Competency-Based Theological Education Mentored mastery in context

Competency-Based Theological Education represents a paradigm shift in theological education. Focused on "mentored mastery in context," CBTE offers an innovative way for seminaries and learning networks to raise a new generation of proven leaders, trained in the knowledge, skills, and character traits that they will need to prosper in their callings.

CBTE Highlights

Competency-Based Education grew out of educational experiments in mastery learning, learning from apprenticeship and CBT models developed within industry and the trades.

Early experiments grew out of schools like Western Governors University and encouraged by early adopting states like New Hampshire and Ohio.

CBTE highlights continued...

In 2010, Northwest Baptist Seminary begins development of its reverse engineered, "Immerse" program.

In 2012, Amy Laitonen publishes "Cracking the Credit Hour."

In 2013, the US Department of Education issues "Dear Colleague" letter, opening opportunity for "Direct Assessment" programs.

CBTE highlights continued...

In 2013, the Competency-Based Education Network (CBEN) is formed.

In 2014, Sioux Falls Seminary offers its course/credit model "Kairos" program.

Also in 2014, the Association of Theological Schools grants Northwest Baptist Seminary official experimental approval of the Master of Divinity for Immerse.

CBTE highlights continued...

In 2015, the Association of Theological Schools launches its Educational Models and Practices project, with a major focus on CBTE.

In 2016, Matthew Louwersheimer graduates from Northwest's Immerse program, the first student to graduate with an MDiv, from an ATS Direct Assessment program.

In 2017, Grace Seminary launches "Deploy," an Immerse-like direct assessment program with other schools preparing to follow.

Marks of CBTE

Contextual Learning

The best place to learn how to lead a church is in a church, CBTE establishes the church or ministry center as the primary venue for learning, everything works backwards from that principle.

Partnered Investment

CBTE works best in partnership with the end user - the organization or network that will employ or utilize the students that we train. Best practice for CBTE involves the partner organization from the beginning, customizing outcomes for their purpose and securing their deep buy-in.

Mastery Model

CBTE leads students to mastery, no matter how long it takes. If an assignment needs to be repeated or replaced, so be it. Mastery is the goal.

Mentoring by Consensus

In a CBTE system, mentors come from different directions and yet peak with one voice. They do not overcome one another by position or by influence.

Timely Instruction

Instruction in a CBTE program needs to be "just-in-time." Learning needs to follow the countours of a student's need and a context's rhythms.

Integrated Outcomes

CBTE programs integrate things like Bible, theology, and application, cross-cutting the silos so as to develop a student's knowledge, skill, and character in every outcome.

Customized Expectations

A good CBTE program will allow mentors to customize learning in the awareness that student formation is the primary goal. This is not about ticking boxes or satisfying standardized expectations.

Rigorous Assessment

CBTE rises and falls on the quality of its assessment processes of students and overall programs, beginning before a student is admitted and continuing all the way through to beyond graduation.

Prior Learning

CBTE programs recognize that prior learning is valuable. Good programs find ways to honour and utilize all such learning.

Financial Efficiency

A CBTE program ought to be cheaper to deliver than conventional education, making it possible to train a student without sending him or her into debt.

Planning CBTE


Who will you partner with? What will they require? How will you work together?


Do you plan to use a Direct Assessment model or a Course and Credit model? How will you ensure "regular and substantive faculty interaction." Will your approach stand alongside a conventional educational model or will you transition your entire program to CBTE?


Who will manage your competency-based system? How will policy be developed, established, and monitored?


Who will mentor the students? How will you train them? Who will have authority in the mentoring structure? How will you help established faculty to make the necessary paradigm shift?


What will your outcomes design look like? How will you define your expectations for mastery?


Will it be important to offer some content pieces through conventional instruction? How will you deliver these events? How will you make sure that these do not devolve into courses? How can you take advantage of such events to develop relationship and encouragement among the students?


What kind of technology will you need to support your competency-based system? How will you resource your students online? How will you develop a digital record of learning?


What are your tuition expectations for students? Will financial aid be available? Will you utilize a subscription model? How might such a model integrate into your current systems?


How will you enrol students in this program? What kind of advanced standing provisions will you offer? What are the admission standards you will expect? What will you do about transcriptions and transfers?


What kind of front-end assessment process will you expect? How will you ensure that the students you admit are primed for success?


What kind of early review process will you offer for your students? Are you willing to redirect students who look like they might not make it?


How will you insure that students have access to the information that they need? What will you do for students who will not be able to access your physical library?


What systems can you establish to ensure that students and mentor teams are progressing effectively? How will you intervene when necessary?


What will you do to assure that your overall program is meeting expectations? What kind of rubrics could you utilize? How will you accumulate data that can support your case for accreditation?

Outcomes Design for CBTE

Design Parameters
Outcomes Designation
Description of Mastery
Rubrics for Mentor Evaluation
Assignment Categorization
Outcome Development Assignments
Learning Unit Weightings


a paradigm shift in theological education

This has been prepared by Kenton C. Anderson for Northwest Baptist Seminary. All rights reserved. 2017

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