Friday, December 05, 2008

PI/QI: Theological Reflections (4)

(This post is the fourth in a series on theological reflection on Performance Improvement/Quality Improvement. This material was first published in “Performance Improvement: Theological Reflections”, Chaplaincy Today, Vol. 16, Number 1 (Summer, 2000), and has been reedited for this setting. For future posts in this series or in the series on measurement for chaplains, please select the label "PI/QI" in the left hand column.)

Performance Improvement: Theological Reflections, Part 4

Clinical Pastoral Education and the PI process

In clinical ministry, we share a common experience of clinical education Most of us share some experience in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). Others may have experience in another model of clinical education, and some may have experienced more than one model. Clinical education is formative for us as ministers. Therefore, we have some expectation of, and hopefully some experience with, clinical education as theological education.

The point is pertinent to this discussion in that clinical education can be envisioned as a performance improvement process. It involves a process of learning as a professional in which performance is evaluated, and new and creative experiments are tried and assessed for incorporation into the skills of the minister.

This is straight forward in CPE. Events of ministry are reviewed and reflected on both by the student individually and in the context of the group. An accurate review of the experience is encouraged both by the effort at verbatim reporting and in the analytical questioning and reflection of the peer group and supervisor. New strategies and behaviors can be explored and modeled in the group to be applied by the student in group relations and in ministry. These new behaviors are then themselves open for examination and reflection.

This process, more than some others suggested in this series, is a true process of performance improvement. It reflects not only a commitment to improvement in the student’s immediate experience, but seeks to inculcate a commitment to continued growth as a practicing professional. It is based on an evaluation of actual experience, which is subject to some form of evaluation or measurement. Finally, it benefits from participation of a group, with each member bringing a different perspective to the issues at hand. Indeed, the accrediting organizations for CPE encourage not only experience with a peer group, but multidisciplinary experience as well.

This discussion of clinical education as a process of performance improvement is not, perhaps, as theological in tone as other parts of this paper. However, it allows us to consider performance improvement as it has functioned in our individual experience of ministry. Even when the experience of clinical education has not been explicitly theological, it has clearly shaped us as theologians. These experiences were training for ministry, and they affected not only our skills for ministry, but also our understanding of ourselves as ministers. This is, of course true of all theological education. However, the process of clinical education for ministry arguably has more in common with the implementation of performance improvement philosophy than it has with academic education for ministry.

Next: the ministry of Administration

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