November 13, 2023
by Greg Henson, CEO Kairos University; President of Sioux Falls Seminary
Kairos University walks alongside students who are spread out across the world. The plurality of those students is enrolled in the Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree programs. Put simply, these are the two programs that often receive the most attention and which generate the most data regarding program assessment. That data helps us think deeply about the work we are doing so that we can continue to serve people well.
In our overview of the Kairos 10.0 release, we listed three categories of updates: Integrated Voice, Adjusted Expectations, and Supported Flexibility. These categories are quite evident within the 10.0 updates for the MA and MDiv programs. As such, we will describe the updates using those categories.
For each individual outcome within each degree program, a small group reviewed the outcome, revised various aspects of the outcome’s description based on the integrated voice now present within the community, and then developed a list of proficiency indicators for that outcome. Finally, a list of starting projects were created for the outcome. The indicators and starting projects are examples of supported flexibility.
Two specific expectations have been adjusted within Kairos 10.0, and they are related to master assessments and case studies.
The purpose and process for master assessments have not changed in Kairos 10.0. Students will still complete a master assessment in the same way by working with their mentor teams to assess proficiency in each outcome. Currently, students must receive a total score of at least 8 on each master assessment. However, starting with Kairos 10.0, students must receive a total score of at least 9 on each master assessment and each category must receive a score of at least 2 (formerly scores of 8 and 1, respectively). This change was made in light of the master assessment data which shows 97% of master assessments already result in a total score of 9 or higher.
Over the years, students, partners, and faculty have continually shared that gatherings and case studies are highlights of many students’ journeys in Kairos. Previous versions of the Kairos MA and MDiv programs either required students to attend weeklong gatherings and participate in both plenary sessions and case studies or to complete a certain number of case studies (in person or online) over the course of their programs.
Case studies will continue in Kairos 10.0, but we are making a few adjustments. First, we are going to call them Reflection in Community Sessions (instead of case studies) in order to reinforce the fact that these are opportunities to engage in peer reflection in the context of community. Second, all curriculum versions—even past versions that have required full gathering and case study participation—will now only require participation in Reflection in Community Sessions. Meaning, participation in regional gatherings and other online plenary sessions is optional. These Reflection in Community adjustments will also apply to the Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Leadership programs.
In addition, we are exploring ways for faculty mentors to offer additional small-group Reflection in Community Sessions throughout the year. More details will be made available once a plan has been finalized and implemented. Kairos will continue to offer online Reflection in Community Sessions throughout the year as well as those that are offered in person at regional gatherings.
As we noted previously, our aim with Kairos 10.0 is to create something we are calling “supported flexibility.” That is to say, there is an additional level of support than was provided in Kairos 7.0, 8.0, and 9.0 but also some enhanced flexibility. This is most evident in the indicators of proficiency and starting projects. Kairos 10.0 provides enhanced support by providing proficiency indicators and starting projects for each outcome. It maintains flexibility by allowing mentor teams to work with students to adjust indicators and adapt assignments. If you are interested, you can keep reading to learn more about how we got here.
If you have worked with Kairos 7.0, 8.0, or 9.0, you will be familiar with the Development Path, a series of steps designed to help students work through the various outcomes. The goal was to empower students and mentor teams by creating space for them to discern, develop, demonstrate, and evaluate proficiency. While this has always been the goal with Kairos, versions 7.0, 8.0, and 9.0 made the Development Path more prominent. Behind the scenes, so to speak, in 7.0, 8.0, and 9.0 was the Standard Path (like a syllabus for each outcome) that students could work through with their mentor teams. Our conversations with students, mentors, partners, and faculty, combined with the data we gathered, revealed that students and mentors often struggled to utilize the development path. Much of this was related to a perceived ambiguity within the Development Path. At the same time, however, there was resistance to the Standard Path because it limited the vital contextualization aspects of Kairos.
Kairos 10.0 combines the principles of the Development Path with the support of the Standard Path by having a single “Outcome Path” for each outcome (I know, super creative right?). In this approach, each Outcome Path includes indicators of proficiency – observable behaviors, attitudes, skills, dispositions, and cognitive abilities that describe a person who is proficient in that outcome. Also, to help students and mentor teams collaborate on the work of helping the student discern, develop, and demonstrate that proficiency, we have provided a set of starting projects – assignments that help assess the prior learning of the student and identify the areas in which the student may need to focus and/or begin developing proficiency.
On the surface, this kind of structure could seem too prescriptive given the fact that contextualization must occur in order for learning to be appropriate to the culture, call, and community of a student. To ensure contextualization occurs, mentor teams are encouraged to work with faculty to adjust indicators of proficiency and adapt assignments. For example, indicators for the Theology and Worship outcome do not explicitly refer to the “Law – Gospel” distinction often present within Lutheran traditions. However, if a student is located within a Lutheran tradition and seeking to be an ordained clergy in that tradition, it is very important for her to demonstrate proficiency in that area. So, the mentor team might adjust the indicators to account for such a reality. This adjustment can take place by either adding an additional indicator or by adjusting an existing one. In the case of assignments, it could be that a particular student is planting a church while another is starting a software company. While both should pay attention to “Collaboration and Care,” the different contexts may require different assignments. Once again, the mentor team can work with faculty to adjust the starting projects and following assignments to better fit the context of the student.
Our experience with those who have tested pre-released versions of Kairos 10.0 shows that the adjustments we made to the MA and MDiv programs provide wonderful enhancements. The Integrated Voice, Adjusted Expectations, and Supported Flexibility provide helpful responses to the feedback we have received from students, partners, staff, and mentors. We look forward to what we will learn as more people begin to use Kairos 10.0.
Next week, we will wrap up our introduction to the enhancements we have made with Kairos 10.0 by taking a closer look at Bachelor of Arts. In two weeks, we will share the steps students, partners, and mentor teams can go through to take advantage of Kairos 10.0.