Faculty Retreat and Excursion at the Windsor Golf Hotel & Country Club

This academic year’s faculty retreat and excursion took place on 24 February 2024. It presented an opportunity for the faculty staff to be together for some insightful presentations, conversations, consolidation, and advancement of our work at Hekima University College (HUC). It was also a time for the staff members to relax and interact informally away from the classroom walls. The great environment of the Windsor Golf Hotel & Country Club, the venue of this meeting, and the warm hospitality of their staff presented a befitting ambience for this rendezvous.

The day began with mass at 6:45 am, celebrated in the HUC chapel by the Chaplain Fr. James Campbell, SJ. The faculty staff departed the HUC premises at 8:00 am and arrived in no time at the venue of the retreat and excursion. Upon settling down, the first input was delivered by Rev. Dr. Jerome Manyahi, SJ, from the Department of Natural Sciences and Information Technology of Mwenge Catholic University, Tanzania.

He noted that the intellectual way of doing things is a Jesuit culture and that intellectualism permeates every aspect of the Jesuit mission and apostolate, referring to GC 34 to buttress “the distinctive importance of intellectual quality of each of our apostolic works.” He argued that the intellectual apostolate needs “a fresh approach” in light of the beguiling secularisation that challenges the spiritual foundations of the Jesuit intellectual apostolate. The fresh approach should begin with an emphasis on the Jesuit spiritual heritage – the spiritual exercises, as the foundation of our intellectual endeavours today. This heritage, he noted, seeks the holistic formation and transformation of the human person and promotes a learning approach that is contextual, dynamic, and open to intellectual creativity.

Furthermore, Dr. Manyahi noted that theological study is considered a genuine apostolate in the Jesuit intellectual apostolate (GC 31). As such, he insisted, on the one hand, that today’s theologians be attentive listeners to the developments in theology and to the experiences of people, on the other hand. He also highlighted some challenges in the intellectual apostolate of JCAM, some of which include the following:

  • Many of our studies are not linked to the experiences of our people.
  • We are not taking enough measures to prepare people for the intellectual apostolate.
  • We lack the resources to establish and maintain institutions.
  • Intellectual mediocrity among companions and the unwillingness of provinces to send their best men to JCAM apostolates.

Nevertheless, he also highlighted some opportunities:

  • The challenges that Africa faces as a continent are research opportunities. These include, among others, political instabilities, mismanagement of resources, and ethical challenges on the continent.
  • There is a need to collaborate with awakening African leaders in conflict resolutions and interreligious dialogue.
  • There is a need for collaboration amongst Jesuit and non-Jesuit institutions in scientific research.
  • There is a need for deeper theological reflections on Inculturation.

Furthermore, a few sources of hope were also mentioned:

  • The emergence of new Jesuit Universities in JCAM Provinces.
  • The missioning of Jesuits to specialised studies.
  • The high-quality journals published in our Jesuit institutions and centres for research.
  • The vocation boom in many provinces.
  • The emergence of Jesuit networks and collaborations across the globe.

The second presentation, “Learn, Unlearn and Re-learn: Kenya’s Competency-Based Curriculum,” was presented by Mr. Ian Wairua from Strathmore University. He noted that the students following the new competence-based curriculum (CBC) will be due for enrolment into the universities in 2029. He insisted that this will require the government’s review and re-accreditation of our programs to ensure the continuity of competency-based education (CBE). At the background of this form of learning are societal pressures for a more comprehensive access to education, the need for clear proof of learning and competence, the need for learners to own the learning process, and the demand for broader transferable skills.

Furthermore, Mr. Wairua noted that the competencies sought in CBE include critical thinking and problem-solving, creativity and imagination, digital literacy and communication, and learning how to learn and collaborate with others.

In addition, he observed that, unlike the traditional learning process where students move together and credit hours lead to credentials,  in CBE, students will move at different paces, and a set of verified competencies will lead to credentials. Lastly, he focused on how an institution can make the transition towards CBE.

  • Determine the program competencies required and break them down into learning areas,
  • Determine the journeys of the students and include neurodiversity,
  • Determine assessment methods, compile the program design, and seek accreditation.

Rev. Prof. Patrick Mwania CSSp, HUC external examiner, delivered the third presentation. He defined assessment as “the systematic collection and analysis of information to improve student learning” (Martha L. Stassen et al., 2001, pg 5). He also stressed that students’ assessment is aimed at providing feedback that enables teachers to institutionalise effective teaching choices and review the curriculum. He identified two types of assessments. The formative assessment which assesses students’ ongoing levels of competence in order to improve students’ performances. The aim of this assessment is to help students improve in their subsequent assessment(s). The second type of assessment, he noted, is the summative assessment which is the end-of-semester evaluation of students. Prof. Mwania highlighted various methods of implementing the two types of assessments: Students’ self-assessment, Peer assessment, Essays, and Exams.

Furthermore, Prof. Mwania insisted that the assessment of students is more than grading students; it is seeking to help students do better in line with the objectives of each course. In other words, the role of examination is more than testing students’ comprehension and application of the study materials. It also aims to motivate the students to study while adding variety to their learning process. Examinations also provide feedback for the student, the teacher, and the institution. Consequently, examinations should seek to assess various aspects of learning such as knowledge of study materials, application of knowledge, evaluation of students’ reasoning skills, convergent thinking, divergent thinking, communication skills and final solution/answer.

Buliding on the aforementioned, Prof. Mwania highlighted the qualities of a good examination as inclusive of the following: realistic expectations, consistency, diversification of question types, free of bias, and appropriate level of difficulty. He also mentioned various models of final examinations:

  • Take-home exams that focus on how well a student can respond to given questions rather than a focus on writing an exam under the pressure of a restricted time.
  • The traditional time-bound examinations.
  • Examination with memory aids that focus on the ability to use information rather than the ability to memorise data or information.

Turning to the issue of the marking scheme, he underlined the benefits of always preparing them as: aids to the review of the questions, verification that the questions are testing what the teacher intended, and identification of possible alternative answers. In addition, he mentioned the need to clearly communicate to students about the goals and expectations of every test and examination. Furthermore, he raised the issue of exam moderation by each department in the faculty. He noted that an exam does not belong to the lecturer who taught a course, but to the college and identified areas that need to be moderated by each department: course outline, final exams, supplementary exams and marking schemes.

Lastly, drawing from the review of our past exam questions, he noted specific areas that needs attention in the future:

  • the absence of a standard way of setting exams at Hekima e.g how many questions should a 2-credit hour exam have?
  • The absence of clear and precise instructions in some exam papers.
  • The absence of the allocation of marks to each question in some of the exam scripts. The knowledge of the weight of every exam question is, in his words, “the students’ right”.
  • The lack of clarity about the answer that a question demands.
  • The lack of the use of taxonomical verbs in the setting of the exam questions in many scripts. These verbs indicate the levels of knowledge demanded by each question.
  • Presence of some questions with heavy narratives that lack clarity about what is expected from the students.

The presentations were followed by interactive sessions where faculty members made contributions to each of the presentations. The questions and contributions were rich. Some key elements that emerged were (i) the review of the points raised during the presentations towards ameliorating the quality of Hekima University College, (ii) the need to deepen contextual theology, especially in the courses we teach, and (iii) the need to identify and stress the unique identity and culture of HUC in all areas.

The faculty members were treated to a sumptuous buffet at the Windsor Golf Hotel & Country Club, and the view of the magnificent golf court provided the right ambience for relaxation, small conversations, and light walk-in pairs. It was worth our penny and time.

Benedict Ebogu, SJ

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