The Theology and Religious Studies Benchmark Statement published by the QAA in 2000, revised for 2007 and republished 2014 can be mapped against these modules. This benchmark statement details the range of subject knowledge (3.1), the qualities of mind (3.2), and generic skills (3.4) acquired and developed in TRS degree programmes.
The MA programme is orientated towards future employment needs, being a route for those preparing for ministry in the Church, and those already engaged in ministry who want to build on their prior academic studies. The core modules TH7720, TH7722, TH7723; develop a range of key skills in terms of integrated and applied theological learning.
TRS Benchmark 3.1: subject knowledge
(i) A broadly based core, together with the wider context required for the subject area covered by the programme in question; and specialised study in depth of some aspects of the discipline or field. This implies not just the mastery of data but also the setting of these data within a theoretical framework which includes critical analysis and debate about how to understand and structure the raw data into a coherent whole. All modules e.g. TH7720, TH7722, TH7723, TH7719, TH7721, TH7738, TH7741, TH7742.
(ii) One or more religions, ancient or modern, including the origin, history and developed or present character of each. TH6720, TH6721.
(iii) The reading, analysis and interpretation of texts, sometimes in the original languages, particularly texts that have been sacred to one or more practising communities. This study will often focus both on the historical context which generated the text(s) and on hermeneutical questions concerning its meaning and application for the appropriate community of believers in the present, or for other readers today. TH7742, TH7719 MA Students based on campus have the option of attending beginners or continuing Greek and /or Hebrew classes to enable engagement with texts in original language.
(iv) Engagement with some of the major religious thinkers, prophets, teachers, ascetics, mystics, healers or leaders through their extant work or subsequent influence. TH7717, TH7720, TH7721, TH7725.
(v) The application of a variety of critical methods of study, often adapted from those of other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, to the study of texts, practices, religious communities as social or cultural entities, or their diverse art forms. All modules, especially TH7741.
(vi) The history of the particular discipline(s) covered by the programme, including the major theories, movements and thinkers. TH7721, TH7725, TH7741.
(vii) Ethics, morality and values. All religions have certain expectations in these areas, and the student will include them in the study along with other aspects of the religion. TH7722, TH7741, TH7750.
TRS Benchmark 3.2: qualities of mind
(i) The ability to understand how people have thought and acted in contexts other than the student's own, how beliefs, doctrines and practices have developed within particular social and cultural contexts and how religious traditions have changed over time. TH7720, TH7721, TH7725, TH7741.
(ii) The ability to read and use texts both critically and empathetically, whilst addressing such questions as genre, content, context, perspective, purpose, original and potential meaning, and the effect of translation if the text is not read in the original language. TH7719, TH7733, TH7742.
(iii) The appreciation of the complexity of different mentalities, social behaviours and aesthetic responses, and of the ways they have been shaped by beliefs and values, and conversely, how beliefs, sacred texts and art forms have been shaped by society and politics. TH7719, TH7741, TH7721, TH7720
(iv) Sensitivity to the problems of religious language and experience, and to issues of multiple and conflicting interpretations of language and symbols, texts and traditions. Simplistic, literalising or doctrinaire explanations are less likely to be advanced by a student of Theology and Religious Studies. All modules
(v) Appreciation of both the interconnectedness of and internal tensions within a system of beliefs and practices. TH7720, TH7722, TH7723.
(vi) Basic critical and analytical skills; a recognition that statements should be tested, that evidence and arguments are subject to assessment, that the interpreter's role demands critical evaluation. All modules e.g. TH7723.
(vii) The ability to employ a variety of methods of study in analysing material, to think independently, set tasks and solve problems. All modules e.g. TH7723.
(viii) The capacity to give a clear and accurate account of a subject, marshal arguments in a mature way and engage in debate and dialogue with respect for the opposite case or different viewpoint. All modules e.g. TH7741.
TRS Benchmark 3.4: generic skills
The Statement also lists these generic (transferable) skills acquired through the study of Theology and Religious Studies:
- independence of mind and initiative;
- capacity for reflexive learning;
- capacity to modify, suspend or otherwise change position when warranted;
- ability to gather, evaluate and synthesise different types of information;
- analytical ability and the capacity to formulate questions and solve problems;
- presentation skills, both oral and written;
- IT skills, including word-processing, communicating by email and using the web, accessing information from electronic as well as non-electronic sources (all students use the Virtual Learnign environemnt for both teaching activities and resources and assessment submission);
- writing skills, including accurate referencing and clarity of expression;
- ability to attend closely to the meaning of written documents;
- ability to read texts in a different language.
The Statement also lists these as skills:
- empathy and imaginative insight, with a tolerance of diverse positions;
- ability to attend to others and have respect for others' views;
- commitment to lifelong learning;
- teamwork skills;
- ability to work with others.
These are developed through the wider philosophy of learning at St John's and specifically through formative learning methods such as class discussion, small group work, class presentations and research. Self-discipline and self direction are developed in the weekly pattern of study involving formative assessment and feedback and particularly in modules TH7722 and TH7723.
A range of learning and teaching methods is used: lectures, presentations, seminars, group-work activities, guided reading, placement and reflection on placement experience, workshops, and giving presentations and discussing the presentations of other students. Students have direct access to module tutors and to a personal tutor to guide their learning. As this is a level 7 programme, students are encouraged to take a significant level of responsibility for their own learning, both independent and collaborative.
Use of the virtual learning environment in taught modules and distance learning modules allows: sharing of information; opportunities for discussion groups; links to videos and other online resources; as well as participation in a wider virtual St John's community.
Our approach to assessment includes the following elements:
- building on skills and knowledge already acquired from previous (experiential) learning;
- taking account of the diverse range of learning styles;
- testing for the relevant learning outcomes;
- seeing assessment as part of the learning process, not simply a test of learning gained elsewhere;
- orienting assessment activities towards the context of application of knowledge, understanding and skills gained.
Formative assessment occurs in a range of formal and informal contexts, including feedback in class discussion, group work and presentations, and peer-to-peer learning, as well as in one-to-one conversations with tutors.
Summative assessment over the programme primarily takes the form of assignments, but also include a placement report and an integrative dissertation.