What is theological education for? (3) The cognitive domain

The third domain of learning that Perry Shaw discusses in relation to theological education is the cognitive domain.

This is the one much education focuses on, whether from pre-school to post-graduate levels. It is easy to plan, control and deliver. How well information has been ‘learnt’ can be assessed relatively easily can’t it?

Well, yes and no. To easily such ‘learning’ is just regurgitation, quickly forgotten. This is just acquisition of information. [The Irish Leaving Certificate Exam anyone?].

Shaw refers to Bloom’s famous 1950s taxonomy of Educational Objectives with its 6 levels:

Knowledge: the simple remembering of facts.

– Comprehension: understanding of what is being communicated, and ability to make use of the material at a simple level.

– Application: the ability to use abstractions in particular and concrete situations.

– Analysis: the ability to break material down into its constituent elements or parts.

– Synthesis: the assembling of elements and parts so as to form a cohesive whole.

– Evaluation: quantitative and qualitative judgments about the extent to which materials and methods satisfy criteria.

And it is only when you get into application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation that students will be challenged to “think more deeply and take steps towards living and leading theologically” and so develop the qualities of effective leadership.

And so Shaw appeals for a holistic integration of the three domains for true excellence in theological education

a focus on the affective domain leads to ignorant pietism; a focus on the behavioral domain leads to empty technical excellence; a focus on the cognitive domain leads to the pride and irrelevance that are endemic among our graduates. Excellence in theological education will recognize the need for a holistic balance, which will lead to the healthy dispositional formation of the emerging leaders entrusted to our care.

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One thought on “What is theological education for? (3) The cognitive domain

  1. In most of the school systems there is little acknowledgement that pupils have different styles of learning. I was having a conversation with someone who uses a Kindle and he said to me: I realized that though I read I don’t remember as much as when I use a book. We arrived to the conclusion that he has a visual memory, and in a Kindle the turning of pages is not evident, when you have a visual memory you remember things by the place where certain things are printed in relation to the page.
    I do believe that for Theological education to be more effective it should recognize this fact, not everybody process in the same way and therefore should include different ways of teaching that tries to aim to the different types represented in a class. I do believe that IB does a good job as it is always looking for new ways to address this issue.

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