Magazine article Momentum

Why Religious Education Assessment Is Important in the New Evangelization and the Year of Faith

Magazine article Momentum

Why Religious Education Assessment Is Important in the New Evangelization and the Year of Faith

Article excerpt

An explanation of religious assessment and its benefits

The ability to articulate our faith and put it into practice are key components of the New Evangelization, the church's effort to "repropose" the Gospel to the world. The Year of Faith (October 11, 2013, to November 24, 2013), provides an opportunity to reflect on our faith and its importance in our lives.

As Pope John Paul Il and Pope Benedict XVI have explained, the modern world's turn to secularism has made it difficult for the ordinary Christian to hold onto faith- meaning belief in God- and to practice faith- meaning engaging in acts of worship, charity and justice.

A logical outgrowth of the church's efforts to awaken faith in people is the need to examine catechesis, which is the teaching of Christian truths "with a view to initiating hearers into the fullness of Christian Life" (Prologue of the Catechism of the Catholic Church).

It is not enough to impart head knowledge of the faith; catechesis aims to create believers who put their faith into action in the world, and who are doing so as joyful members of the church.

The goal, then, of Catholic catechesis is clear: to create committed disciples of Jesus Christ who understand and practice the Catholic faith. But how do we know if catechesis is achieving this goal?

Assessment- a method of measuring knowledge and practice- can tell us in an objective way whether or not we are helping people establish saving relationships with Jesus and becoming committed, knowledgeable Catholic Christians.

Assessment is helpful in two ways: it is an objective way to take stock of an individual's faith knowledge and practice and it tells us the strengths and weaknesses of the religion education process being used.

Since the 1970s, NCEA has been helping educators in Catholic schools and parishes assess how well their programs of religious education are doing in forming committed Christian disciples.

NCEA provides two assessment tools: Information for Growth (IFG) for adults and Assessment of Catechesis/ Religious Education (ACRE) for children. ACRE is undergoing a revision and a newly named religious education assessment tool will debut in September 2013.

Assessing a person's knowledge and practice of church teaching is straightforward. The first sections of IFG and ACRE each ask questions on cognitive areas such as doctrine, Scripture and morality. The second sections of both IFG and ACRE ask about behaviors and attitudes, including Mass attendance, personal beliefs and habits of prayer.

This comprehensive approach provides an assessment of an individual's standing as a disciple and, when a group participates in IFG or ACRE, provides an assessment of a catechetical program's effectiveness at forming disciples. In this way, we can evaluate the degree to which the New Evangelization is taking hold.

Difference between Assessment and Testing

Assessment is different from testing. Assessment is a larger concept, of which testing is a component. Think of an annual physical exam conducted by a physician. The doctor "assesses" your overall health by conducting several tests, such as a stress test, a cholesterol test, listening to your heart, etc. The results of the individual tests, when considered together, help the doctor assess how healthy you are.

In a similar way, the results from IFG and ACRE'S two sections on faith knowledge and faith practice provide the data a religious educator needs to assess the health of a person's life as a disciple. Taking it one step further, we see that when the IFG and ACRE scores for a group or class are considered, IFG and ACRE give the data needed to evaluate a program of religious education.

Assessments and tests are different in what they are designed to do. A test discovers what a person knows or doesn't know about a specific topic. An assessment is a kind of summary of several tests and reveals how well a person has integrated head knowledge about a subject into a set of skills and attitudes that result in desired behaviors. …

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