To be totally honest, when I first created the Centering Wisdom Assessment (CWA) for use in my THEO 215: Christian Morality class, I didn’t exactly know what I was doing or where it would lead. At the time I just wanted to create a formative exercise for the students at the end of a unit on the relationship between contemplative practices and the cultivation of the virtue of prudence, or practical wisdom. I wanted a practical exercise to help students to leverage contemplative practices – ranging from general mindfulness meditation to distinctively theological forms of contemplative prayer – with wise moral discernment.
Then a friend and colleague, Bill Brendel, suggested that I try to “validate” the CWA. I smiled and nodded, and pretended to know what he was talking about, and then asked what it means to validate something. (I’m trained in reading and interpreting theological texts, not in social scientific methods.) In typical fashion for Bill, he said, “Yeah, you just have some people take it, run some statistics on it, and voilà – validated!” (Hmm, probably not that simple, but OK, why not?)
Fast forward about two years, and I have since paired up with Dr. Tonia Bock, Professor of Psychology at the University of St. Thomas. Thanks to her patient tutelage and expert knowledge of statistical analyses, I now know more than I could have imagined about validation studies. I won’t bore you with the details (however, for those who are data geeks, stay tuned for a publication of our findings relatively soon).
We did an initial survey in which we asked experts in the fields of contemplative practices and/or moral discernment to provide feedback on improving the questions. (This is called content validation.) Thanks to their feedback (and some other statistical mumbo-jumbo that showed us which questions weren’t that great – so we threw those out) the CWA now consists of 27 questions.
Here’s what else we’ve learned so far about the potential usefulness of the CWA for cultivating moral wisdom using by engaging in contemplative practices.
- The CWA has good internal consistency
- that means that there is evidence of consistency in how one answers the questions overall, and the particular questions within each category of attachment, avoidance, pride, and shame.
- The CWA has good convergent validity:
- that means that how persons respond on the CWA correlates with how they respond on other validated measures of mindfulness (we used the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory – FMI) and wisdom (we used the Brief Wisdom Screening Scale – BWSS). In other words, there is evidence that the CWA measures and reflects both a person’s level of mindfulness and wisdom.
We also will be presenting these findings at the 5th annual conference of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, called “Character, Wisdom, and Virtue,” at Oriel College, Oxford, UK, Jan. 5-7, 2017. The paper will be posted online sometime in November, and I’ll post a link once its available (for those who want to read more about the theoretical background and for the data geeks who want the actual numbers).
If you’re interested in administering the CWA for personal use or larger groups, please use the contact form and I’d be very happy to work with you!