Jen Smith

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jennifer.smith@teachfirst.org.uk


I am a teacher by vocation, and worked in secondary schools for a decade. However, I always felt conflicted at being forced to compartmentalise my professional life from my experience as a person of faith. This eventually saw me complete a Master's degree in Theology in the USA in an attempt to begin to explore the intersection of theology and education. Since returning to the UK, I have been working in adult theological education – curating an introductory theological course for lay people, both those called to church and marketplace ministries (www.kingstheology.org). Now, my doctoral research gives me the opportunity to journey further and hopefully make a contribution that can shape the education of Christian adults in the future.

PhD Studies

Title

What Prevents Christian Adults from Learning? in conversation, perspective and practice: an analysis of John Hull’s theological pedagogy of disruptive inclusion.

Supervisors

Professor Dr Nicola Slee, Dr David Allen, Dr Gerdien Bertram-Troost

Research Topic

Biblical scholars may occasionally consider pedagogical method, educational philosophers turn their hand to the practical implications of their theorising, and ecclesial practitioners explore the theological territory of learning methodology. John Hull's What Prevents Christian Adults from Learning?, however, remains rare within Christian education literature as a discussion uncompromisingly located at the intersection of Christian theology and adult educational theory. 

John Hull achieves this integrated theological pedagogy by maintaining and oscillating between two fundamental observations, simultaneously claiming a) that for theology to be pedagogical requires Christian education to take inclusion seriously, and b) for pedagogy to be theological requires it to include a level of disruption. For Hull, neither of these twin poles – disruption and inclusion – could be compromised. Thus, this project will propose, explore, analyse and apply Hullian theological pedagogy through a lens coined “disruptive inclusion”. 

The fundamental aim of this project is to consider how Hull’s theological pedagogy might direct, strengthen and nuance contemporary Christian educational research and practice in the UK. The specific lens of “disruptive inclusion” serves three particular functions: primarily, to allow for the first detailed and nuanced analysis of Hull’s adult Christian pedagogy and explore why this aspect of Hull’s research is comparatively overlooked. Second, to ground a comparative evaluation of the nature, extent and limitations of a Hullian theological pedagogy within practical theology more widely. And third, via a critical reflexive methodology, to enable this project to move beyond Hull’s observations of that which prevents effective Christian adult learning and use my own experiences of educational disruption and inclusion to systematically analyse how their combination impacts learning experiences and outcomes for Christian adult learners.

Research Activity

Research Interests         

The intersection of theology and education – in particular, theological pedagogies, the impact of exegetical and hermeneutical methodology on learning, homiletical pedagogy, Walter Brueggemann on the Psalms, Theological Interpretation of Scripture and Biblical Theology, Christian formation and discipleship.