In recent years Majority World theological education (TE) has focused on impact, relating to the end results of TE efforts and curriculum processes. This article asks what sort of seminary faculty members are needed to ensure better impact. It presents a schema for competent faculty that comprises five domains: responsive communicators, proficient educators, reflective colleagues, transformational leaders, and innovative teachers. The article suggests how the schema could be used to enhance faculty professional development.
In Majority World theological education (TE) over the past decade, significant attention has been given to impact: What impact do seminaries have on the churches and organisations to which they are connected (by virtue of their governance and where their graduates are serving) and in the wider society in which they are situated? (In this article I use “seminary” to refer generically to the wide range of theological and Bible colleges and schools that have pastoral formation as their primary focus – what is needed to form those being trained with the appropriate blend of qualities to enable them to minister effectively within their own culture and/or in cross-cultural settings.)
For evangelical seminaries, the theme of impact was reflected at the International Council for Evangelical Theological Education (ICETE) consultation in Turkey in 2015, where the consultation theme was Engaged and Effective – The Impact of Theological Education.
At ICETE in 2015, the outcomes of a project in which ten Majority World seminaries undertook an impact-based curriculum review process were presented. Findings of the project are published in Is It Working? Researching Context to Improve Curriculum (Brooking 2018). Since then, there has been a ripple effect as other seminaries have been encouraged to undertake an impact-based review process and to modify their curriculum based on their discoveries.
The focus of this article is on a key element of effective impact – seminary faculty. If seminaries are to have an impact, greater attention must be given to the ongoing, well-rounded development of faculty for their strategic roles. This article offers an overview of what such faculty development entails. It details a faculty development schema for the benefit of TE leaders seeking to enhance the impact of their seminaries – but any seminary faculty members seeking to be better equipped for their roles will likely find that this article provides a useful checklist for identifying aspects of their role they could benefit from strengthening.
Faculty Development Is Crucial
The faculty is key in any seminary that is seeking to make significant impact. (Commonly, “faculty” is used in two ways. It may refer to a group of the academic staff of an institution, e.g., “Kairos Seminary has eight fulltime teachers in its faculty”; or it may refer to one member of that group, e.g., “She is a theology faculty at Kairos Seminary.” In this article, my usage is the former, with individual teachers as members of the faculty team.)
Evan Hunter, in his article in this journal, “Faculty Development in Service to the Mission of the School,” has echoed the widely-accepted reality that “… the faculty is perhaps the most essential resource as the means of achieving institutional objectives” (Hunter 2018, 57). The conclusion of his article asserts that “as a community of scholars and a community of practice, the faculty of an institution plays a unique role in the mission of the school” (74).
But a fully-formed faculty isn’t simply parachuted into a seminary “ready for action.” The honing of the faculty is a crucial process – and ongoing. This process of faculty development has two facets, according to Graham Cheesman: “the development of teachers as effective individuals, and … the development of an effective faculty – the team of teachers” (Cheesman 2018, 39). This is all about how faculty fit the seminary’s purpose: the extent to which the faculty is functioning in ways that actually help the seminary fulfil its vision and mission. The five domains and their elements detailed below relate especially to the first of Cheesman’s facets, but their potential will be achieved most fully when developed concurrently with attention to the corporate facet, to building a faculty team. Enhanced impact arises from the truism that “the whole is more than the sum of its parts.”
Hunter has highlighted ways in which seminaries need to invest in faculty development:
As the critical resource for the mission of the school, the institution needs to invest in developing the faculty in at least three significant ways. First, schools must develop future faculty members…. Second, the school must find ways to continue to develop its current faculty members as educators, scholars, and mentors in service to the mission of the school. Finally, the school must give attention to the faculty as a whole; a community of scholars who help the school fulfill its mission within the broader work of the Kingdom of God. A holistic approach to faculty development addresses each of these categories.(Hunter 2018, 61)
Such development is a rewarding task. But it is by no means an easy task. Cheesman has highlighted the challenge: “One great task of faculty development, then, is the molding together of a disparate group of people, each with his or her own ministry and calling, so they can together contribute to the common calling of the theological education institution” (Cheesman 2018, 57).
Applying the value of developing both individual faculty members and the faculty team needs to be carefully navigated. A collective approach may mean that individual faculty members could be less likely to make an impact in their seminary – rather than a cohort of peers interacting and sharing collegially. This relates to what Gordon Smith has articulated as “collective vocation”:
All vocations are fulfilled in solidarity with others; each person fulfills an individual vocation in partnership with another… Our individual potential is achieved in collaboration and partnership with others, whether it is our potential of personal transformation or the potential of making a difference in the world. Therefore it follows that we must determine that we will do our work not merely as individuals with particular and unique commitments, but also as a collective, as a community of scholars who… embrace and actually serve something that is bigger and more all-encompassing than the sum of our individual vocations. Indeed I would go so far as to say that we will only be effective in the fulfillment of our individual vocations if we do so in the light of and in a manner that is congruent with the collective vocation.(Smith 2002, 96)
The moulding of a faculty team – including its individual members – is a strategic component for seminaries using “impact” as a focus for evaluating and driving their effectiveness. If a seminary has adopted impact-based curriculum processes, the seminary must ask, “How well does the faculty understand, own, and apply the dynamics that will best ensure maximum impact by the seminary? And what sort of impact-based faculty enrichment (training and equipping) will enable the growth of professional competence?”
What Sort of Faculty Members Do Seminaries Need for Increased Impact?
Much has been written about faculty development. Most frequently the literature focuses on techniques for effective teaching – or, more dynamically, techniques for facilitating effective learning. Fritz Deininger and Orbelina Eguizabal’s Foundations for Faculty Development (2018) in the ICETE Leadership in Theological Education series is a worthwhile resource for appreciating some of the scope of the “how to’s” and the means to achieve them.
But the elements that define competent faculty members – enabling the whole faculty to guide the seminary to maximise impact on churches and society – are more than the sum of technical competences.
Educationally, the scope of holistic formation is often described in three-fold “know – do – be” or “affective – behavioural – cognitive” models. Four-fold models may expand on these models: “affective – behavioural – cognitive – dispositional” or “knowing – doing – being – feeling” (Harkness 2010, 104–5). The scope may well be broader: I have written elsewhere about the dimensions for integrated Christian development for pastoral formation (109), and these dimensions may be applied to the formation of seminary faculty too. The dimensions (adapted from Hill 1985, 110–11) may include:
- cognitive (critical understanding of the faculty role);
- affective (the quality of the feelings faculty members have in their role and its associated relationships – with their students, faculty colleagues, other seminary staff, churches, wider society, and God);
- dispositional (the tendency to respond consistently in particular ways);
- appropriate self-esteem;
- the ability and desire to enter into appropriate, caring relationships;
- the recognition and development of spiritual gifts (charismata); and
- assumption of responsibility in ministry.
Clearly, the scope of holistic faculty development moves well beyond acquiring knowledge about the faculty role and “how to behave as a faculty member.” Learning to be a competent faculty member – and for a faculty to learn to be an effective collective entity – is rather more! This point is developed further in this journal by Tite Tiénou (2018), who advocates for “fostering a culture where faculty members thrive as institutional citizens is an essential and necessary aspect of vital sustainability” (25).
So we are still left asking, “What are the key areas in which faculty members need to enhance their skills and competence to maximise impact?” This question recently faced AGST Alliance when a seminary requested help with the training of its faculty. (AGST Alliance is a Southeast Asian post-graduate theological education venture, a member institution of the Asia Graduate School of Theology network of Asia Theological Association. See https://agstalliance.org/.) I was invited to join AGST Alliance senior leaders to conceptualise and plan the response to this request.
Limited Faculty Development Programs Available
The AGST Alliance team had little desire to expend energy “reinventing the wheel,” so we surveyed what already existed in the way of faculty equipping frameworks. We soon noted two things. First, very little is available in the way of faculty development programs, especially for Asian seminaries, and likely more widely through the Majority World. Our search confirmed Cheesman’s assertion that “There is a great need for more good courses on the professional job of the theological educator today, and for [seminaries] to take the lead in seeing that their teachers are developed in this way” (Cheesman 2018, 51–52). Second, the AGST Alliance team was unable to track down an adequate schema of the key areas for faculty development.
AGST Alliance has sought to address the lack of suitable faculty development programs through the development of its Faculty Enrichment Initiative (FEI). The focus of this initiative is “to partner with faculty members of Asian seminaries in their quest to more effectively facilitate the potential and ability of their seminary to have a significant impact for God’s mission through the Church in their country – and beyond.”
We have intentionally adopted “enrichment” rather than “development,” “training,” or “equipping” as the key term. “Enrichment” recognises that seminary faculty members usually bring commitment, enthusiasm, and purpose to their role. But most faculty members, especially those who are new, recognise that they need to build greater competency to be effective. They have so many demands on their time and energy in the seminary and beyond that it is difficult for them to prioritize intentional, sustained training. When they do have space, they want to be enriched in their perspectives and practices. “Enrichment” recognises that faculty members appreciate being affirmed for what they are already accomplishing and then having someone come alongside them to strengthen what they are doing.
From the outset, we realize that enrichment may not be enthusiastically embraced by all faculty members. Hence, FEI is intentionally targeted at new-ish faculty members: those who have been in the role for up to two to three years. All seminary faculty benefit from life-long, professional development – and all are encouraged to participate in FEI activities, however long they have been in their role. But newer faculty members are still building competencies for their roles, so they are less likely to be entrenched in their ways and resistant to development (as some older faculty members may be). Two comments that I received from “longer in the tooth” faculty members when I sought to introduce faculty development initiatives into one seminary are likely not unique sentiments: “At the seminary level, students should be able to cope with a range of good to bad teaching methods. That can’t be my responsibility as well”; and “I can’t keep up with current thinking in my discipline, let alone make time for learning how to teach.”
A Schema of Key Domains for Competent Faculty
In consultation with five internationally-recognised TE consultants/faculty trainers, the AGST team articulated five domains of competence for seminary faculty (see Figure 1).
There is no unique rocket science behind this schema. What it achieves is an integration of various elements from faculty development resources in the tertiary education and professional development arenas, in general and in specifically TE-related settings. It also starts to recognise the essential interplay between forming individual faculty members vis-à-vis shaping the members’ faculty team.
Two points need to be noted about these domains. First, the domains are not prioritised in the order they are presented below. Rather, as Figure 1 reflects, they all contribute to the competent faculty member’s tasks. Second, as in most attempts to systematise any body of knowledge, there is significant overlap and interaction between the domains.
A. Faculty as Responsive Communicators
Competent faculty members understand their students as adults being equipped holistically for maturing discipleship and mission and ministry leadership.
This domain relates specifically to faculty appreciation of their primary target: the seminary’s students. Most students in Majority World seminaries are adults, and they bring an intriguing reservoir of experience to their seminary venture. They also bring expectations (Harkness 2012). These expectations have been developed within the particular cultures and sub-cultures which the students inhabit, and their culture and sub-cultures are likely to be different from those of the faculty members.
So competent faculty will be growing in their ability to communicate effectively to their students. They will be informed about and responsive to who the students are and what they bring to their seminary experience. Enrichment for faculty as responsive communicators will incorporate:
- Understanding adult learners – what “makes them tick” as persons and as students.
- Insight into students’ cultures. Drawing on the acclaimed work of Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede, this may include insights on the extent to which the students are embedded in a culture which is more collectivist than individualistic, how power differentials are expressed, how success is defined, how people cope with uncertainty, and how people view the passage of time (Hofstede n.d.).
- Awareness of pedagogies for effective engagement with adults: the significant theories and paradigms of learning. Faculty will identify which of these are suitable to adopt or adapt to their own context.
- How to help students think constructively. This is most commonly termed “critical thinking,” but many students struggle to see that critical thinking is not about being negative thinkers. Rather it relates to what it means to be informed thinkers with the skills to undertake “reasonable reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do” (Ennis 1987, 10). This is a more constructive process, even if it is difficult for those who have not been well-equipped by their prior education.
- Developing skills to enhance holistic formation of the students (as discussed above in “What sort of faculty members?”).
- The dynamics to encourage a disposition for life-long learning. These dynamics will include an appreciation of the importance of meta-learning (helping students to “learn how to learn”) and the necessary scaffold for students to undertake deep vs surface learning (Harkness 2012).
- Building a toolkit of creative teaching strategies for adult learners.
Enhanced faculty understanding of who students are as adult learners can happen in various formats (e.g. as part of faculty-only days before or during the academic year, or as short but intentional input during regular faculty meetings). Occasional moderated discussions between a representative group of students and faculty will bring a reality check to the theory being worked out in practice.
Requesting students to complete various inventories of aspects of who they are and then collating the results can also give insights to the faculty. Two examples are a short questionnaire for first-year seminary students on their prior learning experiences and expectations (detailed in Harkness 2012) and a preferred learning preferences inventory (e.g. VARK, https://vark-learn.com). Faculty appreciation of the value of these tools is usually enhanced when the faculty members themselves complete them to appreciate the perspective they bring intuitively to their teaching activity.
B. Faculty as Proficient Educators
Competent faculty members shape integrated learning activity (curriculum processes) efficiently in both formal and non-formal settings.
This domain of faculty competence relates to the knowledge and proficient application of appropriate curriculum theory and practice – the content and processes required for integrated learning, which is traditionally perceived to be a teacher’s main task. In this domain, competence relates to course syllabus development in formal settings (e.g. classrooms) more than the broader, less formal seminary-wide curriculum (which is addressed more fully below in Faculty as Transformational Leaders). (For definitions of “formal” versus “non-formal, see Harkness 2017, 144.) While it relates more to the direct student contact aspect of the faculty role, this domain of the faculty role needs to be set within the context of seminaries seeking to enhance their impact for God’s mission in the world.
Shaping appropriate learning activity proficiently is not simply determining what content to convey to students. The enhancement of effective learning requires attention to content and processes: “Without good content, the educational task is meaningless and futile, for content is the very heart of our message. But without good process, we undermine our work and limit our effectiveness” (Morris and Morris 1997, 38). (See Harkness 2017 for a brief outline of appropriate curriculum processes for transformative learning.) Curriculum as a process incorporates these phases:
- Learning objectives/outcomes that give clear expectations for participants’ achievements, especially as they relate to the seminary’s wider impact.
- Appropriate content needed to achieve the learning objectives.
- Appropriate learning environments to enable effective learning.
- Teaching methods and resources that best convey the content.
- Conduct of the learning sessions, the range of interactions between the teacher and the learners.
- Assessment of learning (both formative and summative), to determine how the participants are making progress and what they are learning. Meaningful rubrics are a key for effective assessment.
- Evaluation of the curriculum and teaching effectiveness: Do the curriculum/syllabus and the teacher achieve what is expected of them?
Proficient educators are also aware of the interplay between three elements in curriculum processes:
- The explicit (manifest, “obvious”) curriculum: What is intentionally planned and articulated for learning in an educational institution. This is most commonly reflected in course syllabi and the stated objectives for a course or program.
- The implicit (“hidden”) curriculum: Elements in the psycho-social and physical environment that influence the explicit curriculum. This is related to what is experienced in a learning setting – “the unwritten, unofficial, and often unintended lessons, values, and perspectives that students learn in school… the unspoken or implicit academic, social, and cultural messages that are communicated…” (Great Schools Partnership n.d.).
- The null curriculum: What is omitted from the explicit curriculum, intentionally or unintentionally. An example may be particular theological or doctrinal positions that are not covered in the course syllabi or wider curriculum of seminaries (whether or not they are denominational institutions).
The hidden curriculum is particularly powerful, as it reinforces or works against the explicit curriculum. (See John Jusu’s “The Impact of the Hidden Curriculum in Teaching, Learning and Spiritual Development” (Jusu 2017) and Perry Shaw’s “The Hidden and Null Curricula” (Shaw 2014).) Its reality and impact may be seen, for example, in assessment strategies used in seminaries, especially when more expansive impact than just student outcomes is focused on. The issue at stake here is the extent to which assessment strategies (assignment content and processes) – as with all aspects of a seminary’s curriculum – are consistent with the theological values being espoused by the seminary as essential for Christian ministry. Often there is a significant disconnect between what is explicitly articulated and the means by which it is articulated, and students are more likely to adopt ministry attitudes and practices based on what they have experienced rather than on cognitive content they have acquired. This is the hidden curriculum at work! Faculty members will benefit from being helped to recognise this reality and to consider how to set and assess student tasks that demonstrate more intentionally and practically the biblical values of, for example, the self-worth of individuals, the interplay of judgement and love, equipping for transformation, collaboration in community, and an overarching missional focus (Harkness 2008).
Enrichment for faculty members as proficient educators will focus on their ability to efficiently and effectively shape – and re-shape over time – the intentional learning experiences planned for students, recognising that all the phases above need to be considered if effective learning is to take place.
C. Faculty as Reflective Colleagues
Competent faculty members grow in self-awareness of who they are, what they bring to the role, and how they express collegiality.
Competent faculty members are change agents. Not just change agents as individuals but also collectively. As highlighted earlier, Smith’s “collective vocation” encapsulates this so well: a faculty cohort interacting, sharing and growing together maximises the impact of the seminary in achieving its mission.
Competent faculty members are reflective change agents. They don’t simply bring technical skills to their role and its tasks, however well-honed those skills might be. Rather, they are able to discern areas where growth and integration is needed, by them and their faculty colleagues, to ensure that they are better-equipped for their task. This perspective has been appreciated widely through Parker Palmer’s insights on the question, “Who is the self that teaches?” as he advocates for “We teach who we are” as a significant avenue for teachers to explore rather than “stay[ing] with the “whats” and “hows” and “whys”” (Palmer 1998, 7).
Reflective practice is about exploring the ways in which I undertake the disciplines of my role from the perspective of an objective outsider looking in. It involves intentionally evaluating and reflecting theologically, educationally, and spiritually on the assumptions and dynamics of these disciplines and what it means for me to grow in my effectiveness for greater impact. Reflective practice may happen through self-critique (my own assessment of aspects of my role), the insights of a critical friend (someone I trust whom I invite to provide feedback), mentoring (whether from more senior mentors or peer mentoring with a small group of faculty colleagues), and comments from the students and faculty colleagues, either formally or informally (Kallos n.d.). If undertaken constructively, this can produce enduring fruit.
For example, on the subject of a friend’s insights, I recollect the comments of a faculty colleague at an Asian seminary where I was teaching. His teaching style was particularly dreary, and his faculty confirmation was put on hold until he demonstrated greater teaching competence. I sat in on one of his classes, and later we chatted about what he had done well, what could have been enhanced, and suggestions for more creative teaching methods in future classes. When he later left the seminary to take another ministry role, I was surprised, humbled, and delighted when he specifically commented on how that short interaction with me had drastically and positively changed his approach to teaching (the student feedback reflected it also).
Understanding one’s personality type is another example of reflective practice. Dr Justin Peter, on the FEI leadership team, undertakes personality type profiling with seminary faculty and helps them explore the implications for their teaching ministry and leadership. (Readers may contact Justin at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The continuous reflective process is commonly termed praxis – the dynamic, forward-moving action/reflection spiral (see Figure 2):
The ICETE Academy nanocourse The Reflective Coursewriter: Sensing God at Work as You Write (which I authored) explores reflective practice further, and its insights are transferable from course writers to the faculty role more broadly (https://icete.academy/).
Examples of where faculty members may apply the action/reflection spiral are:
- Continuous reflection as a session with students proceeds: Are students paying attention and responding? Do I need to get certain people involved more? Do I need to change my plans? Where is God especially working in this session?
- At the conclusion of a session: Did it go well? What have the students learnt? What would I do differently next time? Did the students make some sort of commitment to change?
- At the end of a course: What have the students acquired from the course? How are the students’ churches going to be different as a result of the students completing my course? How did I cope as a teacher?
Faculty members as reflective colleagues will benefit from understanding these issues:
- What “excellence” looks like in the cultural context: excellence in terms of relationality, competence, communication, facilitating, community-building, co-learning, appropriate use of praise and discipline, etc.
- The value and practice of teaching from who we are as a person: Understanding one’s cultural background, personality type(s), and teaching/learning styles can contribute to more effective “teaching from who I am”.
- Faculty self-care, formation, and confidence-building for ongoing renewal.
- Faculty as collaborators: Collaborating ultimately with God and then with students, colleagues, and churches and organisations connected to the seminary.
- Contextualising teaching: Recognising cultural lenses to understand better their students and their worlds and the impact of their environments (psychosocial, spiritual, and physical) upon their educational efforts.
- Evaluation skills: Self-evaluation, how to glean and use appropriate student evaluation, and institutional evaluation (to understand the impact of what individual faculty members are undertaking).
Of course, working through any of these issues is not done in a cultural vacuum. Reflection will be shaped by the extent to which faculty members are in cultures that are more collaborative than individualistic, or by where the culture sits on the guilt/shame/fear spectrum, or by how power is expressed. These factors will affect appropriate form(s) of reflection and individuals’ openness to evaluative comments and to offering them to others. Seminary leadership will do well to address appropriate practices for reflection and feedback in the cultural context, as part of ongoing faculty orientation and training.
D. Faculty as Transformational Leaders
Competent faculty members apply the specific dynamics of theological education for transformational impact for God’s mission through their seminary.
It is too easy for faculty members to have a relatively narrow focus: The predominant default for “teaching students” is to limit this to what happens in “the classroom.”
But if a seminary is to have impact, the faculty members (as both key stakeholders and essential agents in the mission of the seminary) will need to consider what are appropriate seminary-wide practices for achieving integrated, transformational, impact-based outcomes. Such outcomes are more than the courses passed by students and marked on their academic transcripts. Effective transformational outcomes will result from working out in practice what it means to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matt 6:10).
Kingdom-focused holistic transformation will impact those places in the world – nearby and further away – in which Christians and their faith communities are challenged to be salt, light, and leaven. This transformation requires a team of informed and capable players – the faculty.
Transformational leaders recognise that deep and enduring learning arises in non-formal and informal settings as much, if not more than, in formal settings (Harkness 2017, 144). Such leaders will not use formal educational experiences alone. Instead, they are likely to incorporate less formal processes, recognising that in these settings, values and character tend to be shaped. Transformational impact is much more about learning and applying the dynamics of life in community than graduating from college. Ask seminary graduates, 5-10 years after they have graduated, what their main memories are of their seminary teachers. Most likely, the graduates’ positive memories will relate to faculty members who inspired and challenged them to be active and better informed partners in God’s all-encompassing Kingdom purposes and collaborated in off-campus ministry/mission experiences reflecting these purposes; and who also took an interest in them beyond the formal seminary program – joining them in “doing life” through shared recreation, expressing hospitality to (and humbly serving) them and their family members, and maintaining friendship and pastoral contact beyond students’ graduation.
Thus, faculty members as transformational leaders will benefit from enrichment in such areas as (Harkness 2017):
- Holistic transformational approaches to enable seminaries to move intentionally to achieve their mission.
- Shaping the seminary’s ecology to maximise impact (Harkness 2015, 155).
- The “nuts and bolts” of how effective TE works (practical insights on a wide range of the aspects of teaching)
- Navigating (or reconstructing) the relationship between academics and spirituality.
- TE as a form of Christian ministry.
- The strategic place of intentional mentoring/coaching/discipling as a key element in the faculty role.
E. Faculty as Innovative Teachers
Competent faculty members use available resources (especially in ICT – information and communications technology) for best practices for effective equipping.
The stereotypical “traditional” classroom-based, content-focused setting is challenged worldwide for its appropriateness for effective learning, let alone for its ability to maximise impact. “The classroom” and its relevance are changing rapidly in terms of best practices for delivery. A major driver for this is the fast-expanding world of information and communications technology (ICT).
The dynamics of COVID-19 have been playing a major role in forcing Majority World seminaries to make major adjustments to instructional design. This has been a matter of survival for many seminaries, but a positive outcome is being reported: many faculty are discovering that significant learning occurs through internet-based courses. In November 2021, the principal of one seminary in an East Asian country told me that prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, his faculty were resistant to internet-based methods; now they are reluctant to return to pre-COVID-19 instructional methods. I have a hunch this scenario has played out in similar ways in numerous Majority World seminaries.
Some of the dynamics arising from heightened ICT processes are transferable to on-campus learning. Caution needs to be exercised, as effective ICT processes are not simply uploading content onto the internet. Investment in competent personnel to work with faculty members to help them better use upgraded ICT hardware will be well worth it for whatever the “new normal” might look like. It is encouraging to note the speed with which agencies funding Majority World theological education have given priority to bridging this particular resource gap during the pandemic, when many seminaries faced existential crises.
Another quite common element that needs to be addressed carefully but innovatively, especially in small seminaries in Majority World nations, is mixed-level teaching e.g. BTh and MDiv students in the same class. Faculty need help to navigate appropriately the challenges associated with this dynamic. A range of reading, study, and assignment expectations needs to be offered, along with considering using some class hours for separate group interaction (a possibility enhanced when “flipped classroom” learning is enabled – see below).
Adaptability and innovation are necessary for seminaries seeking impact; to enable this, faculty enrichment is likely to be required in these areas:
- The possibilities for effective and appropriate internet-based learning.
- Strategies for hybrid settings (in which some students may be present physically in a class and others present online; and/or the course entails a mix of class-based and online learning activity; and/or some of the course is synchronous and some is asynchronous (= learning activity happens either in real-time or is undertaken by students in their own time)).
- “Flipped classroom” learning: what traditionally was undertaken in the classroom is now done predominantly outside class time (e.g. acquiring course content), and class time is used more for tasks traditionally done outside the class setting (e.g. collaborative processing of the content by means of discussion, small group interaction and presentations, exploring application and implications, etc.). And it won’t come as a surprise to see students in communal-oriented cultures especially thriving in these more active, participatory learning settings.
- Mixed-level learning strategies.
- Awareness of emerging technologies which may be harnessed by the seminary.
Using the Schema for Faculty Enrichment
Competent seminary faculty: Responsive communicators. Proficient educators. Reflective colleagues. Transformational leaders. Innovative teachers.
Each seminary – and each individual faculty member – is unique in time and place. Hence, a “one size fits all” approach will not be optimal for faculty enrichment. For seminary organisational culture – and consistency with andragogical (adult learning) theory – rather than imposing a predetermined professional development program on a faculty team, “scratching where it itches” seems to be more beneficial.
Often seminary faculty members “don’t know what they don’t know.” So the FEI team is using the schema as a framework to help faculty members to appreciate more fully the many-faceted aspects of their role and where they sense they need to build their competence and confidence.
This is the rationale for the content of the boxes above relating to each of the five domains. A “scratch where it itches” approach allows faculty to decide which aspects of each domain are a priority at a particular time. It focuses enrichment input on what faculty members are more likely to be open to with their limited (often very limited) time and energy to invest in intentional professional development. (The lack of time and energy is an issue that was strongly highlighted in focus groups with faculty members at two Southeast Asian seminaries in mid 2021 while the AGST Alliance team was exploring their professional development needs.)
Finding an entry point for enhancing faculty competence is crucial if there is to be buy-in by faculty members. When faculty members and seminary leaders raise the need to enhance competence, a moderated conversation within the faculty, using the boxes above for the five domains, will likely highlight some unifying areas for enrichment. The faculty conversation may well include envisioning the impact the seminary hopes for in its ministry and how the faculty – individuals and together – will be best able to ensure that impact. One of the chosen areas can then become an entry point.
Manageable plans will be based on the highest priority need(s) for the faculty at that time. “Manageable chunks” of enrichment activity are important. Having a big vision for developing competent faculty but planning achievable steps along the way will much more likely result in the faculty becoming active participants. Regular review will identify whether to go faster or slower as well as encouragements and challenges.
Agreed entry points and manageable plans is the dynamic underlying AGST Alliance’s FEI. Six faculty members from one Southeast Asian seminary have recognised a wide range of areas in which they sensed the need for enrichment. However, five of the six faculty members indicated four areas in common, mainly relating to aspects of innovative teaching in hybrid settings. A conversation helped us FEI leaders and the faculty members to understand their seminary dynamics relating to these areas and what their priorities were. From that conversation an enrichment activity spanning one term has been offered them, incorporating an initial short workshop to give an overview of hybrid teaching strategies, regular follow-up with the faculty members as they seek to apply one or two of the strategies in their ongoing teaching, and ending after three months with a debriefing session. When this enrichment activity is completed, the process of identifying the next priority area and manageable enrichment activity to undertake will start over. We anticipate slow, steady, but noticeable change in the faculty members, change that will not only lead to enhanced teaching effectiveness, but also be noticed positively by others in the seminary.
The process undertaken by FEI is one that individual seminaries are likely to be able to adapt without it becoming unduly arduous. The key is to identify a priority area for enrichment and to structure a manageable, time-limited activity offered that the participating faculty can undertake within the constraints of their available time, energy, and ongoing faculty commitments.
“Participating faculty” is an important consideration. Above I mentioned “older” faculty members reluctant to participate in faculty enrichment activity. That may be a reality to live with. There seems little point in enforcing participation by all faculty; if one were to try, the seminary would get a situation in which people are present physically but not actively engaging – or, worse (as I experienced while conducting a two-day faculty enrichment workshop in another Southeast Asian country), demonstrating a level of noncommunicative presence that may even border on passive aggression.
There are likely to be various reasons for faculty resistance, and it is worth sensitively probing these. The most effective way to win over reluctant or cynical faculty members may be by letting them witness – and having the seminary leadership affirm – the value of faculty enrichment in positive changes in the lives of the students, seminary, and churches/society. Some positive changes may be seen early, while others will take longer. Recognise that introducing intentional faculty enrichment is a process, and that process entails a transition that not all faculty members will move through positively.
Some resistance may be a reality that simply needs to be lived with – and this leads us to a final reminder about any faculty enrichment: Ultimately, it is about being in partnership with God and his purposes. So prayer permeates successful process. Prayer for right attitudes. Prayer for release from becoming strident change agents. Prayer for love. Prayer for God’s timing. Prayer that “Your kingdom come, your will be done.”
When impact becomes a significant focus for Majority World seminaries, a crucial question is, “What sort of faculty team, both collectively and individually, will best enhance the seminary’s envisioned impact?” This article advocates that the enrichment of faculty members be based on a schema with five domains: Competent faculty members will be increasingly responsive communicators, proficient educators, reflective colleagues, transformational leaders, and innovative teachers.
Such holistic development is a challenge well worth faculty members’ pursuit. In this process, they might adopt the words of the Apostle Paul: “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made…. By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward… I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” (Phil. 3: 12-14, The Message).
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