Rush to Judgment
Rush to judgment
Judgment is a thorny subject for theological educators. On the one hand, we are told by James that not many Christian should become teachers because “We who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3v1).
And then, although we are told many times not to judge our brother, the whole assessment system we use does that in one way. Nor is it enough to say that we just judge academic attainment so such verses do not apply. If we have spiritual, ministerial and discipleship objectives for our teaching then in some ways we have the duty to make judgments in those areas as well – not least for the students themselves and also for their potential employers.
So we are under strict judgment ourselves and have to judge with grace and carefulness. This is not usually the atmosphere with which we approach the end of year marking, report writing and reference composing.
Like many reading this post, I have been judging for many years, as internal and external examiner in a variety of settings and as one who seems to be writing a constant stream of references for my ex-students. Here are a few things I have learnt;
- Done properly it is a time consuming, hard part of the job.
- Teachers ought to do the marking and assessment themselves, not leave it to other to “grade papers”. This is because in judging the students, we are judging ourselves. We can see how far we have been successful in achieving our objectives only when we take part in the assessment. Teachers are as much on trial as the students when we face a pile of scripts for marking.
- The distinction between formative assessment during the course and summative assessment at the end of the course is especially relevant for theological educators. The first is much more important than the second (although both have justification), we are in the business of forming students more than grading people.
- Numbers do not matter so much. It is always very difficult to justify giving a 62 rather than a 64 for a piece of work. But when we are judging ability in ministry or personal commitment to Christ, numbers become ridiculous. If you are marking a history essay, 50% is not such a bad mark. If you are teaching a pilot and half of the test is getting the aircraft up safely and half is getting it down safely, 50% is not such a good score.
- This leads me on to my central observation. We should remember that, in theological education, the easier something is to assess, the less important that something is.
- And lastly, this rule also applies to our teaching. By all means read the student feedback forms but realise that they hardly touch the centre of good teaching. Love for students, love for subject, love for God, the presence of God within the teaching situation and the transforming of the spiritual and ministerial aspirations off the students rarely feature in the forms. But who will deny that these are in the centre of what we are trying to convey and to do?
Some of my statements above are a bit bold. Please judge me with grace and carefulness.