Welcome to the Living Religion project!
This project arises out of our desire to improve the fieldwork placement for our own students, curiosity about what other departments were offering in terms of experiential learning and hope that good practice could be shared. Accordingly, our main aim was to facilitate fieldwork placements in Theology and Religious Studies by producing a website containing research and resources, and encouraging dialogue between religious communities, tutors and students.
The Value of Fieldwork Placements for the subject of Theology and Religious Studies
This project has confirmed our belief that fieldwork placements are particularly valuable to Theology and Religious Studies. Among the reasons for this are the following:
- An opportunity for students to apply methodology for themselves and to rethink theoretical frameworks in the light of their experience. For example, a student in a focus group commented that they had ‘a far better understanding of the research methods stuff you read about’. The implications of this were discussed in our papers on experiential learning and redefining ‘British’ religions.
- A means for students to enhance their subject skills, especially in relation to understanding and representing the convictions and behaviours of others. For instance, a student explained that the placement was ‘[a]n unforgettable experience that allows you to discover first-hand exactly what a particular religious group believe. A great chance to meet new people, while challenging yourself and your misconceptions!’ The role of fieldwork placements in developing subject skills is documented in our Audit of Skills.
- A means for students to enhance their employability skills, and more generally promote their personal development, perhaps most crucially in the areas of interpersonal sensitivity, tolerance of stressful situations, and independence and self-management. One student said the placement ‘helps you develop the personal skills of how to work and interact with different cultures.’ The role of fieldwork placements in developing employability and personal skills is documented in our Audit of Skills.
- An effective form of experiential learning that facilitates rich and deep learning which is holistic and contextualized. A typical student response is ‘I felt that I learned more about [this] religion than I would ever have picked up from lectures and books’. This was the main focus of our paper on experiential learning.
- A flexible element of a student programme that can be delivered in a variety of modes. This is not the case at Bath Spa University in terms of the one-week fieldwork placement but placements can feature in project modules and dissertations and occur in vacations and non-timetabled spaces.
- An opportunity for students to engage with the wider community and for religious groups and organizations to interact with both younger people and the academic study of religions. In addition, specific students may forge longer-term relationships with these groups and organizations without becoming adherents.
- An attractive feature of a Theology and Religious Studies programme that assists with recruitment and marketing. On this subject, we give one of our current students the last word: ‘the placement went above and beyond my expectations and it was one of the most fantastic learning opportunities that I have ever had. When I chose to come to Bath Spa University, I made my decision partly because I was enthralled at the prospect of being able to go and live with a religious community. To me, this sounded utterly awesome. My time with The Community of the Many Names of God was truly unforgettable and I was right to make this a deciding factor when I accepted my offer to study here.’