Enhancing Transfer of Learning from Seminary Classes to Pastoral Ministry

Hardly any research on the concept of transfer of learning has been applied to teaching in theological education and to training for pastoral ministry. This paper addresses aspects of this gap in application. It reviews the research on transfer of learning in order to inform the broader conversation about formation for ministry in theological education. It defines transfer of learning, and contextualizes it for theological education, as: the effective and continuing application by pastors to their performance in ministry of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs gained through seminary learning activities.

The paper first reviews three significant theoretical models of learning transfer, including Baldwin and Ford’s (1988) generative model, Daffron and North’s (2011) Successful Transfer of Learning Model, and Blume et al.’s (2017) Dynamic Transfer Model. Based on commonalities between these models, the author discusses three broad variables that affect transfer: individual learner characteristics, the design of the educational program, and the context of the ministry environment. Then, the paper interacts with recent neuroscience research about the power of transfer in learning (Sousa 2022) and makes application to theological education. Finally, the paper concludes with six recommendations for enhancing transfer of learning from seminary classes to pastoral ministry and presents two, brief case studies from seminary classes exemplifying these recommendations.

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