Research

Research

In this section you will fine a number of reports on aspects of research arising from the project. These explore the extent to which experiential learning is used within the field of Theology and Religious Studies.

Living Religion Final Project Report

This report explains the initial rationale, aims and activities of the project, evaluating progress made by 31st May 2011. The project has involved surveying experiential elements in Theology and Religious Studies Departments (see Survey_Report.doc available below), visits to and interviews with placement providers, student focus groups and questionnaires along with the creation of resources now found on this website. However, the plan was always to continue to develop the website in collaboration with other colleagues beyond the initial funding period.
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Report on Experiential Learning in British Theology and Religious Studies Departments

This report analyses responses to a questionnaire sent to forty Theology and Religious Studies departments in 2009. This questionnaire was designed to discover which departments offered opportunities for experiential learning and the nature of these opportunities such as day visits to places of worship, study visits abroad and placements both fieldwork and vocational. This questionnaire was also designed to discover why any such opportunities might be offered. This report summarises our findings and establishes the agenda of the project.
Download Survey_Report.doc (500k)


When the Twain Meet: Redefining ‘British’ Religions through Student Encounters with Religious Communities

Abstract of article in Discourse (revised version of keynote address originally presented at the HEA PRS Subject Centre Conference Teaching Religions of South Asian Origin January 2011)

Teaching about religions of South Asian origin in British universities takes a variety of approaches. Among these approaches is the direct encounter with adherents of these religions, whether in South Asian countries or in the diaspora. The ‘Living Religion’ project funded by the Subject Centre has focused on experiential placement learning. This relates to fieldwork in religious communities undertaken by students in their second year, with placements in British Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh centres featuring prominently. Such placements are valuable because they challenge certain assumptions about South Asian religions as exotic or ‘other’ while nevertheless allowing students to explore radically different ways of living within their own society.

We contest some associations of ‘diaspora’ including its negative connotations and the conflation of Westernisation and modernity. Our point is that religions of South Asian origin are not somehow inauthentic in a British setting nor are they best understood in some classical form of centuries past.

On the contrary, we draw attention to the diversity and dynamism of these religions in contemporary Britain that feature a number of ‘Western’ converts and flourishing new religious movements. These points are illustrated by the facts that membership of these religions is not necessarily synonymous with particular ethnicities and that these religions continue to flourish with the diaspora sometimes proving a site of innovation.

Studying religions of South Asian origin does not, therefore, require a focus only upon their manifestations in South Asia. Moreover, our contention is that these religions need to be examined in their British context as British religions and hence that British students need to study them as part of their own heritage and history.

For full article see: http://www.aulre.org.uk/heaprsarchive/sec4_discourse/section_4.html


Do They Really Believe That?: Experiential Learning outside the Theology and Religious Studies Classroom

Abstract of article in Discourse (revised version of paper originally presented at the HEA PRS Subject Centre Conference Courting Controversy July 2010)
This article examines the HEA-funded ‘Living Religion’ project on experiential learning in Theology and Religious Studies (TRS) in relation to students’ engagement with Cultural and Religious Diversity (CRD). Such diversity may be encountered in a number of ways, including textbook accounts, media portrayals, and interaction with staff and fellow students in the classroom. However, the project has been concerned mainly with CRD outside the classroom when students meet and even live with people of faith in their own communities.

At Bath Spa University, experiential learning takes a variety of forms, among them a week-long placement in a religious community which cannot be one to which the student belongs or with which s/he is already familiar. This article examines the issues and opportunities arising from this placement and other experiential elements, mainly day visits, in the wider context of the project. It also discusses examples of experiential learning across TRS programmes, findings from a survey of departments and an audit of skills associated with this form of learning. It concludes that experiential learning is particularly conducive towards a positive response to diversity, combining individual integrity with respect for others and promoting the development of constructive strategies for coping with the sometimes controversial, often challenging, nature of CRD in our society and beyond.

For full article see: http://www.aulre.org.uk/heaprsarchive/sec4_discourse/section_4.html


Making the Strange Familiar and the Familiar Strange: Fieldwork Placements in Religious Communities

Abstract of paper delivered at the British Association for the Study of Religion Conference Religion Beyond the Textbook September 2016 (and an update on research originally conducted for the project). It formed part of a panel on ‘It doesn’t say that in the book’ – Fieldwork in Learning and Teaching in Religious Studies alongside papers by Lynn Foulston (University of South Wales) and Emma Salter (University of Huddersfield).

Religions, Philosophies and Ethics at Bath Spa University (in various incarnations) has been sending students on week-long placements in religious communities since the 1970s. The continuing commitment, financial, administrative and otherwise, to placements has been driven by a recognition of the transformative potential of the experience, certainly academically but often in much broader terms. This paper examines the experiences of a recent cohort of third year students, discussing the opportunities and challenges of the placement in order to identify some common themes and issues. It makes the case that this is one way to engage and enthuse students and also to find out what it is really like to live and work as, or at least with, members of religious communities.

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