What’s a colloquium? That was my first question mark when I was invited to the AGST Alliance Doctoral Colloquium. It turned out to be an informal exchange with an academic slant. So the three theology and seven education doctoral candidates were there in Bible College of Malaysia in Petaling Jaya to share our progress or the lack thereof with the program director Dr Allan Harkness, and other expert AGST Alliance officials/ lecturers/ like Dr Perry Shaw and Dr Rosalind Lim-Tan and other experts.
In the first session we were presented with the estimated time and the deliberate process of completing a dissertation from the acceptance of a focus area to the submission of the finished work to external examiners. It was an eye opener. It looked like the promise land with its giants and impenetrable fortresses. I needed to take it step by step and each step by faith.
There were three other helpful sessions. One was a review of what was expected in terms of the research question, and the rigour of the research methods that matches the research to be done. The other was a session on expectations and roles of the supervisors that have been attached to us.
The most helpful session lasted a whole day. Each of the doctoral candidates had to present the research they had done thus far and receive specific advice and input from the experts and their peers. This was most helpful for me as I saw what was expected in concrete cases and what was taught as general principles became clearer as it was set in the specific context of each person’s research question. There were educational research questions on the ethos of a Christian school in Malaysia; on faith formation in Chinese speaking Christian families in Sarawak; theological reflection of pastors in Singapore; the different outcomes arising from Christian workers relationships with their fathers; and the equipping of the young old in Singapore churches.
The main lessons we learned were that in order for our research to be useful for the kingdom, we needed to narrow down the sample population, justify the research methodology used, be more specific with the research topic.
We stayed in the La Salle hostel. Each room had two bunk beds and an attached toilet and a balcony for laundry. I stayed in one at $60 ringgit per night. Lectures were held in BCM which was a 15 minute walk. There were quite a number of popular Indian restaurants and a well-known
Ipoh kway teow and bean sprouts and chicken rice joint nearby and we had most of our meals in these places. Travel was a good 4.5 hours bus ride on First Coach from Novena to Bangsar, and from there, a kind classmate, May drove us to BCM.
Now that the colloquium has ended I need to process it and the input they gave to my research idea. The way I look at it. I am now at the entrance of Timpohon Gate and about to begin my trek up the steps and slopes to Loh’s Peak. It’s going to be a test of endurance and faith, but I am going to replicate what I have always done with trekking: take a deep breath and move my feet one step at a time.
We were mistaken about the street food. It was a public holiday. So all the night stalls in the streets were closed. But on all other nights the stalls were open and we tried out the barbecued squid, pork satay, phad Thai, and Thai salad for supper. Cheap and good.
After lunch at the Thai bible seminary, we would troop out and look for brewed coffee at 40 baht (SGD $1.50). This became a daily affair as we needed the extra kick to keep awake over the afternoon periods. We got to know each other better and we discussed different matters raised or triggered by the lessons. Three guys I got to know better are Peter, Michael, and Philippe – wonderful folks with a love for the Lord and a vision for his work.
The pre-campus reading comprised two books, “The Leadership Challenge” (Kouzes, James and Posner)and “Leading Congregational Change: A practical guide for the transformation journey” (Herrington, Bonem, and Furr). We wrote 5 reflection papers on the former, and posted them online on lore.com for peer comments.
Long morning walk
Then we came together for the on campus sessions. We arrived at Bangkok Bible Seminary at 8.30am. It was a 30 minute walk with backpacks weighed down with heavy laptops.From Bangkok Christian Guest House where most of us stayed, we trudged through narrow and interesting side streets and back lanes to the meeting place. By the time we arrived my dark blue short-sleeved cotton shirt was wet with perspiration from the exertion in humid weather. The lecturer, Dr. Pieter F. Theron, a South African, later told the class of 13 adult learners that there was no use for laptops!
Play to Learn
After a whole morning to introduce the subject, we played a simulation game that teaches change leadership in education through a board game. We were to imagine we were members of a team appointed by the superintendent of an imaginary school district and tasked to transform a few schools into continuously learning communities. How would we go about bringing about transformation? We were given in random order a string of leadership steps. Each step we decided on would draw from a limited resource of bits, and would receive feedback that determined how quickly the many game board pieces moved towards the final stage of renewal. After each school year, played over two hours, we had a debriefing, and we reflected on what we learned about leading change.
Searching for street food
Lunch was at the bible institute but looking for relatively cheap food for dinner was difficult. At Silom Complex, we could not find an air-conditioned food mall like the one available at the top floor of MBK.Then some of us searched for cheap street food on the opposite side of Silom Road but found nothing.So we settled for a Thai restaurant along the main road. Later a few of us went farther and walked two kilometres in search of local street food along the main road but skirting the R.A. streets of Patpong 1 and 2. Later we finally found one street hawker who occupied a whole narrow lane with a row of about 15 tables with chairs. We saw mainly local customers. The prices were half those of the restaurant. We will patronize that stall one of these nights.
There was no assignment tonight so we were relaxed. From Tuesday onwards we will have an assignment for each night. The wireless in the guest house was pathetic and I write this blog post which I can upload tomorrow using the wireless at the bible institute.