Faculty Mentor Competence: Telling the Story

July 17, 2023

by David Woolverton, Kairos Affiliate Professor


During the previous three weeks, we have been dissecting some of the tools, best practices, and creative and relevant skills that Faculty Mentors need to facilitate each student’s educational journey. Specifically, we focused on “The Art of Asking Questions,” listening with “Three Ears,” and making “balcony” Observations—each of which reflects what we are calling the main Indicators of Faculty Mentor Competence.

In today’s post, we’re going to look at the fourth Indicator—Documentation—and the value of telling the educational story of our students.

The Indicator of Documentation has a primary target. The best faculty mentor:

Consistently identifies and summarizes student progress toward indicators and competence using an organized note-taking system.

Kairos University focuses on competency-based theological education. Therefore, our goal is to assist our students in developing proficiency within the parameters of their degree program. One of the most significant ways faculty mentors assist students in doing so is by collecting the appropriate data that will quantify and qualify student progress. When we take the time to do this, we help to tell the student’s educational story.

There are a number of ways that faculty mentors may quantify student progress. For example, we may:

  • Assess Prior Learning—obtaining documentation (written, visual, and/or digital) that offers evidence that such prior learning adds dimension to the student’s proficiency within a given Outcome.
  • Compile sample and/or final assignments from scheduled learning experiences, or other learning experiences, that the student has completed.
  • Compile digital examples of any adapted assignments.
  • Keep a record of master assessments for each outcome—detailing levels of proficiency obtained in content, craft, and character.
  • Discern and notate patterns discerned from interactions with the student’s mentor team.
  • Make note of any expectations connected with the student’s ordination, certification, or other professional context—to gauge their progress toward protracted goals.

Here’s an example of a faculty mentor’s progress note on a student named “Boyd”:

June 3, 2023— Received an email from “Boyd” requesting a master assessment for his Skillful Biblical Exegesis outcome. Reviewed his definition of proficiency and each of his SLEs and other learning experiences to date. Based on a previous conversation with him, I notice that his United Methodist Board of Ordained Ministry requires that he takes a survey course in OT and in NT. He’s done the OT, but has not completed the NT yet. Even though he’s excelling in all his assignments (according to his professor’s feedback—consistently receiving 10/10 for quizzes, and high praise in comments), and has met all of the other targets in his proficiency definition, his Board’s requirement is going to require a delay in his master assessment for at least two more months. I plan to communicate that to him tomorrow but also to set a date for doing the assessment as soon as his course is over. His mentor team has been thrilled with his progress. “Catherine,” his vocational mentor, is his district superintendent. She commented that his preaching has dramatically improved—saying that his sermons are “showing greater depth without losing applicability for the average listener.” He did a 6-week series on the Book of Joshua that showed evidence of higher-level competence in exegetical work. Once he finishes the NT course, he’ll definitely be ready for the master assessment.

Qualifying student progress looks at how the student’s content, character, and craft proficiency is impacting their overall competency based on the level of education they are pursuing (i.e., bachelors, masters, or doctorate). Qualifying progress may require different matrices. These matrices are discerned mostly through conversations—with the student individually, within the context of the student’s mentor team, and anecdotally through each of the mentor’s interactions with the student in real-time vocational and personal contexts. Qualifying matrices might revolve around the following example reflective questions:

  • Specifically, what evidence is there that the student has increased their proficiency within a given outcome by applying what they have learned?
  • What “fruit” within the student’s life testifies to the fact that they have attained competency in character or leadership?
  • Is there consistency between the quantified evidence of learning with the student’s self-awareness, self-presentation?

Data collection and documentation are important for capturing the salient elements related to the student’s progress and telling the student’s educational story—in both tangible and narrative forms. Consequently, it is best done systematically, over time. All interactions with the student become part of that student’s narrative journey. Within each outcome, the summative expression of the student’s progress is the master assessment. The summative expression of the student’s degree or certification program is their final “project.” We’ll talk more about both next week.

So how does a faculty mentor go about systematic documentation? Here are a couple of suggestions:

Whichever method is used, the faculty mentor is challenged to make progress notes on their students to inform the ongoing assessment processes related to the student’s educational journey.

Documentation is a discipline that faculty mentors use to enhance the student’s experience of feedback and assessment—the subject of next week’s blog post.

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