Franciscan School of Theology

Degree Program Assessment

The Franciscan School of Theology (FST) is a Roman Catholic seminary and graduate school of theology seeking to prepare candidates for the priesthood, and lay women and men for professional work in society and ministry in the Church. It also provides opportunities for ongoing formation and education of those who want to deepen their knowledge of the Christian faith and their skills in the practice of ministry.

FST pursues an assessment inquiry by identifying the learning goals of its degree programs, working with direct evidence, analyzing the evidence in faculty committees, and then moving to evidence-based decisions to enhance program quality. The Master of Theological Studies (MTS) has been subject to the process. The Master of Divinity (MDiv) is currently under review.

institutional learning outcomes

Through work at faculty meetings and workshops, FST identifies three major Institutional Learning Outcomes as guides to all of the work of teaching and learning, community-building, and spiritual formation that shape its presence in Church and society. These are:

  • To integrate affective and intellectual growth through knowledge of the relationship among God, creation, ourselves, and our neighbors as expressed in Jesus Christ through the Roman Catholic tradition and the Franciscan heritage.
    • Student Learning Outcomes:
      • Theological knowledge: a coherent understanding of the Christian and Roman Catholic theological tradition in light of the Franciscan intellectual heritage
      • Theological skills: the ability to reflect, analyze, synthesize, communicate, interpret, and apply that tradition in a religiously and culturally diverse world
  • To create a communal environment that nurtures collaboration, inspires an apostolic spirit, and supports the development of the spiritual life appropriate to work and ministry in a changing world.
    • Student Learning Outcomes:
      • Leadership skills: the ability to interact with others in a spirit of openness and collaboration, to communicate effectively both orally and in writing, and to commit oneself to God’s kingdom through works of justice for all people
      • Spiritual maturity: an integration of affective and intellectual growth and commitment to the practice of spiritual disciplines, both personal and communal
  • To affirm the richness of intercultural diversity through the ways in which we foster community, construct our learning environments, and invite students, staff, and faculty to share their intercultural experiences and insights as a means of shaping students’ academic understanding, spiritual development, and pastoral practice.
    • Student Learning Outcomes:
      • Intercultural skills: an ability to integrate and reverence the experiences and perspectives of other cultures in their intellectual reflection, pastoral practice, liturgical celebrations, and communal life
      • Intercultural communication: an ability to interact with persons of diverse cultures with empathy, mutuality, and respect

These broad aspirational goals arise out of the ways in which students and faculty, staff, and public partners participate in the school’s programs and services. Each of these, in turn, aligns with Program Learning Outcomes for degree programs, and Student Learning Outcomes in individual courses.

mts program learning outcomes

The program of assessment described here focuses on the Master of Theological Studies (MTS), the largest of FST’s graduate programs.

FST faculty identified seven MTS Program Outcomes as the student’s ability to:

  1. Demonstrate a basic knowledge of the specified theological discipline
  2. Exhibit focused knowledge in a chosen theological discipline
  3. Conduct research and construct a theological argument
  4. Communicate coherently, effectively, and persuasively in writing and speaking
  5. Collaborate with others
  6. Interpret and apply theological knowledge
  7. Construct in a thesis a coherent, sustained theological argument in an area of specialized study


Aligning Course Outcomes with MTS Student Learning Outcomes

The first six MTS Program Outcomes (the seventh is used for the MTS Thesis) are used for assessment each semester. Each faculty member with MTS students enrolled in his or her course(s) prepares a Course Portfolio that:

  • Demonstrates alignment of Student Learning Outcomes at the course level with MTS Program Outcomes 1-6 (above)
  • Indicates the types of direct evidence used in the individual course to demonstrate progress toward MTS program outcomes (e.g., journal entries, reflection paper, research paper, annotated bibliography, exam, essay, oral presentation, on-line discussion, on-line wiki-projects, blogs)

Using these means of assembling direct evidence, growth in mastery is indicated in the move from the “benchmark” to the “milestone” levels in Program Outcomes 1 through 6, while reference to the “capstone” level is reserved for the program’s final project, the MTS thesis (MTS Program Outcome 7).


Capstone Project: The MTS Thesis (MTS Program Outcome 7)

The capstone project of the MTS Program is the MTS thesis, whose successful completion responds to Program Outcome 7: “Construct in a thesis a coherent, sustained theological argument in an area of specialized study.” The faculty commissioned an MTS Thesis Review Committee to undertake a review of recently completed MTS theses. They chose to review five theses completed in the last three years (15% of the total), selected based on a random-number generator, modeled on the method used for the MA thesis review committee of the GTU Council of Deans.

Faculty developed and published in the “MTS Thesis Guidelines” the institutional expectations for this capstone project, including the criteria by which achievement is assessed at the level of the thesis. A successful MTS thesis demonstrates the following abilities and skills:

  • The ability to develop a coherent, sustained theological argument reflecting an in-depth study of a theological topic
  • Skill in developing a theological framework
  • The ability to situate a topic within the commitment of faith
  • The ability to develop a theological argument

In addition, key required elements of the organization and development of the MTS thesis are enumerated in the Guidelines:

  • A thesis statement
  • Coherent organization of data
  • Evaluation of evidence
  • A cogent argument brought to a conclusion

In its content, the MTS thesis must also demonstrate the following elements of theological knowledge and skill in interpreting research results:

  • General academic knowledge of the Catholic theological tradition construed broadly enough to include: interrelationship of a specialized interest with other theological disciplines (e.g., if in Moral Theology, show the Biblical, Historical, and/or Systematic foundations for it).
  • Skill in the interpretation and use of theological sources relevant to the topic: Not all theological writers carry equal weight; be aware of recognized authoritative sources (both those that agree and those that disagree with your view of the subject); make sound interpretation of their contributions; document accurately your use of them.

As students prepare the MTS thesis, they also have additional guidelines to orient their writing project, one touching on appropriate use of personal and pastoral concerns, and the other on proper format and style:

  • The thesis may include an experiential component integrating personal, professional, and pastoral concerns. For example, the personal or pastoral context for the project as well as a statement that identifies what might be happening in this area that makes the project worth pursuing.
  • The thesis should demonstrate skill in the proper use of notes, references, and bibliographical materials, normally according to A Manual for Writers of Research, Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Seventh Edition: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers by Kate Turabian (unless another style has been approved by your thesis committee).