Friday, April 21, 2017

Researching the future

wonder I’ve spent the last few days pulling together two keynote addresses I am giving in Sydney next weekend. The conference is hosted by the Sydney College of Divinity and is focused on Learning and Teaching, with the theme of Wondering about God together. My preparation has involved trying to stitch together a number of projects sitting on my hard drive, including
– parts of my Flinders Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching application
– some research I presented at the Ecclesiology and Ethnography conference in 2015, on activist research.
– a conference abstract I had accepted for BERA (British Educational Research Association) 2016 (which I had to withdraw from due to work and budget pressures)

It has also involved working in partnership with a colleague, Rosemary Dewerse, who has provided invaluable research assistance. I wanted to offer a “sector” survey – of trends in online learning and research in theological education – and Rosemary has been a superb collaborator.

It is my first international academic keynote/s so I am pretty excited. Here are the two abstracts:

Researching the future 1: the contribution of flipped learning to innovation in theological education
Steve Taylor and Rosemary Dewerse

The focus of this paper is learner-centered teaching. Research shows that only 5% of university class time involved active student participation (Maryellen Weimer, Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice, Jossey-Bass, 2002). This is considered in relation to the particular demands of teaching theology, which include a student cohort that is often mature and highly invested.

A number of strategies to increase student participation are outlined, drawn from the authors’ own experience. These include attention to classroom interaction, industry-shaped assessment, tutorial design, curricula development and flipped learning.

Given flipped learning is a recent innovation being shaped by changes in technology, it is considered in more depth. Three lines of inquiry are pursued, including as a strategy for increasing student participation, integration with Bloom’s taxonomy and in dialogue with current research into transformative learning, in particular the role of technology in learner centred teaching.

The argument is that learner-centred teaching needs to take technology seriously. However this needs to be nuanced, given that teaching is a profoundly social activity. Paying attention to the voice of student peers is an essential dimension of the learning experience. While technology is an important innovation in attending to this dimension of teaching, equally as important are the pedagogical strategies that enable learners to appreciate agency in themselves and their peers.

Researching the future 2: The implications of activist research for theological scholarship

Steve Taylor and Rosemary Dewerse

The focus of this paper is research-led teaching. The conference theme, of wonder, is applied to the actions of researching our teaching. The notion of researching our teaching raises important identity questions in relation to research, researched and researcher.

The insights of activist research are applied as a theoretical framework which enables us to attend to our identity as theologians (speaking of God’s Kingdom) and teachers (wanting to impact students). The implications of action research are further developed by undertaking a sector survey. This involves applying the work of Ernest Boyer to an analysis of journals, sector bodies and publications in theology. What emerges is a picture of a sector that has prioritised research in the domain of discovery, yet has given little encouragement to the domain of research from teaching and learning.

This is inconsistent with the multiple investments, both as educators and from our key industry partners, who work with us in this sector. I propose four theses:
• Each of us are activist researchers because we care about our content and our communities
• Our denominational stakeholders value activism, our teaching more than our research
• We as a theological sector are weak overall in our research outputs
• Researching our teaching as activist researchers provides an opportunity for us to align our multiple investments and investors and attend to our weakness as a sector

To make this concrete, I outline a set of first steps, under headings of informal research, institutional feedback and researching practice. In the midst of massive social change, the invitation, and imperative, is for us as a theological sector to wonder together by researching our teaching practice.

Posted by steve at 11:24 AM


  1. Thank you Steve.
    What more could one wish for? Collaboration in Learner-centred and Research-centred teaching in theological education within the academy.
    My wish is for the leadership that you and Rosemary are providing in such a learner/research-centred teaching approach may also become increasingly evident in adult theological education within parish contexts.
    Have a beneficial conference in Sydney.
    Will your papers become available to those not so fortunate to be at the Conference? Hope so.
    Kind regards, John.

    Comment by John Littleton — April 24, 2017 @ 4:23 pm

  2. Thanks John. I really enjoyed pulling together some of my thinking in collaboration in Learner-centred and research-led in theological education into 2 sustained thought pieces. The intention is to publish all the keynotes plus selected papers from the conference. There are over 30 other papers being presented, so there should be a rich selection,

    steve taylor

    Comment by steve — April 24, 2017 @ 10:03 pm

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