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Transforming practical theological education in the changing context of non-confessional higher educationGraham, Elaine L.; Stuerzenhofecker, Katja (University of Chester, 2016-10)This thesis is concerned with practical theological education in non-confessional higher education. If non-confessional Practical Theology is to take seriously its mandate to shape all of its students’ orientation and future actions regardless of their position vis-à-vis religion, it needs to respond to the increasingly diverse character of younger generations’ religiosity and the presence of non-Christian students. However, available studies of learning and teaching in Practical Theology, especially those originating in North America, predominantly focus on a Christian and clerical paradigm that is inappropriate for students of all faiths and none. Instead, I propose a reflexive process of formation in critical conversation with external norms and values. The development of this pedagogical reorientation requires an inductive study of participants’ positionalities. I welcome this as an exciting opportunity to move on from the Christian and clerical heritage with its concomitant process of formation through integration of external norms and values. My conceptual framework for this thesis is made up of four elements. The value of ‘prefiguring flourishing’ shapes my praxis in research and education. This leads me to adopt ‘Transforming Practice’ as the theoretical model for the design of my critical action research process. The hybrid positionality of ‘insider-outsider’ instead of a binary emerges from the research as a key concept that captures contemporary developments in religious identities, and affirms plurality and contingency in identity construction and group dynamics. This links to ‘rhizomatic fragments’ as conceptualisation of the ordering process in human life story construction, and in the research process and its presentation in the thesis. Based on this framework, I show how critical, reciprocal conversation between theological scholarship and alumni perceptions of long-term learning outcomes of my teaching practice can generate normative pedagogical principles for non-confessional PT while also prompting revision of theological concepts. The normative principles inform my student-focused reorientation of the model and aim of non-confessional PT, relevant curriculum, and appropriate learning, teaching and assessment. Secondly, I demonstrate how triangulation between these alumni-based normative principles, theological scholarship and autoethnography can contribute to the educator’s personal and professional development to realise their values more fully in their practice. This involves first deconstructing my past identity in theological education and vis-à-vis religion, and second reconstructing a confident future-oriented identity as theological educator.