is this step that, perhaps, most invites us to recognize that discipleship and, therefore, that learning is messy and organic rather than linear and regimented. As a mentor, we encourage you to work with your student and the team to embrace what God might have in store that no one was expecting.
Begin by reviewing definitions of proficiency developed by your team and the master assessment rubric. Then, work through the master assessment process with your team using these instructions. Progress in Kairos is tied to the master assessment process. While there may be certain learning experiences that are completed along the way, each outcome-level course is marked as complete only when the student and mentor team determine the student has passed a master assessment. A master assessment is a conversation about proficiency that functions as a comprehensive review and assessment of an outcome. Often, this review is based on the work a student has done throughout the particular outcome while, at other times, it may follow a particular “capstone” assignment that best exemplifies the outcome. In each case, the goal is to approach this process as a celebration of learning, not a final hurdle to clear or a hoop to jump through. Because the entire educational journey should be done in light of the definitions of proficiency identified in the first step of the development process, the master assessment should be a time to reflect on what the journey has been, what’s been learned, what the growth edges are for the student, and what leaning into those edges might look like going forward. What is most important is to take the approach that best serves the student. Master assessment reviews ordinarily take 1-2 hours and are wonderful opportunities to affirm the student, to recognize the work God has done in and through the student, and to consider where God might be leading the student to go deeper. The development process within Kairos is an important tool for students and mentors. It provides a framework for conversations that will help students identify, develop, and demonstrate proficiency within a particular outcome. By working with the student through this process, mentors are not only helping the student make progress within his or her program but also facilitating the student’s ongoing journey of discipleship as he or she develops the skill to take ownership of her educational journey.