Competency-Based Theological Education

A paradigm shift in theological education

What is CBTE?

Competency-based theological education (CBTE) is changing the way people think about and practice theological education. Northwest was the first school in North America to offer fully-accredited, direct assessment Competency-Based Theological Education (CBTE) programs. But what exactly is CBTE?

 

CBTE is an educational philosophy that represents a significant paradigm shift in theological education. All of our CBTE programs are designed the end in mind, with a focus on the actual vocations and ministry contexts that students are or will be leading in. Particular emphasis is given to:

 

  • The knowledge, skills, and character essential for ministry leadership
  • The daily, monthly, and annual work of ministry leaders
  • The practices and habits of reliable and creative ministry leaders

These leadership requirements are articulated as outcomes and competencies, and programs are designed to guide students toward holistic, integrated demonstration of growth in their ministry contexts. Students graduate when they have demonstrated achievement of the outcomes and competencies that define their program to an interdisciplinary mentor team that guides and assesses their development.

 

Ultimately, CBTE brings the theological academy to people in their ministry contexts rather than asking people to leave their ministry context to come to the theological academy. Or, more simply, CBTE transforms schools into churches and churches into schools.

Seven values that drive Northwest's CBTE programs

CBTEValue1Collaborative Partnership

Northwest works with churches, denominations, and ministry organizations that want to equip and empower their future leaders. Together we define the knowledge, skills, and character traits needed for the leaders. The ministry context has the best sense of what a student needs to flourish on mission and the school can connect the student to broader and deeper scholarship.

CBTEValue7Team-Based Mentoring

Students are mentored toward growth by a team of hands-on ministry practitioners and academics who walk with them, get to know them, and nurture their development. This interdisciplinary mentor team offers different perspectives and fosters holistic growth.

CBTEValue2Context-Based Learning

Competency is developed and demonstrated in the context for which the student is preparing to serve. Because of that, students are actively involved in ministry throughout their program. Assignments can be adapted to meet the needs of their individual ministry and situation.

CBTEValue3Direct Assessment

Northwest's CBTE programs utilize direct assessment, which means a student's progression is based on demonstrated achievement of program competencies, not course completion. The benefit to the student is that they can move through the program at their own pace, focusing time and effort on areas where development is required, and not where competency has already been achieved and demonstrated.

CBTEValue4Integrated Assessment

Course-based programs tend to focus on knowledge and classroom simulation of skills. CBTE programs develop and assess holistic application of knowledge, skill, and character in the field, throughout every aspect of the program.

CBTEValue5One Goal, Many Paths

What matters is demonstrated competency, not a uniform path to it. Assignments are always a means to the end, not ends in themselves. Assignments may be skipped, repeated, or adapted, depending on what a student needs to take their next step in development.

CBTEValue6Student-Paced Development

Students can move at paces that suit them. Some competencies may come quickly, others may take much longer to develop. The competency-based system allows students to focus their time and energy differently than their peers to focus on their individual learning path.

Why CBTE?

There are many advantages to CBTE that make it an ideal way to equip and empower the next generation of ministry leaders.

Practical Experience

Most people learn best by doing. By engaging their program in an active ministry context, learners have the opportunity to  apply what they are learning and hone their skills under long-term, guided direction.

Targeted Learning

Directly assessing competencies allows students to focus their efforts on where they need to grow and avoids busywork. The goal is demonstrated mastery. A saying we have around here is: "Once achieved, move on!"

Real Life Application

Students are engaged in active ministry from the first day of their program. They can apply what they learn in the day-to-day complexity of serving unique individuals in diverse settings.

Demonstrated Ability

By the time they graduate, students have years of practical experience in the roles for which they've trained, and they've already proven they have the knowledge, skills, and character needed to thrive in it.

What Kind of Learner Are You?

The key to knowing whether you are a good fit for a CBTE program is to understand how you learn best. Follow the links below to learn the difference between a competency-based program versus a course-based program, and to understand the role of mentors in a competency-based program.

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