Proving a point – Quality Assurance in TEE
By David Burke, an Increase Equipper who is involved in the present Increase QA project
Church-based learning approaches, such as TEE, have much to offer in equipping the whole people of God to follow and serve the Lord. However, not everyone knows this. Some still think that TEE is outdated, has low standards and is useful only for people who cannot get to other kinds of Christian training.
ICETE presently has a year-long focus on dialogue between formal and non-formal theological education. This an opportunity to make TEE known to wider audiences and to commend it as a serious option in educating God’s people. Our book TEE for the 21st Century (Langham, 2021) makes a solid case for this – for example, see Ch 10, “TEE and Campus-based Training in Partnership”.
Such opportunities raise the question of quality assurance (QA). TEE programs are typically conducted away from some of the usual things used in QA like formal assessment, and peer review visits leading to accreditation. Ch 9 in TEE for the 21st Century comments on QA in TEE).
An outcomes-based approach to QA
Many QA schemes look at educational process through things such as learning resources, the qualifications of teachers, the teaching process and campus facilities.
Another approach is to look at learning outcomes. What do graduates know? What can they do? What attitudes and character do they display? Of course, outcomes-based QA has its limitations, but a careful design of the outcomes can help lessen these.
Re-Forma as a resource in outcomes- based QA for TEE
Arising from a concern to foster quality standards among the many global church leaders who have little by way of certified training, a group of people conducted a global survey and developed a list of 35 competencies that pastors should ideally have.
The result is the Re-Forma organisation that gives WEA-endorsed certification to people achieving these competencies. The competencies are available in multiple languages and there is information about their application.
The 35 competencies are grouped in five theme areas that look as follows:
Knowing the Scriptures, usually called Biblical Theology, Old Testament and New Testament Surveys
Living by Faith, usually called Practical Theology, Hermeneutics, Children’s Ministry, Church Management, Relationships
Outreach, usually called Evangelism, Missions, Discipling
Listening and Encouraging, usually called Counselling, Family
Trustworthy Faith, usually called Systematic Theology, Ethics, Church History, Stewardship
Each competency has a suggested assessment question, many of which are ministry artefacts. For example, see 5.7 below:
5.7 Describe the importance of the church.
Someone in your church loves Jesus but feels it to be too heavy a burden to come together with other Christians in his church. How would you argue that he just cannot stay home?
Re-Forma have shown openness to recognising courses such as SEAN’s Life of Christ compendium. Increase is presently engaged in a project to show how this series of courses meets, and even exceeds the Re-Forma list.
The benefits of using Re-Forma’s competencies in TEE include:
Assuring, and helping to raise, standards in TEE programme
Giving TEE graduates a widely recognised qualification that may help increase their ministry portability and ease the pathway to higher level studies
Increasing the possibility of seminaries giving prior learning credits for TEE courses
Creating coherent learning pathways between different levels of study within TEE programs
Of course, there are possible downsides, including:
Re-Forma competencies may not suit all TEE programs or courses
Imposing an external curriculum onto TEE programs and undermining a key TEE strength of contextuality
TEE programs may need to address competencies that may not be valuable in their setting
Pushing TEE into an academic model that may be unwelcome
The danger of elitism and pride within a TEE program from Re-Forma certified graduates.
Use of the Re-Forma competencies may help commend TEE to wider audience through externally recognised accreditation and can help TEE graduates and program get the recognition they deserve.
Increase members may wish to consider whether these competencies are useful to help assess and redesign courses and programs, whether or not they seek Re-Forma certification. This could help ensure an effective use of resources and development of courses and programs that are fit for purpose.
In short, despite the limitations, competency-based QA holds promise for TEE and Re-Forma have indicated flexibility in the way a partnership could be developed with TEE and the Increase Association.
We welcome your thoughts, comments and additions to this article!