Research Defined

Research Paradigm for Doctor of Ministry Education

The Doctor of Ministry (DMin ) degree is a professional degree designed to develop ministry professionals in their capacity as spiritual leaders in the church. The vision of the DMin program at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary is captured in the phrase "changing the people who change the world." The focus is on transformation of the ministry professional to excellence in their ministry service. The research paradigm applied in this professional doctoral program is in some ways unique to doctor of ministry education.

The successful DMin graduate should be able to reflectively evaluate herself as a Christian and a ministry professional. The graduate should also be competent at evaluating a ministry context through processes that include theological reflection and the assessment of current scholarly literature. He should also be capable of designing an appropriate intervention to address a specific ministry challenge, and to reflectively evaluate the process and outcome of that intervention. As a ministry professional, the goal is to be able to constantly grow as a leader and to facilitate the onging development of those to whom she ministers, and the constant improvement of the ministry context.

The theoretical foundation of this paradigm for doctor of ministry research includes Kolb's experiential learning theory and model of learning styles. Kolb describes an ongoing reiteration of concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. A person can begin the cycle at any of the four learning styles. The DMin paradigm of research includes:

  1. Theological reflection relative to the practice of ministry in the participant's context.
  2. Review of current scholarly literature relevant to the ministry challenge.
  3. Evaluation and analysis of the ministry context relevant to the participant's personal and professional transformation.
  4. Telling the narrative of the case study in a manner that contributes to an advanced understanding of the nature and practice of ministry.
  5. Analysis of how the DMin project intervention has contributed to their personal transformation as a ministry professional.

Contribution to the general knowledge base in a certain field of study is not the primary goal of a DMin program. The focus is rather on the development of the ministry professional in Being, Knowing, and Doing. The major tools for this development are theological reflection, cognitive understanding of theory and best practices, ministry experiences and those who are served. The purpose of the evaluation is the development and growth of the ministry professional in both competence and character.

In turn, the assessment of DMin research focuses on the development of the ministry professional. Has the DMin participant changed? Has the experience of the DMin program better equipped and empowered the participant to serve in ministry at a higher level of effectiveness than before?

Assessing Doctor of Ministry Research
The Doctor of Ministry project is one of the learning modalities in the program. The project is a ministry challenge integrated into the program and the response to the challenge is developed throughout the years of the program. It provides an experiential learning base for the student. A project engages a professional within a ministry context for the purpose of transformation. In contrast, many dissertation paradigms primarily seek to add to the general body of knowledge in a certain field of study. The research paradigm of the Andrews DMin program supports the project undertaken as an integral part of the participant's program. The project assessment evaluates the transformational effects. Often, projects may provide inspiration or modeling for others in ministry.
The elements of the project assessment reflect this research paradigm. Chapter one includes a description of the ministry context and a definition of the problem. Chapter two is a theological reflection and chapter three a literature review. Chapter four describes the plan of intervention that the student has developed from the research done in the previous two chapters. Chapter five is the Project Narrative–telling the story of how the intervention was implemented, in some detail. Chapter six describes the evaluation process and the transformational effect of the project. Reflective observation is an important aspect of this evaluation. This chapter might be called Observations About Learning. The purpose of this chapter is to capture what the individual practitioner learned. It would also report how the participant has changed as a ministry professional and grown in ministry competency in the particular area of his or her concentration. This chapter could include a comparison of the student's current level of competency with the vision statement described in the Ministry Development Plan written at the beginning of the DMin program.
To facilitate this research paradigm, the research portion of the Project Seminar is focused on teaching a theoretical basis for reflective thinking and experiential learning (Kolb and others), theological reflection, literature review, reading and evaluating research, research reporting, and competencies in pastoral analysis. Pastoral analysis may include interpretation of demographic studies, intentional one-on-one and group listening activity for the purpose of identifying matters relevant to the project, or descriptive surveys designed to identify attitudes or ideas relevant to the project in its context. The learning comes from the work of self-evaluation and reflection on the project experience by the student. The student participates in a Project Assessment near the end of the DMin program. The goal of the assessment event is to present in a formal way the learning and growth of the ministry practitioner.
The role of advisors and second readers is to focus on the project, giving feedback to the student as they report the developments, implementation, and evaluation of the intervention. They also help the student reflect on what was learned from the project experience by asking probing questions. The written document is secondary to the project experience. The document captures the learning for the student.
The ultimate goal of the DMin proejct is how the process contributes to the growth in understanding and competency of the student, not the "success" of the project per se. An "unsuccessful" project might generate great learning and growth in the ministry professional. The focus of the DMin program is to "change the people who change the world."