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Conversations beyond the threshold: an exploration of theological reflection among lay ministry students

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posted on 2023-08-30, 14:20 authored by Quentin D. Chandler
The context for the project was the researcher’s professional context as Principal of the Peterborough Lay Ministry Course (LMC) the Anglican Diocese of Peterborough’s training programme for licensed lay ministers. The purpose was to enhance the researcher’s professional practice by exploring perceived variance in aptitude or appetite for theological reflection among LMC students. A pilot study was conducted among a sample of students to test the usefulness of focus group interviews as a qualitative research method to explore the topic. The educational notion of threshold concepts emerged from reflection on the pilot study findings as a lens through which to view blockages in students’ practice and understanding of theological reflection. Engagement with literature led to a definition of theological reflection as a mutually critical dialogue between four ‘voices’: Christian tradition (including the Bible), experience, the self-reflexivity of the reflectors, and their praxis. Working with this definition, focus group interviews were conducted among the students to explore whether threshold concepts could be observed in their practice of theological reflection. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with the core tutors on the programme to explore their experience of theological reflection on the LMC and thresholds in its practice. A self-reflexive element involved the researcher in exploring his own negotiation of threshold concepts as the research project progressed. Five threshold concepts were found relating to the interpreted nature of texts, the complexity of theological reflection, its pervasiveness, attention to the internally held framework or habitus of faith, and the spiritual dimension of the reflective dialogue. The identification of the five threshold concepts in the students’ practice is the contribution to knowledge that enhances the researcher’s intellectual and professional self-understanding and leads to some proposals about future pedagogy on the LMC. A modest contribution is made to a debate about the characteristics of threshold concepts and their effectiveness as a theory to explain blockages in learning. The researcher’s self-reflexivity and negotiation of the spiritual threshold concept are identified as key areas of his own learning.



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