‘Rummaging, Stretching and Searching for Fragments’ – What can be assessed in Spiritual Formation?

The topic of assessment within spiritual formation (SF) raises certain challenging issues and questions. This paper employs a cluster of SF metaphors including ‘rummaging for God’ (Hamm, 1994), ‘stretching towards God’ as epektasis (Petcu, 2017; Smith et al, 2014) and searching for ‘fragments’ of God (Tracy, 2019). It employs these metaphors to argue that certain aspects of SF can be assessed formally and informally, while others are more elusive and require a different modus operandi (Sheldrake, 2001). The kataphatic and apophatic dimensions of spirituality provide particular challenges in this regard. This paper’s method is linked to the author’s original Quadrivial (‘Four Rivers’) metaapproach of spirituality (Mudge 2019, 2020, 2021) which focuses on the traditions (Abrahamic), narratives, disciplines and virtues of Christian SF. Assessment examples and quandaries are also linked with the application of this Quadrivial model (Colledge & McGinn, 1981; McGinn et al, 1986).

…investigating the question: ‘Can we break new ground by employing forms of assessment and particular strategies that do not require a grade or mark, but communicate their feedback as a ‘satisfactory’ or ‘pass’ level related to skills, attitudes and virtues?’

Finally, the paper expands upon current research by interrogating traditional approaches to teaching and assessing SF and asking: ‘Can we break new ground by employing innovative forms of assessment and particular strategies that do not require a grade or mark, but communicate their feedback as a ‘satisfactory’ or ‘pass’ level related to skills, attitudes and virtues?’ (TEQSA, 2020; NESA, 2020). This interrogation also argues for the usefulness of applying the ‘divine pedagogy’ and ‘threshold concept’ frameworks to SF assessment (White, 2014; Chittister, 1990; Meyer & Land, 2010; Mayes, 2013)


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