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Educational Models and Practices in Theological Education

Funded by a major grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., the Educational Models Project will assess current and developing practices among ATS member schools, identify their most promising aspects, assist member schools in implementing new and innovative models, and integrate promising models into the work of the Association and Commission. Hear what members of the Educational Models and Practices Advisory Board have to say about the importance of this initiative.

“It is very clear that economic stability and sustainability are inextricably linked to educational models. Without significant modifications to educational patterns and practices, financial sustainability might not be possible for many schools. This project will ensure that those necessary modifications are identified, tested, and put into practice.”
--Daniel O. Aleshire, ATS Executive Director

Six areas of work

The project will enable member schools of the Association to engage and integrate six different areas of work across the project’s four years:

1. A comprehensive study of educational program developments in ATS schools (2015-2016)

A mapping survey will gather information on the variety of educational practices that have developed over the past several decades, often to address new constituencies, to increase accessibility of theological education, or to address patterns of ministry that have been under-attended by the dominant educational models. 18 peer groups will collaborate to develop, implement, and assess innovative models and practices.

2. A comparative study of other patterns of graduate professional education (2015-2017)

A team of educators will conduct a comparative study of changes and concerns that have been identified in other patterns of graduate professional education—especially legal education, medical education, business education, and other human service professions like teaching, social work and counseling—to determine lessons learned and best practices that might apply to theological education.

3. A study of the religious workforce (2016-2017)

A survey of graduates from a representative sample of ATS schools will track their career placements to identify the range of positions graduates obtain in a variety of congregational ministry and other settings and to determine potential or unmet educational needs in those settings.

4. A study of learning outcomes-based curricula (2016-2017)

A study will examine programs that have demonstrated particular expertise in assessing achievement of learning outcomes, including online programs, programs of competency-based education, and other experimental programs.

5. Innovation and faculty development grants (2016)

A request for proposals, to be issued in 2016, will allow ATS member schools to apply for grants to launch or expand upon innovative ideas. Between 30 and 50 grants of $25,000 to $50,000 each will be awarded. In addition, the project will provide grants of up to $15,000 for as many as 30 schools to implement faculty development programs related to new educational models and practices.

6. Integration of project outcomes into initial redevelopment of accrediting standards (2018)

The project will have created a new baseline about theological educational practice, leading to a substantive redevelopment of the Commission on Accrediting’s Standards of Accreditation.


Stephen Graham
Senior Director of Programs and Services