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Beyond the Ordinary: Creative Approaches to Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religious Studies


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Title: Beyond the Ordinary: Creative Approaches to Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religious Studies

Beyond the Ordinary Creative Approaches to
Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religious
Wednesday 24 June 2009 York St John University
Why a Conference?
Because you say these things when you are
applying for funding ….. ….. its called
A brief introduction
  • Two projects
  • HEA PRS funded
  • exploring the effective use of creative
    writing and creativity in the teaching and
    assessment of TRS
  • CETL C4C funded
  • developing effective strategies for the
    utilisation of a creative / creative arts
    approach to teaching, learning and assessment in
    the subject area

  • Two modules creative arts practice and creative
  • Creativity debate in HE where is TRS in all
  • What else might be happening within the subject
    area that may be deemed to be creative,
    innovative, imaginative?
  • Share what we have done with others and provide a
    forum for dissemination and discussion of other
    good practice in TRS

  • Hence … a Conference!

Qualifying the conference title
  • Beyond the Ordinary
  • Ordinary usual, common place
  • Beyond other than the norm
  • Creative Approaches
  • Creative innovative, imaginative, dynamic,
    transforming, challenging - for sound pedagogic
  • Creative ? without purpose other than to be

Beyond the Ordinary Creative Approaches to
Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religious
Wednesday 24 June 2009 York St John University
What have we achieved?
  • Religion, Writing and the Creative Imagination
  • Learning includes discussion of
  • The creative writer and the spiritual quest
  • The function of human creativity and imagination
    in theology and religious discourses
  • The use of story in World Religion
  • Inter-textuality particularly how the bible is
    used in literature
  • The use of parable and metaphor to convey
    religious ideas
  • Religious and theological ideas present in Sci-Fi
    and Fantasy literature
  • Holocaust writing
  • Myth and the hero archetype
  • Theo-poetics how creative writing challenges
    dominant discourses
  • Workshops
  • Working with a creative writer
  • Assessment
  • Piece of original creative writing and a
    commentary which reflects on the process and
    explains the creative writing

  • Religion and the Visual Arts
  • Learning includes discussion of
  • What is Religious art?
  • Sacred Icons
  • Use of Visual Arts in Ministry
  • Sacramental Art in Hinduism
  • Art/Museum vs Faith/Temple
  • Sacred Images of Motherhood
  • Art and Religious Identity in Aboriginal and
    Holocaust Art
  • Painting as Theological Process
  • Iconoclasm in Christianity an Islam
  • Workshops
  • Working with a professional art educator
  • Visits
  • Glasgow art galleries and museums Ripon
  • Assessment
  • Piece of art and a portfolio

  • Questionnaire
  • 82 responses that identified some engagement 18
    included creative / alternative forms of
    assessment scripts, film, radio programme, blogs
    and postings on WEBCT, oral presentation, drama,
    story-telling, songs - most with an accompanying
  • Reflect on debates about Creativity in HE
  • NOT about incorporating creative writing or
    creative arts practice into modules
  • IS about asking what kind of learning do we want
    to promote
  • Imaginative Curriculum Project Norman Jackson
    et al
  • Developing Creativity in Higher Education
    The Imaginative Curriculum (London Routledge
    Falmer, 2006)

  • Defining Creativity in HE
  • the ability to use imagination, insight, and
    intellect, as well as feeling and emotion, in
    order to move an idea from its present state to
    an alternate, previously unexplored state
  • Jackson et al p. 5
  • being original, making use of
    imagination, finding and thinking about complex
    problems, willingness to explore in order to
    discover, making sense of complexity,
    thinking outside and transferring into the
    disciplinary box, synthesis, making connections
    and seeing relationships
  • Jackson et al p. 95 101

  • How we might do this …
  • nurturing students creativity in higher
    education is best achieved through a process- or
    activity-based curriculum that engages students
    in challenging, novel and unpredictable ways of
    working and learning
  • Jackson et al p. 211
  • What we need to challenge
  • transmission models of teaching where
    teachers attempt to transfer their own knowledge
    and sense-making to students through
    lecture-dominated teaching where students
    engagements in learning are predominantly based
    on information transfer, and are heavily
    prescribed and controlled by the teacher
  • Jackson et al p. 210

Religion, Writing and Creative Imagination
  • Overview of Learning Outcomes
  • Produce a piece of creative
    writing in a selected literary genre
  • Demonstrate an understanding of
  • How their piece expresses religious ideas
  • Relation to previous understanding in
    Theology and Religious Studies
  • .

Case Study 1 The Pram
  • Genre
  • Short story/parable
  • Intertextuality
  • Life Experience, Kabbalah , Father Ted,
  • Mel Gibsons Passion of Christ, Gnosticism,
  • Previous Learning
  • Biblical studies Suffering servant in Isaiah
  • Theology Action and Reflection
  • Religious expression
  • Discrimination against the Other
  • Hope for the outcast and oppressed
  • Questions hypocrisy/power of the Church

Case Study 2 Via Dolorosa
  • Genre
  • Retelling of Gospel narrative
  • Intertextuality
  • Bible theophonies eg Daniel Ezekiel,
    Revelation, historical facts,
  • contemporary literature based on Gospel
  • accounts of the Passion
  • Previous Learning
  • Christian Theology
  • Biblical studies
  • Religious expression
  • Idea of Ignatius Spirituality to enter into
    Gospel Narrative
  • Understand role of storytelling in Jesus
    teaching methods eg parables
  • Use imagination to understand doctrine

Case Study 3 Beans on Toast
  • Genre
  • Autobiography
  • Intertextuality
  • Life
  • Dickens Christmas Carol. Jeanette Wintersons
    Oranges are not the Only Fruit, TV Royale Family,
    Gavin and Stacey
  • Previous Learning
  • Function of religion eg psychology, way humans
    find meaning
  • Religious Expression
  • Existential Questions sickness, death and

Religion and the Visual Arts
  • Overview of learning outcomes
  • Religious function/message
  • Analyse relationship between visual image and
    religious idea
  • Design and development
  • Reflect critically on the experience

Life's Journey
Mary Stevensons Footprints in the Sand
Buddas footprint
Paul Tillichs concept of Ultimate Reality
Case Study 3 The Annunciation
  • Syncretism between pagan and Christian images of
  • motherhood/ mother and child inspired by
  • early evidence of catacombs to include women
    in the Incarnation

Influence of stained glass in the Christian
tradition Legend of the forget-me-knot Hope Opposi
tes eg sacred and profane
Roman Catholic Tradition Symbols Hope eg promise
of the resurrection British countryside
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  • Learning Outcomes linked to assessment
  • What are we assessing the final product, the
    process and reflection on it, a combination of
    the two?
  • What is being emphasised low level skills
    development in creative writing / art practice OR
    theological and / or religious studies
  • Criteria for assessment
  • Does this enhance students learning in the
    subject area?
  • Anxiety is this legitimate? Does it make sense?
    Are we being gimmicky?
  • Role of the tutor engage alongside in the
    creative activity OR be removed from it?
  • Tutor student relationship
  • Learning outcomes should we remove them???

Student Evaluations
  • the most enjoyable module of the whole
  • this is what Higher Education should be
  • this has helped me in my PGCE interview
  • a life changing experience
  • a really nice change from writing essays
  • a feeling of being outside comfort
    zone/element of risk
  • allowed me to develop deeper theological
  • expand my own faith perspective