Education in the modern world was primarily teacher-based. The student, it was supposed, came to class with little or no knowledge of the subject, sat under the instructor, and at the end of the course demonstrated how much of the instructor’s knowledge had been imparted through a test or a paper. We do not follow this model.
The Institute for Worship Studies believes in learner-based education. In this philosophy of education, the focus is on a student-directed process of learning.
Students Have Something to Contribute
Here is how it works: The majority of students who come to study at the Institute for Worship Studies are already accomplished in the field of ministry. They have ten, twenty, even thirty years of experience in the classroom, in music and worship ministries and/or in the pulpit. At IWS we value this background and experience and treat students with respect for their wisdom and accomplishments. Instead of having a typical teacher/student relationship, we enjoy a collegiality in which all of us are learning together. Therefore, the teacher uses his or her knowledge in the field to stand alongside the student and facilitate his of her learning.
Engaging with Ministry
Each course has a particular content and students are to work within the parameters of its subject. Each person is asked to think, “How can this material be integrated into my ministry?” With that question in mind, the learner appropriates the material of the course into his or her work: the classroom, week-by-week worship planning or preaching preparation. In this way the learner is not working for the teacher but for his or her own knowledge and immediate use in ministry.
The process of this learner-based education is threefold. It begins with a pre-course reading assignment. During this time the student is asked to identify how this material can enhance his or her ministry (identify an issue).
The second stage is to interact with the material in the classroom environment. Each course in the doctoral program is co-taught by two highly qualified teachers who combine knowledge and experience to create a dynamic learning situation. Presentation will be made. Discussions will follow. In this setting, the class thinks reflectively with the biblical, historical, theological, missiological and cultural disciplines.
The third part of the process is for each student, having dialogued with the material, to prepare a paper or project integrated with his or her ministry. For example, a college or seminary professor may create a syllabus for a course, a worship pastor may plan services or a pastor may plan a series of sermons. This material is turned in at the end of the semester for evaluation.
Each semester lasts for approximately four months. During this time, students use a variety of technological resources to interact with one another and with their instructors.
Each semester, students and faculty read an assigned book, usually on a discipline that interacts with worship, such as a book on theology, the church, postmodern culture, communication theory or missiology. The new semester begins with the president’s panel discussion on the book, and then the theme of the book is integrated with chapel services and classes.
The Future of Education
In these and other ways, the Institute creates an atmosphere of learning in community. It is and exciting venture in high-powered but non-competitive intelligent and experiential learning. As one student said, “I’ve never been involved in education like this. Why can’t all schools teach this way?“
In response, another student, a seminary professor in one of the largest seminaries in America, said, “This is the future of education. Someday all education will be like this.” Whether it will or will not be so, we like to think we are a different sort of school. And we intend to keep it that way.