Subject benchmark statements for 'Theology and Religious Studies'
The college pathway is accredited by the Ministry Division of the Archbishops' Council of the Church of England as a stage within an ordination training pathway.
Theology and Religious Studies
Tuesday 1st June 2010
The Master of Theology programme aims to provide students with a broadly-based programme in academic and practical theology, such as will prepare students for the exercise in the Church, of ministry that is critically aware, mission focussed, and collaborative, and will enable them to achieve a level of understanding and skill appropriate to level 7 programmes. It is distinctive in that it is a taught programme which enables graduates in subjects other than theology to follow a specially designed pathway, usually following on from the Graduate Diploma, that enables them within 2 years to hold a Masters qualification in theology in which they have been equipped to engage in professional Christian ministry. It also offers an integrative approach to theoretical and practical theology. The Graduate Diploma and MTh are together recognised by the Ministry Division of the Archbishops’ Council as satisfying its requirements for ordination in the Church of England for candidates sponsored for two years' training. Other students come from other parts of the Anglican Communion and from other denominations. The MTh programme is also available to independent students. The educational objectives of the programme are:
to strengthen and increase students’ systematic understanding of the Christian faith, specifically by theological study in the areas of Biblical Studies, Christian Thought & Worship, and Practical Theology;
to stretch to the full students’ intellectual capacities, by increasing a practical awareness of traditional theological disciplines as well as integrative and practical theological questions;
to encourage students in the formation of habits of reflection;
to build on the development of ministerial skills, including integration and collaboration, preaching and teaching;
to increase students’ understanding of the institution of the Church including its various spiritual traditions, and their place within it
to facilitate the integration of the above with the spiritual growth and development of students.
The programme delivers these in the context of the purpose and values of St John's, and within a distinctive educational and formational ethos.
Level 7: demonstrate an advanced detailed knowledge and critical understanding of the subject, with reference to advanced scholarship and with an appreciation of uncertainty and ambiguity (e.g. TH7703, TH7704, TH7705).
Level 7: critically apply a number of complementary methods of study, such as, philosophical, historical, systematic, dogmatic, phenomenological, linguistic, hermeneutical, empirical, speculative, and social scientific; apply these methods to review, consolidate and extend their knowledge and understanding (e.g. TH7703, TH7704, TH7706, TH7709).
Level 7: demonstrate an ability to resolve problems and make decisions in complex contexts (e.g. TH7704, TH7705, TH7706)
Level 7: develop projects and assignments which sustain and evaluate an argument, through independent enquiry, and which draw on a wide range of scholarly resources including research articles and primary sources (e.g. TH7701, TH7702, TH7703, TH7704)
The Postgraduate Certificate, the Postgraduate Diploma and the MTh are target awards within this programme
The programme is completed in one year full time or between two and four years part time, although students may take up to 6 years to complete the programme part time. Students may register part time, complete the taught elements in the 20 credit modules during a single academic year, and then complete the dissertation over the subsequent three years. For ordinands in the Church of England, this will often constitute part of their post-ordination training.
For all students entering the MTh having completed the Graduate Diploma in Theology for Ministry at St John's, modules TH7701, TH7702, TH7703, TH7704, TH7705, TH7706, and TH7707, and TH7722 are compulsory. Students entering with 'advanced standing' follow a programme tailored to their previous study, which may include up to 20 credits from level 6 modules offered at St John's and may include module TH7709. Specialism and focus are provided in the choice of seminar preparation undertaken by the students, and the particular subjects addressed in the choice of assessment options within each module. Students aiming to complete the post graduate diploma in 120 credits may complete either 6 x 20 credit modules or 3 x 20 credit modules and the 60 credit dissertation with the agreement of the programme lead.
Successful completion of three 20 credit modules (60 credits) leads to the award of a Postgraduate Certificate. Successful completion of 120 credits leads to the award of a Postgraduate Diploma. Successful completion of 180 credits leads to the award of the MTh.
Ordinands and other sponsored students follow the pathway described in 24.a above.
The MTh programme has been developed for students who already have a degree or equivalent qualification and some experience of Christian ministry. The normal entry requirement for the MTh programme is an Honours degree, a postgraduate diploma or a professional qualification recognised as being equivalent to an Honours degree. There are three routes into the programmes:
An honours degree in theology or equivalent qualification and some experience of Christian ministry. Students admitted under this route may be admitted with Accredited Prior Learning (APCL) or Accredited Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) and may be awarded exemptions based on prior learning.
An honours degree in another subject plus at least one year’s theological study culminating in level 6, plus experience of Christian ministry.
An honours degree in another subject plus successful completion of the Graduate Diploma in Theology for Ministry (which includes reflective experience of Christian ministry).
All applicants are required to complete the relevant application form, attend an interview and provide names of referees. St John’s is required to seek references to ensure evidence of personal, professional and educational experiences.
An IELTS score of 6.5 (or equivalent) is required for students for whom English is not their first language.
In all programmes we take full account of prior learning (APCL) and prior experiential learning (APEL) in the recruitment and selection of students.
The Theology and Religious Studies Benchmark Statement published by the QAA in 2000 and revised Oct 2014 details the range of subject knowledge (TRS Benchmark 3.1), the qualities of mind (3.2), and generic skills acquired and developed in TRS degree programmes. These are listed below mapped, illustratively, against modules in the programme.
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.
(ii) One or more religions, ancient or modern, including the origin, history and developed or present character of each. TH6701, TH6702, TH6703, TH6704, TH6707, TH6708, TH6709, TH6710.
(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. TH6701, TH6702, TH6703, TH6704, TH6705, TH6706.
(iv) Engagement with some of the major religious thinkers, prophets, teachers, ascetics, mystics, healers or leaders through their extant work or subsequent influence. TH6701, TH6702, TH6703, TH6704, TH6708, TH6709, TH6710, TH6727.
(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.
(vi) The history of the particular discipline(s) covered by the programme, including the major theories, movements and thinkers. TH6707, TH6708, TH6709.
(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. TH6711, TH6712, TH6714, TH6727.
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. TH6708, TH6709, TH6710, TH6711, TH6714.
(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. TH6701, TH6702, TH6703, TH6704, TH6705, TH6706.
(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. TH6708, TH6709, TH6710, TH6711, TH6713, TH6714.
(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. TH6707, TH6708, TH6709, TH6711, TH6712, TH6713, TH6727.
(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.
(vii) The ability to employ a variety of methods of study in analysing material, to think independently, set tasks and solve problems. All modules.
(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.
TRS Benchmark 3.3: 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;
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;
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.
A range of learning and teaching methods is used: lectures, presentations, seminars, group-work activities, language classes, 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 significant level of responsibility for their own learning, both independent and collaborative.
Use of the virtual learning environment in all 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 includes essays, text-based studies, exegesis, reflection on prior experience, class tests, participative debate, assessment of performance and reflection on it, and integrative placement report.
The MTh is designed to provide academic and practical theology appropriate for graduates preparing for ministry in the Church or for lay people involved in the Church who want to study applied theology in a confessional context, and functions as the second stage building on the Graduate Diploma. Together with the Graduate Diploma, it is accredited as a pathway for ordination training in the Church of England.
Successful graduates of the programme will be reflective practitioners, who deploy the ministry skills gained, aware of the importance of Scripture as foundational for belief and practice, and seeking to make connections in an appropriate way with the realities of the context they are in. They will be committed to discerning the activity of God in this context, and to following God's lead in the direction of their ministry, seeking to deepen their own spiritual lives as they encourage others to do so. They will be confident in their own theological tradition and personal convictions, but be willing to engage with, contribute to and learn from other traditions and other perspectives. They will be committed to the central importance of holistic mission with Christian ministry.
St John's is committed to promoting equal access to all, regardless of age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and disability. We are particularly concerned to provide support for those with additional learning needs to allow them to attain a level of academic achievement commensurate with their abilities. Issues arising from the diversity of perspectives are explored in a number of modules in the programme. We believe in the richness of community that is created by welcoming the gifts and perspective from as wide a range of Christian experiences as possible.
Since we are a confessional institution, we ask that students respect the values and commitments of the institution, and commit to respecting the values and commitments of our students.
Students who are candidates training for ordained ministry in the Church of England are expected to abide by the moral and ethical commitments of the Church and its expectations of those in public ministry
We are aware that candidates for ordained ministry do not come from as diverse a cross-section of society as we would like. Whilst encouraging the Church to seek greater diversity, we also seek to work in partnership with other groups, for instance the Black-led churches, to create a more representative and diverse learning community.
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