Guidelines for Instructors

Table of Contents

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Who are School for Formation Students?
The School for Formation seeks to engage learners across these axes:

  • Lay leaders in Episcopal churches, those in formation for the diaconate and priesthood, and clergy seeking continuing education
  • From faith communities that span the breadth of Minnesota’s geography, cultural and ethnic diversity
  • From widely varying educational backgrounds – some with high school education and some who already have M.Div. or other graduate work
  • For leadership that might involve short or long-term commitment, in roles that might be stipendiary or non-stipendiary.
  • With varying degrees of digital fluency

The majority of those who tend to take our courses have discerned for Holy Orders in ECMN. In that set of participants, some are using the School for Formation as their exclusive formation for diaconate or priesthood. Others are taking courses in the SFF to supplement graduate study at United or Luther. All of those in formation for Holy Orders meet monthly in a cohort, so by the middle of their first year, they tend to have some personal relationships built with each other. By the start of their second year, they tend to know each other very well.

A note about Ministry Teams:
As existing Total or Shared Ministry teams take on new members, or faith communities elect to move into a ministry team structure, the School for Formation seeks as much as possible to support them.
• All individuals called to Holy Orders are responsible for completing courses in the School for Formation unless exempted by the Commission for Formation and the Bishop.
• Many teams believe strongly that all members must learn together in some format. We are still learning how we can best adapt our hybrid format to meet their situation. In 2016-17, some teams ‘took’ courses by having their ministry developer follow the material online and bring the content to their meetings.
• For some teams, the School for Formation itself is a tender topic and represents a significant shift in how ECMN functions.
• If you have members of a total ministry team in your course, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Missioner for Formation if issues become apparent.

Auditing:
We do not typically offer an audit option, as we find that it detracts from the overall online learning community.

Pedagogy
School for Formation courses will
• engage respected adult learners in a collaborative learning community.
• foster a constructivist approach to learning and leadership in students by employing collaborative activities in the learning process.
• ask students to consider how the course material can impact and be impacted by their faith community context.
• respect differences of culture, theology, and learning styles and engage diversity as an asset.
Course Design
Our typical course is a 7-week online course with one in-person day, 8:30am – 3:30pm, at either the ECMN Retreat Center in Faribault or the Episcopal House of Prayer in Collegeville. Additional synchronous (and even co-located) sessions for courses are possible, but require advance coordination and communication. Typically courses are segmented weekly, with readings/lectures and discussion forums each week. Please see the addendum for notes about best use of Moodle.

  • Please assume that students can spend about two hours per week doing readings and course assignments.
  • As noted above, many but not all of our students are part of formation cohorts preparing for ordination. Know that some but not all of the students in your course will be preparing for ordination. Honor each participant as a leader in the church and invite them to honor each other’s leadership and ministry in many roles and contexts in the deployment of course materials.
  • Engage the digital learning context as an asset, not a limitation. What can you do online that you can’t do in a classroom?
    • Consider video lectures or audio recording rather than written lectures to introduce a unit of material: diverse learning styles benefit from this approach, and it helps students connect with you.
    • Excellent tools for group work and collaboration exist beyond reading material and posting to a message board. Collaborating Online: Learning Together in Community (Palloff and Pratt, 2005) is an excellent resource, as well as Learning Personalized: The Evolution of the Contemporary Classroom by Zmuda, Curtis, and Ullman.
    • If your course would benefit from moving off of the School for Formation platform, that’s a conversation we’d like to have with you. Please reach out to the Missioner for Formation!
  • Consider access and technological needs in deploying course material. I.e., a video posted on YouTube is more widely accessible than a PowerPoint presentation that can only be opened in PowerPoint.
  • Sharing written lecture notes in advance of the in-person day allows students with varying learning styles to participate more fully.
  • As you choose written materials, consider:
    • Is this book easily accessible?
    • Could someone find an audio recording?
  • A note about copyright: typically, up to one chapter of a book, or less than 10% of its total content, can be freely scanned and posted online for academic purposes. Please consider having students find the book in the library or purchase it if you intend to use more than one chapter of a book.
  • Communicate with the Missioner for Formation about required readings and materials at least two months in advance of the start of your course so that students have ample time to access materials.
  • Set learning in context: how is this material connected to today’s faith communities? What critical questions does this material seek to answer? How are students likely to best pass along this learning to others?
Facilitating the Course
  • Indicate clearly at the beginning of the course how and when you intend to interact with students.
    • For example, communicate a time (perhaps the same 2-hour window each week) when you will be responding to student posts and projects. This allows you to manage your own time while students understand when they can expect to hear feedback from you. Perhaps this is a time when you could be regularly available for synchronous chat or phone conversation.
  • Indicate clearly at the beginning of the course expectations for student engagement with each other and with the course material.
  • In the first two weeks of the course, be sure to respond to each student’s posts or assignments. School for Formation participants want to know you are seeing them and engaging them.
Portfolio Items & Final Projects
  • Our courses don’t require one big final project/paper, but the participants do need to be able to share their learning in a portfolio. As you design your course, please consider:
    • What might a student put in his/her portfolio to demonstrate their learning from this course?
    • How might they ultimately use that portfolio item as a ministry tool?
  • If you do choose to ask for a final project, please make it an opportunity to create and receive feedback on a tool for ministry rather than a graduate paper per se. We utilize technology to foster a collaborative environment for present and future ministry. As much as possible, please have students post their own work and give feedback to other students. Group projects are welcome as well. We encourage you to make student self-assessment and even group response part of the final project.
  • We plan to share some examples of very successful final projects in the coming months.
  • Please be sure to communicate the final project or assessment criteria at the beginning of the course.
  • Please build in the final project within the allotted weeks of your course, so that students are truly done with the course on the last day.
Assessment
The School for Formation seeks to offer courses that develop students’ competency in their area of study, honor students’ context as they develop, and foster a culture that follows the Way of Jesus. When assessing students’ work, please bear each of these goals in mind.

  • Please use the following template for your final grades and comments.
    • Scale: Exemplary/Satisfactory/Incomplete
      • Exemplary
        • Displayed excellence in comprehension and integration of key concepts
        • Applied learning beyond the course outcomes
        • Participated generously in group conversation, projects, and assessments
        • Participated fully in the course with no exceptions
      • Satisfactory
        • Displayed sound comprehension and integration of key concepts
        • Showed expanded curiosity and desire to learn more
        • Participated adequately in group conversation, projects, and assessments
        • Participated fully in the course with few exceptions
      • Incomplete
        • The individual did not display comprehension of the key concepts of the course
        • The individual did not complete key components of the course
        • The individual’s participation in group conversation, projects, and assessments was counterproductive to collaborative learning
  • Reporting Grades
    • We do not post grades in Moodle.
    • Within two weeks of the end of the course, send grades and comments to the students via email. Please do not put final grades and comments in a Word document as markup – some students don’t have Word.
    • After the students are informed, send grades and comments to the Missioner for Formation in a Word document.
  • Extensions of deadline are up to the instructor. If an extension is granted, please advise the Missioner for Formation.
  • Participation
    • We find that students taking part in our courses who are not in the Holy Orders process often do not complete the course, or slow their participation after the in-person day. This is typical of online elective learning. If a participant doesn’t complete the course, please mark them as incomplete and offer the comments as you would for other students who do complete the course.
  • What do we do with grades and comments?
    • The Bishop, Missioner for Formation, and Missioner for Ministry have access to all grades and comments.
    • The grades (not comments) are shared, in the form of a transcript, with the Commission on Ministry and Standing Committee.
    • Comments are shared also with the Commission for Formation, which uses them to craft a summary letter of recommendation for ordination to be seen by the Commission on Ministry and Standing Committee.
Course Evaluations
After the course has concluded, students will be sent an anonymous evaluation survey. That survey data will be provided to you after it has been collected.
Please work with the Missioner for Formation to find a mutually agreeable time for a phone or in-person meeting to review the course. Your feedback about how to improve the course and the experience of teaching with the School for Formation is most helpful, and we appreciate it!
Comments from past SFF Students
“I would stress the importance of timely communication with students. Would it be reasonable to remind instructors to respond directly to student email?”

“YouTube does work much better. I found I preferred shorter lectures (5-30 minutes) or written materials [that I could] return to. This mostly reflects my learning style, which tends toward visual and interactive, but I struggled to engage hour long online lectures. Probably something to do with a lack of interaction. In-person lectures are great and engaging.”

“If it is a PowerPoint or lecture with visuals, I would have appreciated the ability to print the professor’s slides or some of the most important visual information. For example, some of the timelines in the Old Testament course lectures were wonderful, and would have been helpful to return back to during the course and in future ministry. I found it hard to try to recreate the images and take in the information given.”

“It seemed that professors who engaged our postings consistently and at several times during the week had courses that fostered more online discussion. If they were only available for one chunk of time per week, then conversations could fall flat.”
“The asynchronous schedule is great.”

“Since we are all balancing many different things, I really appreciated knowing the final project at the beginning or first week of the course and knowing the deadline. Deadlines that were at least a week after the course end date were most helpful since there were often overlapping courses.”