Learning Methodology

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The student’s ministry is the main resource for learning. The client/patient is the “living human document” and provides the encounters that are formative for the student. The student participates in choosing his/her placement for ministry and spends 15 (extended) or 25 (residency and summer) hours weekly in that ministry.

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Learning Contract

In accordance with the adult model of learning, students set their own goals for personal, professional, and theological growth in regards to pastoral ministry. This will be facilitated by the supervisor according to standards of ACPE/NACC.

These goals form the learning contract between student, supervisor and peers.

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Group Process

The student is a member of a group of at least three and not more that seven peers. At least one hundred hours are spent with the group and/or supervisor in reflecting on ministry and topics relevant to ministry. The peer group participates in verbatim seminars, pastoral consultation, IPR (Interpersonal Relationships Seminar), didactics, reading discussions and supervisory conferences. Sessions included in the curriculum rest on the needs of the group.

Verbatim/Verbatim Seminar

Each student prepares a weekly verbatim, several of which s/he presents in a verbatim seminar. The supervisor provides feedback on all verbatims. Peers provide feedback on those presented in the group. The verbatim requires the student to recall what happened in a ministerial encounter and to assess it from a theological, psychological and sociological perspective. In the verbatim seminar, the input of several persons provides additional perspectives and insight into what happened as seen through the eyes of several peers and supervisor.

Social Analysis

The social analysis is a process used in the community-based program to reflect on the ministry setting of the student. The student prepares beforehand a presentation on the background of the setting including the history and development of the site as well as the perceived needs and challenges of clients in that setting. S/he invites the peer group to visit the setting and often includes staff members in the presentations.

The Community-based program uses this tool for reporting and reflecting on ministry. It is much like a verbatim. It may involve a social analysis of the environment and the special needs for ministry to a specialized population.


Didactics are sessions in which theoretical material is presented. There is usually one didactic weekly. Presenters are drawn from the Buffalo Area. They are experts in their field and have an awareness of what CPE is. Relevant workshops in the area become part of the curriculum when feasible. As students move on in the CPE Process, they are encouraged to share their expertise in didactics or a specialty with peers or other CPE groups.

Interpersonal Relationships Seminar (IPR)

This is an open agenda session. During this time, students have the opportunity to focus on their personal development through relationships with themselves, their peers and others they encounter in the CPE experience. They may ask others for feedback on their functioning. They may offer feedback to others. They may receive feedback unsolicited from others. They learn to address issues in relationships and to deal with conflict. It is a time of learning communication skills that can support them in clarification, support and challenging themselves and others. This may be seen as a lab for trying new behaviors one may have avoided heretofore.

Mid-Unit Refocusing

This is a group exercise that takes place about half way through the unit. Students reflect together on their learning objectives, their ministry, their theological integration, their relationships with one another, the supervisor and with staff where they minister. This affords the time to look at where one has come from, where one is and where one might like to go in the remaining weeks of the unit.

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Weekly Evaluation Journal

Time passes quickly when one is taking CPE and the process is intense. To capture those “aha” moments, students keep a journal in which they are asked to record what they have experienced and are learning about themselves, their relationships, their ministerial experiences, their theological integration, their successes, challenges and limitations. This helps one to identify growing edges as well as to claim a developing pastoral identity.

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Supervisory Conference

Individual supervisory conferences are planned weekly. The Student meets privately with the supervisor. The student has the opportunity to function in “the adult learning mode”, taking responsibility for his/her learning and reflectiveness in the process. The student is responsible for the agenda, though the supervisor offers feedback s/he may wish to give to the student.

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Final Self-Evaluation

During the last week of the program, there is a final evaluation process. As part of this, the student prepares a written final self-evaluation that s/he shares in the group process. The self-evaluation follows a set of reflection points and covers every aspect of the program. It helps the student to draw together his/her experience and claim the growth s/he has experienced during the unit as well as his/her growing edges.

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Supervisor’s Evaluation

The supervisor writes a final evaluation for each student. While the Standards of ACPE and NACC allow 45 days after the unit to complete evaluations, the Catholic Health System supervisors prefer to make those evaluations available in the last two days of the program. The evaluation is discussed in private conference with each student and is kept on file for ten years. It is shared with other persons only upon request by the student or if there is a need to ensure a student’s safety.

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We encourage students who feel they have completed the Outcomes of Level I or Level II to request an appropriate consultation. Preparation of papers and meeting a committee of professional to defend various levels of competency, help the student prepare for certification.

A Level I/II consultation committee consists of at least one supervisor, other than the student’s acting supervisor, the student’s CPE supervisor and two other persons who are acquainted with the CPE process. The student prepares required materials and presents them at least a week in advance of the consultation to the members of the consultation committee. Consultations for Levels I and II take place in Buffalo. Supervisory consultations take place at the regional level of the Eastern Region in compliance with the ACPE Certification Standards.

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Students seeking certification as Chaplain need to be affiliated with a national certifying body such as:

  • The Association of Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE)
  • The Association of Professional Chaplains (APC)
  • The Canadian Association for Pastoral Practice and Education (CAPPE)
  • The National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC)
  • The National Association of Jewish Chaplains (NAJC)

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