Photo by Faustin Tuyambaze on Unsplash

Is our catechetical program working?

In the secular world organizations have long thought about ways and means to measure the success of their training programs. One of these that seems to have really stuck around for some time is what is called the Kirkpatrick Model.

The Kirkpatrick Model was developed out of a need to see if all the resources that are being put into training members or employees of an organization are actually making a difference. This is a good thing for Church leaders to consider too. For instance, Diocesan Catechetical Leaders should assess themselves frequently asking: is our Diocesan Catechetical Certification program working? How do we measure its effectiveness? It is important for Diocesan Catechetical Leaders to offer programs that do justice to the resources that they are using.

Here is a brief summary of how it applies to Church leaders but in particular Diocesan Catechetical Leaders. Traditionally the Kirkpatrick Model analyzes 4 areas or levels: 1) Reaction 2) Learning 3) Behavioral Change 4) Organizational Performance. I have amended these to a certain degree to set them in relationship to catechetical ministry below. Note: this isn’t meant to be a means merely to think about effectiveness but instead to measure it so a catechetical office could be measuring each area in different ways.

Used with permission of the Diocese of Baton Rouge

1. Response: Catechetical training has to be carried out in a way that there is a positive response and that people can relate to it meaningfully. It must reflect truth, beauty, and goodness. It can’t be shoddy or stodgy. It must be methodologically sound. Having people watch videos and then take a test online is not a method that has been found effective in really helping people grow. Response can be assessed through self-evals and informal feedback. Sometimes catechetical or religious ed offices are viewed negatively by the faithful and even clergy. Why?

2. Knowledge: Catechetical Training is meant to increase knowledge and skills. How do we assess that? Presently we can do that through end of course exercises, questions during instructor led portions, and assessments. But we need to consider how else we might assess this, particularly over time. Do our students retain knowledge over time? Is there something we need to be doing different to facilitate this?

3. Action: Is what we are teaching translating into lived experience? Does it lead to a deep enough conversion that behavior changes? Religious education and catechesis is meant to be a type of transformative learning whereby those who participate in it actually change how they do things to more closely align their work and lives with Christ, and the Church. How do we assess this? Sometimes this type of assessment may require coordination with school or parish administrators. But, an office could also do follow up surveys with those who have taken our courses and ask directed questions that would help us evaluate this. Informal feedback and observation helps with this too. Are previous students inspired to change from evil to good or from good to better?

4. Influence: Does our religious education have a transformative impact on the organizations (parishes and churches) that people who take our courses serve in? This, again, might be a good question to put to administrator and clergy. Informal feedback helps to evaluate this too. And then this could be a part of an end of course survey for students because most are ongoing and so have some read on this.

Meeting these goals is essential, especially because of the resources that are going into the work.

Many Catechetical Leaders intuit these areas of growth but have never been introduced to tools for evaluating that secular institutions use. We can borrow from the secular world models that help us improve what we are doing, for the benefit of the local Church. Perhaps this is even a form of dialogue.

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