By Stephen Lieb
Senior Technical Writer and Planner, Arizona Department of Health Services
and part-time Instructor, South Mountain Community College
from VISION, Fall 1991


Adults As Learners

Part of being an effective instructor involves understanding how adults learn best. Compared to children and teens, adults have special needs and requirements as learners. Despite the apparent truth, adult learning is a relatively new area of study. The field of adult learning was pioneered by Malcom Knowles.
He identified the following characteristics of adult learners:

  • Adults are autonomous and self-directed. They need to be free to direct themselves. Their teachers must actively involve adult participants in the learning process and serve as facilitators for them. Specifically, they must get participants’ perspectives about what topics to cover and let them work on projects that reflect their interests. They should allow the participants to assume responsibility for presentations and group leadership. They have to be sure to act as facilitators, guiding participants to their own knowledge rather than supplying them with facts. Finally, they must show participants how the class will help them reach their goals (e.g., via a personal goals sheet).
  • Adults have accumulated a foundation of life experiences and knowledge that may include work-related activities, family responsibilities, and previous education. They need to connect learning to this knowledge/experience base. To help them do so, they should draw out participants’ experience and knowledge which is relevant to the topic. They must relate theories and concepts to the participants and recognize the value of experience in learning.
  • Adults are goal-oriented. Upon enrolling in a course, they usually know what goal they want to attain. They, therefore, appreciate an educational program that is organized and has clearly defined elements. Instructors must show participants how this class will help them attain their goals. This classification of goals and course objectives must be done early in the course.
  • Adults are relevancy-oriented. They must see a reason for learning something. Learning has to be applicable to their work or other responsibilities to be of value to them. Therefore, instructors must identify objectives for adult participants before the course begins. This means, also, that theories and concepts must be related to a setting familiar to participants. This need can be fulfilled by letting participants choose projects that reflect their own interests.
  • Adults are practical, focusing on the aspects of a lesson most useful to them in their work. They may not be interested in knowledge for its own sake. Instructors must tell participants explicitly how the lesson will be useful to them on the job.
  • As do all learners, adults need to be shown respect. Instructors must acknowledge the wealth of experiences that adult participants bring to the classroom. These adults should be treated as equals in experience and knowledge and allowed to voice their opinions freely in class.

Motivating the Adult Learner

Another aspect of adult learning is motivation. At least six factors serve as sources of motivation for adult learning:

  • Social relationships: to make new friends, to meet a need for associations and friendships.
  • External expectations: to comply with instructions from someone else; to fulfill the expectations or recommendations of someone with formal authority.
  • Social welfare: to improve ability to serve mankind, prepare for service to the community, and improve ability to participate in community work.
  • Personal advancement: to achieve higher status in a job, secure professional advancement, and stay abreast of competitors.
  • Escape/Stimulation: to relieve boredom, provide a break in the routine of home or work, and provide a contrast to other exacting details of life.
  • Cognitive interest: to learn for the sake of learning, seek knowledge for its own sake, and to satisfy an inquiring mind.

Barriers and Motivation

Unlike children and teenagers, adults have many responsibilities that they must balance against the demands of learning. Because of these responsibilities, adults have barriers against participating in learning. Some of these barriers include lack of time, money, confidence, or interest, lack of information about opportunities to learn, scheduling problems, “red tape,” and problems with child care and transportation.

Motivation factors can also be a barrier. What motivates adult learners? Typical motivations include a requirement for competence or licensing, an expected (or realized) promotion, job enrichment, a need to maintain old skills or learn new ones, a need to adapt to job changes, or the need to learn in order to comply with company directives.

The best way to motivate adult learners is simply to enhance their reasons for enrolling and decrease the barriers. Instructors must learn why their students are enrolled (the motivators); they have to discover what is keeping them from learning. Then the instructors must plan their motivating strategies. A successful strategy includes showing adult learners the relationship between training and an expected promotion.

Learning Tips for Effective Instructors

Educators must remember that learning occurs within each individual as a continual process throughout life. People learn at different speeds, so it is natural for them to be anxious or nervous when faced with a learning situation. Positive reinforcement by the instructor can enhance learning, as can proper timing of the instruction.

Learning results from stimulation of the senses. In some people, one sense is used more than others to learn or recall information. Instructors should present materials that stimulates as many senses as possible in order to increase their chances of teaching success.

There are four critical elements of learning that must be addressed to ensure that participants learn. These elements are

  1. motivation
  2. reinforcement
  3. retention
  4. transference

Motivation. If the participant does not recognize the need for the information (or has been offended or intimidated), all of the instructor’s effort to assist the participant to learn will be in vain. The instructor must establish rapport with participants and prepare them for learning; this provides motivation. Instructors can motivate students via several means:

  • Set a feeling or tone for the lesson. Instructors should try to establish a friendly, open atmosphere that shows the participants they will help them learn.
  • Set an appropriate level of concern. The level of tension must be adjusted to meet the level of importance of the objective. If the material has a high level of importance, a higher level of tension/stress should be established in the class. However, people learn best under low to moderate stress; if the stress is too high, it becomes a barrier to learning.
  • Set an appropriate level of difficulty. The degree of difficulty should be set high enough to challenge participants but not so high that they become frustrated by information overload. The instruction should predict and reward participation, culminating in success.

In addition, participants need specific knowledge of their learning results (feedback ). Feedback must be specific, not general. Participants must also see a reward for learning. The reward does not necessarily have to be monetary; it can be simply a demonstration of benefits to be realized from learning the material. Finally, the participant must be interested in the subject. Interest is directly related to reward. Adults must see the benefit of learning in order to motivate themselves to learn the subject.

Reinforcement. Reinforcement is a very necessary part of the teaching/learning process; through it, instructors encourage correct modes of behavior and performance.

  • Positive reinforcement is normally used by instructors who are teaching participants new skills. As the name implies, positive reinforcement is “good” and reinforces “good” (or positive) behavior.
  • Negative reinforcement is normally used by instructors teaching a new skill or new information. It is useful in trying to change modes of behavior. The result of negative reinforcement is extinction — that is, the instructor uses negative reinforcement until the “bad” behavior disappears, or it becomes extinct. (To read more about negative reinforcement, you can check out Maricopa Center for Learning & Instruction Negative Reinforcement Univeristy.)

When instructors are trying to change behaviors (old practices), they should apply both positive and negative reinforcement.

Reinforcement should be part of the teaching-learning process to ensure correct behavior. Instructors need to use it on a frequent and regular basis early in the process to help the students retain what they have learned. Then, they should use reinforcement only to maintain consistent, positive behavior.

Retention. Students must retain information from classes in order to benefit from the learning. The instructors’ jobs are not finished until they have assisted the learner in retaining the information. In order for participants to retain the information taught, they must see a meaning or purpose for that information. The must also understand and be able to interpret and apply the information. This understanding includes their ability to assign the correct degree of importance to the material.

The amount of retention will be directly affected by the degree of original learning. Simply stated, if the participants did not learn the material well initially, they will not retain it well either.

Retention by the participants is directly affected by their amount of practice during the learning. Instructors should emphasize retention and application. After the students demonstrate correct (desired) performance, they should be urged to practice to maintain the desired performance. Distributed practice is similar in effect to intermittent reinforcement.

Transference. Transfer of learning is the result of training — it is the ability to use the information taught in the course but in a new setting. As with reinforcement, there are two types of transfer: positive and negative.

  • Positive transference, like positive reinforcement, occurs when the participants uses the behavior taught in the course.
  • Negative transference, again like negative reinforcement, occurs when the participants do not do what they are told not to do. This results in a positive (desired) outcome.

Transference is most likely to occur in the following situations:

  • Association — participants can associate the new information with something that they already know.
  • Similarity — the information is similar to material that participants already know; that is, it revisits a logical framework or pattern.
  • Degree of original learning — participant’s degree of original learning was high.
  • Critical attribute element — the information learned contains elements that are extremely beneficial (critical) on the job.

Although adult learning is relatively new as field of study, it is just as substantial as traditional education and carries and potential for greater success. Of course, the heightened success requires a greater responsibility on the part of the teacher. Additionally, the learners come to the course with precisely defined expectations. Unfortunately, there are barriers to their learning. The best motivators for adult learners are interest and selfish benefit. If they can be shown that the course benefits them pragmatically, they will perform better, and the benefits will be longer lasting.


By Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross
Classroom Assessment Techniques, A Handbook for College Teachers, 2nd Ed.


In the 1990’s, educational reformers are seeking answers to two fundamental questions: (1) How well are students learning? and (2) How effectively are teachers teaching? Classroom Research and Classroom Assessment respond directly to concerns about better learning and more effective teaching. Classroom Research was developed to encourage college teachers to become more systematic and sensitive observers of learning as it takes place every day in their classrooms. Faculty have an exceptional opportunity to use their classrooms as laboratories for the study of learning and through such study to develop a better understanding of the learning process and the impact of their teaching upon it. Classroom Assessment, a major component of Classroom Research, involves student and teachers in the continuous monitoring of students’ learning. It provides faculty with feedback about their effectiveness as teachers, and it gives students a measure of their progress as learners. Most important, because Classroom Assessments are created, administered, and analyzed by teachers themselves on questions of teaching and learning that are important to them, the likelihood that instructors will apply the results of the assessment to their own teaching is greatly enhances.

Through close observation of students in the process of learning, the collection of frequent feedback on students’ learning, and the design of modest classroom experiments, teachers can learn much about how students learn and, more specifically, how students respond to particular teaching approaches. Classroom Assessment helps individual college teachers obtain useful feedback on what, how much, and how well their students are learning. Faculty can then use this information to refocus their teaching to help students make their learning more efficient and more effective.

College instructors who have assumed that their students were learning what they were trying to teach them are regularly faced with disappointing evidence to the contrary when they grade tests and term papers. Too often, students have not learned as much or as well as was expected. There are gaps, sometimes considerable ones, between what was taught and what has been learned. By the time faculty notice these gaps in knowledge or understanding, it is frequently too late to remedy the problems.

To avoid such unhappy surprises, faculty and students need better ways to monitor learning throughout the semester. Specifically, teachers need a continuous flow of accurate information on student learning. For example, if a teacher’s goal is to help students learn points “A” through “Z” during the course, then that teacher needs first to know whether all students are really starting at point “A” and, as the course proceeds, whether they have reached intermediate points “B,” “G,” “L,” “R,” “W,” and so on. To ensure high-quality learning, it is not enough to test students when the syllabus has arrived at points “M” and “Z.” Classroom Assessment is particularly useful for checking how well students are learning at those initial and intermediate points, and for providing information for improvement when learning is less than satisfactory.

Through practice in Classroom Assessment, faculty become better able to understand and promote learning, and increase their ability to help the students themselves become more effective, self-assessing, self-directed learners. Simply put, the central purpose of Classroom Assessment is to empower both teachers and their students to improve the quality of learning in the classroom.

Classroom Assessment is an approach designed to help teachers find out what students are learning in the classroom and how well they are learning it. This approach has the following characteristics:

  • Learner-Centered

Classroom Assessment focuses the primary attention of teachers and students on observing and improving learning, rather than on observing and improving teaching. Classroom Assessment can provide information to guide teachers and students in making adjustments to improve learning.

  • Teacher-Directed

Classroom Assessment respects the autonomy, academic freedom, and professional judgement of college faculty. The individual teacher decides what to assess, how to assess, and how to respond to the information gained through the assessment. Also, the teacher is not obliged to share the result of Classroom Assessment with anyone outside the classroom.

  • Mutually Beneficial

Because it is focused on learning, Classroom Assessment requires the active participation of students. By cooperating in assessment, students reinforce their grasp of the course content and strengthen their own skills at self-assessment. Their motivation is increased when they realize that faculty are interested and invested in their success as learners. Faculty also sharpen their teaching focus by continually asking themselves three questions: “What are the essential skills and knowledge I am trying to Teach?” “How can I find out whether students are learning them?” “How can I help students learn better?” As teachers work closely with students to answer these questions, they improve their teaching skills and gain new insights.

  • Formative

Classroom Assessment’s purpose is to improve the quality of student learning, not to provide evidence for evaluating or grading students. The assessment is almost never graded and are almost always anonymous.

  • Context-Specific

Classroom Assessments have to respond to the particular needs and characteristics of the teachers, students, and disciplines to which they are applied. What works well in one class will not necessary work in another.

  • Ongoing

Classroom Assessment is an ongoing process, best thought of as the creating and maintenance of a classroom “feedback loop.” By using a number of simple Classroom Assessment Techniques that are quick and easy to use, teachers get feedback from students on their learning. Faculty then complete the loop by providing students with feedback on the results of the assessment and suggestions for improving learning. To check on the usefulness of their suggestions, faculty use Classroom Assessment again, continuing the “feedback loop.” As the approach becomes integrated into everyday classroom activities, the communications loop connecting faculty and students — and teaching and learning — becomes more efficient and more effective.

  • Rooted in Good Teaching Practice

Classroom Assessment is an attempt to build on existing good practice by making feedback on students’ learning more systematic, more flexible, and more effective. Teachers already ask questions, react to students’ questions, monitor body language and facial expressions, read homework and tests, and so on. Classroom Assessment provides a way to integrate assessment systematically and seamlessly into the traditional classroom teaching and learning process

As they are teaching, faculty monitor and react to student questions, comments, body language, and facial expressions in an almost automatic fashion. This “automatic” information gathering and impression formation is a subconscious and implicit process. Teachers depend heavily on their impressions of student learning and make important judgments based on them, but they rarely make those informal assessments explicit or check them against the students’ own impressions or ability to perform. In the course of teaching, college faculty assume a great deal about their students’ learning, but most of their assumptions remain untested.

Even when college teachers routinely gather potentially useful information on student learning through questions, quizzes, homework, and exams, it is often collected too late — at least from the students’ perspective – to affect their learning. In practice, it is very difficult to “de-program” students who are used to thinking of anything they have been tested and graded on as being “over and done with.” Consequently, the most effective times to assess and provide feedback are before the chapter tests or the midterm an final examinations. Classroom Assessment aims at providing that early feedback.

Classroom Assessment is based on seven assumptions:

  1. The quality of student learning is directly, although not exclusively, related to the quality of teaching. Therefore, one of the most promising ways to improve learning is to improve teaching.
  2. To improve their effectiveness, teachers need first to make their goals and objectives explicit and then to get specific, comprehensible feedback on the extent to which they are achieving those goals and objectives.
  3. To improve their learning, students need to receive appropriate and focused feedback early and often; they also need to learn how to assess their own learning.
  4. The type of assessment most likely to improve teaching and learning is that conducted by faculty to answer questions they themselves have formulated in response to issues or problems in their own teaching.
  5. Systematic inquiry and intellectual challenge are powerful sources of motivation, growth, and renewal for college teachers, and Classroom Assessment can provide such challenge.
  6. Classroom Assessment does not require specialized training; it can be carried out by dedicated teachers from all disciplines.
  7. By collaborating with colleagues and actively involving students in Classroom Assessment efforts, faculty (and students) enhance learning and personal satisfaction.

To begin Classroom Assessment it is recommended that only one or two of the simplest Classroom Assessment Techniques are tried in only one class. In this way very little planning or preparation time and energy of the teacher and students is risked. In most cases, trying out a simple Classroom Assessment Technique will require only five to ten minutes of class time and less than an hour of time out of class. After trying one or two quick assessments, the decision as to whether this approach is worth further investments of time and energy can be made. This process of starting small involves three steps:

Step 1: Planning

Select one, and only one, of your classes in which to try out the Classroom Assessment. Decide on the class meeting and select a Classroom Assessment Technique. Choose a simple and quick one.

Step 2: Implementing

Make sure the students know what you are doing and that they clearly understand the procedure. Collect the responses and analyze them as soon as possible.

Step 3: Responding

To capitalize on time spent assessing, and to motivate students to become actively involved, “close the feedback loop” by letting them know what you learned from the assessments and what difference that information will make.

Five suggestions for a successful start:

  1. If a Classroom Assessment Techniques does not appeal to your intuition and professional judgement as a teacher, don’t use it.
  2. Don’t make Classroom Assessment into a self-inflicted chore or burden.
  3. Don’t ask your students to use any Classroom Assessment Technique you haven’t previously tried on yourself.
  4. Allow for more time than you think you will need to carry out and respond to the assessment.
  5. Make sure to “close the loop.” Let students know what you learn from their feedback and how you and they can use that information to improve learning


By Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross
Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, 2nd Ed.


Fifty Classroom Assessment Techniques are presented in this book. The book is in the HCC library if you want additional techniques or additional information on the five described below. These techniques are to be used as starting points, ideas to be adapted and improved upon.

Background Knowledge Probe



At the first class meeting, many college teachers ask students for general information on their level of preparation, often requesting that students list courses they have already taken in the relevant field. This technique is designed to collect much more specific, and more useful, feedback on students’ prior learning. Background Knowledge Probes are short, simple questionnaires prepared by instructors for use at the beginning of a course, at the start of a new unit or lesson, or prior to introducing an important new topic. A given Background Knowledge Probe may require students to write short answers, to circle the correct response to multiple-choice questions, or both.

Step-by-Step Procedure:

  1. 1.Before introducing an important new concept, subject, or topic in the course syllabus, consider what the students may already know about it. Recognizing that their knowledge may be partial, fragmentary, simplistic, or even incorrect, try to find at lease one point that most students are likely to know, and use that point to lead into others, less familiar points.
  2. 2.Prepare two or three open-ended questions, a handful of short-answer questions, or ten to twenty multiple-choice questions that will probe the students’ existing knowledge of that concept, subject, or topic. These questions need to be carefully phrased, since a vocabulary that may not be familiar to the students can obscure your assessment of how well they know the facts or concepts.
  3. 3.Write your open-ended questions on the chalkboard, or hand out short questionnaires. Direct student to answer open-ended questions succinctly, in two or three sentences if possible. Make a point of announcing that these Background Knowledge Probes are not tests or quizzes and will not be graded. Encourage students to give thoughtful answers that will help you make effective instructional decisions.
  4. 4.At the next class meeting, or as soon as possible, let students know the results, and tell them how that information will affect what you do as the teacher and how it should affect what they do as learners.

Minute Paper



No other technique has been used more often or by more college teachers than the Minute Paper. This technique — also known as the One-Minute Paper and the Half-Sheet Response — provides a quick and extremely simple way to collect written feedback on student learning. To use the Minute Paper, an instructor stops class two or three minutes early and asks students to respond briefly to some variation on the following two questions: “What was the most important thing you learned during this class?” and “What important question remains unanswered?” Students they write their responses on index cards or half-sheets of scrap paper and hand them in.

Step-by-Step Procedure:

  1. 1.Decide first what you want to focus on and, as a consequence, when to administer the Minute Paper. If you want to focus on students’ understanding of a lecture, the last few minutes of class may be the best time. If your focus is on a prior homework assignment, however, the first few minutes may be more appropriate.
  2. 2.Using the two basic questions from the “Description” above as starting points, write Minute Paper prompts that fit your course and students. Try out your Minute Paper on a colleague or teaching assistant before using it in class.
  3. 3.Plan to set aside five to ten minutes of your next class to use the technique, as well as time later to discuss the results.
  4. 4.Before class, write one or, at the most, two Minute Paper questions on the chalkboard or prepare an overhead transparency.
  5. 5.At a convenient time, hand out index cards or half-sheets of scrap paper.
  6. 6.Unless there is a very good reason to know who wrote what, direct students to leave their names off the papers or cards.
  7. 7.Let the students know how much time they will have (two to five minutes per question is usually enough), what kinds of answers you want (words, phrases, or short sentences), and when they can expect your feedback.

Muddiest Point



The Muddiest Point is just about the simplest technique one can use. It is also remarkable efficient, since it provides a high information return for a very low investment of time and energy. The technique consists of asking students to jot down a quick response to one question: “What was the muddiest point in ……..?” The focus of the Muddiest Point assessment might be a lecture, a discussion, a homework assignment, a play, or a film.

Step-by-Step Procedure:

  1. 1.Determine what you want feedback on: the entire class session or one self-contained segment? A lecture, a discussion, a presentation?
  2. 2.If you are using the technique in class, reserve a few minutes at the end of the class session. Leave enough time to ask the question, to allow students to respond, and to collect their responses by the usual ending time.
  3. 3.Let students know beforehand how much time they will have to respond and what use you will make of their responses.
  4. 4.Pass out slips of paper or index cards for students to write on.
  5. 5.Collect the responses as or before students leave. Stationing yourself at the door and collecting “muddy points” as students file out is one way; leaving a “muddy point” collection box by the exit is another.
  6. 6.Respond to the students’ feedback during the next class meeting or as soon as possible afterward.

One-Sentence Summary



This simple technique challenges students to answer the questions “Who does what to whom, when, where, how, and why?” (represented by the letters WDWWWWHW) about a given topic, and then to synthesize those answers into a simple informative, grammatical, and long summary sentence.

Step-by-Step Procedure:

  1. 1.Select an important topic or work that your students have recently studied in your course and that you expect them to learn to summarize.
  2. 2.Working as quickly as you can, answer the questions “Who Did/Does What to Whom, When, Where, How and Why?” in relation to that topic. Note how long this first step takes you.
  3. 3.Next, turn your answers into a grammatical sentence that follows WDWWWWHS pattern. Not how long this second step takes.
  4. 4.Allow your students up to twice as much time as it took you to carry out the task and give them clear direction on the One-Sentence Summary technique before you announce the topic to be summarized.

What’s the Principle?



After students figure out what type of problem they are dealing with, they often must then decide what principle or principles to apply in order to solve the problem. This technique focuses on this step in problem solving. It provides students with a few problems and asks them to state the principle that best applies to each problem.

Step-by-Step Procedure:

  1. 1.Identify the basic principles that you expect students to learn in your course. Make sure focus only on those that students have been taught.
  2. 2.Find or create sample problems or short examples that illustrate each of these principles. Each example should illustrate only one principle.
  3. 3.Create a What’s the Principle? form that includes a listing of the relevant principles and specific examples or problems for students to match to those principles.
  4. 4.Try out your assessment on a graduate student or colleague to make certain it is not too difficult or too time-consuming to use in class.
  5. 5.After you have make any necessary revisions to the form, apply the assessment.


By Barbara Gross Davis, University of California, Berkeley.
Tools for Teaching, copyright by Jossey-Bass. For purchase or reprint information,
Jossey-Bass. Reprinted here with permission, September 1, 1999.


Many teachers dislike preparing and grading exams, and most students dread taking them. Yet tests are powerful educational tools that serve at least four functions. First, tests help you evaluate students and assess whether they are learning what you are expecting them to learn. Second, well-designed tests serve to motivate and help students structure their academic efforts. Crooks (1988), McKeachie (1986), and Wergin (1988) report that students study in ways that reflect how they think they will be tested. If they expect an exam focused on facts, they will memorize details; if they expect a test that will require problem solving or integrating knowledge, they will work toward understanding and applying information. Third, tests can help you understand how successfully you are presenting the material. Finally, tests can reinforce learning by providing students with indicators of what topics or skills they have not yet mastered and should concentrate on. Despite these benefits, testing is also emotionally charged and anxiety producing. The following suggestions can enhance your ability to design tests that are effective in motivating, measuring, and reinforcing learning.

A note on terminology: instructors often use the terms tests, exams, and even quizzes interchangeably. Test experts Jacobs and Chase (1992), however, make distinctions among them based on the scope of content covered and their weight or importance in calculating the final grade for the course. An examination is the most comprehensive form of testing, typically given at the end of the term (as a final) and one or two times during the semester (as midterms). A test is more limited in scope, focusing on particular aspects of the course material. A course might have three or four tests. A quiz is even more limited and usually is administered in fifteen minutes or less. Though these distinctions are useful, the terms test and exam will be used interchangeably throughout the rest of this section because the principles in planning, constructing, and administering them are similar.

General Strategies

Spend adequate amounts of time developing your tests. As you prepare a test, think carefully about the learning outcomes you wish to measure, the type of items best suited to those outcomes, the range of difficulty of items, the length and time limits for the test, the format and layout of the exam, and your scoring procedures.

Match your tests to the content you are teaching. Ideally, the tests you give will measure students’ achievement of your educational goals for the course. Test items should be based on the content and skills that are most important for your students to learn. To keep track of how well your tests reflect your objectives, you can construct a grid, listing your course objectives along the side of the page and content areas along the top. For each test item, check off the objective and content it covers. (Sources: Ericksen, 1969; Jacobs and Chase, 1992; Svinicki and Woodward, 1982)

Try to make your tests valid, reliable, and balanced. A test is valid if its results are appropriate and useful for making decisions about an aspect of students’ achievement (Gronlund and Linn, 1990). Technically, validity refers to the appropriateness of the interpretation of the results and not to the test itself, though colloquially we speak about a test being valid. Validity is a matter of degree and considered in relation to specific use or interpretation (Gronlund and Linn, 1990). For example, the results of a writing test may have a high degree of validity for indicating the level of a student’s composition skills, a moderate degree of validity for predicting success in later composition courses, and essentially no validity for predicting success in mathematics or physics. Validity can be difficult to determine. A practical approach is to focus on content validity, the extent to which the content of the test represents an adequate sampling of the knowledge and skills taught in the course. If you design the test to cover information in lectures and readings in proportion to their importance in the course, then the interpretations of test scores are likely to have greater validity An exam that consists of only a few difficult items, however, will not yield valid interpretations of what students know.

A test is reliable if it accurately and consistently evaluates a student’s performance. The purest measure of reliability would entail having a group of students take the same test twice and get the same scores (assuming that we could erase their memories of test items from the first administration). This is impractical, of course, but there are technical procedures for determining reliability. In general, ambiguous questions, unclear directions, and vague scoring criteria threaten reliability. Very short tests are also unlikely to be highly reliable. It is also important for a test to be balanced: to cover most of the main ideas and important concepts in proportion to the emphasis they received in class.

If you are interested in learning more about psychometric concepts and the technical properties of tests, here are some books you might review:

Ebel, R. L., and Frisbie, D. A. Essentials of Educational Measurement. (5th ed.) Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1990.

Gronlund, N. E., and Linn, R. Measurement and Evaluation in Teaching. (6th ed.) New York: Macmillan, 1990.

Mehrens, W. A., and Lehmann, I. J. Measurement and Evaluation in Education and Psychology. (4th ed.) New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1991.

Use a variety of testing methods. Research shows that students vary in their preferences for different formats, so using a variety of methods will help students do their best (Jacobs and Chase, 1992). Multiple-choice or shortanswer questions are appropriate for assessing students’ mastery of details and specific knowledge, while essay questions assess comprehension, the ability to integrate and synthesize, and the ability to apply information to new situations. A single test can have several formats. Try to avoid introducing a new format on the final exam: if you have given all multiple-choice quizzes or midterms, don’t ask students to write an all-essay final. (Sources: Jacobs and Chase, 1992; Lowman, 1984; McKeachie, 1986; Svinicki, 1987)

Write questions that test skills other than recall. Research shows that most tests administered by faculty rely too heavily on students’ recall of information (Milton, Pollio, and Eison, 1986). Bloom (1956) argues that it is important for tests to measure higher-learning as well. Fuhrmann and Grasha (1983, p. 170) have adapted Bloom’s taxonomy for test development. Here is a condensation of their list:

To measure knowledge (common terms, facts, principles, procedures), ask these kinds of questions: Define, Describe, Identify, Label, List, Match, Name, Outline, Reproduce, Select, State. Example: “List the steps involved in titration.”

To measure comprehension (understanding of facts and principles, interpretation of material), ask these kinds of questions: Convert, Defend, Distinguish, Estimate, Explain, Extend, Generalize, Give examples, Infer, Predict, Summarize. Example: “Summarize the basic tenets of deconstructionism.”

To measure application (solving problems, applying concepts and principles to new situations), ask these kinds of questions: Demonstrate, Modify, Operate, Prepare, Produce, Relate, Show, Solve, Use. Example: “Calculate the deflection of a beam under uniform loading.”

To measure analysis (recognition of unstated assumptions or logical fallacies, ability to distinguish between facts and inferences), ask these kinds of questions: Diagram, Differentiate, Distinguish, Illustrate, Infer, Point out, Relate, Select, Separate, Subdivide. Example: “In the president’s State of the Union Address, which statements are based on facts and which are based on assumptions?”

To measure synthesis (integrate learning from different areas or solve problems by creative thinking), ask these kinds of questions: Categorize, Combine, Compile, Devise, Design, Explain, Generate, Organize, Plan, Rearrange, Reconstruct, Revise, Tell. Example: “How would you restructure the school day to reflect children’s developmental needs?”

To measure evaluation (judging and assessing), ask these kinds of questions: Appraise, Compare, Conclude, Contrast, Criticize, Describe, Discriminate, Explain, Justify, Interpret, Support. Example: “Why is Bach’s Mass in B Minor acknowledged as a classic?”

Many faculty members have found it difficult to apply this six-level taxonomy, and some educators have simplified and collapsed the taxonomy into three general levels (Crooks, 1988): The first category knowledge (recall or recognition of specific information). The second category combines comprehension and application. The third category is described as “problem solving,” transferring existing knowledge and skills to new situations.

If your course has graduate student instructors (GSIs), involve them in designing exams. At the least, ask your GSIs to read your draft of the exam and comment on it. Better still, involve them in creating the exam. Not only will they have useful suggestions, but their participation in designing an exam will help them grade the exam.

Take precautions to avoid cheating.See “Preventing Academic Dishonesty

Types of Tests

Multiple-choice tests. Multiple-choice items can be used to measure both simple knowledge and complex concepts. Since multiple-choice questions can be answered quickly, you can assess students’ mastery of many topics on an hour exam. In addition, the items can be easily and reliably scored. Good multiple-choice questions are difficult to write-see “Multiple-Choice and Matching Tests” for guidance on how to develop and administer this type of test.

True-false tests. Because random guessing will produce the correct answer half the time, true-false tests are less reliable than other types of exams. However, these items are appropriate for occasional use. Some faculty who use true-false questions add an “explain” column in which students write one or two sentences justifying their response.

Matching tests. The matching format is an effective way to test students’ recognition of the relationships between words and definitions, events and dates, categories and examples, and so on. See “Multiple-Choice and Matching Tests” for suggestions about developing this type of test.

Essay tests. Essay tests enable you to judge students’ abilities to organize, integrate, interpret material, and express themselves in their own words. Research indicates that students study more efficiently for essay-type examinations than for selection (multiple-choice) tests: students preparing for essay tests focus on broad issues, general concepts, and interrelationships rather than on specific details, and this studying results in somewhat better student performance regardless of the type of exam they are given (McKeachie, 1986). Essay tests also give you an opportunity to comment on students’ progress, the quality of their thinking, the depth of their understanding, and the difficulties they may be having. However, because essay tests pose only a few questions, their content validity may be low. In addition, the reliability of essay tests is compromised by subjectivity or inconsistencies in grading. For specific advice, see “Short-Answer and Essay Tests.” (Sources: Ericksen, 1969, McKeachie, 1986)

A variation of an essay test asks students to correct mock answers. One faculty member prepares a test that requires students to correct, expand, or refute mock essays. Two weeks before the exam date, he distributes ten to twelve essay questions, which he discusses with students in class. For the actual exam, he selects four of the questions and prepares well-written but intellectually flawed answers for the students to edit, correct, expand, and refute. The mock essays contain common misunderstandings, correct but incomplete responses, or absurd notions; in some cases the answer has only one or two flaws. He reports that students seem to enjoy this type of test more than traditional examinations.

Short-answer tests. Depending on your objectives, short-answer questions can call for one or two sentences or a long paragraph. Short-answer tests are easier to write, though they take longer to score, than multiple-choice tests.

They also give you some opportunity to see how well students can express their thoughts, though they are not as useful as longer essay responses for this purpose. See “Short-Answer and Essay Tests” for detailed guidelines.

Problem sets. In courses in mathematics and the sciences, your tests can include problem sets. As a rule of thumb, allow students ten minutes to solve a problem you can do in two minutes. See “Homework: Problem Sets” for advice on creating and grading problem sets.

Oral exams. Though common at the graduate level, oral exams are rarely used for undergraduates except in foreign language classes. In other classes they are usually time-consuming, too anxiety provoking for students, and difficult to score unless the instructor tape-records the answers. However, a math professor has experimented with individual thirty-minute oral tests in a small seminar class. Students receive the questions in advance and are allowed to drop one of their choosing. During the oral exam, the professor probes students’ level of understanding of the theory and principles behind the theorems. He reports that about eight students per day can be tested.

Performance tests. Performance tests ask students to demonstrate proficiency in conducting an experiment, executing a series of steps in a reasonable amount of time, following instructions, creating drawings, manipulating materials or equipment, or reacting to real or simulated situations. Performance tests can be administered individually or in groups. They are seldom used in colleges and universities because they are logistically difficult to set up, hard to score, and the content of most courses does not necessarily lend itself to this type of testing. However, performance tests can be useful in classes that require students to demonstrate their skills (for example, health fields, the sciences, education). If you use performance tests, Anderson (1987, p. 43) recommends that you do the following (I have slightly modified her list):

  • Specify the criteria to be used for rating or scoring (for example, the level of accuracy in performing the steps in sequence or completing the task within a specified time limit).
  • State the problem so that students know exactly what they are supposed to do (if possible, conditions of a performance test should mirror a real-life situation).
  • Give students a chance to perform the task more than once or to perform several task samples.

“Create-a-game” exams. For one midterm, ask students to create either a board game, word game, or trivia game that covers the range of information relevant to your course. Students must include the rules, game board, game pieces, and whatever else is needed to play. For example, students in a history of psychology class created “Freud’s Inner Circle,” in which students move tokens such as small cigars and toilet seats around a board each time they answer a question correctly, and “Psychogories,” a card game in which players select and discard cards until they have a full hand of theoretically compatible psychological theories, beliefs, or assumptions. (Source: Berrenberg and Prosser, 1991)

Alternative Testing Modes

Take-home tests. Take-home tests allow students to work at their own pace with access to books and materials. Take-home tests also permit longer and more involved questions, without sacrificing valuable class time for exams. Problem sets, short answers, and essays are the most appropriate kinds of take-home exams. Be wary, though, of designing a take-home exam that is too difficult or an exam that does not include limits on the number of words or time spent (Jedrey, 1984). Also, be sure to give students explicit instructions on what they can and cannot do: for example, are they allowed to talk to other students about their answers? A variation of a take-home test is to give the topics in advance but ask the students to write their answers in class. Some faculty hand out ten or twelve questions the week before an exam and announce that three of those questions will appear on the exam.

Open-book tests. Open-book tests simulate the situations professionals face every day, when they use resources to solve problems, prepare reports, or write memos. Open-book tests tend to be inappropriate in introductory courses in which facts must be learned or skills thoroughly mastered if the student is to progress to more complicated concepts and techniques in advanced courses. On an open-book test, students who are lacking basic knowledge may waste too much of their time consulting their references rather than writing. Open-book tests appear to reduce stress (Boniface, 1985; Liska and Simonson, 1991), but research shows that students do not necessarily perform significantly better on open-book tests (Clift and Imrie, 1981; Crooks, 1988). Further, open-book tests seem to reduce students’ motivation to study. A compromise between open- and closed-book testing is to let students bring an index card or one page of notes to the exam or to distribute appropriate reference material such as equations or formulas as part of the test.

Group exams. Some faculty have successfully experimented with group exams, either in class or as take-home projects. Faculty report that groups outperform individuals and that students respond positively to group exams (Geiger, 1991; Hendrickson, 1990; Keyworth, 1989; Toppins 1989). For example, for a fifty-minute in-class exam, use a multiple-choice test of about twenty to twenty-five items. For the first test, the groups can be randomly divided. Groups of three to five students seem to work best. For subsequent tests, you may want to assign students to groups in ways that minimize differences between group scores and balance talkative and quiet students. Or you might want to group students who are performing at or near the same level (based on students’ performance on individual tests). Some faculty have students complete the test individually before meeting as a group. Others just let the groups discuss the test, item by item. In the first case, if the group score is higher than the individual score of any member, bonus points are added to each individual’s score. In the second case, each student receives the score of the group. Faculty who use group exams offer the following tips:

  • Ask students to discuss each question fully and weigh the merits of each answer rather than simply vote on an answer.
  • If you assign problems, have each student work a problem and then compare results.
  • If you want students to take the exam individually first, consider devoting two class periods to tests; one for individual work and the other for group.
  • Show students the distribution of their scores as individuals and as groups; in most cases group scores will be higher than any single individual score.

A variation of this idea is to have students first work on an exam in groups outside of class. Students then complete the exam individually during class time and receive their own score. Some portion of the test items are derived from the group exam. The rest are new questions. Or let students know in advance you will be asking them to justify a few of their responses; this will keep students from blithely relying on their work group for all the answers. (Sources: Geiger, 1991; Hendrickson, 1990; Keyworth, 1989; Murray, 1990; Toppins, 1989)

Paired testing. For paired exams, pairs of students work on a single essay exam, and the two students turn in one paper. Some students may be reluctant to share a grade, but good students will most likely earn the same grade they would have working alone. Pairs can be self-selected or assigned. For example, pairing a student who is doing well in the course with one not doing well allows for some peer teaching. A variation is to have students work in teams but submit individual answer sheets. (Source: Murray, 1990)

Portfolios. A portfolio is not a specific test but rather a cumulative collection of a student’s work. Students decide what examples to include that characterize their growth and accomplishment over the term. While most common in composition classes, portfolios are beginning to be used in other disciplines to provide a fuller picture of students’ achievements. A student’s portfolio might include sample papers (first drafts and revisions), journal entries, essay exams, and other work representative of the student’s progress. You can assign portfolios a letter grade or a pass/not pass. If you do grade portfolios, you will need to establish clear criteria. (Source: Jacobs and Chase, 1992)

Construction of Effective Exams

Prepare new exams each time you teach a course. Though it is timeconsuming to develop tests, a past exam may not reflect changes in how you have presented the material or which topics you have emphasized in the course. If you do write a new exam, you can make copies of the old exam available to students.

Make up test items throughout the term. Don’t wait until a week or so before the exam. One way to make sure the exam reflects the topics emphasized in the course is to write test questions at the end of each class session and place them on index cards or computer files for later sorting. Software that allows you to create test banks of items and generate exams from the pool is now available.

Ask students to submit test questions. Faculty who use this technique limit the number of items a student can submit and receive credit for. Here is an example (adapted from Buchanan and Rogers, 1990, p. 72):

You can submit up to two questions per exam. Each question must be typed or legibly printed on a separate 5″ x 8″ card. The correct answer and the source (that is, page of the text, date of lecture, and so on) must be provided for each question. Questions can be of the short-answer, multiple-choice, or essay type.

Students receive a few points of additional credit for each question they submit that is judged appropriate. Not all students will take advantage of this opportunity. You can select or adapt student’s test items for the exam. If you have a large lecture class, tell your students that you might not review all items but will draw randomly from the pool until you have enough questions for the exam. (Sources: Buchanan and Rogers, 1990; Fuhrmann and Grasha, 1983)

Cull items from colleagues’ exams. Ask colleagues at other institutions for copies of their exams. Be careful, though, about using items from tests given by colleagues on your own campus. Some of your students may have previously seen those tests.

Consider making your tests cumulative. Cumulative tests require students to review material they have already studied, thus reinforcing what they have learned. Cumulative tests also give students a chance to integrate and synthesize course content. (Sources: Crooks, 1988; Jacobs and Chase, 1992; Svinicki, 1987)

Prepare clear instructions. Test your instructions by asking a colleague (or one of your graduate student instructors) to read them.

Include a few words of advice and encouragement on the exam. For example, give students advice on how much time to spend on each section or offer a hint at the beginning of an essay question or wish students good luck. (Source: “Exams: Alternative Ideas and Approaches,” 1989)

Put some easy items first. Place several questions all your students can answer near the beginning of the exam. Answering easier questions helps students overcome their nervousness and may help them feel confident that they can succeed on the exam. You can also use the first few questions to identify students in serious academic difficulty. (Source: Savitz, 1985)

Challenge your best students. Some instructors like to include at least one very difficult question — though not a trick question or a trivial one — to challenge the interest of the best students. They place that question at or near the end of the exam.

Try out the timing. No purpose is served by creating a test too long for even well-prepared students to finish and review before turning it in. As a rule of thumb, allow about one-half minute per item for true-false tests, one minute per item for multiple-choice tests, two minutes per short-answer requiring a few sentences, ten or fifteen minutes for a limited essay question, and about thirty minutes for a broader essay question. Allow another five or ten minutes for students to review their work, and factor in time to distribute and collect the tests. Another rule of thumb is to allow students about four times as long as it takes you (or a graduate student instructor) to complete the test. (Source: McKeachie, 1986)

Give some thought to the layout of the test. Use margins and line spacing that make the test easy to read. If items are worth different numbers of points, indicate the point value next to each item. Group similar types of items, such as all true-false questions, together. Keep in mind that the amount of space you leave for short-answer questions often signifies to the students the length of the answer expected of them. If students are to write on the exam rather than in a blue book, leave space at the top of each page for the student’s name (and section, if appropriate). If each page is identified, the exams can be separated so that each graduate student instructor can grade the same questions on every test paper, for courses that have GSIs.


Anderson, S. B. “The Role of the Teacher-Made Test in Higher Education.” In D. Bray and M. J. Blecher (eds.), Issues in Student Assessment. New Directions for Community Colleges, no. 59. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1987.

Berrenberg, J. L., and Prosser, A. “The Create-a-Game Exam: A Method to Facilitate Student Interest and Learning.” Teaching of Psychology, 1991, 18(3), 167-169.

Bloom, B. S. (ed.). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Vol. 1: Cognitive Domain. New York: McKay, 1956.

Boniface, D. “Candidates’ Use of Notes and Textbooks During an Open Book Examination.” Educational Research, 1985, 27(3), 201-209.

Brown, I. W. “To Learn Is to Teach Is to Create the Final Exam.” College Teaching, 1991, 39(4), 150-153.

Buchanan, R. W., and Rogers, M. “Innovative Assessment in Large Classes.” College Teaching, 1990, 38(2), 69-73.

Clift, J. C., and Imrie, B. W. Assessing Students, Appraising Teaching. New York: Wiley, 1981.

Crooks, T. J. “The Impact of Classroom Evaluation Practices on Students.” Review of Educational Research, 1988, 58(4), 438-481.

Ericksen, S. C. “The Teacher-Made Test.” Memo to the Faculty, no. 35. Ann Arbor: Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, University of Michigan, 1969.

“Exams: Alternative Ideas and Approaches.” Teaching Professor, 1989, 3(8), 3-4.

Fuhrmann, B. S., and Grasha, A. F. A Practical Handbook for College Teachers. Boston: Little, Brown, 1983.

Geiger, T. “Test Partners: A Formula for Success.” Innovation Abstracts, 1991, 13 (l1). (Newsletter published by College of Education, University of Texas at Austin)

Gronlund, N. E., and Linn, R. Measurement and Evaluation in Teaching. (6th ed.) New York: Macmillan, 1990.

Hendrickson, A. D. “Cooperative Group Test-Taking.” Focus, 1990, 5(2), 6. (Publication of the Office of Educational Development Programs, University of Minnesota)

Jacobs, L. C., and Chase, C. I. Developing and Using Tests Effectively: A Guide for Faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992.

Jedrey, C. M. “Grading and Evaluation.” In M. M. Gullette (ed.), The Art and Craft of Teaching. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984.

Keyworth, D. R. “The Group Exam.” Teaching Professor, 1989, 3(8), 5.

Liska, T., and Simonson, J. “Open-Text and Open-Note Exams.” Teaching Professor, 1991, 5(5), 1-2.

Lowman, J. Mastering the Techniques of Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1984.

McKeachie, W. J. Teaching Tips. (8th ed.) Lexington, Mass.: Heath, 1986.

Milton, O., Pollio, H. R., and Eison, J. A. Making Sense of College Grades: Why the Grading System Does Not Work and What Can Be Done About It. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1986.

Murray, J. P. “Better Testing for Better Learning.” College Teaching, 1990, 38(4), 148-152.

Savitz, F. “Effects of Easy Examination Questions Placed at the Beginning of Science Multiple-Choice Examinations.” Journal of Instructional Psychology, 1985, 12(l), 6-10.

Svinicki, M. D. “Comprehensive Finals.” Newsletter, 1987, 9(2), 1-2. (Publication of the Center for Teaching Effectiveness, University of Texas at Austin)

Svinicki, M. D., and Woodward, P. J. “Writing Higher-Level Objective Test Items.” In K. G. Lewis (ed.), Taming the Pedagogical Monster. Austin: Center for Teaching Effectiveness, University of Texas, 1982.

Toppins, A. D. “Teaching by Testing: A Group Consensus Approach.” College Teaching, 1989, 37(3), 96-99.

Wergin, J. F. “Basic Issues and Principles in Classroom Assessment.” In J. H. McMillan (ed.), Assessing Students’ Learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 34. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1988.


Developed by the Honolulu Community College
Faculty Development Committee
January 2001

THESE QUESTIONS are OPEN ENDED – – you don’t have to answer every one, but if something comes to mind, fill in a response. There is no need to write your name on this survey.

I think it would help me if we did MORE:

The thing I like doing best/is most helpful is:

If there is one thing I could change about this course, it would be:

If there is one thing I would want the instructor to know it would be:

In this class I thought we were going to:

One thing I hope we have time to cover is:

In the last half, the thing I’d like MOST to concentrate on is:

In the last half, the thing I’d like LEAST to concentrate on is:








Br Ramón Benseny fms


“The model we have inherited is not the whole model”

Not long ago, reading a report from UNESCO called “Education: a hidden treasure” (Ed. Odile Jacob, 1996) I was struck by the words of M. Jacques Delors, then President of the European Commission, who defined our modern culture as “a culture lacking in soul”.

The man of today goes through many experiences. In the First World, he is eaten up by consumerism, by “progress”, and so on. In the Third and Fourth Worlds, it is by striving to better himself, by anxiety, by the need to survive. And in the midst of all this, among the youth of today, the adults of tomorrow, there is a growing indifference to fundamental verities.We find this even in not a few of our Catholic educational establishments, in which the mission of the school is not fully supported by the underlying culture.

The social framework in which many of our educational projects are carried out is a new one, which is taking over rapidly – an ambience which is multiethnic, multicultural, secularized, and multi-religious. It is my opinion that we must rethink the various “presences” in the light of the will to resolve the needs of the young people of today, immersed as they are in social realities that are for the most part highly conflicting both for their personal balance and their social balance.


When we look at the cultural situations and the challenges they bring, together with new possibilities for evangelical and charismatic witness, we have to have the AUDACITY not only to analyse the new realities and to take an “evangelical consciousness” of them, but also and primarily to PROCLAIM with creative fidelity new presences, new values and projects, new institutional language. Fidelity to our charisma demands of us both at personal and institutional levels, that we live “prepared for and attentive to” the social and cultural tendencies that have so much influence on the formation, awareness, values, and development of the personality of the young. We must be aware of all this preparedness and attention in order to re-interpret and re-situate our educational establishments. They exist for the young people, not for us.

Many times, torn between the desire for the almost impossible and the confident yearning for the possible, I have asked myself: “Is it possible nowadays in our educational establishments, to give “new responses” to “new challenges”, without putting at risk the system in which we live, a system which is largely the fruit of “old responses” to “old challenges?”

The confidence our Founders had in the evangelical vitality of the RELIGIOUS LIFE and in their deeply evangelical “intuition”, is something that pulls us strongly to a “creative refounding” of our life, our works, our institutions. Personally I have a strong belief in the impelling force of the charisma, in its unrenounceable place in the deepest heart of the mission, but so often swamped in a multitude of structures which accommodate themselves to the times.

A “re-founding” will be “prophetic and creative” if it is concerned to be RECOGNIZED in a NEW WAY OF LOOKING AT INSTITUTIONAL LIFE, and in PRESENCES which, coming to life like a tree, including starting from lowly beginnings, are capable of hearing the new cries of the people and of coming to life in the new needs. This is what we mean when we talk so forcefully about “displacement”, “exodus”, “frontier”.


With your permission I will present a simple scheme for an “itinerary of displacement”, to be understood in more than a geographical sense. I will be commenting on this throughout my intervention.

It is clear that every model of formation or of education implies an ideology or a mentality (standard or point of reference) which gives a concrete image of the educator, the work, and those who are educated. Faced with this and with the scheme which follows, certain questions arise, for example:

  • What should our formative/educational presence be for the man of today, starting with a creative faithfulness to our charism?
  • Is there not an urgent need to “rethink” our heritage, or to “re-situate” our patrimony?
  • How close are we to the young people who, in many situations, both geographical and social, are placing themselves on the edges of the Church, or are in situations of risk?
  • Is the culture, the “pedagogical/ administrative” functioning, of our schools, clearly open to the Gospel, to the dignity of the person…, or is it a culture aimed at power and competence?
  • What are the social groups or the forces to whose service we have put our schools?
  • What kind of men and women do we want to form, and what kind of society, what kind of men, what kind of women, are we actually forming?


Our charism is not an unchangeable myth. I see it as the strong light of a lighthouse, which, although it has one fixed centre, also has moveable reflectors which spread light and signals, “changing the dimensions of the horizon”, and the further they cast their light, the better they carry out their function.


(It must be noted that these points are not mutually exclusive, but run into one another quite often.)

The following schema will explain what I am doing:

A:               Stereotype starting point – “traditional/functional”



B:   Reinterpretation (“displacement” and its various levels.)



1.         Everything centred on the work: improve and develop it. Build it up. Personal efficiency. Order, success, studies, prestige. Preserve and maintain the traditions of “the class”, of “competitiveness”.

Follow the concerns and interests of the people, above all in our neoliberal society, so as to ensure that our “clients” are satisfied. A certain apostolic concern, mainly in the form of “religious acts” which do not threaten the system.

2.         Everything centred on the work:

Constructions, improvements, educational innovations.

Modernization. New resources and courses etc. offered.

Success, studies, efficiency.

A School which is “well organized”, “successful”.

Educational project for the “successful”.

Teachers chosen for the “prestige” of their courses.


I.  Community awareness: an educating community.

Participation of parents and other lay people.: co-responsibility. Animation in the values of the Educational Project. Witness of the teaching staff, their energies not swamped by the structure, nor dissipated in a merely professional activism.

Creativity, innovation, dynamism – desire to improve and to grow..

Importance of programming and of educative accompanying. The mission shared with lay people: integrating them, forming, promoting, accompanying, sharing our Christian life and our spirituality.

Social and Christian awareness: to form the pupil as a person and as a son of God. the “subject” of his own development;

As part of the great majority, the poor: an itinerary of “exodus”, from the centre out to the margins.

Formation for change as a commitment of our faith and our charism.

Confrontation with human and social “anti-values”.

Education for justice, peace, and solidarity.

Inculturation into the culture of the people.

Committed faith: development of “criticism” of the faith.

Putting technical skills, images, etc in their proper place. Evaluation and revision of the educative project as a function of service of the most needy section of society, increasing our presence and our educative projects by “getting down” to the level of the poor and being a “re-founding nucleus” in our educational establishments.

3.         Awareness of spreading the Good News.


Individually and collectively evangelical: to be witnesses more than masters.

A community educational in its mission.

Setting proper values in education in the faith, and getting it across at a personal level.

Commitment to the young and their families.

Ecclesial awareness: educational establishments more immersed in the “People of God”, sharing in an ecclesial way our projects with the poor and the ordinary people.

Attention to the signs of the times: young people, culture, society, Church.

A journey in faith shared with the educating community. Determining the educational priorities by their evangelical function, seeing ourselves as pushed on by what the world and society ignores or pretends to forget: so many forms of degradation of the person, particularly of children, women and young people.




The challenges which we must face up to in our fidelity to “re-founding” do not come from our “works” so much as from PERSONS. They are the challenges which implicate the present and the future of the children and the adolescents. In order to “re-found”, we must be prepared to listen, to question, to investigate, to pray…. and to look at our world through the eyes of the young, in their lives, their cries and their silences, more concerned about what they are “telling us” than about what we “should tell them”.

If we want to “found anew” we have to choose not to remain quiet in the face of the reality of the social and cultural inequality which characterizes all societies, and which wounds us even more when we see it as a whole and face it with our own charisma.

All of this makes up a call to “re-interpret”, to “relocate”, to “transform” our educational establishments:

  • by starting new projects in the primacy of the charism on structure;
  • by uniting ourselves in universal solidarity;
  • by educating for justice, peace, solidarity
  • by going from equality of opportunity to a “positive discrimination” in favour of the more disadvantaged.
  • by spreading the Gospel through education;
  • by going from a purely academic education to a society which educates in the full sense of the term;
  • by going from individualism to a community existence, which implies both critical attitudes and readiness to take part in things.


I believe that in the light of the present reality which is crying for help, both from our charism and for our places of mission, we have to make a “re-founding analysis” of what is needed in the educational and pastoral fields. We have to face up to a common deposit of values which are the foundation of our new educational establishments and projects, and, of course, its place in practice as regards the dignity of the person, solidarity, the feeling of transcendence….to quote just a few of those things most menaced by the “culture without a soul”.

In the aspect of those “values for a new foundation” which are crying

out most of all, not so much in their scientific content, but so that from our schools there come forth more than those who are technically and professionally competent, but people who are capable and free to integrate themselves in society, I believe that we must engage ourselves in CHANGING OUR PRESENCE, OUR EDUCATIONAL STRUCTURES AND VALUES, in order to arrive at a more evangelical way, nearer to the young people and to the children who are truly vulnerable and who are marginalized by so many circumstances – family, social, religious, cultural, economical, etc.

This “educational re-founding” of our establishments, born of fidelity to our charism in the HERE AND NOW, brings us to “risk” some, or a lot of, our “old ideas and arrangements”, because this new birth brings us where few go, immersed as they are in the culture of success, of prestige and competitiveness, to the “frontier” of the child and the youth in a condition of inequality.

Our charism, “incarnate” in our education and our educational mission, matured in the “tension” of creative fidelity, is a call to LIVE PROPHETICALLY in the world of today; particularly in the world of the “little ones” who find themselves so often “outside” society…. to be a light which will free them and guide them to the LIGHT, the Lord Jesus.

I ask that you will all understand what I am saying, but meantime, I cannot resist quoting a few short paragraphs from a Circular Letter to the Marist Institute written by Rev. Br Basilio Rueda during his term as Superior General:

These ideas, inspiringly prophetic, and read in the perspective of what we are studying, I call “seeds of re-founding”:

“I believe that we should avoid at all cost a type of pedagogy which produces a bourgeois formation, that is, individualistic, lacking in solidarity, egoistic, conformist. Closely allied to this is a mentality which animates many young people, and which consists of studying in order to pass their exams with high success, to obtain a career, and if possible, to assure their personal and family future. Basically, in itself this is not immoral, but is not enough to reach the fulfilment of the ideals of the Christian life. We must go beyond certain educational structures which de facto lead to a pedagogy which helps to foment those bourgeois attitudes which lead progressively to a lack of solidarity….” (Circ. XXIV pp 264-265, – 02.01.1968))

Many thanks to all for your kind attention.  


Courtesy of Vidimus Dominum – The Portal for Religious Life

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Millennial Generation Psychology

With a special Reference to Priestly/Religious Formation in India

Fr. Wilson, OFM (Cap)


“Children are indeed a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.”            Ps 127: 3

The 20′h century had four generations, namely, Veteran Generation, (also called Mature or Silent Generation — born between 1925 and 1945), Baby Boomers Generation (born between 1946 and 1964), Generation X-ers (born between 1965 and 1979) and Millennial Generation (also called Generation Y-ers, Trophy Kids, Generation Next, Net Generation, Echo Boomers or iGeneration — born between 1980 and 2000).[1]

We are marching along the new historical epoch, the New Millennium. All the formees who are currently going through priestly/ religious formation are Millennial Generation Children. Millennials are the new generation of people born after 1980. This generation is redefining our society in this century and will bring about religious,social, political and cultural changes in the future. This is a revolution in waiting. How the Millennial priests and religious will reshape our Indian churching and the society will depend largely on how well they are understood and redirected.

One of the most critical points to understand in regard to those belonging to Millennial Generation is that they are quite different from the people of previous generations. The candidates that are currently seeking admission in seminaries and religious formation houses come with myriad assets and liabilities. They have grown up with movies, personal computers, Internet, cell-phones, cable TV, music, videos, iPods, video games, pets and bikes. This has created actual physical changes in the way their brains work.[2] Some studies have focused on Millennials in several different countries and come up with striking parallels. It is pretty amazing to see that the MillennialGeneration at various continents seem to exhibit similar kind of behavioural patterns. The influence of the media and the unique media culture could be responsible for this.[3]

Now we come to realize that formation is a rich and complex process. Yet the nature of this generation remains greatly misunderstood. Being the children of the media revolution, these youngsters have developed their unique perceptions, behavioural patterns and problems. because of this, the formators now find themselves struggling to understand and guide them. as priests and religious responding to the time, the formators like to engage themselves in offering formation appropriate to the needs of the people of Milliennial Generation. This article will cover multiple topics necessary for an integrated formation programme.

As we discuss the culture of this generation, we have to be aware that every individual is different. Thus, if we assert that Millennial Generation people are avid learners, it does not mean that every millennial is an avid learner. We all know individuals who are Millennial Generationers and who are not at all interested in pursuing additional learning opportunities. Likewise, if we say that Millennials are more likely to be knowledgeable than gen X-ers, it does not mean that all Millennials are more educated or that all gen X-ers are illiterate. It simply means that certain behaviours are more typical of each group than of others.

Dealing with this unique generation can be difficult – given their habits, behavioural patterns, interests and deep grounding in technology as a way of life. Fortunately, there is a handful of tips that might help formators understand and manage the Millennials. “I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4). This article is designed for the facilitators of priestly/religious initial formation. This is not a comprehensive manual on wholistic formation but deals with only those areas that are specific to the Millennials.

Characteristics Identified for Millennial Generation[4]

They are:

Highly Intelligent: Compared to the previous generations, Millennials have higher level I.Q (Intelligence Quotient). They are more informed, more knowledgeable and have greater access to knowledge.

Sheltered: The Millennials were more protected as children than the previous generations. Their parents pampered them and spared them from unpleasant experiences. As formees, they may expect the formators to affirm, protect, respect and nurture them.

Lower E.Q. (Emotional Quotient): E.Q. relates to qualities like understanding one’s own feelings, empathy for the feelings of others and the regulation of emotion in a way that enhances life and ministry. Emotional Maturity is shaped by parental bonding and guidance. Parental bonding combined with optimal difficulties enhances the emotional maturity of a person. MiHennials today are significantly less empathic than previous generations. Working parents, over pampering, declining responsibilities for children have been detrimental to emotional maturity of the Millennials.

The Media as Virtual Parents:An Indian youth spends around three hours a day interacting with the media like TV, movies, cell-phones, iPods, Internet, video games and so forth. Even though the parents bring up these children, they are under the sway of the media. The avid social networking is but one manifestation of the tremendous influence of technology on the Millennials. Always connected to cell phones, iPods, laptops or video game players, this generation has mastered multitasking skills better than any other. At the same time it has impaired young people’s writing/ reading abilities and interpersonal communication skills. However, the digital generation’s tendency to do multiple things at the same time may be resulting in shorter attention spans.

More Visual and Less Auditory: Unlike the previousgenerations, the Millennials are so much exposed to the media that this has changed their learning modality from auditory to visual. This makes them less attentive to advice, feedback and suggestions in formation. This does not mean that they are highly resistant to advice. This only shows that they are less tuned to auditory cues. Since they are visual, a good example from the formator is a great motivating factor. They need strong role models whom they can trust. They do

listen to the advice when the formator walks the talk and is a good role model.

Warped Attitude Towards Vows, Celibacy and Sex: The bombardment with commercials that use sex, individualism and consumerism has warped their understanding of vows, celibacy andsex. Some Millennials engage in such unhealthy activities as binge drinking, abuse of both illegal and sexual promiscuity. In formation, even though they might understand these evangelical counsels intellectually, they do have strong subliminal understanding of this due to the media brainwashing.

Edu-tainment: This generation likes learning to be entertaining and fun and become quickly bored in a learning environment that is not highly active and interactive. they grow up with innumerable TV channels. they are exposed to music, art, games and other creative activities. it is a generation of learning through watching and interacting. so written information doesn’t works well with this group.

Egalitarian: They often prefer to work in teams or groups. They definitely do not prefer hierarchy. Sometimes the lack of authoritarianhierarchy in their groups creates ambiguity when it comes to having a point of contact for information. They might resent any kind of authority figure in formation.

Open and Eager: Millennialsare very open and eager. They are responsive and quite smart.

Confident: They are motivated, goal-oriented and confident in themselves and the future. They expect theformators to help launch them to greatness. They may brag about their generation’s power and potential. They have high levels of optimism. They are assertive and believe they are right.

Team-Oriented: In certain aspects they are group oriented. Yet there are areas where they are individualistic in nature. They may sacrifice their own identity to be part of the team. They prefer egalitarian leadership, not hierarchies. They are forming a tight-knit generation. Their group-orientation sometimes leads to group loyalty. This is a great. challenge to the formators these days.

Pressured to Succeed: Millennials are living in a society where there is increasing competitive spirit. Present parents have constant war with their children, trying to push them to study harder, get higher marks on tests and concentrate on their studies more. Therefore, the youngsters feel pressured to succeed. They have been pushed hard to achieve, to avoid risks and to take advantage of opportunities. Made to focus on performance and success, they may miss the bigger picture of what priesthood or religious life is all about. For many of them, focus is more on the world of achievement rather than personal development, spiritual growth, humanities and arts.

Privacy: Traditionally, Indian families were highly enmeshed (close knit). This pattern is giving way to disengagement where privacy is the key among the family members. having a girl or a boy friend is still not the family norm. yet the media impels the youth to have such friends. youngsters cope with this disparity by maintaining a private life. many of them continue this pattern and private life even in the formation house.

Stressed: The Millennials do suffer from serious psychological problems and psychosomatic illnesses. High level competition and pressure to succeed and work demands are some of the reasons for this.

Socially Conscious: There has been a resurgence of interest in politics and social issues. This is a generation of activists. Young people believe that they can make a difference. They love to get involved in social activities and fight for justice. They show special interest in awareness programmes.

Hero Worship: Indian youngsters seem to have greater admiration for their heroes, sports stars and pop culture celebrities. The fan clubs have become their place of worship. This energy, if properly channelized, can be directed towards creating life ideals that can propel them toward their goals.

Multi-taskers: This generation can easily manage to listen to music, work on the computer and watch television and do studies at the same time. They need a lot of stimulation in their learning environments. They think multi-tasking saves time and is a smart thing to do, but aren’t usually aware of the poorer quality of results.

Poor Conflict Resolution Skill: Coming from smaller nuclear families they may have poor conflict resolution skills.

Forming the Millennial Generation

Being a formator these days is like walking on a tightrope, as you balance love and concern on one side and discipline on the other. Your success or failure at achieving the balance determines your formation style. A good formator is the one, who is responsive to her/his formees’ needs, but at the same time, becomes a role model to them. Since I could not find any book of the formation of the Millennial Generation, the following segment is based on my personal experience and reflections as a formator and animator.

Some Principles about Forming the Millennials

Be Visual: This group is more visual and less auditory. Visual learners predominate the general population (55%). but among Millennial Generation visual learning is even more strongly preferred than in other age groups. they crave for role models. formation is extremely effective if you (formator) become a strong role (visual) model. “He said to them, ‘Coime and see’. they came and saw where he was staying and they remained with him that day.” (John 1: 39)

Understand Yourself: How important a role do you, as a formator, play in your formee’s life? When it comes to dealing with the world of emotions, your formees take their cues from you. How does your personality affect them? Do you bottle up your anger or do you hit out at the first available target? Do you treat upsets as, a time to draw closer to people? All these will influence the emotional dealing of the formees. It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles” (Mt 15:10-11)

Engage Them Intentionally: Learn all you can about their culture and make time to talk. Great conversations sometimes can be planned, but often the casual moments and chats yield the deepestlevel of heart-to-heart talks. Look for those moments. “Train children in the right way and when old, they will not stray:’ (Proverbs 22:6)

Listen: Avoid condemnation or correcting and listen to them. As a rule, allow them to do the talking first. Millennials are looking at the expression in your eyes and listening to the tone of your voice to see if your words and your heart match up. If you say you want to listen but your voice has the taint of condemnation, the door will be shut. Don’t jump in with your absolutely essential, incredibly wise advice, even if you’re right! Clarify what has been said: You may want to ask clarifying questions such as:”How did you feel when that happened?”or “What happened next?” or “How does this make you fell?” or “This is what I hear you saying. Is that right?” Pursue your formee gently. “We were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children:’ (1 Thes 2:7)

Understand and do not Identify: From the moment you wake up to the time you fall asleep, almost all your activities are related to your formees. Join the formees in various activities like prayer, meals, play, work and so on. Understand them in all that they do. Never identify with them. Identification leads to condoning the wrong deeds they do. “As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children” (1 Thes 2:11).

Correct Sparingly; Affirm Lavishly: Our formees are no different from us. We all need large helpings of love and affirmation all day every day. We live for it. We long for more. The only difference is that some formees are going through that phase of individuating, developing their own, separate identity apart from their parents. Some of them do this gracefully; most do it painfully: Even when they are obstinate, they need our kindness. A better approach is to ask them, “How can I help you? I really care about you.” That will do wonders for your formees and for your relationship. Every step of the way, affirm efforts as well as progress. “and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased:” (Lk 3:22)

Develop Opportunities for Experiential Learning: Small group discussions, projects, in-class presentations and debates, peer critiques, team projects, service learning, field experiences, developing simulations and case method approaches have been found to be successful for the MillennialGeneration formees. “How from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15)

Provide Lots of Feedback; Not Judgmental Criticism: Providing frequent feedback is essential for the formees. This allows them to know when they are headed in the right direction and when they are getting off-track. Frequent attention from the formators is welcome. However, avoid carpingby all means. “… do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph 6:4)

Use Technology: This is a generation that uses technology for everything. Incorporate audio visuals into their leaning. Using computers as an instructional technique can be very effective. Incorporate many of the strategies that Millennial Generationers have already developed for learning like multi-media, interactive learning experience and so forth. “Those who spare the rod (Shepherd’s Staff[5]) hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them” (Prov. 13:24).

Make Learning Fun: Millennial Generation want to enjoy their learning. If it is not fun, it will be cast into the category of boring and may become less effective. They learn best when they are entertained. Their attention span declines after 15-20 minutes. (You have your formee’s brain for only 20 minutes at a time.) Break up the class time into 20-30 minute segments with some kind of activities (jokes, action songs, and little activities). ” A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22).

Be Relevant: Millennial Generation will demand relevance in what they are learning. This will also want to skip steps in learning if there are areas of the information that have already mastered and will avoid repetition and rote practice once they feel they have mastered the information. “And in the morning, ‘It will be-stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” (Mt 16:3)

Utilize Their Talents: This is a generation that likes to be useful and helpful. If you have formees who know more about a topic than you do, let them talk about what they know. If they finish an assignment early, let them help other formees. “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” (Mt 25:29).

Allow For Creativity and Be Creative: This is a generation that thinks in many dimensions at once. Provide opportunities for them to be creative in how they approach and fulfil requirements. Music, art, fun and games are good teaching tools. Structure a learning environment that demands respect and positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement from teachers and peers improves learning and increases motivation. “Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!” (Ps 150:4)

Recognize the Need for Social Interaction: This is a key for Millennial Generation learners, so learning strategies that incorporate social interaction work well. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Mt 18:20).

Have personal check in Sessions: Engage your formee in conversation often, and that allows you to learn something about what’s important to him and what is going on in his life. “Discipline your children, and they will give you rest; they will give delight to your heart:’ (Proverbs 29:17).

Shepherd them into fulness: In spiritual guidance, talk to your formees not just about their spirituality, but also about everything that is going on in their lives. Formees are sometimes apprehensive when it comes to discussing some concerns with their formators, but this generally happens because formators come across as too curious or too judgmental. Instead, discuss their day as a friend would — without offering unsolicited advice all the time. Advice is not always welcome and if your formees find you giving them advice every time they come to you, they will soon stop confiding in you. often formees require nothing more than a listening ear and if you can provide an ear to your formees, your rapport will be that much stronger. “Fathers, make known to children your faithfulness.” (Isaiah 38: 19).

Relationship-building: Separate disciplinary discussions from relationship-building discussions. “Those who spare the rod (Shepherd’s Staff’) hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them.” (Proverbs 13:24).

Self-expression: Allow and encourage discussion of your formees’ feelings about rules and standards and allow for disagreement. You have the final word, but understanding your formees’ point of view and giving them the chance to verbalize it will increase their thinking capacities as well as encourage the successful handling of negative emotions. Set up clear consequences (punishments) for breaking of rules, however, make sure that the consequences begin lightly and increase only as same behaviours are repeated. “Discipline your children while there is hope; do not set your heart on their destruction.” (Proverbs 19:18).

Formation Style

There is a strong correlation between various formation styles and the formee’s performance in various domains such as academic performance, problem behaviour and social skills. Remember that several factors affect how a formee will grow up.

Autocratic Formator: In this approach the formator exerts high levels of power over the formees. The formation team and formees are given few opportunities for making suggestions, even if these would be for the good of formation. Many people resent being treated like this. Because of this, the autocratic formator often causes a high level animosity and precipitates subversive forces in formation.

Authoritarian Formator: Formator in this category plays the part of the dictator. Orders and rules are meant to be followed without any explanation. Punishment is meant to act as a deterrent for deviant behaviour. This formator is highly intrusive and keep an eye on each aspect of their formees lives. Formees with authoritarian formator perform reasonably well and stay out of problem behaviour. However, they are more likely to have lower self-esteem, poor social skills and higher levels of depression. Over time, the subversive elements might crop up.

Nurturing Formator: A lot of nurturing is essential in the initial formation. But pampering can harm the formation. Formator in this category love to indulge the formees. At the same time, they do not demand responsible behaviour. They avoid any sort of confrontation with their formees. Formees with nurturing formator tend to have high self-esteem and good social skills but are more prone to problem behaviour and poor performance in formation. Accepting responsibility is difficult for many of them.

Laissez faire Formator: Formator in this category is uninvolved in the Formees’ lives, which may stem from a belief that Formees should be allowed to do what they want with minimum formation interference. This formator does not have quality time for the Formees, which in rare instances, can border on sheer neglect. Formees with laissez faire formator grow very little and perform poorly at formation.

Motivating Formator: Formator in this category motivates others without being authoritarian or too dictatorial. Motivator sets clear standards for the behaviour to be expected from the Formees. Rules are explained and discussed with Formees. This formator uses firm discipline but avoids harsh punishment. Formees are taught to be assertive and socially responsible. Formees with motivating formator are less likely to indulge in subversive activities. On an average, they are highly motivated and perform well in every area. Their social skills are high and they have high self-esteem.

Transformational Formator: A person with this style is a true formator who inspires the team with a shared vision fo the future. Transformational Formator is higly visible and spends a lot of time Communicating. this formator does not necessarily lead form the front. Responsibilites are delegated among the team members. The Transformational Formator ensures that routine work is done reliably and at the same time look after initiatives that add new value.

Jesus’ formation style was a healthy combination of many of these styles and yet he was predominantly a Transformational Formator. A part of successful formation is adapting your style to address the qualities and needs of the formees – a component of the highly-effective transformational formation. Millennials respond pretty positively to Transformational Formation. Thus, a formation, where the formator combines these styles in a healthy way and yet is governed by the Transformational style might be the healthiest formation approach.

Attend to the Emotional Struggles of the Formees

How Do You React to Your Formees’ Anxiety, Anger, Moodiness and Sexuality?

Although intelligence is important to success in life, emotional maturity is key to relating well to others and achieving the formation goals. Training the formees in handling emotions in a healthy way is a key to good formation. Let’s examine the various approaches to handling emotions.

The Dismissing Formator: “Just get over it”. When a formee experiences a negative emotion, the solution for an emotion-dismissing formator seems simple: the formee should simply decide to have a more positive emotion. They will do anything to move the formee out of the negative emotional state. Such a formator is not insensitive to the formee’s emotions. For this formator, dismissing the emotion, minimizing it by saying “It’s not that bad” or distracting the formee with something new, may seem like the best option. In trying to help the formee, in dismissing the formee’s emotional experiences, these efforts may also dismiss or diminish the formee.

Anger, frustration, anxiety, whining are all healthy and natural, not problems to be fixed or avoided. More important, they are opportunities to build trust and share experiences with formees. Sharing the experience helps the formee to label the feeling, it helps solve the problem that is creating the feeling. With formator valuing, sharing and treating the anxiety as important, the formee learns to deal with it and set limits.

The Disapproving Formator: “You shouldn’t feel that way.” Consider this: your formee is going through emotional problems. You hope it will pass by very soon. Now your formee gets punished for having those emotions. For a disapproving formator, negative emotions are unacceptable. Instead of trying to understand their formees’ emotions, they discipline or punish them. Emotions help us react to situations and help shape our choices. Emotions cannot be just turned off. In fact, trying to make formees turn them off emotions can have harmful consequences. One big consequence is that formees will learn not to come to you when they are feeling negative emotions. Instead, formees will have these feelings alone and feel wrong or unacceptable for feeling the way they do.

The Empathizing Formator: Coach and guide. For some, this style comes naturally. For others, it means a few changes, starting with a personal attitude about emotions and how to deal with them. The difficult part in empathising is that it involves teaching formees what emotions are and how emotions work, often in the midst of an emotionally charged event. When emotions are running high, a formator needs to be able to help the formee deal with it before they become bigger problems.

Emotions Work with the Formees

ü  Value your formee’s feelings, because formees need to learn how to handle their emotions as well. Be aware of the formee’s emotions. It becomes easier with practice.

ü  Recognize emotional times as “magic moments” and as opportunities for learning and growing.

ü  Listen empathetically and validate the formee’s feelings without condoning their actions.

ü  Avoid agreeing with the “enemy” when a formee feels mistreated.

ü  Help the formee verbally label or name the emotions.

ü  Set limits while helping the formee problem-solve.

When properly guided, the Millennial Formees will develop the following characteristics of healthy priests and religious.

  1. 1.Prayer and Spirituality
  2. 2.Self-awareness
  3. 3.A natural tendency to connect with God and others
  4. 4.An ability to face and transform suffering into blessing
  5. 5.An ability to integrate various aspects of life
  6. 6.A desire and capacity to reach out to others in service
  7. 7.The ability to be inspired by a vision
  8. 8.An ability to read the signs of the times


  1. 1.Allen & Unwin, The World According to Y: Inside the New Adult Generation, Rebecca Huntley, 2006.
  2. 2.David Allan Verhaagen, Parenting the Millennial Generation: Guiding Our Children Born Between 1982, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005.
  3. 3.Neil Howe, William Strauss, Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, 2000.
  4. 4.Neil Howe, William Strauss, Millennials Go to College: Strategies for a New Generation on Campus, 2003.
  5. 5.Neil Howe, William Strauss, Millennials and the Pop Culture: Strategies for a New Generation of Consumers, 2006.
  6. 6.Neil Howe, William Strauss, Millennials Go to College: 2nd Edition, 2007.
  7. 7.Ron Alsop, The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation is Shaking Up the Workplace, John Wiley and Sons, 2008.




[1] Ron Alsop, The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation is Shaking Up the Workplace,( John Wiley and Sons, 2008.) P 4.

[2] David Allan Verhaagen, Parenting the Millennial Generation: Guiding Our Children Born Between 1982 and 2000 (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005.) P2.

[3] Ron Alsop, P4.

[4] This segment is mainly based on the books The Trophy Kids Grow Up & Parenting the Millennial Generation.

[5] Staff is a tool that the Shepherd uses to guide the sheep.

Integrity: Psychological, Moral and Spiritual

Rhett Diessner


Volume 28 Number Three Fall 2007, PAGES 5-10


The structure of intrapersonal integrity can well be characterized as a form of “unity-in-diversity” within the human psy­che or human soul. To illustrate this notion we will begin with Socrates in Plato’s The Republic, Book IV. Socrates explained that the human psyche, or soul, consists of three “parts”: the logi­cal-rational (logiston), the spirited or affective (thymia), and the desiring or willing (epithymia). He argued that when these elements of the soul are in “friendly harmony”—when these three diverse abilities are unified—the soul is temperate and just. Thus we see that the integration of reason, affect, and desire, which are a form of psy­chological integrity, has a moral outcome. When these three func­tions are harmoniously united, we create the just soul, the temper­ate soul. In particular Socrates emphasized that harmony is created in the soul by the mutual and interacting respect of these three capabilities. However, according to Plato, the form of integrity that produces moral outcomes requires that reason be allowed to rule emotion and desire. This is the most harmonious and just form of integrity. Socrates says that when reason rules but also respects the proper roles of emotion and desire, then the person will never com­mit sacrilege or theft nor treat others treacherously: “neither will he

ever break faith where there have been oaths or agree­ments.” This is a classical definition of integrity.

Immanuel Kant, in his Critique of Judgement, also posits three irreducible faculties of the soul: knowledge, feeling and desire. Although Kant’s concept of the soul may be different than Socrates’ notion of the psyche or soul, and Kant’s description of the faculties of knowing, feeling, and desiring may be somewhat incongruent with Socrates’ logiston, thymia, and epithymia, nonetheless Kant bases his model on the structural relations of unity-in-diversity. In the last section of the Critique of Judgement, “Of the Connexion of the Legislation of Understanding with that of Reason by Means of the Judgement,” Kant describes the integra­tion of the three irreducible faculties of the soul, the abilities to know, feel and desire. He implies that the fully functioning human soul, the soul with integrity, has unified the soul’s most fundamental capacities.


In modern psychology, Ernest Hilgard, in “The Trilogy of Mind: Cognition, Affection, and Conation” argues that the trilogy of the mind described by philosophers lives on through psychology’s study of cognition (knowing), affect (feeling and emotions) and conation (will or desire). Despite behaviorism’s reign throughout much of the 20th century, in which the concepts of cognition and emotion were minimized, and conation (the will) was banished; and despite the current over-emphasis in the discipline of psychology upon “cognition,” many psychologists continue to frame the structure of the psyche in terms of these three capacities.

It is the integration of these three capacities that is a sign of the mature and well-developed human: uni­fying the diverse and irreducible human powers of knowing, emoting and willing is the best description of psychological integrity that I can offer. Perhaps the best known work on integrity in the field of psycholo­gy is Carl Rogers’ description of being “genuine,” or authentic, which are synonyms for integrity. Rogers emphasizes that genuineness is being emotionally con­gruent with one’s behavior—the way a person truly feels on the inside is represented in her behavior on the out­side, and vice versa, that is, the behaviors (verbal and motor) that a person performs are congruent with, that is truly represent, the emotions that a person feels. Not as strongly emphasized in Roger’s work, but definitely present, is the integration of knowing and emoting. The genuine person, the person with integrity, has the courage to look inward and examine, to know what her true emotions are. And likewise, the person with integrity then wills her behavior to be congruent with this knowledge of her true feelings.

This, however, leaves open the question of whether it shows integrity to hurt others if your true feeling toward them is hatred. Although Rogers’ approach does run the danger of value relativism, one can also see that hatred is incongruent with Rogers’ dictum of unconditional positive regard. Additionally, from my perspective and that of most spiritual tradi­tions, hatred is morally condemned. Nonetheless, the expression of an honest hatred does show a form of integrity that deceitful or hypocritical harboring of hatred does not. When a person harbors feelings and purposefully miscommunicates them, Rogers refers to this as a form of “incongruence” (non-genuineness) that shows “falseness or deceit” (p. 341 in On Becoming a Person). Although I abhor hatred, I recog­nize the integrity of people who are up-front with their desire to hurt, and morally admire them over those who give lip-service to love, but express their hatred hypocritically through deceitful means. As for the per­son who is genuine about his hatred, “We say of such a person that we know ‘exactly where he stands’” (ibid., p. 283). From a Rogerian viewpoint, one could frame this as recognizing that a person could have integrity (be genuine and congruent), but lack in positive unconditional regard for all persons.

Let us take an example. Although we seldom want to call love simply an emotion, love can be framed as the mother of all emotions: sadness is loss of the love object; anger is a response to unjust threat to the love object; fear is anticipated loss of the love object; hap­piness is reunion with, or anticipated union with, the love object; disgust is recognition of contamination of the love object, etc. Psychological integrity involves knowing what we love. First we have to look inward and examine ourselves to see what we truly love. Do we love comfort? Do we love material objects? Do we love ourselves? Do we love the members of our inner circle? Do we love our enemies? Do we love all humanity? Do we love God?  

Second, we need to know about the objects of our love. How deeply can we understand the members of our inner circle? How deeply can we know God? How deeply can we know our pleasures or our bodies? Love motivates us to will ourselves to ever deeper knowledge of the objects of our love. The greater our knowledge, the deeper our capacity to love. And “will” is omnipresent: whenever and whatever we choose to know is preceded by an act of will, and whenever and whomever and whatever we choose to love is preceded by an act of will. That which we love, we will to know ever better, and that which we choose to know, we learn to love more effectively.

This psychological integrity—the unifying of our capabilities of loving, knowing and willing—appears “nat­urally” in the human being; it seems inherent in our design. Any clinician will recognize, however, that human psychological disorders involve ‘disordering’ of the integra­tion of loving and willing and knowing. (See psychiatrist H. Danesh, The Psychology of Spirituality, for further explanation of the integration of knowing, willing and loving, and for clinical descriptions of disorders of knowl­edge, love and will.) For instance, if we over-emphasize the ability to know, at the expense of not integrating the ability to love with our knowledge, we become empty shells that place the law above the spirit. If we over­emphasize the ability to love, without integrating the moderating influence of knowledge, than we run the risk of passionate foolishness, or trying to love others, but doing it stupidly and ineffectively. If we do not integrate the power of the will with our abilities to love and to know, then we become stagnated and atrophied due to inaction and a lack of service to others. If we over­emphasize the power of the will, by minimizing the inte­gration of love, we become tyrants. This recognition of the possible breakdown in, and disordering of, psycho­logical integrity, leads us from describing integrity to pre­scribing integrity–from psychology to ethics.



So far we have described a framework of under­standing psychological integrity, but have not addressed moral integrity. Moral integrity is the type of integrity most often meant in everyday speech. The phrase, a woman or man of integrity, leaps to mind. In the English language this phrase evokes for us thoughts of a person who is honest, who is trustworthy, and who honors his or her promises, agreements, oaths, contracts, and covenants: a person true to her word. Persons of integrity integrate what they say with what they do. In particular we consider a person of moral integrity to be a person who has congruence between what he says he will do and what he actually does. Moral integrity is the opposite of hypocrisy.

Psychological integrity is necessary, but insuffi­cient, for moral integrity. Psychological integrity requires the unification of knowing, loving, and willing; moral integrity involves the unification of knowing the good, loving the good, and willing the good. ‘Abdu’l­Bahá (son of Bahá’u’lláh, and head of the Bahá’í Faith, 1892-1921) was asked about persons with this kind of moral integrity, who showed kindness to all creatures, cared for the poor, and worked toward universal peace, but believed neither in God nor in divine scripture. He explained that “such actions” “are praiseworthy and approved, and are the glory of humanity. But these actions alone are not sufficient; they are [like] a body of the greatest loveliness, but without spirit” (Some Answered Questions, p. 300). ‘Abdu’l-Bahá goes on to say that it is through the integration of knowing God, loving God, and a good-will that a human action becomes perfected and complete. Moral integrity, with­out knowing and loving God, is worthy of praise; but spiritual integrity, which unites knowing God, loving God, and willing God’s will, causes us to become a “whole” human being and to reflect more perfectly the image of God that is the structure of our soul.

Of course, believing in God is an act of faith, and those that do not believe in God will take exception to the claim that knowing and loving God is necessary in order to become a whole human being. Believers and unbelievers alike may well agree that knowing, loving and willing the good is a description of moral integri­ty; however, non-believers will find the concept of spir­itual integrity somewhat meaningless in framing the wholeness of human being.

Reason: What, then, do you want to know? Augustine: The very things for which I have prayed. Reason: Summarize them concisely. Augustine: I want to know God and the soul. Reason: Nothing else?

Augustine: Nothing else at all (St Augustine, Soliloquia). Spiritual integrity relates to the purpose of this magazine, Human Development, as found in the words of executive editor, Linda D. Amadeo, in her last sen­tence of “Invitation to Authors,” “human beings can become what we are created to be: persons being made whole in the image and likeness of God.”

My own summary of the scriptures of the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Bahá’í faiths, in the context of individual integrity, recognizes that God has made a covenant with us: if we strive to know God and the good, and to love God and the good, and to will God’s will, and to integrate these three human powers in our minds, hearts and behavior, then we will become whole in the image and likeness of God.

Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1963, p. 4).


Both individuals and institutions may be ascribed integrity. So far we have only addressed individual integrity, but the integrity of institutions and systems is relevant to human development as well. In the Socratic sense, institutions (such as a city) mirror the conditions of the individuals that comprise them. For a city to be ruled by justice, the individual souls that comprise the city must also be intrapersonally just. Thus we can speak of a city as having integrity, although that sounds a bit odd to our ears. But other institutions, especially businesses and religious denominations can have more or less integrity. XYZ Corporation has integrity; we can do business with them without our conscience suffer­ing. This Church has integrity. When we refer to a church or a business as having integrity, we mean that it is not corrupt, it is not contaminated, it is pure. In terms of our leitmotif of unity-in-diversity, an institu­tion with integrity is one that has united diverse peo­ples and diverse concepts and diverse rules/principles; and there is no dis-unifying dissent within the institu­tion (disagreement among members, in the sense of a clash of differing opinions is not dis-unifying dissent, as long as the members follow the consultative path, do not insist on their own viewpoints, and bow humbly to majority decisions). And, as the individual, the institu­tion that has integrity is known for actualizing its ideals. That is, the institution as a whole serves the goals that it preaches. It consistently does what its spokespersons say it will do.

Integrity is as much a process as it is an end-state, and thus, like individuals, institutions have relatively more or less integrity. Just as we idiomatically say “no one is perfect,” and all of us are sinners to some degree, so it is with institutions. No institution, or insti­tutional structures, created by humans will have per­fect integrity. And there will always be a dialectical (bi­directional) relationship between the degree of moral integrity of the individuals and the degree of moral integrity of the institution –the individuals and the institution will influence each others’ development of integrity, for better or worse.


The current Positive Psychology movement in the field of psychology emphasizes three pillars: subjective well-being or happiness, individual traits or character strengths, and positive institutions. Although little attention has been paid to studying positive institutions in the recently emerging positive psychology literature, the movement assumes that individuals’ character strengths influence the integrity of institutions to which they belong, and the level of the integrity of institutions influences the development of individual’s character strengths, including intrapersonal integrity.

The Positive Psychology movement has produced a handbook of classification of character strengths and virtues, which the authors, Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman, refer to as a “manual of the sanities” to contrast it with DSM-IV, the manual that psychologists and psychi­atrists use to classify mental disorders. They have identified six major virtues (knowledge/wisdom, courage, justice, humanity/love, temperance, transcendence), which they describe as cross-cultural, emphasized in Eastern and Western philosophies and highlighted in the world’s reli­gions; within these six virtues they have identified three to five “character strengths” that represent a particular virtue.

They consider the virtue of Courage to be the mother of integrity, and its principal components are authenticity and honesty. Positive psychologists Kennon Sheldon, Lucy Davidson, and Elizabeth Powell define integrity as captur­ing “a character trait in which people are true to them­selves, accurately representing—privately and publicly— their internal states, intentions, and commitments. Such persons accept and take responsibility for their feelings and behaviors, owning them, as it were, and reaping sub­stantial benefits by so doing” (pp. 249-250). They go on to specific behavioral criteria for integrity: a) a behavior pat­tern congruent with espoused values, b) willing to publicly justify moral convictions, even in the face of opposition, and c) caring for others, especially those in need. Sheldon et al. note that honesty connotes “factual truthfulness and interpersonal sincerity;” authenticity concerns “emotional genuineness” and “psychological depth;” and that “integrity refers to moral probity and self-unity” (p. 250).

A major tenet of positive psychology is that the virtue-derived character strengths lead to happiness, or what is typically called subjective well-being in the research literature. In reviewing the correlates of integrity found in empirical studies Sheldon et al. found that measures of integrity predict greater life sat­isfaction, higher empathy, self-actualization, positive mood states, openness to experience, better interper­sonal relationships, and the trait of conscientiousness. Although one hopes we are motivated to greater levels of integrity and authenticity for altruistic purposes, there are clearly strong psychological rewards for developing and maintaining one’s integrity. In terms of institutional integrity, Sheldon et al. refer to studies that show positive correlations between educational administrators’ levels of integrity and teachers’ trust in the educational institution. Likewise, in the business world, the more authentic workers perceive their man­agers to be, the more effective are the workplace rela­tionships between managers and workers. Chris Peterson, in his A Primer in Positive Psychology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006) summarizes integrity in institutions, without specifically mention­ing the word integrity, thus:

Besides being culturally congruent with their workers, good workplaces are characterized by certain institution-level virtues. Excellent work organizations have an articulated moral goal or vision that can be embraced by workers and customers alike. This vision must guide the actual conduct within the organization. Slogans and logos provide clues about the vision of a work organization, but it is our observation of day-to-day practices that provides the real proof of their existence…excellent work organiza­tions follow through on commitments—to work­ers and to customers. Promises and contracts, even implied ones, are honored. Said another way, in a good workplace, the spirit of the law trumps the letter of the law (p. 289).

In summary, the Positive Psychology movement shows empirical evidence that institutions with integri­ty correlate with individuals of integrity; and intraper­sonal integrity, as a character strength, correlates with subjective well being.


“O LORD of hosts, happy are those who trust in you!” (Psalm 84:13).

“Put your whole trust and confidence in God, Who hath created you, and seek ye His help in all your affairs” (Bahá’u’lláh. Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, Wilmette, IL: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1983, p. 251).

We are created in the image of God, and integrity is a spiritual virtue; therefore surely God is a Being of integrity as well. God may be viewed as unifying all the diverse divine virtues in a perfect integration. Integrations are dynamic and hierarchical. We know that when Jesus was asked about the greatest com­mandment, he referred to the virtue of agapic love, and he put love ‘objects’ in hierarchical order: first love God; second, love your fellow humans. Paul also set up a hierarchy in his famous statement: “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Therefore it seems reason­able to assume love is a foundation for integrity. Love becomes the spiritual motivation to strive to become a being of greater and greater integrity; and integrity becomes a mode of existence that is a medium for effective expression of our love to others. The most salient manner in which integrity expresses our love for others is through trustworthiness. As mentioned above, when we imagine a person or institution with integrity, one of the first concrete exam­ples that comes to mind is that of keeping promises, of maintaining our covenants, and of nobly and honorably caring for any trust we are responsible to safeguard.

“The person who is trustworthy in very small mat­ters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones” (Luke 16:10).

“O people! The goodliest vesture in the sight of God in this day is trustworthiness. All bounty and honour shall be the portion of the soul that arrayeth itself with this greatest of adornments” (Bahá’u’lláh. Trustworthiness. A Compilation of Extracts from the Bahá’í Writings. London: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, p.1, 1987).

As God has perfect integrity, God is completely trustworthy. God, who cares, is the Maker of Covenants with all humankind. We cannot err in putting our whole trust and confidence in our Creator. Trusting has impor­tant implications for a mood disorder that disrupts intrapersonal human development across our world: anxiety. In terms of cognitive and emotional develop­ment, thoughts and feelings of trust cannot co-exist at the same time in our heart and mind with thoughts and feelings of anxiety. In our prayers and meditations, as we focus on God’s trustworthiness, and our trust in the Belovéd, anxiety disappears. Likewise with our acts of service: when we serve others out of agapic love (self­less love, caritas), and with trust that God will guide our path, anxiety is minimized.

Among the greatest of trusts that God has given us humans is the safeguarding and development of our souls. We believe that our soul is created in the image of God, and thus all the divine attributes, such as love, trustwor­thiness, mercy, forgiveness, beauty, perfection, justice, etc., lie within our soul as potentialities awaiting their development, expression and integration. “O friends! Be not careless of the virtues with which ye have been endowed, neither be neglectful of your high destiny” (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, 1983, p. 196).

Therefore, the person of spiritual integrity knows God by gaining intimate knowledge of the attributes of God that are the reality of the human soul. “[I]n thine inward being thou revealest the hidden mysteries which are the divine trust deposited within thee” (Bahá’u’lláh, The Seven Valleys, Wilmette, IL: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1991, p. 27). The person of integrity loves the beauty of the divine attributes deposited in the soul (viz. Diessner, Psyche and Eros, ch. 8). The person of integrity wills the development of the divine attributes which are the image of God in the soul. And, finally, the person of spiritual integrity integrates knowledge, love and will in service to God and service to all humanity.

“Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive” (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, 1983, p. 285; italics added).


‘Abdu’lBahá. Some Answered Questions (L. Clifford Barney, Trans.). Wilmette, Il.: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1981; especially section 84, “The Necessity of Following the Teachings of the Divine Manifestations,” pp. 300-305.

Danesh, H. B. The Psychology of Spirituality. Hong Kong: Juxta Publishing Limited, 1997.

Diessner, R. Psyche and Eros. Bahá’í Studies in a Spiritual Psychology. Oxford: George Ronald Publishers, 2007.

Hilgard, E. “The Trilogy of Mind: Cognition, Affection, and Conation,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 16, (1980), 107-117.

Peterson, C., and M. E. P. Seligman, (Eds.). Character Strengths and Virtues. A Handbook of Classification. Oxford: Oxford University Press, and Washington DC: American Psychological Association, 2004.

Rogers, C. R. On Becoming a Person. New York: Harper & Row, 1961.

Integrating Formative Roles

– Tim Costello

1                An educative task

The research of Rulla, Ridick and Imoda has always been directed towards a practical educational task, especially the preparation of educators capable of offering an in-depth formation for future priests and religious. Franco Imoda’s work Human Development. Psychology and Mystery shares a similar purpose: «The aim of this book is not to solve all problems, or to provide an exhaustive manual of psychological, philosophical or theological anthropology (…) it aims rather to invite critical thought and to forge a better definition of the educative task as it relates to the process of human development».[1]

To define the educative task and to propose pedagogical principles is one thing. To apply these principles to concrete situations is quite another. In response to directions set by the Second Vatican Council, the Gregorian University developed programs specifically oriented towards the preparation of seminary and religious formators. The Institute of Psychology, established in 1971, and the Interdisciplinary Centre for the Formation of Seminary Educators, established in 1996, offer a systematic and intensive preparation for the educators – «formators» – of future generations of priests, religious, and consecrated lay persons.

The experience of teaching in these programs and offering personal accompaniment to their participants makes a strong impact. The extraordinary diversity of situations from which the participants come and to which they will return as formators makes a striking impression: a diocesan seminary in Mexico, a novitiate in Korea, a monastic community in India, a seminary with 900 students in Nigeria, a training program for the Focolare Movement in Italy, a small formation house for clerical religious in Australia.

The wide diversity of institutional situations and cultural contexts within which these future formators will work raises many practical questions. The educative and formative theory formulated by the authors mentioned above has been applied to an extraordinarily wide range of situations. The theory has been verified not only by the processes of scientific validation but also by the light it has brought to specific questions regarding religious and priestly formation in many parts of the world during a period of nearly forty years. This chapter addresses one question of contemporary interest, viz. the integration of different educative roles within the process of seminary and religious formation.

2                The Church desires an integrated formation

2.1            The formation ideal

Building on foundations established by the Second Vatican Council and developed in the post-conciliar period, Pope John Paul II has formulated a comprehensive vision of priestly and religious formation. This vision is set forth especially in two apostolic exhortations which are the fruit of two assemblies of the Synod of Bishops. The first document Pastores dabo vobis (1992) gives a detailed presentation of priestly formation in all its aspects; the goal, the constitutive components, the setting, the persons involved and their respective responsibilities. The second document Vita consecrata (1996) locates the consecrated life within the mystery of Trinitarian love. The document then identifies the formative processes necessary to prepare candidates to live the evangelical counsels as a sign of ecclesial communion and as a manifestation of God’s love in the world.

The approach to priestly and religious formation in these documents is dynamic, integrative, and holistic. First, formation is dynamic because its essential framework is relational and developmental. Every vocation is rooted in a relationship between God and the individual who is called by God. The dynamic of «call and response» requires an anthropology which explains not only the desire to respond to God’s call but also the obstacles and difficulties human beings frequently experience as they seek to live out their religious ideals. Secondly, formation is integrative. The Holy Father identifies four components of formation – human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral – and discusses each in detail. These components have given rise to new formative roles (formator, therapist, counselor, academic adviser, pastoral supervisor) or new orientations to traditional roles (rector, novice master, spiritual director, confessor, and teacher). Those responsible must coordinate their respective roles through an explicit orientation towards «the specific finality which alone justifies the existence of the seminary […] the formation of future priests, pastors of the church».[2] The failure to recognize the need to take active and explicit measures to bring about this coordination inevitably results in formation programs that are compartmentalized, lacking in cohesion, and poorly integrated. Thirdly, formation is holistic because its aim is to touch «the whole person, in every aspect of the personality, in behavior and intentions».[3] Furthermore, the processes of initial and ongoing formation are closely linked as parts of the same journey of faith whose single aim is to bring candidates, professed religious and ordained priests to live their vocation from a profoundly interior motivation and personal conviction.

One of the important contributions made by Pope John Paul II has been to incorporate more systematically into the Church’s anthropology of vocation and formation certain developmental perspectives drawn from the human sciences. This leads to a consequent reflection on the kind of preparation needed for the educators who will be responsible for translating these formation ideals into institutional structures and pedagogical methods. The Directives concerning the preparation of seminary educators published by the Congregation for Catholic Education in 1993 confirms the need for educators capable of helping candidates to resolve spiritual and human difficulties at a profound level. These educators and formators «should be sufficiently prepared as not to be deceived or to deceive regarding a presumed consistency and maturity of the student. For this, “common sense” is not enough. An attentive and refined examination from a good knowledge of the human sciences is necessary in order to go beyond appearances and the superficial level of motivations and behavior, and to help the seminarian know himself in depth, to accept himself with serenity, and to correct himself and to mature, starting from the real and not illusory roots».[4]

2.2            A problem of roles and boundaries

The ecclesial documents on formation often present paradigm situations in which institutional roles and responsibilities are clearly delineated. The documents already cited, for example, identify within the major seminary the following roles: the bishop, the rector, the vice-rector, the spiritual director, the seminary educators (formators), the professors, the coordinator of pastoral activities, the prefect of studies, the librarian, and the business manager.[5]

In real life, however, bishops and major superiors have to balance the resources required for formation with other pastoral needs. This often results in compromise solutions where the ideals proposed by the ecclesial documents cannot be realistically achieved. After returning to their dioceses, religious provinces, or ecclesial movements, those who have trained as formators are not uncommonly asked to assume multiple roles and diverse responsibilities within the formation structure. For example, the same person may be asked to assume the roles of teacher and spiritual director, religious superior and pastoral supervisor, spiritual director and bursar, therapist and teacher, rector and provincial councillor, and so on.

Combining roles may be a common-sense response to the problem of limited resources, but it also raises important questions about confusion of responsibilities and possible abuse of power. Can the teacher who must evaluate a student’s academic progress also be spiritual director to the same person? Can a spiritual director, after a period of time has elapsed, accept a role in external forum decisions about a former client? Can a therapist and client live together in the same community? Is it appropriate for a formator (therapist, spiritual director, or teacher) to develop a friendship relationship with a person who is a student or client? What is the relationship between spiritual direction and psychological therapy, and the other instruments of human formation? Why stress the importance of boundaries when the desired goal is to integrate the different elements of formation?

Questions such as these will be less evident in large institutional settings with adequate resources, numerous personnel, formal policies and procedures, and clear lines of responsibility. But the reality in many parts of the Church, especially where vocations are numerous and resources are limited, is rather different – and questions such as these are very real. Beyond the many specific questions, there is one fundamental question which serves to draw forth some helpful principles in determining possible responses to the many concrete situations that arise. The fundamental question is this: when formators are asked to assume multiple roles and diverse responsibilities within the formation structure does this represent a creative response to the reality of limited resources, or does it create a dangerous confusion which is counter-productive to the goals of religious and priestly formation and perhaps even harmful to the good of individuals?

3                Fences, relationships, and boundaries

3.1            Good fences make good neighbors

A well-known American proverb states that «good fences make good neighbors».[6] Like many expressions of folk wisdom, including the biblical parables, the proverb is built more on ambiguity and paradox than on philosophical logic. Yet it captures an important insight into human beings and their complex and sometimes contradictory ways of relating with each other.

A great deal can be at stake when building fences and walls. Is the purpose of a wall to keep someone in or to keep someone out? The proverb means one thing when applied to the physical fences that set boundaries between individuals in rural settings; it takes on a more dramatic meaning when applied to walls and fences between states, whether those boundaries are physical (Kashmir, East Jerusalem, Berlin, the Great Wall of China) or political (policies regulating the movement of immigrants, refugees, and workers).[7]

So what is the meaning of the saying «good fences make good neighbors»? Like all proverbial wisdom the saying is open to diverse interpretations and applicable to different situations. Commentaries on Frost’s poem, for example, refer variously to boundaries, barriers, tradition, individuality, community, property rights, communication between neighbors, and so on. As an expression of psychological wisdom, the proverb can have two possible applications. First, with reference to personal relationships the proverb could be applied to the personal boundaries that mark out the line between where we cease and others begin. The development of healthy ego boundaries, as part of the overall process of human development, produces a sense of personal identity which allows us to describe and define our relationships with others and with the external world in general. Secondly, with reference to professional relationships the proverb could refer to the fiduciary trust that governs the therapist’s way of relating to the client who comes for treatment. Setting and maintaining proper boundaries, for which the therapist rather than the client holds responsibility, is integral to the healing process and therefore constitutes a serious and sacred duty.[8] In both of these examples, then, we could say that «good psychological fences make good neighbors».

If this proverb sheds light on the nature of psychological and professional boundaries, it also raises as many questions as it seems to answer. When and why do good fences make good neighbors? When and why should fences be built? When and why should we take down walls and boundaries? Then, there are some further questions which relate more specifically to the formative processes. What kinds of boundaries are needed to preserve the integrity of each of the components of formation? Should one person assume multiple formative roles? What are appropriate relational boundaries between formator and students? How should overlapping roles – for example, between spiritual direction and pastoral supervision – be managed? To better pursue questions such as these we need to move beyond the world of folklore and proverbial wisdom and consider concepts taken from the psychological literature.

3.2            The nature of professional relationships

In the course of many centuries society has developed structures for responding to the basic needs of people. Certain professions such as medicine, law, religion, teaching, and psychotherapy have been designated to protect and preserve our minds, our bodies, our souls, and our relationships with each other. The fundamental importance of these basic human needs is reflected in the privileged status that society bestows upon professionals, which allows them the authority and respect needed to act for the common welfare.

Doctors, lawyers, clergy, teachers, and counselors deal with deeply personal matters concerning people’s lives. Mental health professionals, for example, provide a therapeutic context within which their clients make themselves vulnerable as a means of resolving inner conflicts and difficulties relating to their psychological functioning. The client’s trust, and consequent vulnerability, is protected by law and by ethical codes of practice. Even though payment is normally expected, the relationship between professional and client is more than an ordinary business deal between two parties. The professional relationship is based on a covenant of «fiduciary trust» which is «a special relationship in which one person accepts the trust and confidence of another to act in the latter’s best interest. The parties do not deal on equal terms. The fiduciary must act with the utmost good faith and solely for the benefit of the dependent party. The client becomes dependent on the trustworthiness of the fiduciary and becomes vulnerable in the sense that he is less likely to question what the professional person does».[9]

The fiduciary relationship shapes the interaction between the «expert» professional and the «vulnerable» client. It is based on the implicit understanding that the professional person accepts responsibility for the welfare of the client, places the client’s interests before his own, avoids any action harmful to the client, respects the client’s privacy, avoids conflicts of interest, and will work within the context of a clear set of ethical («hallowed») principles.

There are some significant differences between personal and professional relationships. A personal relationship, between two friends, for example, has no purpose beyond itself, serves the needs of both parties, and creates an environment in which both parties can share common interests, pastimes, and beliefs. This is a relationship between equals, based on personal trust, with boundaries that are implicit, informal, and somewhat vague. By contrast, a professional relationship between doctor and patient, for example, has a clear and explicit purpose directed primarily towards the needs and welfare of the patient. A mutual sharing of interests and opinions is irrelevant to the goals of the relationship which, furthermore, is unequal in power and status. The fiduciary trust of the professional relationship requires boundaries that are explicit, formal, and clear.

The ministry of forming future priests and religious places the formator in a position of trust analogous to that of the professional. This means that seminary and religious formators have a professional responsibility towards their candidates and students. If the term «fiduciary trust” does not appear as such in ecclesial documents, the concept with all its consequences is clearly present. Thus: «the task of formation of candidates for the priesthood requires not only a certain special preparation of those to whom this work is entrusted, one that is professional, pedagogical, spiritual, human and theological, but also a spirit of communion and cooperating together to carry out the program […] For this ministry, priests of exemplary life should be chosen, men with a number of qualities: human and spiritual maturity, pastoral experience, professional competence, stability in their own vocation, a capacity to work with others, serious preparation in those human sciences (especially psychology) which relate to their office, a knowledge of how to work in groups».[10]

Among the responsibilities of the professional person – whether doctor, lawyer, teacher, psychologist, or seminary educator – are two tasks which are particularly relevant to the present discussion: setting appropriate boundaries, and avoiding conflicts of interest.

3.3            Setting appropriate boundaries

The concept of psychological boundaries has its origins in the psychodynamic theories of attachment and detachment which seek to explain the developmental process of individuation. Individuation takes place through a complex set of relationships, beginning with the unique bond between mother and child, and continuing within the family. This corresponds to the first parameter of human development, the self confronted by the other, which creates a life-long tension since «to become oneself as person means […] becoming individual, alone and unrepeatable, but at the same time means inserting oneself progressively in a world of relationships».[11] One of the valuable contributions of Franco Imoda is to place this aspect of the developmental process within the context of the human «mystery».

Each person learns about boundaries largely from the experience of living within a family. According to S. Minuchin the maintenance of balanced psychological boundaries within the family structure, particularly between parents and children, is crucial to healthy functioning.[12] Boundaries are like a «membrane» that surrounds each individual and each subsystem in the family. Like the membrane around a cell, boundaries need to be firm enough to ensure the integrity of the cell and yet permeable enough to allow communication between cells.[13] Healthy boundaries define family roles, acknowledge differences in the developmental stages of family members, and enable parents to meet their adult needs in the marital relationship rather than through their children.

Family boundaries can be distorted in different ways and to different degrees, though usually unconsciously. At one extreme is the enmeshed family which has difficulty providing sufficient personal privacy to family members thus blocking the development of autonomy and individuality. Parents tend to be over-involved and overprotective of their children, with greater priory given to family life and togetherness than to individual interests or relationships outside the family. Members of the enmeshed family tend to be emotionally fused, undifferentiated and dependent. At the other extreme is the disengaged family which fails to develop a sense of intimacy and communication. Parents tend to be detached, emotionally distant, and consumed by personal interests or psychological survival. Relationships within the family are tense, and often characterized by lack of protection, support, and concern. A feature common to both enmeshed and disengaged families is the presence of unhealthy or pathological boundaries. The diffuse boundaries of the enmeshed family, arising from exaggerated patterns of attachment, produce confusion about roles and responsibilities within the family. The rigid boundaries of the disengaged family, rooted in exaggerated forms of detachment, hinder healthy patterns of communication and affective expression.

One of the features of healthy family functioning is the presence of appropriate or clear boundaries. This provides a helpful analogy for understanding one aspect of professional roles and relationships within the formative process. Whereas the boundaries within family life operate for the most part spontaneously and unconsciously, the boundaries which define the interaction between professional and client must be conscious and purposeful. To illustrate: the successful achievement of therapeutic goals requires an environment within which the process of change and healing can take place. This has been likened to a «holding environment» in which the client can suspend temporarily his normal critical faculties as a means of identifying and working through unconscious conflicts. Therapeutic environments, however, do not occur spontaneously; they must be formed, maintained, and protected by the therapist as part of his fiduciary responsibility to the client.

Setting proper boundaries is central to the healing, educative, and formative task. What precisely constitutes a «proper» boundary will vary according to the nature of the professional relationship. The boundaries appropriate to the confessor are different from those of the teacher, the doctor, or the seminary educator. The boundaries necessary for psychotherapy are stricter and less flexible than those needed for teaching. Freud formulated some specific guidelines for setting boundaries in the therapeutic relationship, advice that still forms the basis for present-day views about the proper conduct of other professional relationships. These are the principles of informed consent, non-exploitation of the client, therapist neutrality, avoidance of dual agency, relative anonymity of the therapist, payment of coherent fees.[14]

Are these fixed and invariable principles always to be followed, or guidelines which usefully raise relevant questions and areas of potential concern? R.S. Epstein believes that «the role of keeping boundaries is best seen as a working paradigm, like navigating a boat by compass. Although it is impossible to be pointed in exactly the correct direction at all times, by continually observing changes in heading, one can steer the boat back onto the proper course».[15] This can be useful advice, also, for dealing with some of the specific questions raised earlier about boundaries within the formation process.

3.4            Multiple role relationships and conflicts of interest

The question of multiple role relationships has received much attention within professional circles partly because of wide public and media interest in cases of sexual involvement between professionals and their patients, clients, or students. The extensive literature, stimulated by the ethical committees of many professional bodies, has focused on a number of related issues including: the ethical aspects of multiple relationships, the priority of the client’s welfare and interests, and the impact of multiple role relationships on professional boundaries.

Multiple role relationships (also called dual or overlapping) occur when those who have a professional relationship with a client enter into another kind of role or relationship with the same person. These roles may be concurrent as, for example, when a teacher goes on vacation with a pupil, or consecutive as, for example, when a spiritual director employs a former client to be his secretary. Other examples of dual, multiple or overlapping relationships are: entering into business relationships with clients, delivering professional services to family members, entering into professional relationships with employees, socializing with clients or students, accepting friends as clients, accepting or offering gifts, asking favors from clients, conducting therapy outside a professional setting.[16] More relevant to the present discussion are the dual role relationships created by combining the responsibilities of teacher and counselor, therapist and supervisor, spiritual director and teacher, formator and friend, community superior and therapist, and so on.

There is a wide diversity of opinion among psychologists about the ethics of multiple role relationships. Some adopt a strict position emphasizing the potential problems inherent in assuming multiple roles: impaired objectivity, errors of judgment, possible conflicts of interest, the danger of client exploitation, and boundary blurring. Studies show that psychologists and counselors can be exceptionally skilful at rationalizing their own unprofessional behavior.[17] A common antecedent to sexual misconduct especially on the part of male therapists is a pattern of increasing self-disclosure of personal information. Other writers take a more critical stance towards current ethical codes which are based on the assumption that dual relationships are always wrong. The emphasis on professional distance tends to exaggerate issues of power, to favor an objectification of the therapeutic relationship, and to create a vertical hierarchy in the relationship. These writers claim that sometimes the maintenance of therapeutic distance is neither possible nor beneficial, especially in small, rural, or special interest communities. If client welfare remains primary, there may be circumstances when the therapeutic relationship can also provide opportunities for role modeling.[18]

Multiple role relationships are unethical, not per se, but when they could reasonably be expected to impair the objectivity, competence, or effectiveness of the professional in his dealings with the client. In this respect, it is helpful to distinguish between crossing and violating boundaries. Boundary crossing occurs when the professional changes his role or relationship consciously and purposely to benefit the client. Boundary violation, which is not confined to sexual relationships, is an exploitation of the client in order to benefit the therapist and is always a serious breach of the therapeutic contract.[19]

The complexity of the issues and diversity of perspectives means that the debate about dual and multiple relationships is far from settled. On certain matters, however, there exists a recognized degree of consensus. First, certain kinds of multiple role relationship should always be avoided and can never be justified. Thus, for examples: sexual intimacy, entering into business deals, and any situation that could compromise client confidentiality. Secondly, multiple role relationships cannot always be avoided nor is every multiple relationship necessarily harmful to the client’s interests. In the teacher-pupil relationship, for example, which does not involve the same emotional intensity as the therapy relationship, socializing on a casual basis should not be automatically excluded even though the teacher should do so with prudence and caution.

4                Integrating human and spiritual formation

4.1            Returning to the original question

The starting point of this discussion was a practical question about combining different formative roles in one person because of the limited resources available for initial formation within dioceses, religious congregations, and ecclesial movements. Is this a creative solution to the demands of reality? Could this be a way of realizing the desirable goal of an integrated formation which the ecclesial documents propose? Or does this create confusion for formators and candidates, the blurring of boundaries, and undermine the goals of formation?

The discussion of fences, boundaries, conflicts of interest, and professional relationships has introduced ideas and concepts from a broader ethical discussion. These concepts may help to bring clarity to some of the concrete questions about an integrated formation, the boundaries between the different components of formation, and the conditions under which different formative roles may be assumed by the same person.

4.2            Integration upon what basis?

The goals of priestly and religious formation are best realized in formation programs that are dynamic, integrative, and holistic in character. For pedagogical reasons, the ecclesial documents have identified four constitutive components: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral. The challenge for educators and formators is to bring about a harmonious integration of these components – the framework within which formation takes place – in order to promote the holistic growth, human and spiritual, of the candidates.

This harmony will be brought about especially by relating the components of formation, each role, each formative activity, and each institutional structure to the fundamental goals of seminary or religious formation. What are these goals? The goal and purpose of the seminary has been clearly stated by Pope John Paul II: «More than a place, a material space, [the seminary] should be a spiritual place, a way of life, an atmosphere that fosters and ensures a process of formation so that the person who is called to the priesthood by God may become with the sacrament of orders a living image of Jesus Christ, head and shepherd of the Church».[20] Similarly, for the consecrated life, «the primary purpose of religious formation is to help candidates to the religious life and young professed, first, to discover, then, to deepen and assimilate that in which religious identity consists».[21]

For both seminary and novitiate, therefore, the essential aim to which every aspect of the formation program must be directed is the profound inner transformation of the candidate who is called to be a transparent image of the priestly and evangelical values revealed in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.

4.3            Tasks of the formator

The first task of formators is to immerse themselves deeply in the mind and heart of the Church since the training of future priests and religious is a ministry undertaken in the name of the Church. In the processes of selection and formation the candidate places his vocational future in the hands of the formators. Candidates have a right, based on the bond of fiduciary trust, to know that religious superiors and formators will faithfully implement the Church’s vision, laws, and formation procedures. Bishops and superiors have a serious responsibility to ensure that future formators are given the systematic preparation, required by the Church, necessary to undertake this ministry.

The second task of formators is to operationalize the goals of priestly and religious formation, that is, to devise pedagogical, formative and, if necessary, therapeutic strategies capable of helping the candidate to internalize the core values of his vocational calling. These educational strategies must be capable of addressing both the conscious and unconscious dimensions of the candidate’s life if they are to attain the desired goal. An integrated and holistic formation «presupposes that the students will be at the same time formed as men, as Christians, and as priests. Therefore, plans for priestly formation should have three aims, answering the need to form personalities which are integrally human, Christian, and priestly».[22]

The third task of formators is to coordinate three basic formative activities which are common to each of the components of formation, though with different emphases, methods, and modalities. These basic formative activities are proposing, understanding, and internalizing the core vocational values of priesthood or the consecrated life.

Proposing core vocational values presupposes a common understanding among the educators and formators about what these ideals are. While theological discussion and personal opinion have their place, ultimately the values from which the Christian, religious, and priestly vocation derive their meaning are objective and normative. These values, in other words, are neither created nor determined by man but are proposed for our free acceptance in the obedience of faith.[23] The formator will use a range of pedagogical methods to propose vocational ideals to the candidates: liturgy, retreats and spiritual exercises, teaching systematic themes, talks, community celebrations, and especially the personal witness of the formators.

Understanding what has been proposed requires a personalized response which takes into account the capacities of each individual. Concerns have been expressed over many years regarding the limited and sometimes deficient faith knowledge of those entering seminaries and novitiates.[24] An accurate and ongoing assessment of the candidate’s understanding will help the formator choose the most suitable pedagogical and formative methods, which might include: propaedeutic studies, guided reading, written assignments, questions and answers, class presentations, careful selection of visiting speakers, and encouraging the candidate to bring the material to personal prayer and reflection.

Internalizing the values which have been proposed and understood is the third formative activity. These human and revealed values will transform a person’s life only to the extent that they have been personally assimilated and internalized. Experienced formators, spiritual directors, and teachers testify almost universally that this is the most difficult, delicate and elusive phase of the formation process. The testimony of seminary educators finds scientific confirmation in the theory and research of Rulla, Ridick and Imoda who also propose a formative instrument – vocational growth sessions – as a means of helping candidates address the resistances and blocks which are rooted in the unconscious dimension of human life and which can limit the person’s capacity to live fully his vocation.

4.4            Instruments for human and spiritual formation

For each of the components of formation – human, spiritual, intellectual, pastoral – the seminary educator must find instruments and devise interventions capable of advancing the overall goals of the formation program. Such interventions, properly used, can make a powerful contribution to the integrated and holistic growth of the candidate. The coordinated use of pedagogical instruments requires a good understanding of why, how, and when each should be used and by whom. Formators must actively set in place the appropriate boundaries, demanded by any professional relationship, which are needed to make these pedagogical and therapeutic instruments efficacious. The absence of such boundaries tends to reduce formation to an endless series of uncoordinated experiences, haphazard interventions, or the use of blunt instruments for unclear reasons. This brings about confusion, disappointment, and frustration for formators, candidates, and major superiors.

Spiritual direction, vocational growth sessions, and pastoral supervision are three pedagogical instruments oriented largely though not exclusively towards the spiritual, human, and pastoral formation of candidates. Difficulties sometimes occur because these instruments, while having their own character and integrity, are also characterized by overlapping areas of interest. This, in turn, can lead to boundaries between formators that are blurred or rigid, thus creating confusion and conflict in the student. The coordinated and integrated use of such instruments for the benefit of the candidate may be assisted by a brief comparative analysis of each along a variety of dimensions: the specific focus, the goal, the raw material, and the instruments.[25]

a. Spiritual direction. The specific focus of spiritual direction is the candidate especially in his relationship with God. The goal is to help the person develop this relationship, to attain a deeper union with God, to follow Christ more consistently, to grow in charity, and to deepen the life of virtue. The raw material of spiritual direction is religious experience which embraces «feeling, mood, thought, desire, hope, will, bodily gestures and attitudes, activity, and direction of one’s life».[26] The instruments are prayer, sacraments, catechesis, and the discernment of spirits.

b. Vocational growth sessions. The specific focus of vocational growth sessions is the candidate in his desire to understand and overcome the inner conflicts that block his capacity to live fully his human and vocational ideals. The goal is to increase the person’s degree of inner freedom and therefore the capacity to internalize his objective vocational values. The raw material of vocational growth sessions is thoughts, feelings, desires, relationships, memories of past experiences, underlying needs and defensive conflicts as they are experienced in daily life. The instruments are the structured interview, projective tests, the therapeutic alliance, controlled regression, interpretation of transferences, and the optimal frustration of those inner forces which are contrary to the person’s ideals.

c. Pastoral supervision. The specific focus of pastoral supervision is the priest, religious, or seminarian in relationship to his ministry or work. The goal is to develop greater levels of professional competence, to grow in personal confidence, to increase effectiveness in pastoral ministry, to become more aware of unhelpful patterns of relating, and to make oneself accountable. The raw material of pastoral supervision is drawn from events relating to the workplace and pastoral ministry, relationships with authority figures and colleagues, and particular interventions with clients. The instruments are the pastoral journal, the pastoral log, case studies, the verbatim, role play, and written reflections.

5                Conclusion

At the end of the discussion, the question of combining formative roles remains a matter that must be decided according to concrete circumstances but in the light of the wisdom enshrined in established principles. First, certain formation roles should never be combined, such as rector and spiritual director, confessor and therapist, major superior and formator. There exists an inherent conflict of responsibilities in each of these combinations which makes it impossible for one person to fulfill both roles at the same time. Second, combining formation roles solely on the grounds of pragmatic need runs the risk of compromising the integrity and the goals of the formation process. The random accumulation of roles and responsibilities in one educator is likely to create distorted boundaries leading to negative results – disengaged or enmeshed modes of relating – for both formator and candidates. Third, insisting on a strict demarcation between every formative role suggests an exaggerated, even rigid, adherence to theoretical principle without acknowledging that the different formation roles have diverse characteristics. The characteristics specific to each role can be illuminated by identifying goal, focus, raw material and instruments proper to each. Such an analysis indicates that roles within the formation process are not necessarily always in dialectical tension with each other and, given proper safeguards, certain roles could be combined with others in the one educator.

The question of the proper ordering of formative roles arises from the Church’s desire to provide candidates for the priesthood and religious life with a formation that unifies rather than compartmentalizes their lives around the person, the teaching, and the ideals of Jesus Christ. This has encouraged many efforts, particularly following the Second Vatican Council, to develop educational programs that are based on an anthropology which embraces the human as well as the spiritual dimensions of human experience.

A parallel interest can also be detected in recent decades within the field of mental health both in Europe and in North America. An increasing number of mental health professionals are acknowledging the significance of spirituality and religious faith, and are seeking appropriate ways to address clients’ spiritual concerns within psychotherapy. The impetus for this concern, ironically, is the growing recognition that «integralist” forms of religious faith, whether Muslim or Christian, simply cannot be ignored. The first national convention of the Italian Association of Catholic Psychologists and Psychiatrists (AIPPC) was held at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome on 4/5 March 2000.[27] Against the background of rigid historical boundaries that have separated the human sciences from religion, the purpose of the gathering was to promote a critical dialogue between psychiatry, psychology and theology. The present discussion is an example of the fruit that arises from such a dialogue, based on an interdisciplinary vision, and which brings diverse perspectives to the complexity of the pedagogical task.



Attard W., «Forming helping relationships. A comparative overview of four distinct yet related frameworks», in Catholic Vocations Ministry Australia, Spring 1998, 5-8.

Barry W.A. – Connolly W.J., The practice of spiritual direction, Seabury Press, New York 1982.

Cantelmi T. – Laselva P. – Paluzzi S., Psicologia e teologia in dialogo, Edizione San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo (MI) 2004.

Cantelmi T. – Paluzzi S. – Luparia E. (edd.), Gli dei morti sono diventati malattie. Psichiatria, psicologia e teologia in dialogo, Edizione Romana di Cultura, Roma 2002.

Congregation for Catholic Education, Directives concerning the preparation of seminary educators (04.11.1993).

Congregation for Catholic Education, A guide to formation in priestly celibacy (11.04.1974).

Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Directives on formation in religious institutes (02.02.1990).

Corey G. – Herlihy B., «Dual/multiple relationships. Towards a consensus of thinking», in The Hatherleigh guide to ethics in therapy, Hatherleigh Press, New York 1997, 183-194.

Costello T., Forming a priestly identity, Editrice Pontificia Università Gregoriana, Roma 2002.

Epstein R.S., Keeping boundaries. Maintaining safety and integrity in the psychotherapeutic process, American Psychiatric Press, Washington DC 1994.

Feldman-Summers S., «Sexual contact in fiduciary relationships», in Gabbard G.O. (ed.), Sexual exploitation in professional relationships, American Psychiatric Association, Washington DC 1989, 193-210.

Gutheil T.G. – Gabbard G.O., «The concept of boundaries in clinical practice», in American Journal of Psychiatry (1993)150, 188-196.

Imoda F., Human development. Psychology and mystery, Peeters, Leuven 1998 (italiano: Sviluppo umano. Psicologia e mistero, Piemme, Casale Monferrato 1993).

John Paul II, Pastores dabo vobis (25.03.1992).

John Paul II, Vita consecrata (25.03.1996).

Kameguchi K., «Chaotic states of generational boundaries in contemporary Japanese families», in Cusinato M. (ed.), Research on family resources and needs across the world, Edizioni Universitarie di Lettere Economia Diritto, Milano 1996, 235-242.

Koocher G.P. – Keith-Spiegel P., Ethics in psychology. Professional standards and cases, Oxford UP, New York – Oxford 1998.

Mieder W., «Good fences make good neighbors. History and significance of an ambiguous proverb». The twenty-first Katherine Briggs memorial lecture, November 2002; (accessed 29.10.2005).

Minuchin S., Families and family therapy, Harvard University Press, Cambridge Mass. 1974.

Schank J. et al., «Ethics of multiple and overlapping relationships», in O’Donohue W. – Ferguson K. (eds.) Handbook of professional ethics for psychologists, Sage Publications, London 2003, 181-193.

Sperry L., Spirituality in clinical practice. Incorporating the spiritual dimension in psychotherapy and counseling, Brunner-Routledge, Philadelphia 2001.

[1] F. Imoda, Human development. Psychology and mystery, Peeters, Leuven 1998, 5.

[2] John Paul II, Pastores dabo vobis 61.

[3] John Paul II, Vita consecrata 65.

[4] Congregation for Catholic Education, Directives concerning the preparation of seminary educators 57.

[5] Cf. John Paul II, Pastores dabo vobis 65-69; Congregation for Catholic Education, Directives concerning the preparation of seminary educators 43-47.

[6] The proverb became famous by its inclusion in Robert Frost’s poem «The mending wall» (1914).

[7] Cf. W. Mieder, «Good fences make good neighbors. History and significance of an ambiguous proverb». The twenty-first Katherine Briggs memorial lecture, November 2002; (accessed 29.10.2005).

[8] Cf. R.S. Epstein, Keeping boundaries. Maintaining safety and integrity in the psychotherapeutic process, American Psychiatric Press, Washington DC 1994, 17-20.

[9] S. Feldman-Summers, «Sexual contact in fiduciary relationships», in Gabbard G.O. (ed.), Sexual exploitation in professional relationships, American Psychiatric Association, Washington DC 1989, 193-210.

[10] John Paul II, Pastores dabo vobis 66.

[11] Imoda, Human development, 190.

[12] Cf. S. Minuchin, Families and family therapy, Harvard University Press, Cambridge Mass. 1974, 53-56.

[13] Cf. K. Kameguchi, «Chaotic states of generational boundaries in contemporary Japanese families», in M. Cusinato (ed.), Research on family resources and needs across the world, Edizioni Universitarie di Lettere Economia Diritto, Milano 1996, 235-242.

[14] Cf. Epstein, Keeping boundaries, 23-24.

[15] Epstein, Keeping boundaries, 28.

[16] Cf. G.P. Koocher – P. Keith-Spiegel, Ethics in psychology. Professional standards and cases, Oxford UP, New York – Oxford 1998, 177-189.

[17] Cf. Koocher – Keith-Spiegel, Ethics in psychology, 172-174; J. Schank et al., «Ethics of multiple and overlapping relationships», in W. O’Donohue – K. Ferguson (eds.) Handbook of professional ethics for psychologists, Sage Publications, London 2003, 181-193.

[18] Cf. G. Corey – B. Herlihy, «Dual/multiple relationships. Towards a consensus of thinking», in The Hatherleigh guide to ethics in therapy, Hatherleigh Press, New York 1997, 183-194; Schank, «Ethics of multiple and overlapping relationships», 184.

[19] Cf. T.G. Gutheil – G.O. Gabbard, «The concept of boundaries in clinical practice», in American Journal of Psychiatry (1993)150, 188-196.

[20] John Paul II, Pastores dabo vobis 42.

[21] Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Directives on formation in religious institutes 6.

[22] Congregation for Catholic Education, A guide to formation in priestly celibacy 17.

[23] Cf. T. Costello, Forming a priestly identity, Editrice Pontificia Università Gregoriana, Roma 2002, 235-236.

[24] Cf. Costello, Forming a priestly identity, 237-239.

[25] Cf. L. Sperry, Spirituality in clinical practice. Incorporating the spiritual dimension in psychotherapy and counseling, Brunner-Routledge, Philadelphia 2001; W. Attard, «Forming helping relationships. A comparative overview of four distinct yet related frameworks», in Catholic Vocations Ministry Australia Spring 1998, 5-8.

[26] W.A. Barry – W.J. Connolly, The practice of spiritual direction, Seabury Press, New York 1982, 41.

[27] Cf. T. Cantelmi – P. Laselva – S. Paluzzi, Psicologia e teologia in dialogo, Edizione San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo (MI) 2004, 141-144; T. Cantelmi – S. Paluzzi – E. Luparia (edd.), Gli dei morti sono diventati malattie. Psichiatria, psicologia e teologia in dialogo, Edizione Romana di Cultura, Roma 2002.

Integral Information



  1. Formative concerns today
  2. integral formation
  3. multicultural formation



Formative concerns today:

Regarding content

1. personalized and integral formation (goal oriented)

2. formation of affective maturity

3. Deepened Claretian formation

4. regarding poverty



Mass formation?

Freedom and responsibility


Prepared formators.




Integral Formation.

The mystery of Human formation:

The preamble

          grounded in the mystery of God:

          created in His image and likeness.

          a creature, in solidarity with all animals in many aspects.

          Created with a capacity and possibility of transcendence. To enter into communion and dialogue with God and one another.

          Jesus Christ, the image of the beloved to conform

          The Holy Spirit, the protagonist of human formation

The scenario of formative itinerary and pedagogy

Faith maturing into Obedience, love to Chastity, hope to poverty

Chastity: Outside and inside

Friendship and solitude

Words and silence

Relationships and prayer

Community and apostolate

Community and family

Obedience: autonomy and dependence, activity and passivity, initiative and listening, personal reflection and community involvement

Poverty: efficiency and soberness, lasting things and cheap things, use of time and use of money beauty and neceissity, inlovement and detachment

Firm faith to obedience: obedience and discernment: to whom to obey

Obedience and lay: why to obey

Obedience and dialogue: how to obey

From love to Chastity:

Fear and freedom

To educate the heart to grow towards other-centeredness

From hope to poverty:

Poverty of creature: to accept

Poverty as personal limit: to offer in use

Poverty as sin: to fight against

Poverty as life style: to choose

The dialectic context of human growth: struggle for balance or tendencies to avoid tension of growing into maturity and freedom.

Individual and social: interpersonal maturity


Unity and diversity: integral growth

stability and change: being and becoming (creativity)

Masculine and feminine: harmony

Active and passive: synchronization

Listening and talking: empowerment

Receiving and giving:

Being silent and sound

Autonomy and dependence

Aggressiveness and nurturing

Firmness and flexibility

Narcissism and altruism

Doubt and faith

Self-seeking and self giving

Ownership and surrender

Life and death

Action and contemplation

Attachment and detachment

Inner and outer

Process –content

Separation-connectedness (communion)

Identity and belongingness

The triad:



Presence –absence-transformation

Acceptance –responsibility-call (temporality)

Physical. Social and spiritual

Conative, cognitive and affective

See, judge and act

Know, love and serve

Past -present and future




Structure-process –stages


Formative Models:

  1. The model of Perfection:
  2. The goal of formation is seen a perfection as goal of priesthood was holiness. Congregations are institutes of perfection.
  3. the strategy used are canalization and exclusion. : instinctual energy is assumed in the measure they support the projectof reason. Hence those instincts that are not in tune with it are excluded. More assertive and directive strategy. Point to the final goal rather than the the formative itinerary. The instincts should be completely integrated or succumbed to the ideal and if they fail, they have to eliminated ad have no right to be present in the life of a young formandi.
  4. define the goal in an exalterd manner and ignore the means.

          Pretention (unrealistic) and risk (realistic)

The pretention is the impulses will immediately conform to the ideals at the cost of elimination.. The negated forces do not cese to exist and remain present as denied forces as intuded or irregular without citizenship. Their energy is not afore which a person can benefit from in order to live the ideals.

          but as an ugly force to fight with rendering life very dramatic and painful to live the ideals.

          A model of struggle and fight and unbearable in the long run.. a useless psychological struggle of frustration rather than renunciation with wasting enormous amount of energy.


          Many aspirants do not rresist the tension or leave themselves to a life of mediocrity or attracted to the extreme polarity. (ex.perfect), turning out to poor unbelivers or fall very low.

The prefect controller (and exhausted)

          The greater the control on the instincts, the greater will be the threat of eros and pathos. To the conscouness which is experienced as anxiety.

          The person makes a frontal attack on the whole throwing the baby with bath water. The shaow side is denied.

          Seek a perfect ideal and castigate and repress the passionate side.

          Obligation like a yoke

          Lot of good will and sincerity, but little interior freedom.

Without passions and with no passion

Some implications in formation.

-oriented to an itinerary which in the long run try to eliminate the less noble and humble part of oneself. By eliminating or uprooting them by intentionality to the inconcious from where it continuously disturb the conscious living of evangelical ideals subtle infiltration of the deep motivation creating unexplainable crisis.

– one lives with a contradictory image about oneself. A very negative zone, a black hole on the other a side of self sufficiency – result anger or guilt and a consequent depression or sense of loss-

Failre to know oneself and accept oneself. Not fre to be oneself.psychic life is impoverished. No passion, ithout energy.

Positive aspects:

          extreme clarity about the project of life, the values to inculcate and the discipline to be practiced. Distinction between good and bad and the inevitable renunciation. Give sense of security to the individual rather than on the road to take, instilling courage

          training to assume a certain discipline as a style of life.- with advantages of regularity, discipline, habits, certain order in life.

          To help the person to reach his best.

2. Model of common observance:

A variation of the perfection model. Emphasis on collective effort

-the perfect group. Group of persons gathered together with the same project of community perfection in a ertain way of activing praying, relating etc. logic of perfection.

-sift cfrom individual ambit to that of community. Observance on the part of everyone. Formation is more an exterior problem rather than internal and personal motivations.

-persons bound together common interests.

Consequence: certain internal contradiction. greater uniformity leading comty to a commy of observance. Bell is important. Rules observed literally.

Suffocate the individuality of the individual

Attract persons with an already weak self to depend on the group and become models.


Formal conception of religious life

Saints are copied.

Conformist obedience is ego centric-for one’s own image

3. Self fulfllment

Return to the subject.fulfillment of one’s talents and abilities as primary purpose and guarantee of self-respect-

Ego at the origin, centre and end of everything

Positively recovery of the centrality of the subject and emergence from group embeddedness.

Personal talents given too much importance. :

Dependence on role

Big problems in recognizing one0s own moral limitations and living an authentic awareness of sin.

Inferiority complex.

Seductive attraction

Using gifts for God’s glory or narcissistic appropriation of them.

4. Model of self-acceptance:

Look at oneself with a kind eye, but with the same ego logic

On’w interior reality is recognized, negative components identified and given a name and understand where one is weak and identify areas of one’s slavery.

First thing is to know the inconsistencies

Accepting creaturehood.

Existential limitations: make me to beon my knees and to ask for God’s mercy. Compassion to others.

Risks, contradictions:

          risks from the closure of ego within oneself. Practical assent to one’s negativity. Peaceful self-absolution

          loss of consciousness of sin and penitential conscience.

          Ethical indifference .does not distinguish between good and evil

          Do not ask for renunciation and sacrifice


  1. non-integrative unique module

excessive attention to one aspect of life or one level of formation at the cost of others.

Missing holistic perspective

Often it is related to the competence of the formator or his preferred area or personal taste.

Often related to the formation received.

          unilateralism. Damaging in formation

  1. spiritualism. eg. Affective spiritualism. When she entered my life, I pray better
  2. volontarismo (moralismo)
  3. pietism. Say a prayer
  4. liturgism
  5. intellectualism
  6. psychologism
  7. experientialism
  8. do for yourself (subjectivism)

formative collage:

different dimensions are present but without mutual dialogue.

Self is holistic and hence not possible to deal a human being in different parts

Fragmented formation

Integrative model:

To construct and reconstruct, compose or recompose around a vital and meaningful centre which is a source of light and warmth in which one finds the ture identity and truth and the possi, pasbility to give meaning and fulfilment to every fragment of one0s own history and on’s own person in good as well as bad, to the past as well as the present in a constant movement of progressive centripetal attraction. Sucha centre for a believer, is a Pasqual mystery, the cross of the Son who, elevated on the earth, attracts all thing to himself. (Jn.12.32)

          centrality of Christ

          not cancelling, but giving meaning