Monday, June 16, 2008

Problem Based Learning (PBL) in Theological Education

Dr. Geoff Pound for Theologians Without Borders linked an earlier posting of mine about the possibility of using PBL based teaching in theological education in his post Problem Based Learning in Seminaries. His comments are

It is good to catch a glimpse of changing educational practice from another sphere. From what Alex writes, it seems that learning by the case study method and Supervised Field Education (SFE) or what is now called Supervised Theological Field Education (STFE), is probably closest to the PBL method.STFE begins with a pastoral encounter (or problem) and proceeds in the way of theological reflection and practice. It is being used extensively around the world and students often say that it is the most integrating subject that they do in their seminary education.STFE is described in this Resource Manual, written by my friend and former colleague, Colin Hunter, who is one of the leaders in this discipline.
While there may be similarity with the STFE, I believe that PBL is different from STFE. STFE is a supervised field study program based on theological reflection by students guided by supervisors. When I suggest PBLfor seminaries,I am suggesting a more radical approach. For years seminaries have been tinkering with theological education to make irrelevant. However, I personallybelieve that no amount of tinkering will make it relevant.

Theological education will need a radical deconstruction, to use their own terms. We need to remove the artificial divisions of systematic theology, pastoral theology, homiletics and other subjects. This is where PBL comes in. By dissolving these artificial divisions, academicians will get a more holistic understanding of their calling and be better equiped to lead his or her congregation who may be better educated, more innovative, better interconnected, have more resources and access to information, better at networking and very post modern in their thinking than the seminary graduate is. In PBL, there will be no more lectures but more collaborative learning effort.

Ultraconservative medical education has embraced the change. The healers of the bodies has moved with times. I wonder if the healers of souls will do the same?

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