What is theological education for? (3) behavioural domain

Perry Shaw says some great things in this section on the behavioural domain. Here’s some

For a long time teachers in our seminaries have thought that if they could teach students sound theology, Greek exegesis, and Church history, then these students would begin to function like Christian leaders. We have assumed that students would naturally put into practice what they learn in homiletics, education, and counseling classes. In short we have assumed that if we could persuade students to understand and believe the right things, they would act accordingly.

The problem is this doesn’t tend to work very well. It works the other way round as well – as we behave so we believe and learn truth. There is a long way to go for what is taught to be translated into actual praxis.


And Shaw continues

In the words of the great 19th century educator Horace Bushnell, ‘No truth is taught by words or learned by intellectual means … Truth must be lived into meaning before it can be truly known.’ The key to this process of behavioral learning is understanding the principles associated with the lost art of apprenticeship.

And anything that colleges can do to deepen the behavioural side of learning with profoundly impact the quality of the learning. We have a Mentoring and Apprenticeship Programme at IBI. I know there has been quite a revolution in theological education in this area in the last couple of decades with much more behavioural emphasis. It strikes me that a full-time apprenticeship year (or similiar placements) within a degree in theology – like a work experience year – is an excellent way to embed this behaviour domain.

Comments, as ever, welcome.

2 thoughts on “What is theological education for? (3) behavioural domain

  1. When I trained as a navigation officer in the Merchant Navy the training was a year at sea, year at college, another year at sea and finally a second year at college. It worked well because when you first got to college after a year at sea you had a sense of what you needed to learn to be able to do the job. I think that a lot of people go to theological college without any real sense of what they need to learn to do the job – they think about what they need to get a qualification, which is very different. A first year working in location with distance learning/mentoring/seminars would probably create – and maybe even attract – a different kind of student. Practice before theory.

  2. Thanks Sean – hope our students are not all at sea in their first year 😉
    Part of the challenge is the sheer variety of students – age, background and experience. A lot of ours already have a fair bit of experience and are coming for more training while active in ministry. I like the idea of combining study with ministry rather than the ‘removal’ of the student from his/her own context.

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