Chapter 6: Step Five -- screening tasks
You may want to ask all seekers who are under serious consideration to
complete one or more substantial screening tasks. We do this with our groups,
for the following reasons:
To let them see that we are serious, demanding teachers who know what we
To find out whether they are willing to work at learning our ways. (but
remember, they know they are being assessed and will probably still be
trying to impress us).
To give students who aren't sure they want to continue with us a graceful
way to opt out - all they have to do is nothing.
Characteristics of a good screening task
Well-designed and appropriate screening tasks have several characteristics
In our groups, we use an environmental orientation exercise, which we call
Touch the Earth
. This usually requires significant library or other research. There
is no reason to limit this exercise to Pagans. Anybody, of any religion
or none, would benefit from knowing more about their local ecology. So
we posted Touch the Earth on the Web along with our mission statement
and other introductory materials. Seekers who found us through the Web
might arrive with it already completed. (This means, of course, that we
needed to know the answers in order to see whether the seeker got them
right. In general, it's a bad idea to ask seekers or students to do work
you're unwilling to do yourself.)
A good screening task should be something that would benefit anyone, even
if they decide not to go any further in their studies. On the other hand,
if they do continue in your particular group, what they did for a training
class should be clearly related to your regular curriculum. Either way,
it is disrespectful to waste people's time or energy with make-work.
The task must not be trivial. It must also not be dangerous or demeaning
to the seeker.
Completing the task must be feasible with reasonable time and effort and
without significant financial outlay.
Successful completion of the task must be readily apparent to the teacher
or other assessor.
If you are located in an area where a variety of groups exist, you may
also want to ask seekers to visit one or more other local groups before
formally joining yours. This compare and contrast exercise helps them be
clearer about what they really want. To help seekers evaluate the groups
they encounter, Judy would also recommend distributing copies of Isaac
Bonewits' excellent Cult
Danger Evaluation Frame as widely as possible, and especially to
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Last revision: February 4, 2002