Introducing Critical Reflective Thinking and Transformative Learning into Church Leadership Development Programs in East Africa

This study focuses on training needs and learning patterns in the micro-business and unregulated portion of West African economies commonly referred to as the "informal sector." Its purpose is to contribute to answering key related questions concerning on-the-job skill acquisition in these poorly understood, but critical and fast growing areas of West African society. It aims to identify potentially effective strategies for education and training in the informal sector.

Introduction and problem statement

Existing patterns and traditions of formal education in East Africa do not incline school leavers toward a very critically reflective style of thinking or a very transformative and participatory mode of instruction and learning. Such an education system, with a central focus on external examinations, does not facilitate the type of critical reflective thinking necessary for life. Discussing this in Education and society in Africa, (1986), Bray, Clarke and Stephens state:

There is a substantial difference between teaching or learning a subject such as civics for examination purposes and actually employing the principles in one’s life outside the classroom. Pupils often enter what they see as a different world with different rules when they move into the school compound, and when they return home. When they leave school they often do not or cannot apply the ‘theories’ they have learned in the classroom. (p. 27)

Although good theory is practical, what one often finds in the schooling system is atheoretical presentation of inanimate fact, as if fact is devoid of social and historical context and stands on its own. Bray, Clarke and Stephens also discuss the contradiction of a system where the goals include developing critical reflective thought, but is nonetheless based on examinations. "For example, governments may state that they wish pupils to have a broad general education and to develop enquiring minds while their examination system may encourage rote learning and narrow foci" (p. 152).

African authors have also expressed similar sentiments. For example, Datta states "that because of the heavy stress laid on conformity in the primary and secondary schools, potentially creative pupils are turned into adults who toe the expected line of thought" (1984, p.37). Citing Barkan’s study of the educational system in Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda, he finds that the

Educational systems of all the three countries… have been operating within a ‘hierarchical-elitist’ framework, and principally by means of rote methods of instruction. Thus all the educational systems emphasize such vales as industry, h onesty, obedience and thriftiness, while the qualities of leadership, initiative and the critical faculty are ignored. (p. 37)

The highly authoritative and strictly structured nature of schooling in Africa leads to a "forced conformity to an authoritarian [education] system…in late years. A democratic and participatory classroom environment, on the other hand, is supposed to contribute to the development of a critical and reflective attitude among pupils" (Datta, 1984, p. 40).

The overall purpose of this study is to examine the many and interconnected reasons this situation has evolved, and to investigate suggested strategies for change. In this study, I suggest the following: The colonial history of the edu cation systems plays a major role. The imposition of foreign schemes designed for colonies is of major importance. The continued focus of schooling on external examinations increases the problem. The African socioeconomic situation also reinforces this si tuation. Employment is often determined by one’s examination results. It also determines who will move on to further levels of education. This is true even at the lowest levels of education.

A personal example illustrates the extent of the overemphasis on examination results. The primary school my children attended in Kenya held interviews and gave examinations to students applying to standard one. Those who did best on th e "entrance examination" were admitted. At each level of education (primary, secondary, and higher education) only those who do extremely well on final external examinations are allowed to proceed on to the next level. This situation tends to pe rpetuate itself. Those who excel in the system become the next generation of decision-makers. Having succeeded in the system themselves, they are least likely to see a need for change.

One hopes that time will usher in gradual improvements in these aspects of primary and secondary schooling. Nonetheless, educators and social service personnel in East Africa see a need to foster critical reflective thought through adul t education. Similarly, in programs of Church leadership development in Africa today the dominant instructional paradigm leaves much to be desired. Everywhere one meets lectures lifted from Western theologians and their books (whether the teachers are wes terners or nationals). Learners, though not children, are often treated as such. Much of the curriculum is irrelevant and non-contextual. Learners are considered empty containers to be filled with deposits from tutors’ lectures. What is important has been predetermined without student participation. Learners must memorize vast amounts of information to pass exams. Critical reflective thinking is discouraged as this may interfere with the memorization of material as presented in class. Transformative learn ing, that process which facilitates the critical examination of one’s assumptions and presuppositions, is unknown.

Research has shown that critical reflective thought tends to encourage both cognitive and moral development (Brookfield, 1986; Freire, 1973; King & Kitchner, 1994; Mezirow, 1991; Senge, 1990; Schon, 1987). Although much has been written in the area (Bowen, 1984; Lingenfelter & Mayers, 1986; Plueddemann, 1990), it is insufficient to contextualize our teaching to fit the pedagogical expectations and learning styles of students. Contextualization in teaching must move hand in h and with excellence in learning. Formulating methods that will be contextual, palatable, and produce excellence in learning, though not easy, is a necessity. The research undertaken in this project can hopefully serve as a first step in reaching that goal .

The problem then is that learners and teachers in programs of Church leadership development in Africa have experienced, in formal schooling, the type of education Freire calls banking (Freire 1973). This type of pedagogy does not facilitate critical reflective thought. The model has been adopted by programs of ministry formation (Bible schools, seminaries, extension programs, etc.,) where it is entrenched. Nonetheless, many national and international leaders now recognize tha t although the Church is widespread it is still immature. Ministry formation should develop leaders who are maturing cognitively, morally, socially and spiritually.

Research focus

This project focused on several issues. The first was to identify clearly the current situation as regards the type of teaching taking place in programs of Church leadership development in sub-Saharan Africa. What are the dom inant methods of teaching used in such programs? What is the social and historical educational background that supports these methods? To what extent is teaching for critical reflective thought currently in use?

Another focus was to research the concepts of transformative learning theory and critical reflective thinking so that application of these ideas might be made in the African context . What is transformative learning? How is it rel ated to teaching for critical reflective thought? How can facilitators be trained to implement this type of learning? How, and to what extent, can it fit in the African Church leadership development context?

The final focus concerned assessing the possibility of introducing teaching for critical reflective thought into the training of indigenous Church leadership in East Africa and to suggest appropriate and effective means for doing so . What will be the barriers and facilitators to the introduction of this educational methodology? What methods are most likely to succeed?

Research methodology

The purposes of the study were accomplished by a blend of three kinds of activity: (1) literature review; (2) interviews with people in North America most knowledgeable about African Church leadership training; and, (3) interviews w ith teachers ministering in Church leadership training programs in Kenya.

The literature review investigated three broad areas. Material from the field of adult education, specifically comparative and international adult education, was thoroughly examined. Particular emphasis was placed on literature dealing with transformative learning, teaching for critical reflective thought, and the training of facilitators in such methods. Secondly, material from a Church and missiological perspective dealing with Church leadership development was collected and analyzed. A central focus of this was to review literature concerning the African Church leadership context. Finally, general literature concerning education in Africa was reviewed. Here the concern was to investigate the historical, cultural, and socioecon omic context of schooling, to determine its effect on programs of ministry formation in Africa.

Interviews were conducted with leading missiologists whose areas of expertise include Cross-cultural Church leadership development, and particularly ministry formation in the African context. These included:

· Duane Elmer, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Christian Education/Educational Ministries Departments at Wheaton College Graduate School.

· Robert Ferris, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Doctoral Studies at Columbia International University, and a recognized expert on theological training in the third world. His particular area of interest is renewal in theological education. He has written widely on the subject: Renewal in theological education: Strategies for change (1990), and Establishing Ministry Training (1995).

· Evvy Hay, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Missions and Intercultural Studies at Wheaton College Graduate School. Before this, she was Director of International Health and Educational Services for MAP International.

· Lois McKinney, Ph.D., Professor of Mission at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. She is a recognized authority in the area of cross-cultural leadership development, and is the past director of the Committee to Assist Ministry Education Overseas (CAMEO).

· James Plueddemann, Ph.D., President of SIM International (a large evangelical mission working in Africa and other places), and former chair of the Department of Educational Ministries at Wheaton College Graduate School. His areas of interest include approaches to participatory planning in adult education which stimulate reflective thinking.

· Ted Ward, Ph.D., B.W. Aldeen Professor of International Studies and Mission at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and professor emeritus of Curriculum Research and Educational Administration for the College of Education, Michigan State University. He is a leading authority on non-formal education and cross-cultural ministry formation.

I conducted unstructured, personal interviews. An informal, nondirective approach was used to elicit respondents’ ideas concerning:

· The current state of ministry formation programs in Africa.

· The need (or lack thereof) for teaching for critical reflective thought.

· Methods for the introduction and diffusion of transformative learning techniques in the African ministry formation context.

· The barriers and facilitators to its introduction and diffusion which might be encountered.

· The methods most appropriate for doing in-depth research in this area.

The final data gathering activity was the interviewing of teachers in African Church leadership training in Kenya. Philip Kitui, Ed.D., head of the Department of Education at Daystar University, Kenya, conducted interviews with teachers at several theological schools in the Nairobi area. The purpose of these interviews was to determine current teaching methods, and the extent of participatory learning in use.

These three sources of data provided a rich picture of the background, current situation, and possible future interventions, concerning ministry formation in Africa, and the need for teaching for critical reflective thought. The literature review provided an in-depth understanding of the theories concerning teaching for critical reflective thought and particularly, transformative learning theory. It also provided many suggestions concerning their introduction and diffusion. The historical background of the education system in East Africa provided a foundation on which to base an understanding of the roots of the current situation regarding teaching methodology in Church leadership development programs. The interviews with leading missiologists provided insight that would be very difficult to get from written sources. They provided a wealth of information concerning the difficulties and practicalities of introducing teaching for critical reflective thought in this context. Their understanding of the context provided significant help in developing recommendations for the design and implementation of an intervention to facilitate such a change. The Africa-based interviews provided direct insight into the current state of teaching and the paradigms currently considered normative. They also provided insight concerning the possible barriers and facilitators one might encounter in attempting to implement a change.

Understanding and promoting critical reflective thinking

There are four layers in the construction of this section. The first is a foundational summary of critical reflective thinking theory and its relationship to transformative learning. The second course examines the question of contex tualization of critical reflective thinking in the African context. A discussion follows of teaching for critical reflective thinking from a missiological perspective. The final layer looks at issues to consider in promoting teaching for critical reflective thought in the Church leadership development context in Africa.

Critical reflective thinking theory. There are four main interconnected themes running through the literature on critical reflective learning; experiential learning, disequilibrating experiences, the questioning of assumptions and presuppositions, and the necessity of dialog.

The first of these themes concerns experiential learning. The theorists and practitioners in this field are concerned with experience based learning. Critical reflective thinking takes place in the context of experience and action. Mezirow states:

Learners come into workshops, courses, or other secure settings at different junctures within their learning process. This process may be precipitated by or fostered in an educational environment, but it is incomplete without the learner taking action and subsequently reflectively assessing the action, possibly in a secure educational setting, before taking further action. The transformative learning process does not end in the classroom. Praxis is a requisite condition of transformative learning. (Mezirow and Associates, 1990, p. 356)

Experiential learning forms both the starting point and the end (which becomes the new beginning) of the cycle of praxis learning (Cranton, 1994, p. 182). Experience leads the learner into Mezirow’s disorienting dilemma, the first step in transformative learning. Freire’s problem-posing methodology takes as the starting point peoples’ own context and situation. It is out of the critical reflection on their experiences in life that transformation can take place (1973). That which is profoundly transformational in learners’ lives inevitably comes out of experience. Although educators cannot usually deliver life-shattering experiences to learners, they can develop learning experiences based on learners’ experiences, both past and present. Daloz (1986, p.223) advises facilitators to "… toss little bits of ditheir students’ paths, little facts and observations, theories and interpretations – cow plops on the road to truth – that raise questions about their students’ current world views and invite them to…think afresh." These obstacles are only disequilibrating because they do not harmonize with learners’ present understanding of their experiences. Learning experiences that facilitators design to promote critical reflective thought are almost entirely built around learner experiences (Brookfield, 1987 chap. 6). An experience causes the learners to begin to reflect critically. Learning must be based in the lives and experience of learners if it is to have sufficient impact to initiate critical reflection. Freire suggests the use of generative themes to start this process (1973, p. 86). These are issues from the current experience of learners, which are so important that they develop this kind ofimpact. This is closely tied to the concept of disequilibrating experiences.

The second major theme running through the literature on critical reflective learning is the use of disequilibrating experiences. Learners’ new experiences must be integrated with their previously held meaning perspectives. A bad fit yields contradictions and/or dilemmas – what Mezirow calls a disorienting dilemma (Mezirow and Associates, 1990, p.13). This results in either a rejection of the new information or a revision of previous views. These experiences, which shake-up learners, start the critical reflection ball rolling. This is why Brookfield calls such experiences trigger events (1987). These are unexpected happenings, either positive or negative, which cause one to question previously trusted assumptions. Much of the literature concerning teaching for critical reflective thought and transformative learning concerns helping facilitators design and implement learning experiences that become trigger events for learners (Brookfield, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1995; Cranton, 1994; Freire, 1970, 1973; Hope, Timmel and Hodzi, 1995; Mezirow and Associates, 1990; Vella, 1994, 1995).

Trigger events lead to the third theme, the critical examination of one’s presuppositions. Freire calls the assumptions and presuppositions which people hold naive or magical perceptions. It is through the dialogical problem-posing process that learners begin to become aware of these perceptions and to reflect critically on them eventuating in new understandings and new action. This reflective action Freire refers to as praxis. These assumptions are the "seemingly self-evident rules about reality that we use to help us seek explanations, make judgements, or decide on various actions" (Brookfield, 1987, p. 44). They are rooted in one’s experiences, including one’s cultural context, socioeconomic position, ducation, and other factors that shape one’s life and thought. These unexamined perspectives may be distorted. A distorted assumption is one that "arbitrarily limits what is included, impedes differentiation, lacks permeability or openness to other ways of seeing" (Mezirow, 1991, p. 118). It is through the process of critical reflective thinking that one may recognize distorted meaning perspectives.

The central role of dialog in promoting critical reflective thinking is the fourth and final theme. In both formal and non-formal settings, the place of dialog is paramount in transformative learning. Mezirow states that our best hope of achieving this objectively is to expose our ideas to rational and reflective discourse (1990, p. 10). Cranton describes the ideal situation in which transformative learning can take place as those conditions "that allow full participation in reflective discourse" (1994, p. 27).

To optimize these conditions learners must have equal opportunity to participate. Thus all must have the right, chance, and freedom to challenge, question, refute, and to reflect, in a context where they can hear others doing the same (Cranton, 1994, p. 27). For Freire, it is through dialog that learners begin to become aware of their perceptions and to reflect critically on them eventuating in new understandings and new action (1973).

The ideal conditions Cranton and Freire are supporting can lead to a safe environment where people are free to expose their vulnerability. It is often up to the facilitator to establish this type of learning atmosphere. Facilitators may need to establish principles to optimize such discussion. These include reasonableness (openness to divergent perspectives), peaceable orderliness, truthfulness, freedom, equality, and respect. Freire adds several items to this list; true love for the world and men, humility, an intense faith in man, mutual trust, hope and critical reflective thinking (1970). Without such underlying principles communication ceases to be true dialog and become communiqués.

These four themes, experiential learning, disequilibrating experiences, the questioning of assumptions and presuppositions, and the necessity of dialog are the essence of teaching for critical reflective thought. Each one builds on, and needs, the others.

Contextualization of critical reflective thinking in the African context. Is the call for teaching for critical reflective thought simply the imposition of non-African ways on the African people? Christianity came to Africa, for the most part, in Western clothes. Formal education, i.e., schooling, no less so. The current educational system in most of Africa is a product of the colonial system. Although now it has taken root, education for examinations is not an indigenous concept in Africa.

Transformative learning theory and teaching for critical reflective thinking are ideas and concepts developed outside of Africa by people such as Mezirow, Brookfield, and Freire and based on such philosophers as Dewey and Habermas. In this light it can be argued that they are no more relevant to the African context than the leftover colonial system in place. On the other hand, several themes say it is not so simple.

Teaching for critical reflective thinking strives to facilitate learners’ ability to see the world from new and different perspectives; not those predetermined by the system or teacher. Transformative learning does not claim to be value neutral. Its goal is for learning to come out of the experiences of the learners as they begin to reflect critically on their meaning perspectives. African Theologian Isaac Zokoué states concerning current trends in the African Church, "Every where voices are being raised to say that Africa should not continue any longer to do ‘borrowed theology.’ People are firmly claiming the right not only to contextualize the Gospel but also to do theological reflection and theological production that are authentically African" (1990, p.3). Facilitating critical reflective thinking will actually promote this.

Another issue concerns the massive changes taking place in African society today. Since the end of the Cold War there has been a push for multi-party democracy in Africa. This democratization is coupled with increased liberalization of the economies of many African states. In such an environment, transformative learning will facilitate peoples’ ability to deal with changes. Transformative learning helps learners meet the disorienting dilemmas brought on by such a massive change in society (Brookfield, 1987, ch. 4). Freire says that one can oppress, but cannot liberate another. That must come from within. Critical reflective thinking is a catalyst in that process.

There is a wealth of evidence to show that African traditional forms of education were not based on transformative learning (Datta, 1984; Bray, Clarke and Stephens, 1986). Neither was the education of the thousands of illiterate adults that Freire helped not only to learn to read but to gain power over their own lives. Nor were the landless Appalachian families that Horton and the Highlander Center helped to gain power to handle absentee landlords. While transformative learning was not imposed on them, its use helped them to empower their own communities.

African Church leaders are making a call for this type of change. The changing political, socioeconomic, and cultural scene demand a pedagogy that helps people deal with these problems, rather than just handing them pat answers. What better place to begin than with the training of Church leaders who influence the lives of the 58% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa who call themselves Christians?

Teaching for critical reflective thinking from a missiological perspective. The concepts and ideas of teaching for critical reflective thought and transformative learning have not gone unnoticed in the field of Church leadership development. The main thrust of the discussion, in the relevant literature, concerning these issues is that most ministry formation programs are not promoting teaching for critical reflective thought, and calls for them do begin doing so. This does not em anate from one theological camp alone, but from the full gamut of Christian theological persuasions; liberation theologists, evangelicals, liberals, and ecumenicals alike.

In 1995, at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, a large consultation was held for international Christian theological educators concerning institutional development for theological education in the two-thirds world. Much of what came out of that consultation cries out for a change in the way ministry formation is conducted in most of the two-thirds world. There are repeated calls for a more critically reflective approach to leadership development.

The purpose of theological education is to reflect critically on the church’s call to obedient mission....theological education must exposit an alternative reading of reality, because we live in a culture that in its dominant modes is c ommitted to a reading of reality that is false and will finally dehumanize and destroy… there is room to suggest different perspectives.

As the student becomes critically aware and reformulates theological conceptions about God, the church and its mission, he or she will experience crisis. Too much theological education has been constructed to avoid crisis or conflict. (Institutional development for theological education in the two-thirds world: Summary of findings of the 1995 consultation at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, p. 22, 1995).

Not only do these leaders call for change; they specify the problem as being a teaching methodology that actually discourages critical reflective thinking and therefore transformative learning. Farley, whose works are considered seminal in the area of ministerial formation, comments on the traditional approach to theological education. This method actually

subvert(s) the very basis for the reflective wisdom of the reducing the believers’ relation to the tradition or heritage of faith to a relation to texts and by its assumption that exposition of the authoritative texts settles the question of truth (quoted in Kennedy, p. 26, 1996).

He calls for a connection between critical reflection and praxis. "Theology in its primary form is the activity of reflective wisdom in the believer" (p. 9, 1987). The educational philosophy of Freire comes through often from these leaders. Voth states "There is no real learning without change. Therefore do we understand curriculum primarily as that which enables the transfer of information or that which elicits and provokes a ent for theological education in the two-thirds world: Summary of findings of the 1995 consultation at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, p. 22, 1995).

Many missiologists see current models of ministry formation as stuck in a banking paradigm that must change if the Church is going to face and tackle the problems of the world today. A radical change is needed where formal theology is no longer the sole subject of study. There is a need to move on to the critical examination of the theological assumptions, beliefs and values hidden in action (Kennedy, 1992). There are specific calls for the introduction of transformative learning, which offers "pedagogical ways to make ordinary situations problematic, of raising to consciousness the contradictions between a community’s rhetoric and its practices and of enhancing understanding. [Transformative learning offers] pedagogical help for the generally abstract discussions of much practical theology" (Kennedy, 1992,p. 30).

Lay, in the introduction to an issue of Christian Education Journal whose theme for the entire issue was Critical Thinking for Christian Education, calls for ministry formation based on critical thinking which he says includes the following ideas:

· Involves asking tough questions about the faith;

· Requires personal examination and exposure of self-serving assumptions;

· Revises perspectives which preclude the possibility of transformation;

· Tests current beliefs and practice, as well as visionary alternatives, against scriptural criteria;

· Retraces its own steps in arriving at conclusions (p. 11, 1994).

Christian ministry formation must adapt itself to the need for critical reflective thought. Michael Warren, in his article The sacramentality of critique and its challenge to Christian educators (1994), discusses the need for Christian educators to promote critique of learners’ beliefs and assumptions. He discusses several key terms that he says are the necessary conceptual tools to understand the concept of critical thinking. These terms are, alienation, false consciousness, criticism, and assumptions.

The interviews with leading missiologists tended to center more on the practical implementation of these transformative learning concepts than on the theory itself. There seemed to be an implicit assumption that this change in ministry formation in Africa was needed. There was strong explicit consensus that faculty development programs were needed to help Christian educators develop the practice of transformative learning. Modeling this type of teaching was a common theme these experts repeatedly touched on.

Ferris felt that the training and re-training of educators to facilitate critical reflective thought was a key to it introduction and diffusion. He said something heard from many missiologists. He indicated that teachers teach the way they were taught. This confirmed what Elliston wrote in 1988. Elliston gives several axioms to consider when designing cross-cultural leadership education. One of these states: "The overall structure of an educational process greatly conditions what is learned--not only in terms of cognition, but in attitudinal development as well. In fact, the educational structures, processes, and teacher-learner relationships frequently condition the long-term learning outcomes more than the content of the course" (1988, p. 211). The way we teach is just as important, if not more important, than what we teach. Elliston also lists the following four statements as one of his axioms:

One tends to---

teach as he/she has been taught

lead as he/she has been led

relate as he/she has been related to

develop curricula like those in which he/she learned (p. 206)

Plueddemann was excited to hear that people were interested in researching this topic. He also recommended a teacher training approach be tried to facilitate teaching for critical reflective thought. He encouraged a praxis approach to training teachers based on the educational pedagogy of Paulo Freire. He felt that although there was a need for critical reflective thinking in programs of ministry formation in Africa, it was not often a felt need among educators themselves. Any approach to training teachers to promote critical reflective thought in their students must do the same for the teachers. It must be modeled and applied in the training.

Ward recommended that teachers be trained in the use of non-formal education methods to promote critical reflective thought in their students. He felt that it was certainly possible to facilitate this type of teaching, but that research should be done to determine barriers and facilitators to the implementation of this type of teaching after teachers have received training. This he felt would be of help in facilitating the diffusion of this innovation.

Duane Elmer, Professor of educational ministries at Wheaton College Graduate School, was concerned that any attempt to facilitate critical reflective thinking may have difficulty in measuring the existence and level of the same. He recommended a naturalistic, qualitative study of teachers who have been so trained in order to conduct the necessary observations within their teaching contexts. Nonetheless, he encouraged the pursuit of this study believing that a training approach for in-service teachers would be most likely to succeed. He felt that the best way to introduce teaching for critical reflective thought is for future educators to experience this type of teaching while they are still students. In order to start this diffusion process though he felt it would be necessary to train current teachers using continuing education workshops.

The interviews with African based Christian educators mostly confirm the positions taken above concerning the current state of ministry formation in Africa. Although the results showed some interesting exceptions, banking education was found the norm in these schools. All the teachers interviewed used lecture as the main learning activity. The strongest evidence for the pervasiveness of banking pedagogy concerns the methods of evaluation used. Typically, final exams in these schools count 70 percent or more of students’ final grades. Not only does this put a great deal of emphasis on the final exams, the tests themselves often simply ask students to repeat what they have memorized from lectures or reading. Interviewees were asked to provide examples of exams. Several did. These exams proved to be classic examples of the type of learning evaluation found in banking pedagogy. On the final exam in a graduate level course called Anthropology/Christology, offered at Nairobi International School of Theology, most questions demand simple recall of information presented in either readings or lectures. Test questions include: true/false questions, writing of definitions, and the recitation of lists. The emphasis is on writing "correct" answers. The procedure is based on a positivistic philosophy that does not promote critical reflective thought.

The lack of participatory education also illustrates the prevalence of banking pedagogy. Asked "In what ways do you involve your students in determining the content of the courses they take?" typical teacher responses included: "Courses are already developed before students take them" and "No. [i.e. students are not involved.] Methods are determined by the lecturer." When asked about the purposes of the learning activities most of the interviewees mentioned equipping students with "necessary tools" and making sure students understood what was being taught.

The field research found little evidence of teaching for critical reflective thought. Nonetheless, there seemed to be a desire to do so. One teacher expressed a desire to give assignments that "encourage students to think creatively." Another indicated a desire to use classroom discussion "to encourage personal views, critical thinking and student participation." Another wants to give assignments that will "help students grow into independent thinkers." This indicates teachers’ desire to facilitate critical reflective thought in students. Nevertheless, their responses indicate that they are failing to do so. This suggests that offering training to these teachers to facilitate their teaching for critical reflective though may prove popular.

Throughout the literature reviewed, the interviews with US based missiologists, and the interviews with African based Christian educators, there appeared consensus on several issues. Current modes of ministry formation do not facilitate critical reflective thought in the lives of learners.

  • First, these modes are predominantly based on the banking paradigm of education.
  • Second, these modes are insufficient to prepare Church leaders for effective ministry. A shift toward problem-posing methods of education is needed. This would include a shift toward teaching for critical reflective thinking and transformative learning methods.
  • Third, there was a modicum of agreement that a training approach to training educators which modeled the type of education desired would be helpful. There was less agreement concerning how much change one might expect.
Issues to consider in promoting teaching for critical reflective thought in the Church leadership development context in Africa. Transformative learning is an innovation in the African ministry formation context. Diffusion of innovation theory provides broad guidelines for determining the degree of difficulty for the spread of a given innovation (Rogers, 1995). This also helps to predict what some of the barriers and facilitators to the diffusion will be. These guidelines, based on the characteristic of the innovation itself, are;

· Relative advantage of an innovation over the idea it replaces

· Compatibility with existing values, past experiences, and needs of potential adopters

· Complexity (the relative difficulty to understand and use)

· Trialability (the degree to which an innovation may be experimented with on a limited basis)

· Observability (the degree to which the results of an innovation are visible to others)

The relative advantage of an innovation over the idea that it replaces is one of the most important aspects effecting its adoption and the rate thereof. This relative advantage must be from the perspective of the potential adopters. The change agent may see wonderful advantages in the innovation, but if the target audience sees little or no advantage in the innovation over the old method then one is fighting a losing battle.

From the teachers’ perspective what advantages are present in the adoption of student-centered teaching methodologies? What are the possible disadvantages?

Possible advantages:

1. Students will be better prepared for real life ministry when their training is experientially based. Thus, teachers will have the opportunity to impact the lives of people who will have tremendous effect on the Church in Africa.

2. Students will have an eagerness for learning often absent in banking modes of teaching.

3. Students are empowered to take control of their lives and become proactive ministers. This will allow students to take greater initiative and self-direction in their learning.

4. Teaching and classroom activity becomes more spontaneous and varied. It is more fun to teach. The day to day work of the teacher becomes a joy instead of a drudge.

5. Teachers will have the opportunity to build relationships with students that can result in friendships or critical activism.

6. Teachers become co-learners with students and become lifelong learners as they continue to grow and mature throughout their careers.

7. Teachers will have the opportunity to see students’ lives changed as students gain new insights, and see perspectives they never saw before.


1. Change alone is a disadvantage. Teachers may be quite comfortable with their present methods. They may feel no need to change.

2. Teaching for critical reflective thought requires hard work and creativity. It is simpler and easier to repeat the same lectures year after year.

3. Teachers must relinquish some of their power and control over the learning process. Teachers may see collaboration in the classroom as empowering students at their expense.

4. Teachers may feel their status, as distributors and guardians of knowledge, is being eroded.

5. Teachers may feel that they are incapable of conducting transformative learning.

Considering these advantages and disadvantages of embracing transformative learning methods its adoption seems rather iffy. The major subdivisions of relative advantage that Rogers (1995) lists are mostly non-existent, or possibly going in the wrong direction. I foresee no short-term economic advantage to adopting the innovation. On the other hand, most teachers in programs of church leadership development have strong altruistic motives for being there. Most of them are highly educated (by African standards) and are very poorly paid in comparison to what they could be getting in government or in the private sector. Initial cost of adoption may be low financially but high in terms of time and effort needed to learn the innovation. One possible positive is that adopting this innovation may decrease the degree of discomfort. Increased satisfaction with their work should also lessen discomfort. Social prestige and status may go down as mentioned above. This, on the other hand, may eventually reverse itself as students begin to highly value teachers who adopt this innovation. Their reputations as "master teachers" may eventually raise their status. The use of the innovation, from the individual teacher’s perspective, will saveneither time nor effort. It will probably do the opposite. Reward for adoption will be both immediate and long term. Some of them will be felt immediately upon adoption of student-centered teaching methods (as with advantages 1, 3, 4, and 7).

The final verdict concerning the relative advantage will depend on the personality and characteristics of individual teachers. Those whose purpose for teaching includes seeing the growth and maturity of the Church in Africa, are more likely to adopt and adopt early. In addition, those with a high tolerance for ambiguity and change will be likely to adopt. Tolerance for ambiguity and change are not basic values in most African cultures so such teachers are likely to be in the minority. Teachers whose sense of well being is dependent on knowing exactly what will happen in their classes are not likely to adopt early or easily. Teachers who have a love for their students, wanting to see them grow and develop cognitively, morally and spiritually, are likely to adopt. I believe that these are the majority of teachers.

The compatibility of this innovation is also a mixture of positives and negatives. Notably, traditional African values and beliefs support collaborative decision making and discussion (at least for men). African culture, as a rule, is very people-oriented as opposed to task-oriented (Lingenfelter and Mayers, 1986). Therefore learning based on mutual respect and personal experience of learners should be supported. In daily life and in organizational settings apart from education, participatory concepts are often practiced. It is in the area of formal education, where previously introduced concepts of what constitutes good instruction, that this innovation will have a difficult battle. Transformative learning is a major break with banking education.

Having discussed the relative advantages of transformative learning we now move on to discussions of compatibility, complexity, trialability, and observability.

Overall, the compatibility attribute appears almost balanced between positive and negative effects on the adoption of this innovation. If we can overcome the issue of what good education is supposed to look like, and if a connection can be made between the felt needs of the church and teaching methods, then diffusion will be greatly aided.

Whether or nor transformative learning is perceived as complex by teachers will depend on how it is introduced and diffused. The model will have to be "modeled" as well as taught. The basic principles of transformative learning are not difficult to grasp.

Trialability is one attribute of this innovation that should surely be a positive. Teachers can teach one course using transformative learning methods while teaching other courses with other methods. They can even teach different portions of the same course using different methods. At any point, teachers can revert to pedagogy.

Observability should also be a positive attribute related to the diffusion of this innovation. Potential adopters will either be trained to be teachers while they are still students, or retrained in workshops and seminars. In both of these situations, transformative learning would be modeled, not just taught. Any other method designed to teach it (e.g., correspondence courses, distance learning through radio lectures, or banking style teaching about transformative learning) would be highly unobservable and therefore highly likely to fail.

All told, these five attributes portray a somewhat positive picture. Nonetheless, there are some major concerns, especially about relative advantage, that must be overcome. The positive attributes must be capitalized upon.

Barriers and facilitators to teaching for critical reflective thought for African Church leaders

In implementing a plan to introduce and diffuse transformative learning, one should try to anticipate the issues and circumstances that will either hinder or facilitate such a plan. In the context of this study, there are several areas in which one needs to identify barriers and facilitators. These areas include; the culture of East Africa, the East African Educational system, the current political and economic framework in East Africa, East African church structure and culture. The above discussion on the attributes of the innovation gives some general ideas about the issue of barriers and facilitators. Nonetheless, a closer look at the context of this study is warranted.

The culture of East Africa. Although one cannot speak of a single East African culture, some common traits of the cultures in this region exist, some will be barriers and some facilitators. East Africans are, overall, people and event oriented, as opposed to time and task oriented (Lingenfelter and Mayers, 1986). This orientation towards the importance of relationships with people, juxtaposed to the importance of getting tasks completed, should be a facilitator. Transformative learning is based on dialogue in an atmosphere of love, trust and respect. Africans have a very strong sense of "community as educator" (Bray, Clarke & Stephens, 1986, p. 104) and a high respect for individuals. This high regard for people and relationships augurs well for a positive reception of the types of techniques proposed as fostering critical reflective thought. An attempt to diffuse this educational model should emphasize this participatory aspect of transformative learning.

In traditional African education, participant observation was, and remains, one of the main methods of education (Bray, Clarke & Stephens, 1986, p. 106). This is a form of experiential learning. In this traditional system, learning is active. Learners are not passive, but should actively engage in the learning process. This also is a point of similarity with transformative learning. Although the form of this participation may vary from traditional education, just the fact that it is experience based provides a point of continuity.

Traditionally the modes of decision-making in African culture employed dialogue and consensus. Although this activity was not open to all members of the community, (usually only adult males) it nonetheless coincides with the dialogical nature of teaching for critical reflective thought. Although the baraza (the community council) is not specifically an educational institution, the fact that dialogue and consensus were the norm there allows for a chance to bridge from one context to the other.

Finally, African cognitive styles are traditionally global and holistic in nature, as opposed to linear and analytic (Lingenfelter and Mayers, 1986). This cognitive approach emphasises the big picture and the myriad interconnected relationships between issues. In transformative learning participants examine issues from various perspectives. A natural inclination to see things globally and holistically will naturally faciltate this process.

There are several barrriers in the dominant culture in East Africa to the spread of transformative learning. Two of the most important of these are; the concealment of vulnerability, and deference to authority.

Brookfield believes that adult learners are prepared to expose their doubts, worries, and shortcomings if they feel they are doing so in the context of other adults who listen supportively, without judging (1986, p. 135). This has cultural limitations. A characteristic trait of East African culture, and many other cultures as well, is the concealment of vulnerability (Elmer, 1993, see also Lingenfelter and Mayers, 1986). To begin to discuss openly what one sees as one’s distorted assumtions requires an openness to discussing one’s weaknesses. This may prove to be a barrier to the implementation of teaching for critical reflective thought.

Deference to authority is a characteristic of East African culture. Teaching learners to be critical and reflective concerning their experiences in learning situations may go against their inclination to accept uncritically what authorities say. This may be a barrier that can only be overcome through the development of close personal relationships where facilitators are seen as co-learners.

The East African Educational system. The research for this paper indicates myriad barriers to the implementation of transformative learning, and few facilitators, within the educational system. The system is based on the banking paradigm of education. There is an overpowering emphasis on examinations. It is less important in nonformal education. Nonformal education may be the only facilitation-based approach in this area. Nonformal education is widespread and widely accepted in East Africa. Although such nonformal programs may offer certificates, they are usually not examination based. In such programs, learners will not feel pressured to memorize material for exams. This may produce a more relaxed, congenial and less competitive atmosphere to the learning situation.

The current political and economic framework in East Africa. There are great political and economic changes underfoot in Africa. The disequilibration brought about by these changes in people’s lives will facilitate the process of critical reflective thinking. These changes may prove to be generative themes that educators can use to facilitate the transformative learning process.

In Kenya, until recently, political opposition in the media was not tolerated. With the rise of the multiparty system in Kenya, and elsewhere in Africa, that is changing. Opposition parties hold political rallies, print pamphlets, and even publish newspapers. Although much of the political realignment taking place is along tribal lines, people are beginning to think about issues of which they were previously unaware, and from new perspectives. Major change in society may facilitate people’s openness to change in meaning perspectives.

The changing economic situation means people will not be able to depend on the government for life-long employment. Retirement age for schoolteachers in Kenya was recently lowered to the age of 45. With the decontrol of the economy, and the shrinking size of the civil servant force, people have to look to the private sector for employment. These political and economic changes are facilitating paradigmatic shifts for very many people. All of this augurs well for the introduction of transformative learning in adult education.

East African church structure and culture. The culture and structure of the Church in East Africa is no more one-dimensional than the culture of the people themselves. Nevertheless, certain characterizations are possible. Church structures tend to be hierarchical and the questioning of authority is neither encouraged nor common. Zokoué says, "African political models often attract church leaders. It is not rare to find in the churches the same structures as one finds in political life, even the same titles" (1990, p. 5). He goes on to discuss the problem of elitism in Church leadership, and counsels the need to "teach our leaders to find ways to break free from this hierarchy in order to serve God’s people&uot; (p. 6). These traditional forms of leadership will not facilitate learning where teachers are seen as co-learners. Nonetheless, it is in the more narrow area of programs of Church leadership development that this study deals with. In these programs great deference is paid to lectures, professors, or tutors. Keeping in mind that teachers teach the way they were taught, to break the cycle of elitists leadership one must change the way the Church trains its leaders.

One barrier to the spread of teaching for critical reflective thought is an epistemological or philosophical one. Often teachers see their role as making sure students have the "right" knowledge. The interviews with teachers from these programs support this. Typical answers that teachers gave to the question "What is the purpose of the classroom discussion?" include

· "To correct misconceptions held by students."

· "To make sure students understand what they have been taught."

These issues go beyond pedagogical method. They deal with issues of the nature of truth, knowledge and reality. Although it is not necessary to give up a belief in absolute truth in order to adopt transformative learning, as some would suggest (Cranton, 1994, p. 25-26), it is necessary to hold up for scrutiny even those beliefs we deem absolute. For only in this way can one come to a better understanding of and relationship with those beliefs (Ward, 1996).

Conclusions and recommendations

Leading educational experts believe that it is possible to teach in such a way as to promote critical reflective thinking in learners. Not only do they feel that it is possible, they also feel that one can learn to teach in such a manner. Nonetheless, most of this is coming from outside of the African context, and nearly all of it is not specifically concerned with programs of church leadership development. It remains to be seen if these assumptions hold true in the African ministry formation context.

Leading missiologists agree on the need for such teaching in African leadership development programs. There is also wide spread agreement on the need to base any training of teachers on a model that itself promotes critical reflective thought. Any attempt to "train the trainers" must not only teach about critically reflective thinking, but actually model the same.

There is interest among these experts in trying to diffuse a more non-formal educational methodology throughout ministry development programs in Africa. Several Christian education experts (Ward, Elmer, and Ferris) indicated that a continuing education approach for current teachers would be the place to begin. This would most likely take the form of workshops or seminars for such teachers.

The obstacles that may stand in the way of the implementation and diffusion of teaching for critical reflective thinking and aids that may smooth the way, are not necessarily the same in the East African Church leadership context as in adult education contexts elsewhere. Dr. Ward’s recommendation to conduct research to find these barriers and facilitators seems warranted. Numerous barriers and facilitators predicted as a result of this research, and more generally by the diffusion of innovation theory, were noted above. Nonetheless, the actual barriers and facilitators to making a change can only be determined by research involving an attempt to do so.

This leads us to make the recommendation that research based on a "model development paradigm" be carried out within the African ministry formation context. The model constructed should attempt to maximize the facilitators predicted above and take account of, and if possible actually develop ways through, the barriers. The tasks of this research would be:

· To develop a training program for those currently teaching in programs of Church leadership development in Africa. The objective of this training would be to facilitate participants teaching for critical reflective thinking.

· To implement the training with a group of participants from a variety of teaching contexts (e.g., Bible schools, Seminaries, theological extension programs, etc.,).

· To conduct follow-up research with each of these teachers by means of participant and non-participant observation, interviews with them, their students, their peers, and their superiors.

In order maximize facilitators and overcome those barriers predicted this training program should incorporate the following:

· A highly participatory approach to the training that emphasizes the importance of relationships with people in community.

· A hands-on training that emphasizes praxis more than theory.

· An approach that includes learner involvement in the planning and execution of the training.

· An approach to training based in the global, holistic cognitive style of Africans.

· An approach where the self-esteem of participants in the training is strictly guarded.

· Facilitators develop close relationship with participants in order for learners to feel free to enter into dialogue with facilitators.

· The training should be conducted outside of formal examination based schooling.

· The content of the training should be based on themes generated by the participants.

· Participants should be drawn from a variety of Church backgrounds to maximize the variety of perspectives held.

· The epistemological issues must be address directly.

The research question would concern the identification of the facilitators and barriers that the participants in the training would meet when attempting its implementation. The goal would be to delineate these facilitators and barriers to capitalize on the facilitators and overcome barriers in future teacher-training programs of this kind. The data generated by this design would be a rich collection of qualitative information consisting of:

· the subjects’ journals, the subjects’ written, oral and practical assignments,

· the researchers reflexive journals (covering both the training program itself and the observations of subjects’ teaching),

· field notes from observations and interviews,

This information would be used to develop a rich picture of the contexts and any changes taking place in the lives and ministries of the subjects. Much of this analysis would be done "on the fly" while observation and training would be ongoing. It is expected that the study would determine both barriers and facilitators to the implementation of this type of teaching.

This proposal, though modest, could have a major impact on the way the Church conducts ministry formation in sub-Saharan Africa. The research proposed in this recommendation, if successfully completed, may provide the catalyst to mo ve the African Church out of its present inertia concerning leadership development, into proactive involvement in its reform. This is an opportunity for the Church to look at its past in order to come to an understanding of how it has reached the present state in its programs of ministry formation. Doing so will allow the Church to critically reflect on it own practice, examining its own assumptions and presuppositions about the training of Church leaders. The disequilibration that this affords may lead to new ideas and concepts, eventuating in changes in the way the Church prepares leaders for ministry.


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