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 are about.
  • 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 common:
  • 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.
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.)

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 beginning seekers.

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Last revision: February 4, 2002