Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2014-2015 (archived)

Module THEO42330: Practical Theology: Context, Practice and Methodology

Department: Theology and Religion

THEO42330: Practical Theology: Context, Practice and Methodology

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2014/15 Module Cap


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To enable the building of the skill and habit of theological reflection (including familiarity with a range of methodologies) and the integration of theology and the practice of ministry.


  • A series of sessions at the beginning of the module will cover an introduction to the methodology of theological and practical reflection. Sample student-led seminars by previous students are also included in this methodology teaching.
  • The outline content for the methodology section is as follows: 1) The history of applied and practical theology 2) The pastoral cycle and other methodologies in practical theology 3) Practical Theology and Pastoral Care 4) The use of the Bible and Tradition in Practical Theology 5) Practical Theology and other disciplines: the Social Sciences, Education, Psychology. 6) Practical Theology and empirical research. Thereafter students will work in small groups of normally up to ten students. Each class session of approximately two hours will consist of a ninety minute seminar, led by one of the students followed by approximately fifteen minutes group reflection facilitated by the tutor. Each group will be ecumenically mixed and led by staff from different institutions where possible.
  • Subjects for the seminars will be agreed by the course leaders using as a guide an indicative list of issues relating to ministry and mission. An initial bibliography and seminar outline will be supplied by the students and commented on by the course leaders. Preparatory reading and reflection upon their own experience is expected from each member of the group.
  • An indicative list of subjects covered in such seminars is given below:
  • Social Exclusion: the blind and partially sighted
  • Scapegoating: Asylum Seekers
  • Homosexuality and Parish Ministry
  • The interplay of theological and psychological factors in the choice of church music
  • The theological and pastoral implications of dementia
  • The ethics of fund-raising
  • The Human-Animal Companion Bond: a theological, pastoral and liturgical exploration • Divorce and re-marriage: marriage discipline in the C. of E.
  • Theological, ethical and pastoral issues raised by Forces Chaplaincy
  • “Church and Night-club”: exclusive spiritual communities?
  • Spirituality and Mental health Care
  • The theological and pastoral issues raised by the emergency baptism of infants in hospital
  • Jewish-Christian Inter-faith dialogue: does each side really want it?
  • In working with post-graduates it is more appropriate to allow the exercise of initiative in choice of subject rather than to work from a prescribed list. However, all subjects selected must be within the following parameters:
  • Relatively narrow in scope so as to be allow effective coverage within a 90 minute seminar
  • Engage with the interface between the theological tradition and the practise of ministry
  • An area in which the seminar leader either has some experience or is prepared to undertake some research

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A developed, systematic and critical understanding of methodologies in the discipline of practical theology;
  • Experience both of engaging in theological reflection individually and facilitating that reflection as part of a peer group using the full range of theological resources.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Ability to deploy a variety of methodologies in the discipline of practical theology;
  • skills in using critically a variety of disciplines, particularly the human sciences, to understand and describe a range of situations;
  • ability both to critique existing practice and plan for the development of ministry in complex and unpredictable contexts.
Key Skills:
  • Communicate complex information and argument in a clear and orderly way;
  • Understanding of a range of complex phenomena;
  • Problem posing and problem solving;
  • Identification of, respect for and appropriate use of empirical data.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module functions as the second module in the Doctor of Theology and Ministry degree (DThM). Through the first module students will have developed core concepts and been introduced to a variety of approaches to practical theology. This module allows them to refine concepts by exposure to a wider range of methodologies and through identifying and constructing a focused topic in practical theology. For this students must give a critical account of their choice of methods and defend robustly their conclusions. The teaching takes place over three short residential periods. The first inducts the students into the style of working and explores the underlying methods of practical theology. The second block considers the critical questions facing practical theologians, particularly issues of inter-disciplinarity, authority and epistemology. The final residential block is focused on the presentation of students seminars, discussion of these practical theology topics and their evaluation. The 90 minute seminar is a formative assignment on which written feedback is given. With the feedback, the same topic is pursued to a 5,000 words summative assignment.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 90 minutes 15
Tutorials 4 30-60 minutes 4
Seminars 5-10 90 minutes 15
E-learning discussion 12 weekly 30 minutes 6
Preparation and reading time 60
Preparation and reading in association with formative summative assignments 200
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

90 minute seminar

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University