Thursday, February 15, 2007

Theological education 2.0

There is a lot of talk about Web 2.0; that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users. I have just written the following for the Course Outline of a new course I am pioneering this year: Missional Church Leadership:

This is designed to keep you in context. In other words, you read not for class, but for your missional context. At the same time, the use of on-line community and tutor engagement is designed to encourage you and give you a sense of being part of a learning community even while engaged locally.

Missional church is about the future of God among the people of God. And since course design must follow course theology, that means you can never teach missional church as a theory or set of ideas. Rather, you must allow learners to pay attention to the work of God among the people of God.

The missional church leadership course also arose because I had pastors saying to me: “Steve, how do we put these missional ideas into practice.” So the first draft of the course, starting next week, is as follows:

a : name a context: (defined broadly as a place that a person can regularly return to, listen among and start to imagine God’s future). This could include a work place, a community ministry, a local café or regular social gathering. It could equally include existing student fieldwork or recognized church ministry

b : gather monthly: we will gather around a set of practices, to hear what each other are learning, and to receive input and coaching. This places people in an accountability group and ensures we learn from each other and the gathering is shaped by what we each bring and contribute. This is not a conference or lecture, but a year of habit building. We will physically move these gatherings out of the classroom and around each participant’s context.

c : read in context: people will read in their context and name their learning using e-technology. Reading is thus grounded, yet a person remains in a collaborative learning relationship as the lecturer/tutor gives them feedback. (The next step will involve making this learning public and allowing other groups, on the same journey, to interact together. So my dream would be run this course in say Christchurch, Melbourne and South Auckland at the same time. Participants are in context, yet part of a collobarative enviroment.)

d : projects : two major projects include firstly, listening in context, asking students to identify the narratives of God at work and secondly, to name an action project that cultivates the missional imagination in their context. These projects will be shared with the group, for feedback and learning.

So I wondered as I worked and typed, is this a step toward Theological Education 2.0?

Posted by steve at 02:01 PM


  1. No.

    Comment by Danny — February 15, 2007 @ 6:20 pm

  2. Hi Steve,

    I am sure that your course marks an important step into the future of theological education. The idea of linking theology directly to the community/culture/context is very important – and what I understand from your post is that this is what the course is about. I am also totally into the idea of everyone contributing instead of only the teacher talking and all others listening. I am asking myself, and because this post gives me the opportunity to ask you… how can we approach this kind of education combined with a wider understanding of the theological history?


    Comment by [depone] — February 15, 2007 @ 7:43 pm

  3. Danny: why?

    Daniel: I am not sure what you are saying. Are you concerned that the course will not engage with wider resources? If so, that is the purpose of reading in context, that people read wider related to their context.

    Comment by steve — February 16, 2007 @ 10:40 am

  4. I’m confused a wee bit, not criticising, I just don’t really get what you’re trying to achieve. How does this make it “theological education 2.0”?

    Is the idea to basically de-centralise the teaching and open up the teaching to the class too?

    Comment by Andrew Brown — February 16, 2007 @ 11:07 am

  5. hi Andrew,
    it was a random blog post that comes from a random head (mine) :). i was struck, reading my course outline, over the way that e-technology was enabling education to change.

    5 years ago education was turning up to a lecture and submitting an assignment. now, with e-technology, i am asking students as part of their education to not only attend a class, but also to read at home – to respond to that reading at home and on-line – and to have feedback from the lecturer and their other students, again on-line. So they are part of a community while being at home, in context.

    and i thought: wow, that’s quite a different approach to education. (hence the web 2.0 link).

    which then leads to a whole lot of follow-up questions for me: like is it more effective educationally, more (or less) an expression of the gospel, etc. etc. etc.


    Comment by steve — February 16, 2007 @ 4:11 pm

  6. Hey, just kidding. I love to answer rhetorical questions with “no” 🙂

    I think that that idea is great. I am still looking for a seminary with a solid online theological program – for people engaged in the pmodern context. Fuller has started an online leadership degree, interesting, but not my cup of tea. Dallas Theological seminary has a few classes, but it’s not finished yet, I think.

    I think there needs to be a dialogue in education – but lets not forget, this is education, not group therapy. the best teachers are the ones that not only can get students engaged, but also make students ask questions and think through things themselves. I think that’s how Jesus did it with his students (read: disciples)

    Greetings from Germany

    Comment by Danny — February 17, 2007 @ 10:01 pm

  7. hi steve,

    well – a german guy writing english :] – seems to get confusing in times. actually i am part of teaching a course that seems somewhat similar to what you outlined here. in my theological understanding it is very important to know the tradition [what i tried to call theological history]. i am wondering how we could include writings throughout history and from the wide ecumenical christian and jewish heritage in that kind of teaching besides letting students read contextual at home and reflecting it when we meet. and i asked because i thought you might have some good ideas ;]


    Comment by [depone] — February 20, 2007 @ 1:31 am

  8. Thanks Daniel. Language was not the issue from my end. Rather, it was the 2nd time in a week I had been asked exactly that question and it was so uncanny I was just checking I had heard right.

    the answer is that while they read in context, the readings cover a wide range. as the course develops i also want to expose them to the narratives of other local missional communities in other contexts through history and time. i ponder the subversive power of a reading from a celtic monastery, for example. in other words, the respect for breadth is coming not just through theological ideas, but also through the lived experiences of God’s people in other times and cultures.

    does that make sense? now tell me more about what you do in your course, cos i think i can be learning from you,


    Comment by steve — February 20, 2007 @ 4:00 pm

  9. Danny, I think you are so right regarding need for development of on-line education. it is so much more than just putting texts in a digital format.

    which was the reason I posted. it suddenly occured to me that perhaps in the mix of place and e-learning and text, something might be evolving which is participatory in new ways.


    Comment by steve — February 20, 2007 @ 4:02 pm

  10. Hi Steve,
    It sounds like an intriguing course. I want to ask you to describe more what you mean by “reading” in context. Are you talking about Christian classics, the Bible or what?
    Your response to Andrew helped me understand better what you meant by theological education 2.0. Does this mean that we write the history of theological education as a the history of technology, before the printing press, after television etc?
    I think you are really on to something I look forward to see where it goes.


    Comment by Steve R — February 24, 2007 @ 8:04 am

  11. I found this late, must have been flat out at the time. One way I’ve found very helpful to both get students reading more widely, AND engaging with their (including each others’) contexts is to do what I’ve called a “reading blog”. [Actually usually using discussion software not blog software for technical reasons.] Where students are given marks for posting about their reading, and for commenting on others posts. This has never worked worse than a “conventional” assignment, and has a few times worked spectacularly well. [Where I could watch a student change and grow in and through their interactions with another student and their context.]

    Comment by tim bulkeley — March 12, 2007 @ 8:33 am

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