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PARTICIPATION IN ADULT CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

An investigation into a role for multimedia resources.

Stuart Grant Barclay LL.B., Dip.L.P., B.D., M.Sc.

August 2009.

Thesis submission for the award of PhD.

Supervisor: Dr Julie-Ann Sime


Department of Educational Research
Lancaster University
Participation in adult Christian education: an investigation into a role for multimedia resources. Grant Barclay, 2009. www.grant-barclay.co.uk Page 2
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I acknowledge the contributions of the members of a number of local congregations and in particular those who participated in the research rounds. Their
willingness to be involved and their generosity in contributing and describing their experiences was an essential part of this investigation. They are not
named individually for reasons of anonymity but their individual contributions were essential for and influential in this research.

The guidance and support of those who supervised this research was invaluable to me. I am grateful to Dr. Michael O’Donoghue without whose
encouragement and challenge I would not have commenced this work. I particularly appreciate the supervision of Dr. Julie-Ann Sime whose experience,
insight, constructive criticism and practical advice not only guided this work from its earliest thoughts to this stage but has enabled me to develop confidence
and ability to participate in academic investigation and discourse.

Colleagues within the ministry also provided me with encouragement and practical assistance. The Rev. Jamie Milliken gave considerable time and effort
reading and categorising many excerpts from transcripts and discussing interpretations and classifications. The result of these discussions which took place
over a number of meetings greatly clarified the interpretation of the findings and was a key part of the process of developing concepts of participation which
lie at the centre of this work, and his assistance and support are gratefully acknowledged. The Rev Dr. David Lacy and the Rev Helen Cuthbert willingly
agreed to be involved in a video-recorded conversation at an early point in the research and their patience and good humour were as valuable as the
knowledge and insight which they brought to the conversation. This first conversation was video-recorded by Mike and Drew Higgins from Alba Productions
whose practical expertise and willingness to assist is gratefully acknowledged. Elaine Duncan, who died prior to the third research round, transcribed a large
proportion of the research conversations in the first and second research rounds, a task which greatly assisted the progress of the investigation. I am
grateful to Dr Libor Stepanek for comments on a draft of this report.

I also acknowledge permissions given by authors and publishers of texts incorporated within the resources, particularly The Rev Professor Jeff Astley, the
Trustees of the Estate of the late William Barclay, and The Rev Kerry Kidd; together with publishers Lion Hudson plc, Darton, Longman and Todd, The Saint
Andrew Press and Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd.

This study was funded almost in its entirety by The Hope Trust without whose generous assistance the continuation of the research would have been
challenging, and this support is gratefully acknowledged. Further funding from The Kerr-Fry Bequest and the Church of Scotland Ministers’ Study Leave
Scheme permitted attendance at various conferences, participating in which proved useful to the development of ideas in this research.

I finally acknowledge the support of my family; my wife Karen and children Katie, Andrew and Kirsten. During a number of years they have been prepared to
have me absent from some family activities and have endured the frustration of my being present though with little active participation while my thoughts
were elsewhere. Their support and interest has, however, been invaluable in enabling me to complete this work and I appreciate their assisting me with
various administrative tasks connected with this research.

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Stuart Grant Barclay LL.B., Dip L.P., B.D., M.Sc.

PARTICIPATION IN ADULT CHRISTIAN EDUCATION


An investigation into a role for multimedia resources.

Thesis submission for the award of PhD.

August 2009.

ABSTRACT

This study investigated experiences of using multimedia resources incorporating a text and video-clips of church-goers’ comments to support Christian
education through face-to-face group discussions within a church congregation. Ordinary theology values and explores the views of non-theologically trained
church-goers and processes of acquiring these. Social learning theories emphasise increasing participation in communities of practice as integral to learning.
Vicarious learning theory has noted that watching articulations of others’ views supports social, cognitive and motivational aspects of learning. Christian
education endeavours in which ordinary theologians’ views are shared through locally produced multimedia resources have not previously been investigated
and reported.

Analysis of informants’ experiences using a phenomenographic approach in a three-cycle action-research investigation revealed distinct though related
experiences of participating in discussion and reflection on the subject. The resources provided information and offered peers’ varied views in a persistent,
conveniently available resource, under user control, found feasible to produce in two formats to broaden accessibility. They additionally permitted
communication through discourse as well as text, provided rehearsal opportunities, supported a sense of companionship in considering issues and implicitly
valued ordinary theologians and their contributions, thereby encouraging participation in this community of practice.

This report describes outcome spaces of experiences of participation. Insights from learning and Christian education theories encourage identities of
participation to be seen as an aspect of Christian education. The investigation suggests that making this range explicit among learners and educators may
support congregational Christian education endeavours and more specifically an extension to ordinary theology, namely sharing views among ordinary
theologians. Initial participation for some may helpfully be peripheral, restricted to viewing and reading with specific small-scale opportunities for articulating
views thereafter and leading towards greater participation which various elements within the resources support. However, concerns associated with
accessing such resources with limited infrastructure and skills were also noted.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION
1.0 Introduction ............................................................................. 1

1.1 Overview of this investigation........................................................... 3


1.1.1 Orienting research purpose...................................................... 3
1.1.2 Definitions ............................................................................. 3
1.1.3 Purpose of research................................................................. 5
1.1.4 Research style and data collection............................................ 6
1.1.5 Questions surrounding the research.......................................... 7
1.1.6 Scope and limitations............................................................... 8

1.2 Theories informing the research........................................................ 10


1.2.1 Ordinary theology.................................................................... 10
1.2.2 Vicarious learning and observational spiritual learning................ 11
1.2.3 Christian faith.......................................................................... 12
1.2.4 Communities of practice........................................................... 12
1.2.5 Theory, theology and technology.............................................. 13

1.3 The setting for this investigation....................................................... 16


1.3.1 General observations............................................................... 16
1.3.2 Researcher’s experiences of learning in church settings............. 17
1.3.3 Researcher’s experiences of technology.................................... 19

1.4 Media in Christian education............................................................. 19


1.4.1 Media in Christian education within the wider church................. 19
1.4.2 Media in Christian education within the Church of Scotland........ 20
1.4.3 Media in Christian education within the local congregation......... 22

1.5 Christian education and participation................................................. 25

1.6 Summary ............................................................................. 27

CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE
2.0 Introduction ............................................................................. 28

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2.1 Ordinary Theology........................................................................... 29

2.2 Christian education.......................................................................... 32


2.2.1 The participatory nature of Christian education......................... 33
2.2.1.1 Participation with Christian traditions and subject-matter... 35
2.2.1.2 Participation and individualism
in Christian education and practice................................... 36
2.2.2 The intent to transform within Christian education..................... 38
2.2.2.1 Individual and collective transformation............................ 38
2.2.2.2 Transformation through criticism...................................... 39
2.2.3 Technology, theological and Christian education................ 40
2.2.3.1 Supporting participatory Christian education
with multimedia resources............................................... 42
2.2.4 Discussion of Christian education.............................................. 43
2.2.5 Summary of Christian education............................................... 45

2.3 Social Cognitive Theory.................................................................... 45


2.3.1 Vicarious Learning................................................................... 47
2.3.2 Observational Spiritual Learning............................................... 51
2.3.2.1 Observational spiritual learning and
audiovisual presentation in the early church..................... 52
2.3.2.2 Observational learning mediated by video........................ 53

2.4 Communities of Practice and a church congregation........................... 56


2.4.1 Identities of participation......................................................... 58
2.4.2 Negotiating meaning............................................................... 59
2.4.3 Peripheral participation............................................................ 60

2.5 Research questions and reviewed literature....................................... 61


2.5.1 Reflecting on faith................................................................... 61
2.5.2 Participation............................................................................ 62
2.5.3 Resources ............................................................................. 62
2.5.4 Practical issues........................................................................ 62

2.6 Summary ............................................................................. 63

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CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHODS AND RESOURCES
3.0 Introduction and background............................................................ 64

3.1 Action research as the research style................................................. 64


3.1.1 Case study within action research............................................. 67
3.1.2 Empirical research and practical theology.................................. 68
3.1.3 Possible data collection and analysis strategies.......................... 68

3.2 Experience as a focus for research.................................................... 71


3.2.1 Phenomenography informing an analytical method.................... 72
3.2.2 Phenomenography in practice.................................................. 74
3.2.3 Criticism of phenomenography................................................. 75
3.3 Data collection ............................................................................. 75
3.3.1 Data collected through research conversations.......................... 75
3.3.2 Description of research conversations....................................... 77
3.3.3 Research instruments.............................................................. 78
3.3.4 Validity ............................................................................. 79
3.3.5 Reliability and verification......................................................... 80
3.3.6 Summary of method................................................................ 80

3.4 Multimedia resources....................................................................... 81


3.4.1 Description of resources........................................................... 81
3.4.2 Preparatory investigations and piloting...................................... 83
3.4.3 Production process for the first resource................................... 83
3.4.4 Production process for the second resource.............................. 84
3.4.5 Production process for the third resource.................................. 86
3.4.6 Summary of resource production.............................................. 87

3.5 Research procedure ........................................................................ 87


3.5.1 Initial survey and research conversations: learning in church..... 88
3.5.2 First research round................................................................. 89
3.5.3 Second research round............................................................ 89
3.5.4 Third research round............................................................... 90

3.6 Development of research conversations............................................. 90

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3.7 Practical and ethical issues in conversations....................................... 91
3.7.1 Informed consent.................................................................... 92
3.7.2 Access and acceptance; betrayal and deception........................ 92
3.7.3 Gratitude and support.............................................................. 93
3.7.4 Anonymity and non-traceability................................................ 93

3.8 Summary ............................................................................. 93

CHAPTER 4 RESEARCH FINDINGS


4.0 Introduction ............................................................................. 94
4.0.1 Overview of data collected....................................................... 94
4.0.2 Tensions in reporting action research findings........................... 95
4.0.3 Interpretation in reporting findings........................................... 96

4.1 Preliminary investigation into learning in church................................. 96

4.2 Participating in Christian education: general views of experience......... 98


4.2.1 Category A ............................................................................. 99
4.2.2 Category B ............................................................................. 102
4.2.3 Category C ............................................................................. 104
4.2.4 Category D ............................................................................. 107
4.2.5 Summary ............................................................................. 109
4.3 Relationships among elements in the resources ................................ 109
4.3.1 Relationships between reading and watching ........................... 110
4.3.1.1 Category A..................................................................... 111
4.3.1.2 Category T1................................................................... 112
4.3.1.3 Category T2................................................................... 113
4.3.1.4 Category V1................................................................... 113
4.3.1.5 Category V2................................................................... 114
4.3.2 Relationships between watching and reading............................ 114
4.3.2.1 Category A..................................................................... 115
4.3.2.2 Category B..................................................................... 116
4.3.2.3 Category C..................................................................... 117
4.3.2.4 Category D..................................................................... 118

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4.3.3 Relationship among reading, watching
and articulating views in video-clip .......................................... 120
4.3.3.1 Category T1................................................................... 120
4.3.3.2 Category T2................................................................... 121
4.3.3.3 Category P1.................................................................... 122
4.3.3.4 Category P2.................................................................... 122
4.3.4 Conversation on a jettisoned text............................................. 124
4.3.5 Relationships among reading, watching and discussing.............. 125
4.3.5.1 Category A..................................................................... 125
4.3.5.2 Category B..................................................................... 126
4.3.5.3 Category C..................................................................... 128
4.3.5.4 Category D..................................................................... 129
4.3.6 Relationships between articulating and discussing..................... 130
4.3.6.1 Category 1..................................................................... 130
4.3.6.2 Category 2..................................................................... 131
4.3.6.3 Category 3..................................................................... 131
4.3.6.4 Category 4..................................................................... 132
4.3.7 Informants’ summaries of elements and relations among them. . 133
4.3.8 Summary ............................................................................. 135

4.4 Practical experiences of using the resources...................................... 135


4.4.1 Viewing system....................................................................... 135
4.4.2 Extent of use of resources........................................................ 136

4.5 Researcher and producer perspectives ............................................. 136


4.5.1 Technical issues....................................................................... 136
4.5.2 Creating video-clips................................................................. 137
4.5.3 Technology requirements......................................................... 137
4.5.4 Emphasising the role of text..................................................... 137
4.5.5 Encouraging participation......................................................... 137
4.5.6 Activities supporting articulation............................................... 138
4.5.7 Self assessment in adult Christian education............................. 138

4.6 Summary ............................................................................. 138

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CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION
5.0 Introduction ............................................................................. 139

5.1 Christian education in this setting...................................................... 139


5.2 Participation in Christian education.................................................... 140
5.2.1 Categories of participation....................................................... 141
5.2.1.1 Category A: holistic participation...................................... 141
5.2.1.2 Category B: cognitive participation................................... 243
5.2.1.3 Category C: identity of participation................................. 143
5.2.1.4 Category D: forms of non-participation ............................ 145
5.2.2 Participation and learning......................................................... 146
5.2.2.1 Learning relationships..................................................... 146
5.2.2.2 Learning relationships, religious education
and communication technology........................................ 147
5.2.3 Movement among categories.................................................... 149
5.2.3.1 Development in Christian learning.................................... 149
5.2.3.2 Discernment and variation............................................... 150
5.2.3.3 Negotiating meaning....................................................... 151
5.2.3.4 Access and power relationships....................................... 152

5.3 Relationship between the resources and participation......................... 153


5.3.1 Texts and participation............................................................. 153
5.3.2 Dialogue and participation........................................................ 154
5.3.2.1 Peripheral participation in dialogue activities..................... 154
5.3.2.2 Encouraging dialogue concerning faith............................. 155
5.3.2.3 Discourse as a communication medium............................ 158
5.3.3 Instructional strategies and features......................................... 159
5.3.3.1 Presenting activity questions............................................ 159
5.3.3.2 Learner aims and activity................................................ 160
5.3.3.3 Asynchronicity................................................................ 160
5.3.4 Summary ............................................................................. 161

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5.4 Analysis of relationships among media elements................................ 161
5.4.1 Influence of reading on watching............................................. 161
5.4.2 Influence of watching on reading............................................. 163
5.4.3 Influence of the resources on articulating a video contribution.. . 165
5.4.4 Influence of the resources on participating in discussion............ 166
5.4.5 Influence of articulating a video contribution
on participating in discussion .................................................. 167

5.5 Other features of the resources......................................................... 168

5.6 Summary ............................................................................. 170

CHAPTER 6 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS


6.0 Introduction ............................................................................. 171

6.1 Summary ............................................................................. 171


6.1.1 Reflecting on faith................................................................... 171
6.1.2 Experiences of participation..................................................... 172
6.1.3 Elements within resources........................................................ 173
6.1.4 Feasibility of production and access.......................................... 173

6.2 Reflections on the research............................................................... 174


6.2.1 Limitations ............................................................................. 174
6.2.2 Strengths ............................................................................. 176

6.3 Professional development and personal reflections............................. 177


6.3.1 Professional development........................................................ 177
6.3.2 Personal reflections................................................................. 178

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6.4 Contributions to other theories.......................................................... 179
6.4.1 Pedagogical uses of communication technologies...................... 179
6.4.1.1 Textual literacy and oral discourse.................................... 179
6.4.1.2 Influences of media on participation................................ 181
6.4.2 Educational innovation and participation................................... 182
6.4.3 Learning relationships and social literacy................................... 183
6.4.4 A role for vicarious learning resources....................................... 184
6.4.5 Extending ordinary theology..................................................... 185
6.4.6 Phenomenography as a research methodology
in Christian education ............................................................. 185
6.4.7 Contexts for early practice....................................................... 185
6.4.8 Access to communication technologies...................................... 186
6.4.9 Diversity of video as a medium................................................. 186

6.5 Supporting Christian learning............................................................ 186


6.5.1 Participation in Christian learning.............................................. 187
6.5.2 Developing mutuality in ministry............................................... 188
6.5.3 Connections with other education settings................................ 188
6.5.4 Possible uses for communication technologies........................... 189

6.6 Beyond this investigation.................................................................. 189


6.6.1 Possibilities for further research................................................ 189
6.6.2 Practical developments............................................................ 190

6.7 Concluding comments...................................................................... 191

BIBLIOGRAPHY ............................................................................. 192

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APPENDICES

APPENDIX A PRELIMINARY QUESTIONNAIRE...................................... 212

APPENDIX B CONVERSATION SCHEDULES........................................... 213

APPENDIX C OPEN QUESTIONS / ACTIVITIES


IN THIRD RESEARCH ROUND.......................................... 222

APPENDIX D QUESTIONNAIRE FOLLOWING


THIRD ROUND DISCUSSIONS.......................................... 224

APPENDIX E RESOURCES................................................................... 225

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LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1.1 Overview of action research investigation.................................. 10


Figure 2.1 Axes of tension in Christian education....................................... 68
Figure 2.2 Transmission of the Jesus Event............................................... 69
Figure 2.3 Collaboration in considering the Jesus Event............................. 70
Figure 3.2 Production process for second resource.................................... 137
Figure 3.3 A page from the second resource............................................. 138
Figure 3.4 Production process for third resource........................................ 141
Figure 3.5 Page from third resource showing hyperlinks............................. 142
Figure 3.6 Progress of research activities in each round............................. 143
Figure 4.2 Preliminary survey responses................................................... 158
Figure 4.4 Media and activities within the resources.................................. 174
Figure 4.5 Outcome space indicating relationship between
reading the text and watching video-clips................................. 175
Figure 4.6 Outcome space indicating relationship among described
experiences of resource and articulating views.......................... 185
Figure 4.7 Relations among elements in resource...................................... 200
Figure 4.8 Frequency of use of activities in third round.............................. 206
Figure 5.1 Categories of participation....................................................... 210
Figure 5.2 Media and activities within each resource.................................. 244

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LIST OF TABLES

Table 2.4 Variations in resources and research rounds.............................. 98


Table 3.1 Overview of resources............................................................. 132
Table 4.1 Overview of research conversations.......................................... 154
Table 4.3 Reported duration and frequency of using second resource........ 173

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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION

1.0 Introduction

To engage with others in joint endeavours is a common human desire, considered ‘the foundational truth about what it is to be human:
that we are made for fellowship’ (Atkinson, 1990, p.68). Verbal communication1 is a principal element enabling fellowship:

‘Language is still our most effective tool for “expressing,” “conveying” or “communicating” human experience.’
(Astley, 2004, p.11)

This report investigates aspects of experiences of participating in some verbal adult Christian education activities 2 supported by multimedia
resources in a church congregation. Views from professional clergy, theologians and non-theologically trained church-goers were made
available to others using computers, televisions and DVD-players. This study, part of the researcher’s professional practice development,
describes how this investigation was planned and conducted, reports findings and discusses relevant literature giving insight into these
experiences.

The investigation identified aspects of the resources which influence experiences of participation with others through dialogue. These are
described, together with factors which may support, hinder or attenuate activities and the participation they are intended to foster.

The opening chapters of the Bible, an important text in this setting 3, arguably move from focusing on creation to considering participation
as man and woman are described as engaging together as companions and co-participants in tasks of living. This follows an implicit
criticism of non-participation, that ‘it is not good that the man should be alone’ (Genesis 2:18 4).

Within western culture generally the complete absence of opportunity for human participation is met with revulsion 5. Buber argues for the
development of ‘a living mutual relation’ among people (Buber, 1947, p.37), extending beyond understanding others as objects towards a
true encounter by an I of a Thou (Buber, 1970, pp.62, 112). Echoing the beginning of the Fourth Gospel, itself ‘probably a conscious
reminiscence of the first words of the Bible’ (Morris, 1995, p.64), Buber emphasises the importance of encounter: ‘In the beginning is the
relation’ (Buber, 1970, p.69).

1 Verbal communication here is the use of words either spoken or written.


2 Although church involvement incorporates many activities those investigated here involve reading and discourse.
3 In this report ‘this setting’ refers to the church congregation in which this investigation was conducted.
4 Quotations from the Bible are taken from the New Revised Standard Version.
5 For example, the case of Elizabeth Fritzl, prevented from interacting with others for twenty-four years (Rohrer, 2008).

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Relationship occurs through dialogue (Smith, 2000, p.6 ; Buber, 1947, p.24) a primary means by which authentic responses are constituted
(de Feijter, 2007, p.55). Put another way, dialogue supports the establishment of ‘genuine relationships’ (Kramer, 2001, p.65), and offers
possibilities beyond agreement towards greater understanding (Eck, 1993, p.19, in Kramer, 2001, p.65). As such, dialogue is a key
component of Christian fellowship: we cannot give up talking 6 (Astley, 2004, p.14). How might we encourage talking, though? Does
technology have a role in supporting and encouraging dialogue activities among church-goers? This investigation seeks to offer one
insightful response through investigating experiences of supporting dialogue by means of certain available 7 technologies.

Participation flows from a culture which encourages members’ engagement in beneficial educational, cultural and political opportunities
which technology has been noted to have potential to resource (Jenkins, 2006, p.3). A number of communication technologies are
computer-based; all resources in this investigation were produced and some were viewed using computers. However the term includes
many other devices (Gomez et al., 2008, pp.117-8) and in this investigation DVD players and domestic television sets were also used. The
view that participation is governed by technology rather than culture is not adopted in this investigation which seeks to discover some
influences of technology on cultural practices of participating in dialogue about issues of faith.

Dialogue is an important element in participation 8 but other factors are also influential. For example a perception of presence, a
psychological awareness of being together when parties are physically apart, is something which some communication technologies have
been demonstrated to support (Knudsen, 2004, p.6). Participation, though, transcends presence (Fowler & Mayes, 1997, p.188) and
includes activities whereby people are involved or included with others with potential for them to act in partnership. Communication
technologies may resource the sharing and valuing of verbal and other contributions in diverse ways, leading both to increased individual
expression and involvement through participating within a community (Jenkins, 2006, pp.4,7). This study investigates effects of
introducing additional means of communication, enabled by technology, into a community in which some dialogue already occurs and
more may be stimulated.

Three multimedia resources were developed in this study. Experiences of participating, principally through dialogue, as influenced by these
resources were investigated in an action research study9 extending to three cycles over a three-year period10. Data gathered and analysed
informed insights into experiences of participation in adult Christian education among church-goers which were influenced by the
resources11. The investigation addressed the general question: What influence do the resources used in this investigation have on church-
goers’ experiences of participating with others in considering and discussing issues connected with faith?

6 A possible weakness of this investigation was its focus on discourse, addressed in section 5.2.1.1.
7 The underlying electronic equipment facilitating this dialogue is complex, consisting of video cameras, computers, DVD-players and televisions. Nevertheless their presentation is designed to make their
facilities accessible in ways which may be manipulated by those without technical knowledge of their workings. In the UK these tools are affordable to many people, though not all. Availability refers to the
ease with which they may be used, presuming necessarily familiarity and access to them.
8 Participation may also be influenced by many non-verbal behaviours but examination of these is beyond the scope of this investigation which is restricted to verbal communication, both spoken and in
writing.
9 This is described in chapter three.
10 The rounds of action and reflection occurred over this period; the entire study has taken five years to complete.
11 These are described in chapter four and discussed in chapter five.

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1.1 Overview of this investigation

A theological framework for this investigation is provided by ordinary theology (Astley, 2002a), whilst vicarious learning (Mayes et al.,
2002) and particularly observational spiritual learning (Oman & Thoresen, 2003a, 2003b) offer insights from educational theory. Aspects
from communities of practice (Wenger, 1998), a means of considering learning as part of social activity, also inform this investigation.
These theories are discussed in chapter two of this report. A number of distinct conceptual domains are spanned in this investigation in
the belief that insights may be obtained from a broad approach which includes theories of adult Christian education, social learning, and
multimedia and learning.

1.1.1 Orienting research purpose

The overall purpose of the research is to gain insight into experiences of participating with others in considering issues from a Christian
faith perspective through reading texts, watching video-clips, discussing in small groups and articulating early thoughts in video-recorded
conversations. Insights are obtained from an analysis of informants’ descriptions of their experiences, given largely in research
conversations.

Whilst action research encourages observing practices and reflecting upon them in order to generate suitable research questions, some
over-arching purpose is nevertheless required. For this investigation that purpose is to identify varying experiences of participation which
the resources and group discussions influence and to make connections among these experiences, relevant theories of learning, and
Christian education. The general orienting research question is: What experiences of participation are described by church-goers using
these resources and attending discussion groups, and how are experiences of participation influenced by the resources?

This general question requires to be made more precise for each round of research, a process which involves both review of relevant
literature12 and insights gained in the investigation’s earlier rounds. More specific research questions relating to each round are accordingly
described in section 1.1.5 below and are refined in section 2.5 following a review of literature.

1.1.2 Definitions

The same individuals may have different roles in this investigation, and understanding this report may be assisted if distinct roles in
particular situations are clear. The following definitions aim to clarify those roles and the use of these terms in this report aims to bring
consistency.

12 This is described and discussed in chapter two.

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Those who used the multimedia resources are termed ‘users’ and those whose video-recorded conversations were included in the
resources are termed ‘contributors’. Users may be contributors and contributors may be users, where they later read and watch the
resource, including video-clips in which they appear. Those who attended small group discussion meetings are termed ‘participants,’ are
expected to be users and may also be contributors. ‘Informants’ are those who described their experiences in research conversations and
whose descriptions informed the findings and conclusions of this research.

The researcher produced the resources and is referred to as ‘producer’ when that role is prominent in this report though he is referred to
as ‘researcher’ when that role is more relevant. The phrase ‘this research’ throughout this report refers to this investigation, undertaken in
three rounds as described in section 3.1. The researcher is also the Minister13 in the church congregation where this investigation is set
and that term is used where its connotations appear most relevant.

‘Ordinary theologians’ are those who engage in ordinary theology, defined as:

‘the content, pattern and processes of ordinary people’s articulation of their religious understanding . In the case of adults …
ordinary theology might be called the theology of the non-theological adult.’
(Astley, 2002a, p.56, italics original.)

Ordinary theologians are adults14 who share with others their understandings of aspects of faith without having had formal theological
training or education15; this definition does not refer to teaching authority or responsibility (Healy, 2009, p.28). All informants were
associated with the church through attending services or events and many were formal church members 16. Ordinary theologians may not
recognise that term or regard themselves as such, though the researcher assumes from experience that there are many ordinary
theologians around, certainly in churches (Ibid., p.28).

‘Church-goers’ are ordinary theologians who have some connection with a church congregation through attendance at services or events,
irrespective of formal membership.

For the purposes of this research faith is taken to be:

‘the dynamic, patterned process by which we find life meaningful.’


(Fowler, 1981, pp.3-4)

13 The term Minister is used within Reformed churches and denotes ordination to an office concerned with pastoral care, leading worship, celebrating sacraments and encouraging Christian learning.
14 This investigation is restricted to adult learning. Christian education among children is not addressed in this study.
15 A fuller definition of ordinary theology is provided in sections 1.2.2 and 2.1 below.
16 There is a process leading to formal church membership, but membership is not a requirement to attend worship or participate in church-based activities. A number of regular
church-goers in this setting are not formal members.

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More specifically, Christian faith is the focus of this investigation. This concentrates on the ‘Christ event,’ accounts of the life of Jesus Christ
and implications of these for belief and behaviour as developed within the Christian church 17.

‘Digital video,’ in this report denotes a range of technologies making possible the capture, manipulation, storage and distribution of audio-
visual material using a computer. All video-clips in this study were created using digital video.

‘Communication technologies’ are systems and electronic devices ‘which allow for interpersonal interactions, rather than ... those classified
as mass media’ (McKay, Thurlow & Zimmerman, 2005, p.186). Examples include computers, DVD-players, mobile telephones and media
players.

The ‘internet’ denotes a series of standards and protocols making possible the transmission of data among computers.

1.1.3 Purpose of research

Advances in communication technologies, especially digital video and the internet, offer possibilities for supporting communication,
participation and learning:

‘The ability to combine digital video seamlessly with other tools over the web offers an opportunity to move our concept from
video as a purely presentational and instructional tool to video as a focus for student activity, collaboration, and communication.’
(Bijnens et al., 2006, pp.10-11)

Communication technologies make it possible to create, store and transmit video and other material cheaply and easily 18 (Ioannidis,
Garyfallidou & Spiliotopoulou-Papantoniou, 2005, p.57; cf. Bates, 1995, p.189). The resources produced in this investigation incorporate
previously-published texts with video-clips containing a range of views on a subject. What influence do these resources have on those who
consider the subject and discuss it with others in small groups? Is participating in discussion and reflection promoted or hindered by using
such resources?

The investigation explores practical issues such as whether text and audio-visual multimedia resources can be produced within a local
church, albeit one in which the Minister has some limited experience using relevant technology 19?

17 Christian faith is described further in section 1.2.3.


18 Issues of cost and ease of use are understood as relative, and in this setting are approached in terms of feasibility of producing resources of an acceptable standard which are capable of being accessed
using computers or DVD-players and television equipment available to church-goers.
19 This experience is described in section 1.3.3.

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This investigation seeks to make a contribution to Christian education and ordinary theology, to educational technology, and more widely
to concepts of participation in learning. It also develops understandings of combined uses of text and video to support activities in adult
Christian education and deepens the researcher’s understanding of his role as a Minister in encouraging activities by means of resources
such as these.

In order to investigate experiences of these types, resources are needed and require to be used. This study reports experiences of using
the resources but explores technical aspects of producing them only briefly in section 3.4.

1.1.4 Research style and data collection

This investigation requires contributors to speak about aspects of their faith and Christian knowledge in video-recorded conversations or
group discussions, both of which are accessible to others. The subjects addressed may be complicated or personal. There may be
requirements to use technology in ways unfamiliar both to the producer and to users. Informants may have had little prior opportunity to
reflect on or to articulate experiences captured in this research and describing them may be demanding. The researcher requires to be
involved with others with whom there may be pre-existing friendships or animosities within a relatively small faith community. In this
research involving potentially daunting experiences, how may deep insights be gained through these situations without findings being
blurred, or biased, or failing to perceive small but important aspects?

An action research style enables reflection on action to inform alterations to subsequent planning and acting. The cyclical approach of
planning, acting, observing and reflecting has been used in church congregations though not extensively reported in the literature (Martin,
2000, pp.154, 164). In this study an initial survey and period of planning was followed by three cycles in each of which a multimedia
resource was created and experiences of using each were captured in research conversations with informants. These were analysed using
an approach from phenomenography which sought to categorise informants’ described experiences, discussed in section 3.2. An overview
of the investigation is provided in Figure 1.1 which indicates the spiral and cyclical nature of the process and includes the main steps taken
in chronological order, grouped in terms of four ‘phases’ or ‘stages’ of action research (Martin, 2000, p.154; Sagor, 2004, p.4). Coloured
backgrounds indicate these phases within three spirals of action and research.

Aware that insights might come from sources beyond those arranged for this investigation an attempt was made to listen out for relevant
comments during the ordinary life of the congregation. A conversation with an informant regarding a potentially useful text20 developed
understandings about perceptions of the task of reading a text with a view to articulating a response and notes from this conversation
were written immediately afterwards. Informants at times made reference to other activities they had engaged in through their church
involvement. These incidental and unplanned insights constituted part of the observations and have informed reflection and subsequent
planning.
20 This text was not used but was replaced with another.

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Particular themes emerged through these rounds, principally regarding participation and the influence of the resources and their
constituent elements. Some literature was examined in the initial planning stages and before each round. Much, however, was read during
phases of reflecting on the effects of ‘trying things out,’ which is itself an aspect of action research (Steeples, 2004, p.3). Relating
reflections and insights from literature was productive but is difficult to indicate in the diagram which also inadequately reflects the
winding, imprecisely planned and sometimes unexpected processes which comprised this investigation. Tensions in reporting processes
and conclusions within an action research investigation are discussed in section 4.0.2 below.

1.1.5 Questions surrounding the research

This investigation raises a number of questions. Some concern the influence of resources on considering aspects of faith: how does
reading the text influence this reflection, how do informants approach the text and what experiences of reading it are reported? Similar
questions arise concerning the video-clips: in what ways do they affect considering the subject, and what influence does watching peers'
comments have on these reflections? Interactions between these elements are also worth exploring: how does reading the text affect
watching video-clips, and vice versa? Church-goers’ contributions are not sought in writing; instead they are invited to offer their early
views through video-recorded conversations. Would they be prepared to do this and how might the text and other video-clips influence
their contribution? Likewise, what influence does anticipating this video-recorded conversation have on reading the text and watching
video-clips? The final opportunity for reflection comes in the group discussions21. What preparation for this do the resources encourage?
More generally, how might these varying experiences be understood in terms of relevant learning theories including those of adult
Christian education?

Bijnens et al. (2006) describe video as a focus for collaboration and communication. Is such a use possible within Christian education
endeavours? May a resource incorporating video-clips permit local church-goers to share their views, or does its use render the anticipated
task impossibly daunting or superficial? Do users perceive they are involved with others when using the resources, particularly watching
video-clips of peers? If so, what sense of involvement is described and how does this relate to anticipating the subsequent discussion and
the likely tasks required there?

Questions specifically about participating in a faith community, including one’s identity as a member, are relevant. Do the resources
influence informants’ perceptions of membership of this faith community and how do these perspectives affect actual engagement in
community activities? For example, do the resources influence perceptions about activities undertaken when issues relating to faith are
considered either individually or in group discussion? Does contributing in a video-clip influence an awareness of membership of the
community, and what effect does making a video-clip have on subsequent participation or individual reflection on the issue?

21 Whilst group discussions are the final element of the designed process, resources remain with participants who may view them again and may continue to reflect on issues.

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Aspects of producing the resources are raised including means of production, tools and skills required, who would make it, what editorial
control would be exercised and where the locus of control and power might lie.

Whilst this investigation focuses on a small and novel activity it is set within a wider context of church involvement 22. This raises questions
such as whether church-goers generally consider that they are ‘learning’ through church involvement. If so, what do church-goers consider
they are learning, and how is this accomplished? In what ways, if any, does the setting, including its history and culture, influence
learning?

This investigation requires ‘radical’ looking, listening and questioning (Clough & Nutbrown, 2002, p.23) which the researcher’s familiarity
with the setting makes more challenging. In addition to the questions already noted it is important to look for uses of power present
within the resources, in the setting and amongst participants, and how they influence attitudes to learning, communicating and
participating. The resources incorporate texts which require to be read and video-clips which users watch and in which they contribute
their views. Issues of textual literacy, and dialogue involving speaking and listening, arise as the resources are used and in group
discussions. Habit or familiarity may preclude the researcher from observing or identifying these. Messages may implicitly be conveyed by
the medium and may affect users’ experiences. This investigation requires to be aware of the potential relevance of a broad range of
issues.

This study also raises questions about learning in a local, familiar setting as distinct from a centralised, specialist centre (Hess, 2005b,
p.85; Reissner, 1999, p.93, in Esselmann, 2004, p.163). Is it wise to offer local, even parochial, opportunities for study or would it be
preferable to advertise appropriate national courses and enable interested local church-goers to be involved? Possible roles for technology
in supporting study at a distance and at convenient times may suggest that this investigation takes too narrow and limited a perspective
on Christian learning using communication technologies.

Yet local learning with known colleagues may nurture a community of mutually supportive belief and action, encouraging further steps in
Christian learning and service and allowing skills in reflection and discussion to be applied to locally relevant subject areas (Gresham,
2006, p.25). Moreover, technology may assist both local and distance learning.

1.1.6 Scope and limitations

The scope of the investigation is confined to exploring a range of experiences of considering issues pertinent to Christian faith through
reading, watching, discussing and articulating views in video-recorded conversations. The investigation focuses on church-goers’
experiences, aggregated as well as distinguished in the phenomenographic analysis used, explored as part of Christian education provision

22 ‘Wider Christian community’ here means the text comes from beyond the congregation which is the setting for this investigation. Texts used were Drane (1990), Barclay (1956/1975) and Kidd (2008) and
further details are provided in sections 3.4.2 – 3.4.4.

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in a congregation with the aim of improving practice in this setting. This scope and purpose distinguish the investigation from
congregational studies (Woodhead, Guest & Tusting, 2004, p.18) though insights from congregational studies and particularly The Kendal
Project (Heelas & Woodhead, 2004) described in section 1.2.5 provide a helpful perspective on subjectivity within Christian faith.

Whilst the resources make use of two media, text and video, this investigation does not explore wider connections between religion or
religious practice and media, nor does it offer a broader theological reflection on media or its uses. This study focuses on experiences of
using and contributing to resources in relation to Christian education and connections with wider media concerns are not explored.

A number of limitations may be noted in this investigation. Some concern the resources which are not sufficiently comprehensive to be
considered a stand-alone learning resource (Alessi & Trollip, 2001, p.7) though they nevertheless offer opportunities for users to read text,
watch video-clips and contribute by articulating their views which are captured and incorporated in an expanding resource. Insight into the
effects of multimedia may be obtained from materials which do not contain all the elements of a full learning resource (for example,
Mayer, 2001, p.63). The limited nature of the resources does not render them ineffective for their purpose in this investigation. Only one
means of producing the resources is explored, though this production means was available and adequate to create sufficient resources.

Similarly, issues of popularity of a multimedia resource in a church setting are not explored, nor are resource, administrative or legal 23
implications of using such resources within Christian education provision considered in detail. It does not compare informants’ experiences
in this setting with those in other churches or denominations, focusing instead on experiences of informants in one congregation.

The resources and broader instructional design stimulate collaboration among church-goers, something implicitly encouraged by ordinary
theology. Pickard (2006, pp.99-100) argues in favour of greater collaboration among diverse ministries within the church. However,
elaboration of theological and ecclesiological justifications for such collaboration is not explored further given the practical focus of this
investigation.

Other limitations concern this report. It does not provide a narrative description of the progress of the investigation, as explained in
section 4.0.3. Limited excerpts from transcripts are offered as findings and are presented in a highly interpreted form, a function of the
analytical approach based on phenomenography which is adopted24 (Jones, 2004, p.4). Discussion is largely limited to issues of
participation and the influence of particular elements of the resources as reported by informants.

Whilst attempting to offer a detailed description and thorough analysis of these experiences and drawing conclusions which may contribute
to understandings of learning within local church congregations or faith communities, the research does not claim to be generalisable
beyond this setting. The investigation captures informants’ comments ‘specific to the situation’ (Jones, Asensio & Goodyear 2000, p.3)

23 For example, copyright permission was sought and granted for incorporation of the texts and, whilst sufficient for this investigation, may have restricted the wider use of published material in such
resources.
24 The analytical approach is described and discussed in section 3.2.1.

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which require to be interpreted within their situation. Select
They are also provided to the researcher who, as Minister, Design text
plays a particular role within the congregation. first
Research resource Arrange
conversations conversations
Select
1.2 Theories informing the research Questionnaire
Design text
Survey Create &
second Arrange
Preliminary distribute
This investigation is informed by ordinary theology, resource conversations resource
investigation
vicarious leaning, Christian faith and communities of
practice, briefly described in the following sections, within Create & Technical
Conversation Design Select Arrange distribute support
a broader context of educational theory, contemporary on jettisoned text resource conversations
third conversations
church practice and technology which is considered briefly text resource Create &
in section 1.2.5. distribute
resource
Final report Final Research
Final report
1.2.1 Ordinary theology for round
for round report conversation
s
Analysis Group Group
As researcher considering learning in church, I reflect that discussions discussions Group
Group Questionnaires discussions
a range of people influenced my growth in faith. Some interview
Transcription
Group Research
were trained Ministers, some theological experts; others interview
Initial
conversations
Draft reflection
were friends, fellow-worshippers including those from report Research
other traditions. Opinions, views and faithful practice conversations
Analysis of Transcription
offered from each were influential. Learning in church Draft transcripts
from clergy is arguably unremarkable, but did anyone report Initial
reflection
argue that non-specialists in churches had views worth
considering? Analysis of Transcription
transcripts
The Rev Professor Jeff Astley, Honorary Professorial
Fellow in Practical Theology and Christian Education at Initial
reflection
the University of Durham, argues in favour of ordinary
theology (Astley, 2002a), which is what ordinary people
understand about religious or spiritual issues and the Figure 1.1 Overview of action research investigation
ways they go about understanding them (Ibid., p.56).
Astley argues these views should not be dismissed lightly

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not only because they are important to those holding them (Ibid., p.65) but more significantly because theology is not the exclusive
preserve of those who think theoretically about issues of doctrine and belief as academic researchers or religious professionals.

Astley supports Farley’s argument that if theology is understood as ‘“sapiential and personal knowledge” that attends salvation’ (Farley,
1983, in Astley, 2002b, p.24), then it ought to be a central component of all who seek to live a Christian life (Ibid., pp.22, 29). Theological
reflection does not necessarily require formal theological training and should be practised by all Christian believers who ought also to
support and encourage others in similar activity.

Astley argues that the beliefs of church-goers are the product of contexts to a greater extent than has been recognised (Astley, 2002a,
p.4) and so the settings in which church-goers learn constitute part of what is learned. This is discussed further in chapter two. Ordinary
theology's significance for this investigation lies in highlighting church-goers’ learning and the settings in which they are given opportunity
to describe and reflect on understandings of faith issues.

1.2.2 Vicarious learning and observational spiritual learning

Vicarious learning theory (Mayes et al., 2002) argues that watching others attempting to learn, and particularly overhearing learners’
dialogue through which concepts are articulated and shared, may support observers’ learning. Observational spiritual learning applies
vicarious learning to faith issues by suggesting that others’ roles in supporting learning about content and skills connected with faith is
significant and worth further investigation (Oman & Thoresen, 2003a, 2003b).

Individuals develop perspectives connected with faith by looking to the example of others and the ways they have considered and lived
out their faith, practices identified across a range of religions and within several Christian denominations (Oman & Thoresen, 2003a,
p.154). This involves imitating behaviours both of exemplary faith figures and more ordinary believers to obtain insights which support the
development of spiritual skills or practices (Ibid., p.150). Little research, though, has been conducted to investigate roles for observational
spiritual learning in spiritual development (Ibid., p.151). Bandura (2003, p.171) supports Oman and Thoresen’s contention that spiritual
modelling is influential in faith development. Insights from observational spiritual learning and vicarious learning inform both the design of
the resources and the investigation of described experiences of using them.

This investigation does not dispute that new information and concepts need to be presented to those who wish to learn about faith issues,
recognises such presentation already takes many forms and is aware of a range of media such as books, audio CDs, websites, magazines
and lecture-type presentations and more which are all currently employed. The resources in this study include a traditional presentation
form25 by incorporating a published text on a subject. However the resources also offer video-recordings of other people’s views on that
text and the subject it addresses. Those watching video-clips observe other local church-goers, and at times see clergy, or themselves,
25 This is arguably a form commensurate with the Reformed theological tradition of the congregation in which texts, not least the Bible, are held in high regard.

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offering descriptions about the text and the wider subject. This study examines experiences of learners who have access to media offering
this content through these forms of presentation.

1.2.3 Christian faith

A third theoretical foundation is the concept of Christian faith and associated ideas of Christian learning. This investigation is set in one
congregation of the Church of Scotland denomination, a Christian faith community. This investigation assumes that informants consider
faith to be important to some extent in their lives. It is also important to the researcher who is Minister in the congregation and is eager to
support efforts to find meaning in life through aspects of Christian faith. Part of that process may be designed intentionally to support
Christian learning, something described in chapter two.

Astley suggests that learning generally may be understood as:

‘a more or less permanent change in a person brought about by experience.’


(Astley, 2000a, p.3)

This broad description suggests that, within an individual, experience has an internal influence. However the experience need not be
confined to inner thinking or personal reflection. Groome proposes a broader scope by suggesting that Christian learning may be
encouraged by ‘engaging in Christian living in the here-and-now learning situation’ (Lee, 1971, cited in Groome, 1999, p.147,). Taken
together, these concepts suggest that Christian learning may be understood as the development of both internal thought, attitude and
belief; and of external behaviours through processes of reflection and action.

1.2.4 Communities of practice

Finally, this investigation considers social aspects of learning. Wenger describes some of these within the concept of communities of
practice and suggests that the effect of learning may be understood as:

‘...chang[ing] who we are by changing our ability to participate, to belong, to negotiate meaning. And this ability is configured
socially with respect to practices, communities, and economies of meaning where it shapes our identities.’
(Wenger, 1998, p.226)

Learning, on this view, is about change brought about by experiences of participating with others. Such participation influences inner
reflection and relating to others. Knowledge, understanding, skills and motivation to persevere in considering an issue may be encouraged
through participating with others. Increased knowledge and facility in thinking and discussing may encourage greater participation. Greater

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involvement may also increase awareness of one’s membership of a community engaging in these practices as well as deepening
understanding and skills in particular practices.

In other words, we may improve knowledge and ability as a result of involvement with others, and improved ability may support greater
involvement. This describes a virtuous cycle but its opposite is also possible. A lack, even if merely perceived, either of ability in a subject
or eligibility to belong to a group may result in exclusion, not participation. This removes opportunities for experiences which may produce
change, or learning. Astley and Wenger’s insights taken together suggest that Christian learning might be facilitated through enabling
participation with others in change-producing experiences. That is, experiences of participation may influence learning. Likewise
experiences precluding participation may hinder learning, or discourage potential participants from taking up appropriate opportunities.

This study examines perceptions of participating, and how these alter, through experiences of using and contributing to the resources and
engaging in group discussions. If participation is one element of experience which is itself a constituent part of learning, then experiences
of participating are potential sources of learning and are aspects of the learning environment. As such they are worth investigating.

The research seeks to discover connections among experiences of participation and learning and to describe, analyse and account for
these in terms of relevant theories of learning and Christian education. To accomplish this the research attempts to capture descriptions of
users’ understandings of connections made among watching video-clips, reading a text, contributing in a video-recorded conversation and
attending discussions; and also their perceptions as they anticipate tasks of contributing in a video-recorded conversation and engaging in
discussion. How do these experiences influence a perception of participating in Christian learning activities?

The investigation accordingly proceeds by capturing descriptions of participants’ experiences and reflections and by analysing these using
methods from phenomenography, described in sections 3.2.1 and 3.2.2.

1.2.5 Theory, theology and technology

In Mind in Society concerning children’s development26, Vygotsky relates language and social interactions27 :

‘Signs and words serve children first and foremost as a means of social contact with other people. The cognitive and
communicative functions of language then become the basis of a new and superior form of activity in children, distinguishing
them from animals.’
(Vygotsky, 1978, pp.28-9)

26 Vygotsky’s insights have been applied to learning experiences of adults, for example McKendree et al, (1998, p.2)
27 Vygostky’s work was brought to my attention by my first supervisor.

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Vygotsky argues that language, developed through social contact, is then used in independent cognitive processes. Might the same be true
among adults dealing with unfamiliar material or in challenging new social settings? Would the ‘social contact’ of seeing and hearing others
discussing a text about an issue connected with faith support ‘cognitive functions’ of reading and interpreting it, and ‘communicative
functions’ of articulating developing understandings? Might this opportunity be offered through the medium of video-clips?

Reeves and Nass have demonstrated that people respond to and deal with media in ways which are similar to real life, summarised in the
‘media equation,’ namely that media = real life:

‘Media are full participants in our social and natural world.’


(Reeves & Nass, 1996, p.251)

This suggests that video may be used to support learners’ discussion about a text. A search in a range of academic journals from 2001
pertaining to issues of theology or theological teaching revealed no published works describing the use of resources such as video
annotated text capturing others’ views. Video as a means of communicating learners' views has potential to support Christian education
but utilising this form of video in a congregational setting such as this has apparently not been explored and reported.

The resources created, used and investigated in this research are therefore considered novel in Christian education in a local congregation.
This study contributes towards understanding experiences of participating through using such resources.

The virtuous and vicious cycles of participation in Christian learning mentioned above are both described in the literature. Positively,
Christian formation is ‘a process of socialisation in the midst of a Christian faith community’ (Groome, 1999, p.108) with transmission
styles of teaching giving way to dialogue (Withnall, 1986, p.15) leading to collaborative learning with dialogue at its centre (Lee, 2000,
pp.111-112). However difficulties inherent in such endeavours are also recognised. Investigations of faith or spirituality among people in
the United Kingdom has identified some reticence to discuss such issues:

‘We knew from previous work (Hay, 1982; Hay & Morisy, 1985) that spirituality is an extremely sensitive area. Even people with
a formal religious commitment tend to be shy of discussing their spiritual lives.’
(Hay & Hunt, 2000, p.21)

Astley notes a long and continuing history of such reluctance:

‘The 18th century essayist Joseph Addison remarked that there is in England “a particular bashfulness in everything that regards
religion.” There still is.’
(Astley, 2002a, p.136)

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Heelas and Woodhead (2004) found that religious groups tended to encourage their participants either to focus on a transcendent being
with a corresponding emphasis on conformity to roles, or on authority located within individuals themselves (Ibid., p.6). Congregants in
the national Church of England were found to be most focused outwards to God and towards others as opposed to having a ‘subjective’
orientation (Ibid., p.18), that is, looking inwards and inspecting one’s own soul. An outward focus, they contend, discourages considering
or discussing individual beliefs:

‘Individuals are not encouraged to pursue their own spiritual paths on the basis of their own deepest experiences, but are
guided by way of clearly defined, extensively articulated and tightly regulated roles and duties.’
(Heelas & Woodhead, 2004, p.19)

This investigation is set in a congregation of the national Church of Scotland, a type of congregation not included within The Kendal
Project28 but which has historic and traditional roots and for this purpose is assumed to have some similar tendencies to Church of England
congregations29.

Heelas and Woodhead also note that since the 1960s congregations emphasising roles over inner subjectivity have been in decline
because of this lack of personal focus (Ibid., p.120). Church of Scotland congregations may share a traditional and role-based approach,
focusing on transcendent and de-personalised aspects of faith. If so, it might be thought inappropriate to encourage church-goers to
engage in more introspective activities of investigating personal faith issues.

Yet, denoting whole congregations as belonging to one type fails to consider varying approaches found among constituent members, some
of whom may value introspection. Some activities in the congregation focus on personal faith and others are informed by it. A number of
church-goers appear to consider their personal faith as a valuable, even essential, component in understanding their place and actions in
the world. It is appropriate to consider some existing attitudes amongst church-goers.

Further, mainline churches need not emphasise roles. Heelas and Woodhead’s observations are descriptive of, and not prescriptive for,
congregations. This investigation explores ways of supporting some subjectivity by providing opportunities to share personal reflections on
spiritual experiences and reflections on faith issues. This is attempted within a congregation for those church-goers who elect to be
involved. What effect might a multimedia resource have in relation to the ‘particular bashfulness’ associated with things to do with
religion? Would using video add to a sense that articulating religious views was daunting, or would it support discourse? This setting
appears appropriate for such an investigation.

28 Whilst the Church of Scotland has eight congregations in England, none is located in Kendal.
29 The extent to which this assumption may be supported is debatable, though my experiences in ministry have enabled me to recognise the categories described by Heelas and Woodhead.

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1.3 The setting for this investigation

This investigation takes place within a particular setting whose features influence the study and is conducted by a researcher with
experiences of church involvement, ministry, and technology use. Therefore some general features of the setting are first provided, after
which the researcher’s experiences of Christian learning and technology connected with Christian education are offered.

1.3.1 General observations

The investigation occurs in a local church congregation where involvement in Christian education activities is voluntary (Miranda, 1994,
p.20). Participation was not solicited purely for research purposes. The resources and meetings included in this research were provided
within a broader congregational programme of events and were open to all who wished to participate. Informants participate in what
would be perceived to be part of routine learning opportunities, albeit in a novel format, and so require to be aware of the nature of this
investigation. Ethical issues of providing information and obtaining informed consent are detailed in section 3.7.

Whilst studying texts in churches has a long history, video is a more recent resource and multimedia is comparatively novel. This resource
may have a very limited influence on long-standing beliefs and embedded practices. Existing ways of engaging with other people and
using resources, possibly practised for many years, may cause much to be taken for granted and occur without reflection. This
investigation requires to look in detail and probe beyond the familiar, noticing slight alterations to existing ways of thinking and acting
influenced through using the resources. Even apparently inconsequential experiences and descriptions may be important, worth capturing
and analysing. People bring their life experiences to using the resources including their interpretation of past events, other reading and
reflections, and their own rational abilities. The pre-existing culture of the congregation is also relevant, including a sense that Christian
faith involves some learning and growth30. The resources are one of many information sources. It is necessary, then, to observe closely
how participants describe their experiences of using the resources, aware that a number of factors are at work.

Some informants may previously have explored faith and participated in other Christian learning activities. Past experiences may
encourage some to participate in this investigation and equally discourage others. The Minister’s involvement as researcher may inhibit
some if they consider their participation or views are being judged either positively or negatively, or may equally encourage others. The
researcher’s independence, impartiality and detachment is impossible for he is part of this setting for good or for ill, the inescapable result
of ministry here. Being embedded in this way also has value. The resources are used within an authentic setting which influences how
they are experienced. It would be difficult and arguably undesirable to investigate the resources in isolation from a subject, a setting, and
other learners. The researcher needs to reflect on his varying roles in this project as researcher, as producer with control over content, and
as Minister to those who participate including pre-existing ties of support, friendship, disagreements and disappointments as well as
perceptions of authority, knowledge and leadership.
30 This is indicated in findings from the preliminary investigation, reported in section 4.1.

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Church-goers may not share goals when considering identical material, some wishing to increase knowledge, or reflect, or develop skills
whilst others may be more concerned with practical out-workings, meeting friends or developing a sense of belonging by attending
groups. The research aims not to limit unduly the possible outcomes but to allow participants to meet their perceived needs. Such an
approach, however, means external assessment of knowledge gained may be problematic and is in any event considered inappropriate in
this setting, described in section 3.1.3. Discernible knowledge gains are a small part of the learning which is anticipated through using
these resources.

Whilst church-goers are committed to faith beliefs and practices, life has still to be lived and demands of family, work, other interests and
church administration require to be met. Using these resources and attending discussions must be balanced against other calls on
available time and fitted round many activities, some more pressing. A resource needs to be flexible, persistent, available at convenient
times and for appropriate lengths of time.

The combined needs for flexibility and fellowship mean that Christian education in this setting is offered through resources for individual
use combined with group discussion. People may, for instance, read a passage 31, consider questions then attend a discussion group. This
investigation seeks to explore some of the ways the text, video and discussion resources interact with one another in informants’ authentic
Christian learning experiences.

The resources are informed by theories of learning and instructional design. Weaknesses in instructional design as well as prevailing
cultural influences in the setting affect the experiences of those using them. It is necessary to gather from informants as rich descriptions
as possible of experiences, reflections and attitudes to identify influences of the resources and to account for these. The theories of
learning most relevant to the investigation are described in chapter two.

1.3.2 Researcher’s experiences of learning in church settings

The researcher’s faith growth was supported both by other people and through activities such as reading texts, listening to sermons,
attending conferences and engaging in discussion groups. Reading, listening, reflecting and contributing assisted processes of thinking, as
did articulating often unclear and incomplete contributions. Few good answers may have been provided but making attempts was
cognitively useful. This research assumes these activities, among others, may assist learning about faith.

The researcher’s growing up in church32 supported a developing sense of belonging which in turn encouraged engaging in relevant
thinking, speaking and acting. Sufficiently rewarding engagement encouraged study towards ordination to the Ministry 33. Drane (2008a,
p.42) argues that churches do not inherently possess, and therefore must develop, positive awarenesses of belonging among both
31 This may be a passage from the bible or another text.
32 My father was a church organist and from my early years I was taken to different churches where he was required to play.
33 I was ordained as a Church of Scotland Minister in 1995 when I was inducted into the charge in which I have since served and in which this investigation is set.

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members and those who are considering becoming involved. The researcher’s positive experiences of involvement may not be widely
shared34.

The researcher contributes as Minister to materials35 which are read or heard. Other church-goers’ contributions in church activities are
more constrained. One of few intentional, organised opportunities for church-goers to articulate views is through contributing in discussion
groups held regularly in this congregation36.

This research partly originates from a perceived tension that whilst discussion group members consider them worthwhile, relatively few
participate. Research conversations in the preliminary stage of this investigation 37 indicated a number of reasons for this. Meeting times
may be inconvenient, some written material is difficult to understand, and anticipated demands of participating are daunting particularly
when coupled with fears that attempts may look foolish. Interchange of spoken ideas in verbal discussion may be too rapid to follow but
failure to keep up effectively excludes participants and creates a sense of inadequacy. Additionally, group discussions may not address
matters of interest or concern, or be perceived as unnecessary or irrelevant. Lack of knowledge may preclude involvement but further
investigation is impossible without attendance.

‘Listeners’ have been noted coming to discussions, attending regularly but rarely or never speaking. Perhaps uneasy about remaining
silent, they are reticent to contribute. In research conversations they nevertheless reported gaining much from hearing others express
their views, and they kept attending. An apparent lack of overt contributing is outweighed by the benefit of hearing others. This started a
train of thought which led to this investigation, the idea of value in ‘listening in’ without any requirement, or even possibility, of
contributing.

There was an observed tendency among contributors at discussion groups to assume a limited range of ‘correct’ views existed on any
issue. The implicit if narrow task was to repeat these views without much apparent critical reflection. At times questions set in resource
materials encouraged this approach. It takes particular confidence to ask apparently awkward questions or to promote diverse views in a
minority of one, especially those appearing unworthy of the kingdom of God or questioning one’s membership in it (Healy, 2009, p.25). As
a Minister, the researcher wishes to encourage wide-ranging, exploratory and discursive dialogue (Ibid., pp.28-9), enabling church-goers to
reflect helpfully on ideas and a range of perspectives 38. The aim is to enable and encourage growth in understanding faith and its
outworking in Christian living whilst remaining within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy (Guthrie, 1994, p.363). What role is there for
technology in such an enterprise?

34 This positive sense of my involvement was encouraged by being known as ‘the organist’s son’; a not insignificant issue.
35 These materials include weekly worship services and particularly sermons, school assemblies, funeral and wedding services, group discussions including Bible study, a monthly church newsletter and
occasionally a publication for churches in the local area.
36 Some such groups have included midweek Bible study and prayer groups held on church premises, house groups where members have gathered for discussion and prayer in each other’s homes,
discussion groups considering particular topics and meetings earlier on Sunday mornings where a range of topics is explored in small groups through discussion, presentations and other activities.
37 These are reported in section 4.1.
38 This assumes church-goers wish to engage in similar activities. The extent to which this is widely shared within churches is not explored in this investigation.

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1.3.3 Researcher’s experiences of technology

Learning simple computer programming at school39 and later at home, I observed computers being used as tools for word processing and
account-keeping in a legal office in the late 1980s before I undertook drill-and-practice exercises to learn New Testament Greek in the
early 1990s.

Shortly after ordination,40 experimentation with a simple multimedia authoring package from a cover disc 41 revealed some potential for
multimedia resources. Increasing proficiency in developing simple material led to a frustration as to possibilities for using it and a Minister's
role in producing it. Were there connections between using a computer and church-goers’ faith activities?

An attempt to explore this with primary school children (Barclay, 2000) led to further study 42 where a range of learning theories and
complex relationships among learning, learners and technologies was revealed. This enabled me to envisage possible roles for computers
in supporting learning through dialogue amongst adults in a church congregation (Barclay, 2002) and led to this investigation. Through
this early work I discovered that using media, and to a lesser extent computers, had already been explored in churches. This is now
described.

1.4 Media in Christian education

A range of media is used in Christian education, some of which utilises communication technology. The overview provided here
commences with its use in the wider church, following which the focus narrows to the Church of Scotland and thereafter to this
investigation’s setting.

1.4.1 Media in Christian education within the wider church

An early modern discussion of media use in Christian education 43 (Sarno, 1987) described communication afforded by media then
available, namely print, photography, radio and television broadcasting, motion pictures, vinyl records, tape recorders and early personal
computers. This focused largely on one-way information transmission by media distributed to many. Available technologies which directly
enabled communication among learners such as telephone (instant oral communication) and telegraph (instant written communication)
were expressly excluded (Ibid., p.169).

39 This was the first computer, an Apple II Europlus, installed in the school in 1981.
40 Ordination is the process of being recognised as a Minister.
41 This was a CD-ROM containing software mounted on the cover of a computer magazine.
42 The Advanced Learning Technology programme at Lancaster University from 2000 until 2002.
43 Whilst many other publications reflect on interpreting specific media types such as motion pictures in particular theological education contexts, no work dealing comprehensively with media in religious
education since Sarno has been located.

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The most significant advances in communication technologies since then have, arguably, been in relation to those Sarno excluded. These
are instant oral and written communication not least by means of the internet, initially through text-based e-mail and thereafter sharing
media such as images, audio and video by electronic means. The development of audio-visual productions by learners has expanded
beyond Sarno’s description of quasi-television productions or through programming computers (Ibid., p.199) to encompass their use
primarily as communication tools.

Churches' reflections on emerging communication technologies encourages involvement by investigating possibilities afforded by them as
well as influencing their development (Burke, 1999, p.90) whilst also recognising inherent dangers (Pullinger, 2001, p.126). Nicholls
(2003), reflecting on an internet-based Christian e-learning programme, suggested:

‘it is a near certainty that e-Learning will extend and mature in the wider world and this paper finds no practical or cost
objections to the development of e-Learning within the Church.’
(Nicholls, 2003, p.42)

Some benefits of asynchronous technology44 include its availability at convenient times and places for users, as well as for appropriate
lengths of time. It also removes the need to ‘interject on the hoof into heated oral discussions, where air time is limited and the biggest
mouth gets the biggest say’ (Nicholls, no date). This was achieved through using text-based contributions to an asynchronous discussion
space.

1.4.2 Media in Christian education within the Church of Scotland

The Church of Scotland has explored possible uses for communication technology including text and video. The broader context is one
where a ‘culture of adult learning in our congregations’ is absent, leading to a :

‘concern that not enough attention is being given to helping people make sense of their own journey of faith and helping them
grow as Christians.’
(The Church of Scotland General Assembly, 2006, p.4/10)

Whilst noting existing resources, an investigation was promoted into reasons for the apparent reluctance to engage in adult Christian
learning and means whereby it might be supported (Ibid., p.4/10), though no reports have subsequently been published. Simultaneously
a ‘Digital Witness project’ was introduced in which:

44 That is, resources where one participant’s use is not dependent upon another’s instant communication. This may be achieved by storing comments and making them available on demand and differs from,
for example, a group discussion, telephone conversation or video-conference where the immediate interchange of comments is necessary for communication.

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‘[t]hrough use of video, audio, websites and digital photography, people will be able to tell their “stories” of experiences. Some
of the stories will be turned into resources that will be available on CD or DVD. Some will be available to download from the
web and others will be available as podcasts, internet radio programmes, for people to access anywhere in the world.’
(Ibid., p.4/11)

An anticipated DVD adult learning resource aimed at addressing the lack of adult learning culture was described as:

‘an exciting opportunity for the Kirk to tell and retell its story in the life of some of its current members and a way of enabling
people to take more seriously the role of adult learning in the Church.’
(The Church of Scotland General Assembly, 2007, p.4/53)

This resource, entitled ‘Threads,’ (Mission and Discipleship Council, 2009) presents some church members’ views through video-clips. This
material is transmissive and includes no provision for incorporating views of members in a local congregation as investigated in this study.

An e-learning service, ‘Church of Scotland E-University’ was launched in 2008 allowing:

‘anyone with internet access [opportunity] to explore faith and life online.’
(The Church of Scotland General Assembly, 2008, p.4/37)

The number and extent of courses appeared limited in 2008 and 2009 and no further developments of on-line learning support were
reported to the 2009 General Assembly. Local congregations were, however, encouraged:

‘to make use of the medium of film to convey something of the Christian story to people in their local communities or to engage
with big issues faced by human beings today.’
(Ibid., p.4/38)

It can be seen that in a culture where adult Christian learning is perceived to be lacking, media and communication technologies including
video are being explored. However resource production takes longer than anticipated and material currently available through the ‘e-
University’ may be amenable to development.

An abundance of materials available to support sharing faith among church-goers and out-with churches has been noted, together with an
apparent failure to observe positive results from these. This has led to the suggestion that a necessary component is:

‘the opportunity for dialogue and the relationships that exist between those attending the course or event.’
(The Church of Scotland General Assembly, 2009, p.4/10)

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Emphasis on transmitting information associated with the Christ event requires to be replaced with a more conversational dialogue ‘in the
context of relationships and community.’ (Ibid., p.4/9). This may be understood as a plea to encourage participation among church-goers
in considering faith.

In this study, church-goers’ views are linked with opportunities to engage in dialogue about issues concerning faith. Whilst there are
aspects of transmission there are also opportunities for conversation within a recognisable community of inquiry. The resources are
deliberately straightforward, and video-clips are lightly edited, endeavouring to capture contributions with no ambition to produce
‘broadcast television’. Transmission and collaboration are joint features of the resources and instructional setting. This investigation aims to
understand some experiences of those who contribute to and use such a resource within this congregation.

1.4.3 Media in Christian education within the local congregation

The national resources described in the previous section are produced by a central body within the Church of Scotland 45 and are intended
to be used in church congregations and by church-goers across Scotland. An alternative perspective is to start locally and ask: What media
are regularly used in a congregation, for example the one in which this investigation is set? This reveals a different view of media use.

Written materials feature prominently in church life and worship services. From the sign outside the building to the notices displayed in the
entrance foyer, from magazines available in racks to hymn books on shelves, from cleaning and flower arranging rotas to plaques
commemorating donated items, and from printed service sheets containing weekly intimations through monthly local and regional
newsletters to Bibles on pews and words displayed on a screen to be sung, read responsively or silently during services, written words
abound.

Spoken words are also widespread, from welcome greetings at the front door through conversations among church-goers sharing
friendship or information, to formal committee meetings. Each worship service generally includes at least one reading from a Bible text,
where text may be simultaneously read and listened to, and a sermon, in effect a short popular lecture, delivered orally from a text usually
written in the preceding days and which itself may refer to the text of the Bible or other literature 46.

Texts are used in small discussion groups which often involve interpreting and considering implications of passages, frequently from the
Bible but also including novels, articles from magazines in the Christian press, or chapters from books. Members of these groups share
views through spoken dialogue.

45 The relevant body is currently the Mission and Discipleship Council.


46 Whilst some sermons may be preached ex tempore without written notes, my experience is that almost all sermons and certainly the better ones are written in advance.

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Reading texts is a common religious practice encompassing many varieties of literature including the Bible, books, journals and magazines,
articles in local church newsletters, overtly ‘religious’ works and fiction raising or exploring religious themes. Nelson assumes that some
Christians will ‘go to the Bible for help’ even while recognising that the activity of interpreting biblical texts is not straightforward (Nelson,
1989, p.50). Farley more explicitly positions texts centrally in Christian practice:

‘Two rather general features of Christian and European history have placed texts to the fore. The first took place as Christianity
became a religion of a book, assigning absolute authority and divine truth to the passages and verses of an ancient set of
writings. Second, with the birth of humanistic scholarship in the modern universities of Europe, the objective (linguistic,
hermeneutical, comparative, text-refining) interpretation of texts came to define any humanities field claiming academic
legitimacy.’
(Farley, 2005, pp.201-2)

Texts have played a significant part in many faiths for a long time. Whilst there are many issues surrounding a strong reliance on textual
literacy, it is arguably neither possible nor desirable to escape the use of texts.

As well as texts and spoken discourse, church-goers make use of a further range of media to support both their devotional lives 47, their
understanding the world and determining their action in it. These media include material broadcast on television and radio; and other
electronically transmitted material including music and spoken word CDs and DVDs. In the recent past other media have become more
available and affordable, some of which have involved the use of personal computers.

Technology as well as texts has been observed on pastoral visits to members’ homes as the Minister. Since about 2000 I have become
aware of the increasing prevalence of personal computers in people’s homes or, perhaps, I was increasingly aware of them being there.
Children play games or use them to assist with homework; parents communicate with children and grandchildren using email and video-
conferencing. Computers appear to be part of the furniture in many, but by no means every, home. Anxious to lever faith benefits from
resources which lie to hand, I am intrigued about the possibilities which these machines, often sitting in the corner of the lounge, might
offer.

Observing technology being used to bring people and text together in earlier works provided models for the resources created and used in
this investigation. Two principal examples were a video-clip of a lecturer displayed alongside the slides shown in the live lecture
(O’Donoghue, 2002), and collections of video-clips of professionals describing aspects of their work experiences being made available to
others (Steeples, 2002).

However, questions arose about the possibilities and usefulness of combining text and video. Would learning be supported, and what
would the effects of that support be? Could appropriate resources be made available easily, at low cost, in a coordinated way, open to
47 That is, activities of prayer and spiritual reflection.

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some user control, grounded in a pedagogical framework and designed to support learning? The central idea of presenting video and text
in a combined manner to support learning activities within the congregation seemed intriguing and worth investigating.

With these possibilities came questions. Early ones were technical and concerned how resources might be produced and used. Other
questions included: What is the intention in providing material such as this? What would interested church-goers make of it, and how
might resources incorporating ‘people and print’ be used by others? How interested would church-goers be in learning, and was learning in
church a new idea? How would people think about using their computers for purposes to do with faith: would ‘Halo’ 48 on a computer be
associated with mercenaries or angelic beings? Could people without a computer at home have any access to material like this? If not,
should they be excluded from any potential benefits, or was there some alternative?

Jenkins notes that textual literacy, the ability to read and write, remains central to new communications media which do not displace
reading text but alter the way we deal with printed material:

‘Just as the emergence of written language changed oral traditions and the emergence of printed texts changed our relationship
to written language, the emergence of new digital modes of expression changes our relationship to printed texts.’
(Jenkins, 2006, p.19)

Combining the basic principle of vicarious or observational learning with the important activity of text interpretation raised questions about
the effects of reading a text with simultaneous access to video-clips of others talking about their interpretations of the same text, and
offering contributions about the broader issue. How would this combination of text and video influence readers’ theological thinking and
their faith-informed living? Further, if other church-goers talked about a text in a video-recorded conversation, what effect would knowing
that the conversation would subsequently be available to others have on the articulation itself? Would such a demand encourage people to
read with understanding and discuss with confidence, or impose greater burdens on expressing one’s views, thus hindering their
development? What forms of participation might be encouraged through such experiences, and what else would be required in terms of
organisation and instruction, process, and environment, in order to offer them?

None of the media currently available or the activities they support is identical to reading a text and observing familiar other people talking
about it, initially without an expectation or possibility of viewers making any public response such as contributing in a group. This
investigation examines experiences of a combination of activities of reading, watching and reflecting, and thereafter contributing to a
discussion, supported by multimedia resources.

Limited early attempts suggested that flexible resources including digital multimedia ones, used opportunistically by church members
motivated to explore a topic which they consider important, may have some uses.

48 Halo is the title of a series of combat games played on games consoles and computers.

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1.5 Christian education and participation

The brief earlier definition of participation suggests that it involves more than viewing a presentation. Freire termed transmission of
educational content a ‘banking’ model of education which he considered inferior to:

‘[c]ritical and liberating dialogue, which presupposes action, [which] must be carried on with the oppressed at whatever the
stage of their struggle for liberation... At all stages in their liberation, the oppressed must see themselves as women and men
engaged in the ontological and historical vocation of becoming more fully human.’
(Freire, 1968, pp.47-8)

Freire argues that dialogue supports participation which one-way communiqués do not. Whilst Freire may be criticised as selective (Small,
1994, p.4432) and utopian (Romiszowski, 1992, p.9) the influence of his work in many educational fields, not least Protestant Christian
education, requires to be recognised (Withnall, 1986, p.15, referring to Strudwick, 1985). This investigation explores some issues
surrounding dialogue and participation in Christian education. It is necessary to ask whether participation lies at the heart of much
Christian education endeavour, and whether dialogue supports it. It may be argued both that it does not, and that it should to a greater
extent.

Dialogue, distinct from transmission, is arguably not central to worship services. Sermons are monologues which do not encourage much
immediate response to be communicated from listeners 49, an attitude arguably emphasised when they are delivered from a raised pulpit:

‘The old Christendom-style paradigm, which placed ministers on a pedestal, has no future in the culture of the Global North.
The underlying assumption on which it depends, with a clear demarcation between those who know it all and other people who
need it all, has long since been superseded.’
(Drane, 2008a, p.110)

Some uses of new technologies in currently available adult Christian education products which include video recordings of presentations or
lectures as information transmission tools may similarly be argued not to promote dialogue but endorse a monologue (Hunt, 2003; Alpha
International, 1993, p.1). A transmission approach has been identified as widespread in Christian education (Astley & Crowder, 1996, p.xv)
to the extent where learning has, it is argued, become almost a technical matter:

49 Some preaching types may encourage brief congregational responses in the form of outbursts, for example of ‘Amen!’ from members of the congregation; this is not widespread in the Church of Scotland.
Other non-verbal communication between preacher and congregation, such as loss of eye contact, is more widespread.

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‘Theologians, by contrast, often assume a merely instrumental view of the processes whereby the Christian religion is learned,
conceiving it “as some sort of formless entity, without structure or substance of its own”. Process is then conceived as
equivalent to nothing more substantial than the grease on the track along which theological goods are conveyed “intact and
unaffected to the mind and heart of the learner”. But the instructional process, for good or ill, is much more than that.’
(Astley, 2002a, p.12, incorporating Lee, 1985 and 1973)

The technical and economic demands made by modern and constantly developing communication technologies may support rather than
diminish a divergence between professional producers of material and amateur consumers, where the complexity and expense of the
‘grease’ lends weight to the view that only a select and privileged few are entitled or able to produce resources to enable Christian
learning. Drane has such a vision in mind when he asks:

‘Are we encouraging those who are in the Church to regard themselves as consumers of religious goodies purveyed by
professionals, and in the process creating that dis-empowerment and dependency that leads to the isolation and over-work
experienced by many ministers?’
(Drane, 2008a, p.111)

Technology may, however, be used to empower rather than dis-empower and to encourage healthy inter-dependence among those
engaged in tasks of understanding and living according to principles of Christian faith (Burke, 1999, pp.46, 71). Technology might support
dialogue which is, in Freire’s terms, both critical and liberating. This is challenging, requiring that the necessary communication
technologies are readily available at low cost to many rather than a few. Is this a realistic possibility? This investigation in part seeks to
determine if this is the case.

While communication technologies are often used within churches as tools supporting uni-directional transmission, they are used in wider
society to support and emphasise participation and communication, for example through consumer video websites (Bijnens et al., 2006,
p.6) and other social networking facilities. What might occur if readily-available technology permitted some ordinary theologian church-
goers to observe peers speaking about faith issues? Further, what might be the effects of encouraging church-goers to have their views
seen by others as a prelude to meeting to explore and discuss issues?

The purpose of this investigation is to explore means whereby the development of Christian community and development through
Christian community may be encouraged. This is, as has been shown, an enterprise currently undertaken within the wider church to some
extent but not utilising currently available communication technologies within a local congregation. This investigation offers alternative
approaches to smaller-scale uses of such technologies and investigates experiences of engaging with them, and with others through them.
To this extent it offers a contribution to knowledge in respect of issues of participation in the setting which has been described.

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1.6 Summary

This chapter has described the investigation and its motivations and has outlined the research approach and major theories which inform
it. It has described the researcher’s experiences of media in Christian learning and demonstrated that various uses of communication
technologies are currently being explored within the Church. It has highlighted the importance of participation and community as concepts
in Christian learning. It has not, however, described in detail salient features of Christian education nor examined in depth the social
learning theoretical foundation of this study, issues addressed in chapter two.

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CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE

2.0 Introduction

This chapter locates the investigation outlined in chapter one within relevant literature and describes the contribution which it offers to
knowledge about Christian education practice. Whilst communication among church-goers is predominantly by dialogue, texts are
nonetheless influential. Resources combining church-goers’ dialogue and text may be potentially useful but have not previously been
investigated. This study makes such an attempt by capturing and analysing experiences of ordinary theologians who have access to a
multimedia resource consisting of written text and contributions from others in video-clips, along with opportunities for group discussion.
Capturing and distributing ordinary theologians’ views through video is both based on and expands ordinary theology, an issue discussed
in the first section.

Christian education principles inform this investigation and findings are related to it 50. Section two describes Christian education from a
transformative and inter-personal perspective in which participating with others in a community of practice is understood as a necessary
part of the educational process (Driesden, Hermans & De Jong, 2005, p.247). This thesis argues that participating in Christian learning
activities may be encouraged through observing others engage in dialogue and being supported to contribute, features which the
resources offer. Tentative connections are therefore made between Christian education purposes and processes supporting dialogue
enabled by technology.

The resources involve others51, particularly in video-clips. Social learning theories accordingly inform this investigation and these are
described in section three, including vicarious learning, the principal theory underpinning the use of video in this investigation which has
been applied specifically to Christian faith through observational spiritual learning.

Informants are likely to relate to most of those appearing in video-clips as fellow-members of the congregation. Connections between
relationships mediated through the resource and the ‘real-life’ relationships as church-goers may be understood by employing perspectives
from communities of practice theory, in particular the concepts of identity of participation, negotiation of meaning and peripheral
participation. These are described and their relevance for this study explained in section four of this chapter. Thereafter the development
of the orienting research question as shaped from this literature review across the research rounds is described before the chapter
concludes with some practical issues.

50 This is described in chapter five.


51 Hull notes that reading also involves at least two people: a reader and an author (Hull, 1985, p.17)

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2.1 Ordinary Theology

Reflecting or thinking about faith is not restricted to academic investigation or professional duty; it is rather ‘a fundamental dimension of
piety, an inherent part of every Christian’s vocation’ (Astley, 2002b, p.21).

Ways of supporting such reflection require to be examined, and this study investigates one means by which ordinary theologians may be
supported to come to, hold, or modify views through processes of reading, watching, and articulating current understandings in video-
recorded conversations and in discussion groups. Ordinary theology is a plea for academic researchers and professional clergy to attend to
both the expressions of theological beliefs by people who have not had formal theological training and the ways in which those beliefs are
acquired (Astley, 2002a, p.56).

Ordinary theologians’ opinions are explicitly valued where attention is given to their contributions (Astley & Christie, 2007, p.4) and so
ordinary theology may be seen to support this research by encouraging a better understanding of church-goers’ experiences of reflecting
on and articulating theological views. Two of the three resources in this investigation captured and made available ordinary theologians’
views.

Ordinary theology examines what theological views are held and how they are acquired, a twin focus on:

‘a set of processes and practices of holding, developing, patterning and critiquing these beliefs, thoughts and discourse.
Ordinary theology must ... be defined in terms of both product and process.’
(Astley, 2002b, p.25)

Both content and process aspects of ordinary theology inform the perspective through which effects of enabling the sharing of ordinary
theologians’ views are investigated, and these are now discussed.

Christian learning requires one’s developing understandings of religious ideas to be articulated (Astley, 2002a, p.26), which the preliminary
investigation in this study revealed as sometimes daunting as described in section 4.1. The resources investigated here encourage
contributors both to reflect on others’ articulations and to articulate their understanding of a subject, part of a process of ordinary theology
as well as expressing its content. Ordinary theology contributes to the research question by asking how the experiences of articulating
one’s understanding and listening to others’ articulations influence processes of Christian learning and the content of Christian faith and
life.

It also brings to the fore the personal beliefs of individuals, aware that ‘[f]aith is a matter of personal reaction, in which we all speak for
ourselves’ (Astley, 2002b, p.28). This study explores some effects of opportunities of ‘speaking for ourselves’ and listening to others doing
so in a Christian learning context. This study captures and analyses experiences resulting from these activities.

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Ordinary theology facilitates an additional professional aspect by enabling the researcher who is also Minister in this congregation to
understand members of the congregation better, one intended outcome of ordinary theology. Whilst arguably better done prior to
ordination ‘because by then the barriers will have come down on both sides’ (Astley, 2002b, p.29), it is anticipated this study, whilst
academic and detailed, will facilitate a better knowledge of informants and will also develop skills in pastoral understanding and in offering
further opportunities for learning in church. This study is a contribution towards professional development (Astley & Christie, 2007, p.5), a
fulfilment of an ordination vow52 and part of the researcher’s personal growth as his developing theology is enhanced by listening to others
(Ibid., p.23).

Whilst ordinary theology provides a basis for this investigation, a critical reading of it reveals areas open to possible development. Its
emphasis on the importance of ordinary theologians’ views implicitly suggests that these might profitably be shared among other ordinary
theologians. Whilst aware that this occurs (Astley, 2002a, p.20), ordinary theology is largely silent as to how such sharing might be
supported, restricting its concerns to the influential but limited constituencies of academic theologians and professional clergy. It
consequently fails to address means by which ordinary theologians’ sharing of their articulations might be encouraged whilst implicitly
encouraging speaking among ourselves as well as ‘speaking for ourselves’. How might we help speak, and listen, to one another? This
investigation contributes to studies in ordinary theology by investigating experiences of sharing ordinary theologians’ articulations among
one another alongside a written text.

Ordinary theology may also be strengthened by considering in more detail issues surrounding textual literacy and discourse. Much
academic theology involves reading and writing yet many ordinary theologians communicate through dialogue. Emphasising process
suggests that investigating communication methods most readily used by, and accessible to, ordinary theologians would be helpful.
Ordinary theology, however, remains largely silent as to how communication among ordinary theologians may be supported. Capturing,
storing and distributing oral communication presents daunting challenges which are explored in this investigation through the use of video-
recording.

The extension to ordinary theology explored in this investigation, then, is to capture, describe and account for experiences of ordinary
theologians who share their views with, and are given access to, other ordinary theologians’ views53. Although this investigation captures a
population of ordinary theologians’ views on particular subjects (as in Christie, 2007), it explores experiences of articulating and
communicating these views, in part facilitated by resources including text and video-clips.

Ordinary theology is already widely practised, so it may be asked why novel resources should be introduced. Is this not an unnecessary
addition? Astley reads McLuhan to argue that there is:

52 Vows taken at ordination include the question: Do you accept and close with the call to be pastor of this charge, and promise through grace to study to approve yourself a faithful minister of the Gospel
among this people? (The Panel on Worship of The Church of Scotland, 2005, p.12)
53 This is explicit in the second and third research rounds; in the first, dialogue among professional clergy alone was captured though the conversation’s content was discussed by church-goers.

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‘an intimate interaction between the medium (“process”) of communication and the material (the “product” or message) being
communicated.’
(Astley, 2002b, p.22)

McLuhan, however, describes the central ‘message’ of a medium as its influence in altering relationships among people:

‘the “message” of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs.’
(McLuhan, 1964, p.8)

All media affect relations among people and changes in these relations require to be investigated. This study aims to discover ways in
which relations among ordinary theologians are affected through access to, use of, and contributions to certain media resources. This
study does not assume the use of the resources is beneficial54 and seeks to capture and analyse data to inform a position on the utility of
such material in a Christian education endeavour. To achieve this, aspects of process and content of Christian education mediated by the
resources require to be examined.

The media used in this study may be novel in a church setting or be familiar media used in novel ways. Astley argues that the experiences
of learners as they relate to various instructional processes are significant (Astley, 2002a, p.23) and this study examines some experiences
of learners who use resources to which they may have contributed. What is the influence on church-goers’ experiences of new media or
familiar media used in new ways, particularly those featuring the learners themselves?

There are three reasons for extending ordinary theology in this investigation as earlier described. First, whilst investigating particular
theological views is necessary, a primary aim of ordinary theology is to encourage participation in Christian reflection (Astley, 2002a,
p.163). Church fellowships, arguably, ought to encourage such activities. As a Minister endeavouring to facilitate these it is useful to have
greater insight into some of the processes involved. Studying the content of ordinary theology alone is insufficient for these purposes.
Rather, it is necessary to understand a range of processes undertaken by ordinary theologians, including those which support articulation
of these theologies and listening to others’ articulations.

Second, if ordinary theologians’ views are worthy of serious academic and professional attention, should they not be made available
among ordinary theologians in appropriate ways? Academic theology is already available, particularly in written form, and written words
and well-crafted sermons support academic and professional theology. Are these necessarily the best tools for ordinary theologians?
Modern communication technologies provide alternative means to capture and communicate ideas and offer possibilities of being an
appropriate communication medium. The manner of making communication available particularly interests this investigation which
examines capture, storage and distribution of ordinary theologians’ contributions in video-recorded articulations.
54 Given the researcher also produced the resources it proved difficult to adopt a neutral standpoint in respect of their use. Triangulation in the analysis of transcript data described in section 3.3.5 by a
knowledgeable but independent third party proved helpful in highlighting the unconscious, possibly understandable and unhelpful researcher’s bias towards the resources.

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Third, Astley implies that the informal sharing of views and beliefs among ordinary theologians already occurs opportunistically beyond the
confines of organised activities (Astley, 2002a, p.5). Elements from spontaneous and natural communications may increase the quantity
and quality of formal opportunities for discourse about faith, though current research does not clearly indicate what informal methods of
support may be helpful in church-sponsored activities. This investigation contributes to knowledge by discovering influences of multimedia
resources on ordinary theologians’ discourse.

2.2 Christian education

This investigation concerns aspects of adult Christian education, a broad subject defined here initially as:

‘... those educational processes through which people learn to become Christian and to be more Christian . Christian education,
so defined, leads to Christian learning, in the sense of the adoption and deepening of Christian beliefs, attitudes and values, and
of a person’s disposition to act and experience in Christian ways, in addition to changes in other dimensions of the learner’s
mind, heart and will.’
(Astley, 2000a, p.2, italics original)

This definition includes several characteristics of Christian education involving people, processes and a subject domain, all with a view to
supporting development of attitudes and lifestyle in ways which are recognisably Christian.

Driesden, Hermans and De Jong (2005) offer a framework for understanding a range of aims for Christian education based on two axes of
orientations and anticipated outcomes. Each axis contains three elements, so orientations may be toward conformity, self-direction or
transformation, and anticipated outcomes may be intra-personal, inter-personal or supra-personal. One of nine possible aims for Christian
education combines a transformatory orientation in which individuals creatively conjoin personal and cultural narratives, with inter-
personal identities defined by locating personal understanding in relationships with others. This combination is described as participatory
Christian education and recognises that whilst individuals construct their own narratives based on personal experience and religious
traditions, they do so in relation to others:

‘Religion is viewed as a religious practice embedded in a community of practice. Only through participation in religious practices
such as the reading of Bible texts or participation in religious-inspired social events do people gain insight in to the meaning of
religion. And only through participation in these religious practices can the religious self develop in an inter-personal way.’
(Ibid., p.247)

Social participation then forms identity:

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‘An inter-personal identity can be formed only by learning to participate, because the self is anchored in religious practices that
are essentially social in nature.’
(Ibid., 2005, p.247)

This description provides a key conceptual foothold for this investigation, describing a perspective in terms which the researcher
recognises and aspires to implement. The Reformed tradition of the congregation where this investigation is set supports this perspective,
focusing and legitimating the aspirations set for this investigation in examining experiences of participating with others in Christian
education activities. Whilst other aims for Christian education exist as the authors describe, this investigation adopts the approach
informed by this intersecting of these axes.

Vygotsky’s emphasis on the primacy of social factors in initiating learning also informs this view in which learning is perceived as a process.
Learning commences beyond the individual as ideas and views communicated by others are received, then internalised and used to
generate personal meaning in a process which changes the individual (Driesden, Hermans & De Jong, 2005, p.246). However, Christian
learning also comes about through communication and some of this must be communication by the learner not just to the learner. Some
Christian educators favour encouraging Christian learners to respond to the tradition for themselves ‘in new and varied ways’ (Astley,
2000a, p.40) such that ‘tradition and experience go together at very many levels’ (Ibid., p.52).

Identifying the aim of Christian education in this way allows aspects of Christian education to be described. The participatory nature of
Christian education is expressed as believers relate to other believers and to the tradition, though the effect of individualist approaches is
also recognised. Christian education is transformative in terms of identity and lifestyle and is critical in supporting assessment of Christian
beliefs, not simply demanding blind acceptance. Each of these areas is now examined after which the possible role of multimedia
resources in this endeavour is described. This section concludes with a discussion of Christian education as outlined here.

2.2.1 The participatory nature of Christian education

The communal nature of Christian faith, expressed in congregations, literally ‘a flock together’ and sometimes termed ‘communities of
faith’ (Westerhoff, 2000, p.74), is frequently affirmed (Ibid., p.38). The Gospels have been interpreted as demonstrating Jesus’ concern for
humanity through belief in action in community with his disciples (Nelson, 1989, p.156; McKenzie, 1986, p.156) rather than by writing
guides. Christians actively engage together in practices which create the church’s communal life (Dykstra, 1996, p.114). Through many
activities including observing others, and learning through teaching and explanation, faith grows both in individuals and in the community
(Ibid., p.116). Such participation supports individuals to develop their self-identities informed by faith (Nelson, 1989, p.52).

The pedagogical influence of community is accordingly significant (McKenzie, 1986, p.181) and communal discourse among Christians as a
primary means of Christian formation and growth is emphasised in this approach:

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‘We must first let ourselves be told something we cannot tell ourselves about the work of the Spirit of the God of the Bible who
does indeed come to us but not from us. ... [T]his happens as we come together with fellow Christians in the church who
gather week after week to understand their individual lives in light of the story of the God who has been at work in the world
long before they came along and will still be at work long after they are gone.’
(Guthrie, 1994, p.299)

Participation includes both contemporaneous discussions with proximate others and looking further afield, being aware of earlier Christian
thinkers and formulations of faith agreed by the church (Guthrie, 1994, p.15). Participation and theological reflection are, in this view,
inextricably combined:

‘[Y]ou cannot be a Christian theologian by reflecting on the meaning of Christ and studying the Bible only by yourself, to suit
yourself. You can be a Christian theologian only as you do your work in conversation with other Christians in the Christian
community, as together with them you seek to learn what God is doing and what God also has for you to do in the world
outside the church.’
(Ibid., p.15)

The perspective that religious practice is embedded in a community of practice means that Christian education is not so much about ‘being
told’ but, rather, ‘working in conversation’ (Ibid., p.15). Tinsley understands all God-talk 55 as necessarily ambiguous and incomplete
(Tinsley, 1990, p.17), echoed in the ‘subtle and many-sided’ (Ibid., p.24) scriptures of Old and New Testaments and supremely in the
indirectness of God’s Word incarnate in Christ (Ibid., p.4) which could not be otherwise, given the impossibility of making definite
assertions about God.

Christian communication is, then, a ‘deeply personal interchange through language and gesture’ and not an authoritarian, comprehensive
communiqué (Ibid., p.3). This is achieved, Tinsley argues following Kierkegaard, as Christ expresses divine truth in ‘necessary indirection
of the Incarnation as a divine incognito’ (Ibid., p.11). That is, incarnation involves ‘the greatest possible distance, the infinitely qualitative
distance, from being God’ (Kierkegaard, 1848, p.128). Yet it also involves the conjoining of God and humankind in Christ:

‘So it is with the God-man. Immediately, he is an individual human being, just like others, a lowly, unimpressive human being,
but now comes the contradiction – that he is God.’
(Ibid., p.126, emphasis original)

This ‘incognito personal interchange’ opposes understanding Christian teaching by means of authoritarian preaching and opens the
possibility of authentic Christian discourse among ordinary theologians. Language is still necessary (Astley, 2004, p.11) but its function is

55 That is, both talk about God which may be described as theology, and talk to God, which is often called prayer.

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cognitive: ‘the language is itself the vehicle of thought’ (Wittgenstein, 1953, p.107) and the programme suggested by these insights is the
use of language by many to the practical ends of encouraging faithful believing and living.

This is subject to two qualifications. The first is that some transmission of faith from teacher to learner is necessary. Whilst its weaknesses
are noted, Astley argues that the reality of Christian formation requires some transmission (Astley, 2000b, p.43). The second qualification
is that the practical business of articulating views is problematic, especially when opportunity to practise is suppressed where clergy do
much of the theological talking. Yet even preaching is carried out in community and such settings may offer opportunities for social
interactions which are themselves learning opportunities, appropriated by ‘apprenticeship and absorption’ (Astley, 2002b, p.22).

Christian learning also occurs within the community beyond the boundaries of organised teaching (Martin, 1994; Astley, 2002a, p.5) and a
wide range of potentially formative though unrecognised interactions occur among people out-with formal programmes. One church-goer’s
criticism that ‘religion is really for the clergy; they just let us [ordinary theologians] have a lend of it’ (Astley & Christie, 2007, p.3) may be
addressed by supporting ordinary theological dialogue. This study has the political aim of investigating possible means of returning
theology to ordinary theologians despite their having been hindered from speaking about it on their terms. It attempts this not by teaching
how to speak but by enabling participation in communities of faith reflection and discourse.

The ways in which people think about faith is as important as the content of that faith (Astley, 2002a, p.12). People learn to be Christian in
part by engaging with one another in processes which include speaking. This study involves a detailed examination of how this
engagement is experienced in the conviction that a better understanding of these experiences may inform interactions which are more
helpful in supporting Christian thinking and living.

2.2.1.1 Participation with Christian traditions and subject-matter

Learning to be Christian involves a developing willingness and ability to engage with the narrative and traditions of Christian faith informed
by the Christian Story and others’ reflections on that (McKenzie, 1986, p.11).

The story of Judaeo-Christian faith contained in the Bible is important, as are the experiences of other people of Christian faith in history,
together with the many theories about faith which have developed over time, all incorporated within a believer’s lived experience of and
reflection on faith (Groome, 1999, p.148).

Christian communities require to be distinctively Christian and so whilst welcoming and supportive, are nevertheless bounded:

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‘it is crucial that the Story and Vision made accessible to the group be an accurate representation of the faith understanding of
the broader Christian community in whose name educating is being carried on. This requires that the presenter be well
informed (as should be true with any approach) by contemporary scholarship and Church teaching. ... Bad theology is harmful
to the faith life of people at any age.’
(Groome, 1999, p.214)

Thus there needs to be ‘a range of normative criteria’ (Astley, 2002a, p.40) sourced from Scripture, tradition, church order and rational
thought, and not a diversity which tolerates any and all idiosyncratic ideas (Healy, 2009, p.27; Guthrie, 1994, p.363).

The subject domain includes issues surrounding ultimate meaning and purpose which influence and inform views on immediate and
current issues, as well as present action (Groome, 1999, p.145; Wickett, 1991, p.27). At the same time as being grounded in current and
local situations, Christian faith regularly transcends these perspectives in a range of ways as it attempts to ‘look beyond’ the given or the
present in order to consider ultimate questions:

‘From a biblical perspective, then, Christian religious education should be grounded in a relational/experiential reflective way of
knowing that is informed by the Story of faith from Christians before us, and by the Vision toward which that Story points.’
(Groome, 1999, p.145)

Groome is not referring simply to chronology (past or present) but breadth of understanding, as Wickett describes:

‘The human activity of becoming is the focus of both educators and religious leaders. This is especially true for the latter when
the process of becoming includes one’s spirituality in the definition of what it means to be a human being.’
(Wickett, 1991, p.27)

2.2.1.2 Participation and individualism in Christian education and practice

Whilst participatory activities are emphasised, individual-centred attitudes may also be observed in church and regarded negatively from
an inter-personal perspective. Individualistic practical consequences may be noted to flow even from participatory activities such as group
studies (Fleischer, 2004, p.317), a tendency toward private and individual learning is thought to inhibit collaboration (Brueggemann, 1996,
p.79), and much Christian education is viewed from this perspective as highly transmissive (Astley & Crowder, 1996, p.xv), often carried
out by a single speaker whose presentation may frequently inhibit significant participation by others (Fraser, 1980, pp.44-5). A critique of
individualism serves to emphasise the fragile nature of the ‘interconnectivity of diverse peoples’ (Foster, 2000, p.111, quoted in Fleischer,
2004, p.324), understood in this perspective to be indispensable to congregational learning.

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Graham dismisses an academic theological education for ministry formation which is concerned solely with individualistic learning of facts
or understanding concepts, insisting rather that it must include:

‘the capacity to engage with different traditions of thought, and the ability to interpret the Christian tradition with and among
others, understanding that interpretation is always socially located.’
(Graham, 2002, p.229)

In describing the development of an on-line theological education course, Graham understands a ‘primary goal’ of learning to be creating a
community of learners (Ibid., p.232). This perspective can be seen to inform learning within congregations as well as theological training.
Groome considers inherently social and participatory activities to be part of a ‘process of socialisation in the midst of a Christian faith
community’ (Groome, 1999, p.108) necessary to form people in Christian faith.

A participatory perspective notes that in practice, ‘[s]mall groups are often the preferred context for Christian education’ (Astley, 2000b,
p.58), although Hull, while agreeing, is aware that congregations which overly emphasise individualism in issues of faith may be hostile to
group discussion (Hull, 1985, p.17). Group settings provide opportunities for participation through dialogue, at times supported by a text
or discussion questions printed and distributed in advance.

This participatory perspective which implicitly criticises an undue individualism is not confined to Christian education. There are similarities
with discussion groups in higher education:

‘the need to test one’s developing understanding through asking questions, offering opinions, or challenging other positions is
central to the educational process and is absolutely dependent on receiving a response.’
(Mayes & Fowler, 1999, p.13)

The inter-personal perspective of this investigation informs the questions asked about roles for media in influencing participation. Does
new media, including video, isolate individuals? Or does video instead provide supportive resources to enable greater participation,
potentially developing inter-personal identities? Watching video might be regarded as individualistic yet certain viewing, such as cinema or
family television, may to some extent be considered a communal activity suggesting a key issue is selecting uses for video from a range of
possibilities (Hess, 2002, p.32). Appropriate uses of video and multimedia may support the development of inter-personal identities within
an orientation encouraging transformation. This investigation offers one possibility towards this end and it will be important to identify
elements which encourage either participation or increased individualism.

Withnall (1986) in describing some practical impediments to participation faced in British churches in the mid-1980s notes that these have
been found to include inconvenient meeting times, many competing commitments, alienation from church teaching or education generally
and little sense of welcome. Twenty years later Drane continues to observe limited participation, a lack of tolerance and absence of

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friendship sometimes shown to newcomers by existing church-goers. From a similar inter-personal perspective he suggests that limited
acceptance of others reduces the likelihood of participation, a matter highly relevant to spiritual nurture (Drane, 2008a, pp.42-3).

This investigation seeks to explore ways, if any, in which communication technology may be able to support church-goers to address and
possibly overcome some impediments to participating with one another in Christian education endeavours.

2.2.2 The intent to transform within Christian education

Christian education aims to support growth in understanding and lifestyle leading to committed acceptance of implications of Christian
faith for living. This requires Christian concepts to be apprehended in personal and life-changing ways:

‘So the goal that unifies theological schooling is the mastery of core Christian concepts like reconciliation, grace, sin,
forgiveness, love, hope, faith. Learning that sort of concept is existentially forming. Learning it shapes one’s identity. There is no
room for playing head off against heart in such schooling; it is the whole person who is shaped by mastering these concepts.’
(Kelsey, 2002, p.5)

Neither should intellect and action be independent. It may follow, then, that communicating not only ideas but activity, and demonstrating
not only lifestyle but also describing motivation are aspects of the development from learning about religion to a commitment to faith.

A possible weakness of this study is that it focuses on talk, not action. Thomson (2004, p.144) argues that Christianity requires to be lived
out as much as thought through (Ibid., p.138). Thomson, though, does not decry the use of words or thought process but criticises
instead a theology located primarily within academia. This study focuses on a ‘talking through’ aspect of Christian education aware that
action is also required and follows Thomson in noting that such discourse may be a prelude to, and indeed be a part of, action within a
Christian community. Thomson’s argument critiques a perception that theology is an exclusively intellectual pursuit rather than a key
formative influence in the lives of Christians (Ibid., p.134). This investigation requires action on the part of contributors and participants
but does not limit these to intellectual debates. One benefit of ordinary theology’s insight is in keeping this study grounded in church-
goers’ real experiences.

2.2.2.1 Individual and collective transformation

Christian education seeks to elicit personal engagement and commitment to Christian practices, beliefs and attitudes (Astley, 2002a, p.61),
to form people as those who live according to Christian faith:

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‘Lifestyle is the most important substantive content in religious instruction. To be sure, no religious instruction is truly religious
unless it is first and foremost a lifestyle affair.’
(Lee, 1985, quoted in Foltz, 1986, p.26)

Although appearing at odds with an inter-personal perspective, further examination reveals this is not the case because such a perspective
does not subsume individuality within a social collective as a conformity orientation may (Driesden, Hermans & de Jong, 2005, p.236).
Rather, in the inter-personal perspective individuals exist, but in relation to each other: ‘[s]elf and other are mutually inclusive.’ (Ibid.,
p.239). Participating with others forms and transforms one’s identity, and to form such an identity one must participate.

Astley describes participation by referring to Wittgenstein’s contrast between learning the language of faith and ‘the passionate taking hold
of it for oneself’ and further suggests moving beyond the embrace to greater development in learning about one’s own faith (Astley,
2002a, p.33). This suggests both a constant process of growth and development (Wickett, 1991, p.28) and an attitude of commitment
towards such a life, both as an individual and in relation to others in community.

It may be argued that perceiving one’s membership of such a community not only in terms of privileges but also responsibilities to the
collective is an important step in this process of growth. Christian faith is not a static body of knowledge and Christian practice is not a
monolithic set of skills to be learned once for the individual’s benefit. Rather it consists of a set of personal attitudes, responses and views
which may be expected to change over time (Groome, 1999; Fowler, 1981; and Westerhoff, 2000) and whose development are intended
for the benefit both of the individual and the community.

2.2.2.2 Transformation through criticism

Critical reflection within the faith community is required to prevent Christian education blurring into indoctrination. Hull argues for ‘critical
openness’ or autonomy, bringing skills of reasoning to bear on what is heard and taught and not legitimising all idiosyncratic views (Hull,
1985, p.126). Criticism influences transformation of individuals and Christian communities.

Christian believers require to assess and question their beliefs, permitting other possibilities and perspectives to be understood. This is a
meta-cognitive activity, thinking about one’s own thoughts and beliefs:

‘John Hull and others have written of such a Christian nurture leading to “critical openness” through “Christian criticism”. They
claim that this humble, testing, enquiring attitude should be encouraged by those engaged in Christian nurture.’
(Francis & Astley, 2002, p.62)

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The inter-personal identity in the perspective adopted here prevents the source of authority being located exclusively within the individual
or solely in the standards of the social environment (Driesden, Hermans & De Jong, 2005, p.236). Authentic involvement in the
transformative orientation includes a commitment to reflect critically on Christian doctrine and practices including one’s views and those of
the wider community. This involves not only altering one’s personal views, but the:

‘individual’s own life story must be written into the “cultural” story. This “inscription” implies a transformation of the pre-existing,
traditional story, in that I make my own interpretation of the existing story.’
(Ibid., 2005, p.237)

The articulation of early views amenable to alteration ought then to be encouraged within the community, and questioning and doubt
permitted to orbit incomplete understandings. Such contributions may themselves change understandings of aspects of Christian belief
leading to new understandings of characteristics or application to situations. The extent to which the resources encourage the exploration
of alternative ideas and honest descriptions of partial understandings may be significant.

Following this description of aspects of Christian education the role of technology and, more specifically, multimedia resources in Christian
education are now described.

2.2.3 Technology, theological and Christian education

Some, whilst noting a lack of detailed research, have considered technology’s impact on theological education 56 (Graham, 2002, p.227).
The immediate, powerful impact of video and audio are sometimes contrasted unfavourably with reasoning which is detached and
reflective, often the preferred approach of the theological seminary (Hess, 2002, p.34).

However others are impressed at the development of technological aids to theological education (Delamarter, 2005, p.51), aware of
benefits of technology in supplementing not supplanting face-to-face gatherings (Ibid., p.54) and critical of a position, developed from
within communities physically present with one another, which see alternatives as inherently poorer (Ibid., p.55) and consequently struggle
to imagine new possibilities afforded by new technologies (Delamarter, 2006, p.9). In reviewing the Almond Springs57 web site Jinkins
suggests that significance lies in uses of technology, not technology itself:

‘...there is no reason to imagine that computers spell the end for the quality of collaborative learning that builds communities of
learners (Cormode, 1999). Quite the contrary may be true. The key, as with all things, lies in our use of them.’
(Jinkins, 2002, p.55)
56 In this report a limited distinction is made between theological education which is conducted in higher education institutions, is assessed and accredited, and is frequently mandatory in ministerial
formation; and Christian education which is conducted in local Christian fellowships, involves no formal assessment or accreditation and is generally voluntary and open to all.
57 Available at : http://www.christianleaders.org/Almond_Springs/index.htm. (Accessed: 4th April 2009).

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This debate has moved from making material available through on-line means to using communication technologies to engage with others’
views, including prospective learners (Hess, 2005a, p.80). Shoemaker is wary of meeting students on their social and technological terms,
preferring to encourage new ways of thinking (Shoemaker, 2007, p.456) whilst Hess notes Tanner’s suggestion:

‘[A]cademic theology has to be engaged in negotiations with popular theologies. In its primary tasks of articulating and making
a coherent system of Christian matters, it must attend to what people already think, meeting at least some of their theological
concerns, talking in much the same terms, correcting popular theological opinion where necessary and in ways that will seem
defensible to this broader audience.’
(Tanner, 1997, in Hess, 2007, p.460)

Whilst the foregoing discussion relates to theological education as distinct from Christian education, Tanner’s suggestion has relevance to
this investigation since various media are used in resources. Therefore while Hess describes adding video-clips and other media including
audio and hyperlinks to a written text as a development in theological education, it may be asked whether this is not also an appropriate
programme for congregational Christian education. Hess continues with this vision of multimedia resources applicable to congregations
and seminaries:

‘Imagine a website, for instance, where any church, any community of faith, could publish the things they had created to
support religious learning and religious practice. This website would be freely accessible to the public, so that anyone could post
resources—curriculum materials, bible studies, worship notes, and so on—and anyone could download them.’
(Hess, 2005a, p.84)

This investigation attempts to make this vision a reality within a local church congregation, with limited resources, and with a view to
encouraging a number of ordinary theologians to contribute to a debate and make such contributions available to others. Hess’s vision is
on a grander scale but this investigation aspires to enable resources primarily of text and video-clips to be made available to others
interested in pursuing the subject. Distribution in this investigation is by disc and print due to lack of access to the internet at sufficient
bandwidth speed by intended users and to prevent undue publication of material given the investigatory nature of this work. No technical
impediments are foreseen in making the resources more widely available on-line.

This investigation does not engage directly with the debate surrounding the appropriateness of technology use in Christian education but
instead offers insight into a particular use of technology in this setting. Part of the anticipated aim of this investigation is to encourage
dialogue among those who participate, utilising technology. Findings from this investigation may inform approaches to participation
through technology use.

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2.2.3.1 Supporting participatory Christian education with multimedia resources

Multimedia resources which encourage collaborative activity offer possibilities of overcoming constraints of timing and place as well as
supporting increased tolerance or acceptance, and as such present interesting possibilities. This investigation seeks greater understanding
of ways these resources may support relationships among users.

The resources are inherently part of an instructional method. Astley argues that goals and methods require to be matched, suggesting that
certain subjects may better be learned in different settings:

‘Christian attitudes like trust or charity are not learned best through attending lectures about them; and a better cognitive
understanding of the two-nature Christology is not the most likely outcome of an encounter group.’
(Astley, 2000b, p.59)

Whilst this point is valuable, it may be asked whether cognition may be separated too far from values and attitudes. Values, for example of
affirmation and honesty, may encourage further reflection on important though challenging aspects of theology. Similarly, developing
theological understanding, for example of the person or teaching of Jesus communicated through lecture, may evoke values or attitudes
such as trust or love.

Astley suggests:

‘Our combination of Christian education variables cannot therefore be allowed to become too messy!’
(Ibid., p.59, italics original.)

However, unduly rigid demarcations may hinder intended outcomes and raises the possibility that some ‘mess’ may be an inherent part of
movement or development. There are potentially ‘messy’ elements in this investigation which makes use of technologies in new ways.
Whilst it may be unsuccessful in part or in whole, exploring the issues may offer insights at least for future learning endeavours within this
congregation and possibly others involving learning technologies 58.

One activity supported in this investigation is articulating views, an important aspect of Christian education which aims at :

‘developing strong communities that “cultivate their native tongue and learn to act accordingly”, by being faithful to the
Christian narrative and its performance.’
(Lindbeck, 1984, cited in Astley, 2002a, p.117)
58 No conclusions from this investigation are necessarily directly applicable to other situations though the descriptions offered are intended to assist in determining aspects of findings which may be insightful
in other settings.

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Processes which encourage ‘meaningful and purposeful’ interactions among people (Westerhoff, 2000, p.52) are therefore necessary to
encourage faith perspectives in community members’ lives. Christian communities ought to be self-consciously aware of this and capitalise
on the experience of community in order to support transformation (Groome, 1999, p.115).

Groome’s shared praxis process of adult Christian Religious Education (Groome, 1999) contains five discrete stages involving personal
reflection including verbalising one’s views in a group. Whilst permission is given to remain silent, Groome describes his process as
including an invitation to participants at times to make responses orally or in writing (Ibid., pp.208-223). Some dialogue is essential, for
progress is achieved through responding to a series of questions, requiring that answers be formed and shared.

Gaining competence and confidence in articulating one’s developing understanding of faith, either verbally or through actions, is a
widespread necessity. Part of the goal of Christian education is to: ‘[help] learners become adept at expressing meaning’ (McKenzie, 1986,
p.13).

What role is there for media in this endeavour? Video-recording enables spoken contributions to be captured and distributed, and a
multimedia resource incorporating both text and video permits two of the main communication approaches used within Christian faith
communities to be combined in ways accessible to users. Navigating video may be more challenging than reading a relevant portion of a
text59, but multimedia allowing user selection of small, relevant video-clips may assist navigation to relevant content. The effects of this in
respect of the experiences of those who use such resources are the focus of this enquiry.

2.2.4 Discussion of Christian education

Three axes of tension may be noted from this description of Christian education and are illustrated in Figure 2.1. These tensions are
between orthodoxy and ordinary theology, between conformity and community, and between didacticism and dialogue. They may be
grouped such that didacticism, orthodoxy and conformity are located in one quadrant of a three-dimensional graph.

The tensions may be described in these ways. How may tenets of mainstream Christian understanding, supported by Groome (1999,
p.215) and Astley (2002a, p.59), be incorporated within material for ordinary theologians to consider without suffocating the setting,
process and content of personal faith which ordinary theology values and supports (Christie, 2007)? How may diversity among community
members be encouraged within parameters of Christian belief without having participation reduced to conformity to the lowest common
denominator of belief and practice? How may views be shared within dialogue in a setting where instructional tactics frequently appear
limited to didactic one-way presentations?

59 Recording audio alone would capture speech but not additional communication conveyed physically, described in section 5.2.2.4 below.

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Whilst there are exceptions (Hay & Hunt, 2000; Christie, 2007), the learning experiences of ordinary Christian believers appear little
examined. Hess (2005b, p.79) approaches this tension by contrasting Palmer’s ‘objectivist myth of knowing’ with ‘the community of truth’,
illustrated in an altered form in Figures 2.2 and 2.3 respectively, in which the Subject or Object of learning is replaced with ‘the Jesus
event,’ which Hess suggests as the activity of putting the ‘salvific effect of Christ’s entry into our lives … at the heart of our learning’ (Hess,
2005b, p.81).

The essential difference between the two figures is that in the latter, learning is shared among ‘Knowers’ as opposed to being transmitted
to ‘Amateurs’ by an ‘Expert,’ though the resulting ‘community of truth’ appears to have little place for expert input.

This investigation’s research design seeks to provide some expert input in the form of a published extract on a subject as an integral part
of each resource, intended to provide access without inhibiting dialogue, offer an orthodox view without suppressing ordinary theologians’
discourse, and provide one starting point around which concepts may coalesce without restricting contributions. However, texts may also
be perceived as authoritative, delimiting parameters beyond which discussion is inappropriate. Digital technologies permit a printed text to
be provided alongside video-clips in the same package. How might texts be perceived when they are presented not in isolation but
connected to comments from ordinary theologians relevant to the text or the subject it addresses? The research questions, though they
develop throughout the rounds of action and reflection, all seek to investigate experiences of having access to a printed text together with
video-clips from other contributors.

Providing a printed text raises textual literacy issues surrounding church involvement and Christian education. Are church-goers able to
read the types of texts, including the Bible, often referred to or used in churches? Hess notes mistakes of early missionaries to the United
States whose proselytising efforts included forcing the native inhabitants to learn to read English texts and encourages modern Christian
education not to fall into the twin traps of suppressing indigenous communication or promoting reading to the exclusion of other ‘literacies’
including spoken language (Hess, 2002, p.31). This investigation therefore seeks to discover experiences of reading different types of
texts, to explore the influence of different media on one another and also to investigate the influence of speaking about aspects of a text
in a video-recorded conversation prior to group discussion.

The tensions described above suggest that more ought to be made of modern communications media than mere delivery systems for
already-prepared communication. These are potentially creative tools and it is arguably worthwhile to explore how people engage with a
range of media (Ibid., p.33). This investigation seeks to do that within the confines of a multimedia resource in which spoken language
and written text are combined in various forms and to capture ways in which users, contributors and participants engage with such a
resource.

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2.2.5 Summary of Christian education

This brief description of aims and methods in Christian education indicate that it is concerned with community involvement which has both
contemporary and historical aspects, and that this engagement is both cognitive and practical with generally expressible consequences
which include attitudes and values of personal significance.

However not all consequences of participation in Christian education are necessarily easily seen. Furthermore, descriptions of external
characteristics alone cannot offer a complete view of personal understandings of Christian faith which include attitudes and deeply held
personal convictions. The fact that some aspects of faith may not be observed or be capable of being observed does not mean they are
absent; these profound issues may be as influential in people’s lives as they are difficult to determine. This study may be useful in
exposing instances of characteristics which may be overlooked without scrutiny, while being aware that there may be much which cannot
clearly be seen which is nonetheless significant.

2.3 Social Cognitive Theory

Processes of socialisation support Christian learning. Social learning theories are therefore worth considering. Bandura’s social cognitive
theory seeks to understand the influences of three aspects of social interaction on human behaviour:

‘Rather, human functioning is explained in terms of a model of triadic reciprocality in which behaviour, cognitive and other
personal factors, and environmental events all operate as interacting determinants of each other.’
(Bandura, 1986, p.18)

Bandura more specifically considers how observing others’ behaviours and its consequences supports learning. He stresses the importance
of learning through observation because it is widespread and commonplace (Ibid., p.47), and also influential:

‘[M]odelling has always been acknowledged to be one of the most powerful means of transmitting values, attitudes, and
patterns of thought and behaviour.’
(Ibid., p.47-8)

Modelling requires that one person is able to watch another’s behaviour, speech, and such like. A number of research activities have
investigated the effects on learning when learners have access to dialogues among other learners and between learners and tutors. These
include written answers to ‘frequently asked questions’ (Cox et al., 1999) and video recordings of conversations among other students
(Lee et al., 1999). Mayes and Crossan (2007) suggest there is additional social as well as cognitive force in watching other members of a
community engaging in discussion about practice.

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Observed modelling may influence ways of living, something important in Christian education which seeks to elicit personal engagement
and commitment in Christian formation:

‘By exemplification one can get people to behave altruistically, to volunteer their services, to delay or seek gratification, to show
affection … to converse on particular topics, to be inquisitive or passive, to think creatively or conventionally, or to engage in
other permissible courses of action.’
(Bandura, 1986, p.50)

Imitation supports individuals to learn, initially able to do ‘much more in collective activity’ (Vygotsky, 1978, p.88) which may become
internalised. Bandura considers modelling a key tactic in transmitting learning material:

‘Providing a model of thought and action is one of the most effective ways to convey information about the rules for producing
new behaviour.’
(Bandura, 1986, p.51)

There is overlap but not identity between modelling and imitation, and modelling may over time lead to the development of new ideas:

‘... modelling can provide the cognitive and behavioural tools for innovation. In most creative endeavours, the requisite
knowledge and skills are learned by example and by practice through some form of apprenticeship.’
(Ibid., p.104)

Being exposed to another’s greater knowledge and ability extends the learner’s knowledge and ability on two levels. The first is the ‘social
level’ where people become able to imitate, to some extent, what others do. The second is the ‘psychological level’ where the imitated act
is incorporated into the learner’s repertoire of actions. Imitation is not restricted to physical actions but includes cognition, development
and application of concepts. If thinking may be supported by interacting with those who have more developed thinking skills, is it possible
that people may learn about faith-related subjects or actions and lifestyle by imitating others who are living or thinking faith-fully?

Social cognitive theory asserts that learning may occur through processes of assimilating information obtained by observing the actions of
others and their consequences as well as through direct instruction and reinforcement. Observational learning is also efficient, safe, well-
developed and widespread, occurring consciously and sub-consciously, systematically and extemporaneously, and in a community setting
(Oman & Thoresen, 2003a, p.153; Bandura, 1986, p.19).

This has connections with Vygotsky’s view:

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‘Verbal thought is not an innate, natural form of behaviour, but is determined by a historical-cultural process ... It is only to be
expected that on this level the development of behaviour will be governed essentially by the general laws of the historical
development of human society.’
(Vygotsky, 1986, p.94-5)

Vygotsky considers that cognition is produced and developed in a social setting and implies the need for an environment where necessary
cognitive tools can be modelled to learners. In order for this to occur the use of these tools requires to be observed. Faith is apparently
difficult to talk about and the physical presence of a number of observers may hinder such dissemination. A conversation among two or
three is different from a performance to an audience. However articulating one’s views in a video-recorded conversation may not only
permit it to be observed at convenient times but also remove some concerns from prospective models articulating their views. What
impact, though, does the presence of the video camera have in such a conversational situation?

Social cognitive theory has informed research in higher education in vicarious learning and has suggested avenues for research in religious
education under the term observational spiritual learning. These are now described.

2.3.1 Vicarious Learning

A central assertion of vicarious learning is that learners benefit by watching discussions among other learners, and between learners and
tutors (Lee et al., 1999, para. 2). These benefits are ‘cognitive, behavioural and affective’ (Lee, Dineen & McKendree, 1998, p.5). Mayes et
al. (2002) examined, through empirical investigations, effects of observing other students describe and refine concepts in higher education
settings. Vicarious learning continues to be explored in educational research and has been used in professional development (Howarth et
al., 2005).

It may appear counter-intuitive both that learning can be encouraged by passive watching rather than active participation, and that peers
as well as experts may usefully support learning. How do these benefits come about? The lower cognitive and emotional load of watching
others discuss a subject rather than defending a position or putting ideas coherently into words during a discussion or tutorial allows
learners to devote more resources to considering an issue (McKendree et al., 1998b p.114). Seeing people participate supports a form of
social learning where a learner’s approach to learning is influenced by watching others trying to learn (Mayes et al., 2002, pp.214, 231).
This differs from viewing a collection of experts' answers and may support a developing confidence to inquire and tentatively articulate
one’s developing views: a ‘cognitive apprenticeship’ (McKendree et al., 1998b, p.110).

Modelling emphasises the importance of observing the process of learning, and gaining access to learning processes may encourage
newer students’ confidence in working out how to approach the subject as well as modelling good practice (Mayes et al., 2002, p.215).
Seeing learning dialogues does more than provide domain information but influences how, and perhaps whether, a learner will participate

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(Mayes & Crossan, 2007, p.291) and supports skill development across subject domains (Stenning et al., 1999, p.342). This is in part due
to learners identifying with those they see in dialogue activities. The learning relationship which emerges between a learner and those
viewed may encourage the learner to develop aspects of identity in relation to the group or community and so influence their involvement
in the community’s learning activities (Lee et al., 1999, para. 4; McKendree et al., 1998a, p.250; Mayes et al., 2002, p.220; Mayes &
Crossan, 2007, p.292).

Some students may pay closer attention when they perceive an issue of concern to them is raised. Making effective approaches and
strategies explicit in practice may support the development of these skills in learners (McKendree et al., 1998b, p.114) and may be
affectively helpful in ‘drawing learners in’ to a discussion (McKendree et al., 1998a p.251).

Vicarious learning has addressed certain technological and pedagogical issues. The technical issue is how dialogues may be captured and
made available as required in straightforward and economically feasible ways (Mayes et al., 2002, p.213) which can be used directly by
those supporting learning (Strom, 2002, p.5). Whilst Monthienvichienchai and Sasse (2002, p.2) note the complexity which may be
involved in capturing a discussion among many participants on video, Barclay (2003) demonstrated that capture of conversations using
one camera may be of sufficient quality, a view supported in practice by increases in video sharing (Bijnens et al., 2006, p.6). Vicarious
learning started by capturing text-based on-line contributions to a discussion and progressed to video-recording interactions which were
then made available either on-line or on CD-ROM (Stenning et al., 1999, p.341). A similar method was used in this research where
distribution was on disc60 to prevent un-necessary widespread on-line access 61.

Editing video-clips may permit relevant sections of discussions to be made available in a structured way to support learning and these
reusable components offer possibilities of organic growth as subsequent learners, using the material available, create more material for
incorporation into the resource. Issues of capture, storage, indexing and distribution arise although the small number of clips means this
investigation explores only limited practical solutions to some of these challenges. Technology is used here primarily as a means of
recording and distributing dialogue; there is no suggestion that the technology has any particularly creative role (Mayes et al., 2002,
p.215).

Three pedagogical issues are raised. The first concerns those who appear in video-clips: should they be tutors or other students (Cox et
al., 1999, p.1)? This project initially focused on making local clergy views available and thereafter concentrated on capturing and
distributing ordinary theologians’ views62 along with a written text.

The second issue concerns ways discussion may be supported. Vicarious learning emphasises the central role of dialogue in processes of
developing understanding:
60 Either on CD-ROM disc for use in a computer or DVD-disc for use in a domestic DVD player.
61 This is discussed in section 2.2.7 above.
62 This was largely influenced by ordinary theology which came to my attention during analysis of the first round of data; as well as a largely un-reflected preference near the start of the investigation for
views of professional clergy to be communicated.

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‘Dialogue is fundamental to education. It is, of course, possible to learn without such discussion, but we believe that there are
important aspects of learning, often called higher-order thinking, which are only gained through this activity, particularly by a
novice.’
(McKendree et al., 1998b, p.112)

Dialogue conveys information and offers opportunities to make more explicit derivations from assumptions held in common (Ibid., p.112).
McKendree et al (1998a) argue that much learning involves deriving new knowledge from given material, but learners need to check
conceptualisations for accuracy and thereafter fine-tune understandings. Mayes (1999) describes this ‘conceptualisation cycle’ in detail and
McKendree et al (1998a) suggest that observing derivations including hearing the language used in the process encourages observers to
develop similar skills.

Dialogue, though, requires two-way communication (McKendree et al., 1998b, p.111) and takes different forms in different subjects. Both
the content of dialogue and ‘the way it is done’ change across subject areas. Learners need to be introduced to accepted ways of speaking
about particular subjects, so dialogue is closely connected both with becoming a member of a particular community of practice and
perceiving that one is such a member. This may be achieved through receiving the results of others’ implementation of given rules or
information and transmitting one’s own understanding of the process of that implementation. This two-way interchange may be
distinguished from exposition in which new assumptions are simply given, for example, in a lecture or sermon.

Potential contributors may need support to generate good discussions which are not always spontaneous. Task Directed Discussions
(‘TDDs’) were developed in vicarious learning (Mayes et al., 2002, p.213) to assist overcoming hurdles of silence, provide opportunities to
articulate developing views and to give reasons to speak. They were also considered to provide a focus for discussion (Lee, Dineen &
McKendree, 1998, p.7) and to encourage learners to produce ‘tentative first drafts of new ideas’ in a more relaxed way (Ibid., p8).
Examination of these TDDs suggested they were potentially too demanding and focused on concepts as opposed to views on a subject.
Ohlsson (1995, p.51; also Shuell, 1992, pp.26-7) identified seven ‘epistemic tasks’ when engaging in discourse 63 which informed the
generation of fifteen activities, often open-ended questions, used in the third round of this investigation to stimulate articulation in the
video-recorded conversations. This investigation reports preliminary findings on experiences of using these 64 for this purpose whilst aware
of their provisional nature.

The third pedagogical issue concerns relationships among participants. Shaffer considers that membership of particular communities is
bound up with the language used in them, part of larger ‘epistemic frames’ (Shaffer, 2006, p.232). Dialogue does not only aid clearer
thinking but encourages learners to understand themselves as belonging within communities and so relating to others. This perception of
relationship developed in vicarious learning:

63 These are: describing, explaining, predicting, arguing, critiquing, explicating and defining.
64 The activities are contained in Appendix C.

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‘We now want to emphasise a process of social learning, in which the learner’s approach to learning something is shaped by the
observation of others attempting to learn it.’
(Mayes et al., 2002, p.231)

Astley shares this insight and suggests that a person’s awareness of his own theology may be enhanced by ‘the process of understanding
another’s theology’ (Astley, 2002a, p.152). This is a learning relationship where learners learn through other people (Mayes et al., 2002,
p.225), forming connections between their perceptions of the learning relationship and the way they conceive of the learning task. What
would be the nature of that connection? Would the onlooking learner understand more clearly what the learning task is, or be encouraged
to see the issue from a range of perspectives which had not previously been considered, or adopt approaches not previously used? Or,
would the connection have affective aspects, either where the onlooking learner’s interest in a subject was deepened or where confidence
to think about it or engage in later discussion with others was increased through watching other people talking about the subject?

Mayes and Crossan suggest that while there may be a group of learners learning the same material and therefore there may be said to be
a community of practice, what is most influential for each learner is the individual’s perception of identifying with specific other examples
of learning (Mayes & Crossan, 2007, p.293). This is likely to be widespread, for in all interactions there is some element of observation of
others. Vicarious learning however makes this explicit through video to provide the means of observing others’ activity, enabling ‘fly on the
wall’ type observation of discussions in which observers can have no active participation and with the possibility of an unlimited number of
onlookers, changing quite radically notions of learning relationships.

Vicarious learning’s examples of dialogue show social aspects of discussion in a particular setting (Ibid., p.291) and these may influence
learners’ approaches to tasks of learning. This may depend on the extent to which learners perceive a connection between themselves and
those they see in the examples, and there is the possibility that such influence is not benign, poor examples of dialogue being
unproductive both for participants and observers. This investigation seeks to elicit experiences of vicarious learning in order to understand
aspects of it as revealed in this setting.

Observing a dialogue may differ substantially from participating in one and learning from a discussion may be possible, even more
effective, than discussing (Lee et al., 1999, para. 19). Observers may learn how to participate in a discussion or discover what occurs at
one, and how, without requiring to pay the price of participation. This is potentially helpful for those who are, for various reasons, hesitant
about participating in a group discussion whose form, content and demands are to some extent unknown. This investigation reports some
concerns expressed by potential group members as they anticipated activities and demands on them in such groups. All these activities
occur in relation to others and there may be some form of perception of community in this learning. The issue of an identity of
participation, described below, may offer helpful insight.

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Social learning theory forms the basis for both observational spiritual learning and vicarious learning and, in spite of criticisms which may
be made of small discussion groups in church65, the theories described above suggest that there may be considerable merit both in
engaging with others both as proximate spiritual models and in observing discussions among them.

2.3.2 Observational Spiritual Learning

Observational spiritual learning is the process of learning spiritually relevant skills and behaviours through observing other persons, part of
a broader concept of spiritual modelling which asserts that ‘people may grow spiritually by imitating the life or conduct of one or more
spiritual exemplars’ (Oman & Thoresen, 2003a, p.150). It is distinct from role model theories by suggesting the learning from observations
may be applied in a range of settings, not restricted to ‘scripting behaviours for particular circumstances’ (Ibid., p.150).

Although observational spiritual learning is little researched, encouragement to remember the words and actions of exemplary spiritual
models (such as Jesus or the Buddha) is widespread (Ibid., p.150) as is encouragement to emulate God within major religious systems
(Silberman, 2003, p.176), or observing the lives of sages in Judaism (Ibid., p.177). The influence for ill as well as good of spiritual actions
and teachings of others has also been noted (Ibid., p.180).

Bandura (2003) reflects positively on Oman and Thoresen’s description of the place of spiritual modelling in spiritual growth not least
because of the primacy placed on the relationship between spiritual beliefs and practices:

‘It is the spiritual commitment that gets expressed in daily living that makes a difference in people’s lives.’
(Bandura, 2003, p.170)

He argues against locating spirituality in ‘abstract doctrines’ alone since real examples are required to indicate how and where the
doctrines are to be applied. Many such real examples are found in faith communities:

‘Congregations provide multiple models of behaviour and reinforce lifestyles patterned on them in close associational networks.’
(Ibid., p.171)

The benefit of such examples are that values, beliefs and lifestyle may be transmitted by means of modelling, and opportunities to observe
competence in action may increase a sense of personal efficacy. Seeing someone else do something successfully encourages others to
make not necessarily identical attempts but still with a view to success. This is true for exemplary models (e.g. Jesus, whose followers are
encouraged to emulate his loving lifestyle, even if not fully realisable) and for everyday models ‘whose perceived similarities to us provide

65 Difficulties relating to such groups were noted in research conversations and are reported in section 4.1.

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additional support to our efficacy beliefs’ (Oman & Thoresen, 2003b, p.208). These two models offer complementary information, seeing
that the larger goal is worthwhile while the nearer target is possible, and so encourages learners to attempt new behaviours (Ibid., p.208).

This suggests a potentially powerful influence of seeing and hearing the views of other ordinary theologians as they reflect on issues
raised by more exemplary models, perhaps published authors. Narratives of past activities and experiences recounted by ordinary
theologians may be a source for observational spiritual learning by others. In telling tales of things seen, heard, thought and done and
reflecting on these, others may be given opportunities to learn by observing.

Oman and Thoresen argue that religion and spirituality are not so much about adherence to memorised prescribed dogmas as they are
about selecting appropriately from a repertoire of higher-level skills which may be difficult to describe but easier to demonstrate or display
(Ibid., p.151). If spirituality involves issues such as belonging, identity, a search for meaning, wholeness or social reform (Ibid., p.152),
then supporting learning by making available demonstrations or descriptions of these issues in practice may be appropriate and helpful.

2.3.2.1 Observational spiritual learning and audiovisual presentation in the early church

This study investigates vicarious learning where articulations connected with a written text are presented in a multimedia resource prior to
group discussion. Whilst this may be regarded as novel, it may be argued that similar activities are described in some earliest Christian
documents.

Jesus answers the criticism of the Pharisees that his disciples are plucking ears of corn on the Sabbath by drawing attention to similar
activity both by king David and his men, exemplary figures in Pharisaical understanding, as well as the contemporary behaviour of
proximate models, priests who ‘work’ on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8). Jesus’ disciples here form an audience of vicarious learners
observing him debate with the Pharisees and referring to an earlier Jewish text.66 This pattern continues as Jesus heals a man with a
shrivelled hand in the synagogue on the Sabbath after debating with some of those present. The context suggests that this conversation
and activity between Jesus and the synagogue leaders occurs before an audience, vicarious learners for whom these events apparently
evoke a reaction of faith and obedience (Matthew 12:9-15).

Paul describes early Christians in Thessalonica who became ‘an example to all the believers in Macedonia’ (1 Thessalonians 1:7). The
Greek τύπος meaning moral example or pattern (Baur et al., 1979, p.829) is used here in the singular, suggesting that:

‘Paul is speaking of the church as a pattern community rather than of individuals comprising it as so many individual patterns.’
(Morris, 1991, p.49)

66 One of the prophets, Hosea (6:6), alluded to in Matthew 12:7.

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The relations among early Christians in community were accordingly perceived as instructive for others to observe. Whilst not restricted to
dialogue this nonetheless suggests a principle of observation, also noticeable in the way these letters may have been communicated.

Thompson (1998) argues it is likely the New Testament letters were both carried and communicated by a professional, literate letter-
bearer who would have read, and orally supplemented, the written text. This is not vicarious learning but oral contribution to a written
text: :

‘But what Paul did was to engage in dictation. He sent a handwritten, corrected but not without errors, ... ambiguous,
damaged, travel-worn manuscript with someone he trusted, to have that one, or someone else, present his intentions and
symbols verbally and bodily to others... What we should be looking for is an emotional, subjective, playing-up-to-the-audience
human being, making meaning present and evoking authority.’
(Botha, 1993, p.413)

The early communication of New Testament letters may have been understood by writers and audiences both as an activity of listening to
a text and as a personal encounter with a carrier who, whilst not the author, elaborated, commented upon, and perhaps discussed the
content of the letter with the hearers. So a relationship among text, letter-bearer and audience and not simply between text and audience
is envisaged; and certainly a relationship which is more dynamic than text alone. Thomson also suggests that the bearer of the letter’s
own comments were singularly important:

‘When individuals brought letters, the oral report could be just as significant and more thorough than any text.’
(Thompson, 1998, p.67)

Accordingly whilst multimedia resources appear markedly different from practices in the early Jesus movement, offering an oral
commentary upon a written text may reflect some early church practices. Dialogue with others in the presence of an audience who are
intended to learn from the conversational encounter also appears a familiar strategy in supporting Christian learning. The possibilities
afforded by new technologies may be seen as developing these earlier types of practice and this investigation contributes to knowledge in
regard to their use for this arguably traditional purpose. The novel feature provided by technology, which is examined in this investigation,
is connected with using video and so issues surrounding mediating observational learning through video need now to be addressed.

2.3.2.2 Observational learning mediated by video

Video effects several changes from live observation of a dialogue encounter. It permits the dialogue to be watched at times, in places and
for durations convenient for viewers and removes any possibility of active participation in the dialogue itself. Whilst possibly unhelpful and

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frustrating, such limitation is also potentially beneficial. The unease of not contributing to a live group may be transformed through video
into the acceptable impossibility of participation.

Hess (2005a) describes digitally-mediated observational spiritual learning, though not in those terms, when describing the ease of listening
to another community without the requirement to respond or contribute immediately. Freedom to observe may lead to greater
understanding and respect. It may, where views differ, contribute to a constructive debate rather than ‘more confrontational scholarly
presentations.’ (Hess, 2005a, p.88). If such a vicarious learning resource may be useful even for a professor within her specialist discipline,
might it not also have value for ordinary theologians who are challenged to contribute their views immediately, and prefer opportunities to
watch, possibly repeatedly, to reflect, and only thereafter respond? Multimedia resources such as those developed in this investigation
offer intriguing possibilities.

Video makes material available under user control, when convenient, to any number of users. Bandura (1986, p.70) calls this ‘random
access,’ though it is not random and highlights a difference between digital multimedia and analogue systems, since the former may
permit more rapid location of relevant material if a catalogue is provided (perhaps via a hypertext system) to enable timely selection of
appropriate resources.

Bandura anticipates with enthusiasm the widespread use of video and audio in promoting vicarious learning:

‘The introduction of television technology has produced major changes in the models of behaviour to which people now have
access. It enables them to transcend the bounds of their immediate social life.’
(Ibid., p.55)

Aware of the influence of visual media (Ibid., p.70), Bandura offers an idea of its potential of an audiovisual medium, something which
resonates with the aims of this project:

‘In view of the efficacy of, and extensive public exposure to, televised modelling, the mass media play an influential role in
shaping human thought and action. Further developments in communication technology will enable people to observe on
request almost any desired activity at any time on computer-linked television consoles. Videodisc systems with random access
to a huge amount of auditory and visual information provide a further medium for effective modelling of valued skills.’
(Bandura, 1986, p.70)

He suggests that providing auditory and visual information may effectively model ‘valued skills’ including articulating thoughts and thinking
processes, listening to the articulation of others’ thinking and engaging in dialogue with a different perspective.

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It is interesting therefore to examine experiences of those who are supported by a resource which co-ordinates text and video in a
multimedia product as a means of communicating models of thought, action, reflection and discussion. Both observational spiritual
learning and vicarious learning suggest that media, including text and video, may be useful in encouraging observation and modelling and
this research adds to previous knowledge by observing the influences of the multimedia product on experiences of engaging with it and
participating in discussions.

An early part of this investigation (Barclay, 2006) reported in section 4.1 revealed that one criticism of small discussion groups was a lack
of confidence that what was said would be accepted without undue criticism by other group members. This perception, sometimes
founded on previous experience, discouraged active participation. The ways potential participants anticipate the task of group discussion
may affect the use they make of material provided to them. In an extreme form, this may result in learners failing to consider material
because of their concerns about the discussion which is to follow, including feelings of anxiety or disillusionment. Does video influence
approaches to using material? This investigation seeks evidence as to the nature and effect of that influence, if any.

The elements within the resources may be offered to users not merely as a delivery system but as a potentially creative composite of
resource material, approaches and affective support. Viewing resources on computer is potentially relatively easy to access if it builds on
already-developed computer skills. Equally, access may be inhibited where infrastructure or skills are lacking.

Using multimedia to support learning effectively requires the development of digital literacies, abilities to manipulate computer material
sufficiently in order to learn. Whilst detailed investigation of digital literacies falls out-with the scope of this investigation, research into
ways video is used in practice in a particular Christian education endeavour may nonetheless be helpful, and may inform further strategies
for using digital multimedia including video-clips and texts in church, and other, settings.

A useful starting-point is to determine how multimedia resources are currently experienced, something attempted in this investigation. For
example, there may be a prevailing perception that recorded video shares television’s sequential, often narrative, progression. Much video
is in this form, but need not be. If video were designed for viewing in smaller parts whose relevance was apparent at different times,
computer-based multimedia may provide methods of locating and viewing particular sections in this manner and of supplying connections
between displayed text and relevant clips. This investigation attempts to capture and analyse accounts of such experiences.

Video may also be used to mediate views among learners and not simply be a means of one-way communication. Jenkins (2006) describes
social literacy, a repertoire of skills in collaborating with others to develop knowledge:

‘skills that enable participation in the new communities emerging within a networked society.’
(Ibid., p.55)

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Such social literacy must consist in part of sufficient computer literacy to enable participation supported by communication technologies.
Simple word processors could be used to store and re-arrange ideas (used, for example, in Laurillard et al., 2000); asynchronous and
synchronous text communication such as e-mail, discussion areas and instant messaging systems could store and distribute a number of
learners’ contributions; and many-media presentations may be made available in a variety of ways.

Ordinary theology encourages an attentive attitude to church-goers’ understandings of aspects of faith. Generally, ordinary theologians’
discourse medium is dialogue and video permits this, rather than a mediated form in text, to be captured. This study accordingly aims to
discover what happens where conversation is captured by video as opposed to text contributions, and to investigate experiences of
articulating and watching these video-clips. Elements of social literacy are involved in this investigation.

Asynchronous video may not only be viewed but obtained at convenient times and places, permitting contributors to have some control
over their contribution by repeatedly offering it and editing the distributed video, and it allows for further explorations of suitability to be
explored (for example, the mention of third parties) prior to the inclusion of the conversation in a resource. However there are practical
difficulties in encouraging ordinary theologians to speak in conversation about faith issues knowing parts of the conversation will be
recorded and made available to others. Would people not be more reluctant to speak on video than among friends? Would computer
technology emphasise individual thought over collective discussion?

In addition to practical difficulties in making such a resource, there are theoretical concerns. If media do change the relationships among
people, what would be the effect of using video in this setting? Video-clips are necessarily edited from conversations and implicit in this
are issues of authority. Whose ‘voice’ is heard in an edited segment from a longer conversation, and who has the right to decide, or
demand, inclusion or exclusion of material? Would material known to have been edited be persuasive on observers, or would they consider
it disingenuous or deceitful? If learning involves change, what effect does capturing a particular view have both on those who watch and
on those whose view is represented? Is video seen as a transitory tool in cognitive growth, capturing a view from which one may depart or
progress, or is it the technological equivalent of the laws of the Medes and Persians, 67 committing a contributor forever to espouse a view
once articulated in a video-clip?

2.4 Communities of Practice and a church congregation

Section 2.2 outlined the participatory nature of Christian education and practice where faith communities were referred to as communities
of practice. Each area of literature reviewed refers to communities of practice and so theoretical understandings of such communities may
be insightful. Astley applies Lave and Wenger’s description of such communities to church practices (2002a, p.8), and vicarious learning
literature notes that:

67 In Daniel 6:8, king Darius issued a decree which, being written, was unalterable in terms of the laws of the Medes and the Persians.

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‘Learning involves social participation - in particular, by being an active participant in the practices of social communities, and by
constructing an identity in relation to each community.’
(Mayes et al., 2002, p.225)

Wenger’s description of communities of practice does not explain how learning occurs but outlines areas of social learning worthy of
further investigation not only in stable and long-term communities but also those of shorter duration (Mayes & Crossan, 2007, p.292;
Mayes et al., 2002, p.225; Fowler & Mayes, 1999, p.2).

This thesis argues that church congregations may be considered communities of practice in Wenger’s terms which are broadly applicable
out-with a commercial context (Wenger McDermott & Snyder, 2002, p.224). Three components are necessary to constitute a community of
practice: a subject domain to which members have a commitment and in which there are recognisable competencies, a community of
practitioners, and a shared practice in which members are engaged beyond mere interest (Ibid., p.27). Communities of practice theory
suggests that encouraging each is an effective way to manage knowledge for the benefit both of members of the community and the
community as a whole.

Church congregations may be regarded as communities of practice for the following reasons. Some church-goers choose to interact with
others and share knowledge, skills and insight with a view to supporting practices of reflective, faithful living. ‘Competence’ may be
broadly recognised through following exemplary behaviours or teachings of major faith figures. Church members are encouraged to
participate in many activities including worship services, opportunities for prayer, reflective reading of texts especially from the Bible, and
practical engagement with others in church, the wider community and society. Church is about a lifestyle and action as well as internal
reflection. Separating subject domain knowledge from active participation may create an unhelpful dualism, potentially degenerating into
‘faith [which is] a way of knowing and nothing else,’ (Westerhoff, 2000, p.69). What is required is faith activity which:

‘nurtures our spiritual lives as thinking, feeling, willing people of God who act individually and corporately in the world to reveal
the Gospel.’
(Ibid., p.72)

A community of practice engages in a ‘shared enterprise’ (Wenger, 1998, p.45). Religious worship services may appear constrained in their
activities, setting and form and include many long-standing practices. Attendance at these gatherings may be diverse, though, since formal
membership is generally not a requirement for worship and worshippers may have divergent aims, needs, hopes and concerns. This
research is located in such a setting.

This investigation accordingly takes a community of practice to be those actively engaged in particular activities of reflecting on ideas and
experiences with a view to more faithful Christian living. Membership of the organisation or attendance at services is insufficient (Ibid.,
p.74); being engaged in the enterprise is what matters. Communities of practice insights concerning identities of participation, negotiating

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meaning and legitimate peripheral participation are helpful to understand issues of participation in this setting and are now described in
more detail.

2.4.1 Identities of participation

Wenger argues that ‘the most personally transformative’ (Ibid., p.6) learning occurs in communities of practice which are commonplace
and ‘so informal and so pervasive that they rarely come into explicit focus’ (Ibid., p.7). A key activity in such communities is participation,
for learning involves engaging in practices in the community. Therefore the activities which constitute belonging in such a community are
highly relevant (Ibid., p.8). There needs to be a sense both of membership and of making a valued contribution. Wenger terms this an
‘identity of participation:’

‘We function best when the depth of our knowing is steeped in an identity of participation, that is, when we can contribute to
shaping the communities that define us as knowers. ... In this regard, treating people as members of communities of practice
does not mean stereotyping them, but rather honouring the meaningfulness of their participation and valuing their membership
as a key to their ability to contribute to the competence of the organisation.’
(Ibid., p.253)

Such identity of participation has, arguably, three constituent aspects. These are an awareness of a right to belong, necessary skills
enabling engagement with the Christian tradition, and motivation to take part. These elements, discussed in section 5.2.1.3, together
constitute an identity of participation. This investigation uncovers and describes connections among uses of the resources and descriptions
given by informants of elements of this identity.

Offering varied opportunities to contribute may encourage growth within the community and among its members as well as support the
expression of identities of participation. This investigation seeks to discover how such identities are expressed and how they might develop
through using the resources. Do the activities associated with the resources and discussion groups support or inhibit the expression and
development of identities of participation and can this be accounted for in terms of theories of social learning? What types of identities are
expressed through using these resources?

Ordinary theology may be seen to challenge existing Ministers who are ‘proclaimers from the pulpit’ also to be ‘guides on the side’ to
encourage community members to share their developing understandings within the community. This investigation may offer insights into
ways of achieving this aim. A multimedia resource, for example, may be a useful tool to communicate diversity and to support developing
expressions of identities of participation. This research seeks to investigate experiences of using the resources to provide that
encouragement.

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2.4.2 Negotiating meaning

A community holds a range of understandings and also develops shared ‘resources for negotiating meaning’ (Ibid., p.82) including:

‘routines, words, tools, ways of doing things, stories, gestures, symbols, genres, actions, or concepts that the community has
produced or adopted in the course of its existence, and which have become part of its practice. The repertoire combines both
reificative and participative aspects. It includes the discourse by which members create meaningful statements about the world,
as well as the styles by which they express their forms of membership and their identities as members.’
(Ibid., p.83)

‘Routines’ here need not be so routine as to compel uniformity, and diversity is as vital as similarity (Ibid., p.75) provided there are means
by which this ambiguity can be used well by the community:

‘Agreement in the sense of literally shared meaning is not a precondition for mutual engagement in practice, nor is it its
outcome. Indeed, mismatched interpretations or misunderstandings need to be addressed and resolved directly only when they
interfere with mutual engagement. Even then, they are not merely problems to resolve, but occasions for the production of new
meanings.’
(Ibid., p.84)

Engagement in practice over time develops particular ways of thinking, acting and articulating, frequently involving language (Tusting,
2005, p.41). In faith communities this is through printed words, not only from the Bible but from a wide range of literature (Farley, 2005,
p.201) and also through spoken words in personal conversational encounters. Reification is the process of creating artefacts or
representations of concepts or practices. Some may be non-verbal though many involve writing (Barton & Hamilton, 2005, p.15) and
Wenger’s examples are ‘mainly literary artefacts of some kind’ (Ibid., p.15). Words are everywhere, spoken and written, and this applies in
church as in other walks of life.

Participation is impossible without communication, which necessarily involves language though Wenger does not explore in detail how
language is used in communities of practice (Tusting, 2005, p.39). Wenger does, however, suggest that communication could include
electronic means, mentioning e-mail as an example (Wenger, 1998, p.74). This investigation seeks to explore some influences of the
largely verbal multimedia resources on experiences of participating in a community and identities resulting from this participation. It does
so by capturing informants’ spoken descriptions of their experiences.

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2.4.3 Peripheral participation

Following ethnographic studies, Lave and Wenger (1991) argue that learning may be supported by allowing newcomers full access to the
discourse and activities of a community. However, performing these activities and participating in discourse are restricted in order to limit
risks to all community members, its products, and the community itself. This process permits newcomers to become part of a community.
Progress toward more central membership both stimulates a desire to learn and facilitates learning, without itself being an instructional
strategy (Ibid., pp.29,40).

Newcomers’ involvement is understood to be authentic (Ibid., p. 37) yet nevertheless limited. In this way participation is ‘legitimate’ and
‘peripheral’ though intended to lead to more central participation within the community. This requires constant re-negotiation of relations
among community members (Ibid., 1991, p.50).

Since involvement with others is a key characteristic of communities of practice, a goal of educational design should be to encourage
engagement with others to permit learning to be both structured and expressed (Wenger, 1998, p.271). This requires opportunities for
members to contribute to a community of practice which they value, whilst allowing learners to be aware that their contributions are
valued (Ibid., p.227). Gradual access to the practice of a community needs to be given in order to enable mutual engagement. Initially this
may be a limited ‘peripheral participation’ where restricted access is offered perhaps through opportunities for observation and to be
observed (Lave & Wenger, 1991, p.78).

Weaknesses in this description have been noted, including unclear roles for experienced practitioners who join another community of
similar practice (Fuller et al., 2005, p.51). Are they newcomers or central members? Additionally, participation may be viewed merely as
‘catching up’ with experienced practice (Ibid., p.52) suggesting a conservative role for this participation: does it challenge or develop the
community’s practice? Lave and Wenger suggest communities are generally stable, even welcoming, and the extent to which this
accurately reflects communities has been questioned (Ibid., p.53).

Nevertheless the concept is important for highlighting relations among community members and describing processes of participation and
learning. Whether it offers a universally applicable detailed description is questionable (Ibid., p.65) though its utility in supporting
understandings of communities and learning processes within them has been recognised within a marginalised religious community of
witches (Merriam, Courtenay & Baumgartner, 2003, p.172).

Peripheral participation emphasises the importance of relationships and individuals’ identities within a community of practice which is
helpful for this investigation. It identifies influential factors beyond instructional interventions. It provides a useful perspective in this study
examining participation involving informants who each bring varying previous experiences of participating in Christian learning and living.

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2.5 Research questions and reviewed literature

This review of literature does not produce a hypothesis to be tested but provides a focus for the investigation. This focus may be blurred in
an action research approach which permits research questions to arise and alter during the investigation. To render this manageable
particular variations were introduced to the resources in each round as illustrated in Table 2.4.

The general orienting research question outlined in chapter one was: What experiences of participation are described by church-goers
using these resources and attending discussion groups, and how are experiences of participation influenced by the resources? Section
1.1.5 expanded this in three areas: reflecting on faith issues, participating with others, and producing and using resources. In this section
these questions are further refined in light of the reviewed literature.

2.5.1 Reflecting on faith

Ordinary theology focuses on non-theologically-trained church-goers’ views about faith, and so the informants in all three rounds are
ordinary theologians68. Professional clergy were not invited to participate in using the resource 69 and this investigation does not explore
experiences of using these resources either with those who are theologically trained or in such training. ‘Learning’ is understood to result
both from processes of reflecting on ideas communicated to an individual and articulation of ideas by individuals. Listening and speaking
are both supported through the resources, arguably in ways more commensurate with an ordinary theologian’s natural discourse since
conversations rather than writing are captured. How do using and contributing to the resources influence participation, and how do
elements within the resources influence each other and participants’ experiences?

Christian education intends to enable personal and cultural narratives to be conjoined by individuals, resulting in transformation of identity,
lifestyle and critical appreciation of the subject (Driesden, Hermans & De Jong, 2005). The investigation seeks to determine ways in which
concepts and attitudes are influenced by the resources and discussions, rather than determining knowledge retention or comprehension.

Vicarious learning draws attention to the effects of watching others in dialogue about a subject. What gains, then, are reported from
watching video-clips and how are attitudes to video-clips influenced by, and influence, other elements in the resources? An identity of
participation asks how experiences of seeing peers and oneself in video-clips affect one’s self-understanding as a member of the
community. Opportunities for negotiation of meaning ask how the resources enable informants to develop confidence and abilities to
negotiate the subject and navigate variations in understanding among others in the course of discussions. Peripheral participation explores
the effects of seeing others discoursing, and also articulating views in recorded conversation knowing others will watch these.

68 One informant is a Reader within the Church of Scotland, requiring some theological training to Certificate standard; one had completed an initial course only with a view to becoming a Reader; and no
other informants had received formal theological training.
69 Two professional clergy appeared in the video-recorded conversation in the first resource and the researcher, a Minister, engaged all the contributors in the video-recorded conversations.

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Issues surrounding learning in church are also relevant. To what extent do informants perceive church activities involve or require learning
about faith, and how does that influence their approach and activities? What is it that ordinary theologians are learning in their church
involvement? Is it to possess a ministerial-type theology, or to inform more practical Christian living? Vicarious learning asks what
informants gain through the video-clips, whether those elements are necessary or irrelevant, and whether access to varied views is
considered threatening or a useful cognitive tool. Peripheral participation asks whether the resource is inherently conservative,
encouraging users to adopt a limited range of views, or whether instead it supports critical thinking as well as broadening knowledge and
understanding.

2.5.2 Participation

Ordinary theology, as extended above, encourages ordinary theologians’ views be shared. How do users experience different types of
contributors, including professional clergy and ordinary theologians, familiar friends and those less well known? What influence does
watching others have on informants’ experiences of participating as the resource is viewed and in group discussion? How do these views
influence users’ engaging with elements of the resources and participating with others to consider the issue, and is there evidence of
informants developing a responsibility to the community through their required tasks which might be suggested by a socialisation view of
Christian learning?

2.5.3 Resources

This area concerns the resources themselves. Ordinary theology advocates ordinary theologians’ views be heard, but do the video-clips
facilitate this? What influence does an audio-visual as opposed to written communication have both on viewers and contributors? How do
elements of the resources interact: for example, how does reading the text affect watching the video-clips, and vice versa? Vicarious
learning provides insights to stimulate conversations supporting observers’ learning, so how are ordinary theologians encouraged to
approach making their contribution? Two approaches to facilitate articulation of their views were attempted, a general one in the second
round and a series of fifteen open questions in the third. How do they influence contributors’ articulations? In the third round, video-clips
of all prior contributors were made available to those subsequently contributing. What was the influence of such a ‘proto-resource’ on later
contributors?

2.5.4 Practical issues

The final area concerns production and accessibility issues. Is it possible to create suitable resources in formats which these church-goers
are able to use? What are the most demanding issues which require to be addressed in producing such resources? What infrastructure and
skills are required to view the resources, and how useful does this type of resource appear to be?

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2.6 Summary

This chapter has provided an understanding of Christian education purposes with reference to participating in faith communities. In doing
so it has argued that supporting greater dialogue among ordinary theologians offers a promising route to develop such communities and
individual members. A means of enabling this through vicarious learning has been outlined and a means of understanding the investigated
experiences through insights from communities of practice have been described.

This investigation seeks to capture, describe and account for experiences of learning through participating in various activities. How might
this be achieved to allow reflection on Christian education to be undertaken? The methodology of this study is described in chapter three.

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CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHODS AND RESOURCES

3.0 Introduction and background

This investigation assumes that learning results from experience (Astley, 2000a, p.3) suggesting that aspects of learning may be explored
by capturing descriptions of experiences of using the resources and participating in discussions. Such an investigation has not been
reported although similar resources have been envisaged (Hess, 2005a, p.84), and this investigation offers a contribution to this field.

The investigation is influenced by the insight that learning results in altering abilities to participate with others (Wenger, 1998, p.226)
described in section 2.4.1. It seeks to capture descriptions of ways informants reflect on their participation by articulating views in video-
recorded conversation and group discussion.

These two perspectives connect learning and experience. In the former, experience supports learning. In the latter, learning may support
different forms of participation. An understanding of ‘learning experiences’ requires to be based on analysis of accounts or observations of
relevant experiences. Analytical methods indicate the data to be collected which in turn inform the conditions which may generate suitable
experiences to produce appropriate data. Methodologically there is merit in first discussing analytical approaches likely to provide insights
into the research question, since this informs the data to be collected which in turn influences research methods and instruments.

The research question asks what experiences of participation are described by church-goers using these resources and attending
discussion groups, and how experiences of participation are influenced by the resources. This investigation demands much from the
resources given their central influence on experiences and participation. Poor resources may be of limited benefit, yielding data only
confirming their sub-optimal quality. Yet the investigation’s novelty reduced the likelihood a template for a quality resource could be
located at its outset. The research design needs, then, to incorporate means for improving the resources themselves in order to stimulate
a sufficient quality of experience to be described and observed.

Action research may provide such an opportunity for ongoing improvement so this chapter first describes such a research style. Thereafter,
approaches to analysing data are discussed in terms of ability to answer the research question. This in turn informs the types of data to be
gathered, guiding the development of appropriate research instruments and resources described in section 3.3.

3.1 Action research as the research style

The resources and group discussions require from the outset not only to generate data for analysis but also to offer interested church-
goers some reasonable learning experiences (Delamarter, 2006, p.13). They form part of learning activities within the congregation, and

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encouragement to use them and to participate flows partly from a sense that they are sufficiently worthwhile. Early resources may require
improvement and so a means of resource development informed by experiences of using previous resources is necessary. Likewise the
exploratory nature of the study, investigating novel uses of technology in this setting, is likely to benefit from alterations or refinements to
data collection and analysis informed by earlier findings.

An action research approach offers these opportunities. Data collected may inform both insights into the research question and alterations
to future resources leading to a cyclical pattern of planning, use, observation and reflection typical of action research. A similar approach
was used by the researcher in previous professional ministry endeavours (Barclay, 2003) through limited, though planned, activity
combining instructional design and an interpretative framework permitting informed analysis supporting further development (Cobb &
Bowers, 1999, p.8).

This approach appeared to serve useful practical ends and is a method Martin (2000) considers many Ministers adopt, one which action
research supports. It demands that practitioners engage seriously with theory and their practice, experiment and attempt new things
(Ibid., p.156). It does not endorse current informal ideas but rather demands ‘deliberate and conscious reflection’ as well as challenging
established ways of thinking about issues (Dick, 1993).

Action research encourages small changes to be made in real settings and the effects of these changes to be observed closely:

‘to do action research is to plan, act, observe and reflect more carefully, more systematically, and more rigorously than one
usually does in everyday life.’
(Kemmis & McTaggart, 1992, p.10;
quoted in Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2000, p.227)

This challenge does not necessarily demand radical innovation but recognises instead that change is continuous (Zuber-Skerrit, 1996b,
p.95). This investigation is part of wider endeavours to develop opportunities for Christian education using communication technologies in
novel ways and forms part of a larger enterprise which may include developments in this and other settings.

Action research stimulates practitioners to engage with educational theory broadly, to observe settings in greater detail than in informal
investigation, to consider purposes and means of achieving these aims in collaboration with others and to grow in self-understanding of
the role of Minister and Christian educator (Martin, 2000, p.157-8). As a ‘real-life’ and ‘hands-on’ approach to research it contrasts with
observational research, in which researchers:

‘try to see what would have happened had they not been there... They try to observe the ordinary, and they try to observe it
long enough to comprehend what, for this case, ordinary means.’
(Stake, 1995, p.44)

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As well as observing, action research seeks to innovate, introducing developments with a view to making improvements in flexible and
responsive ways (Dick, 1993) whilst also requiring an ‘away-from-the-action’ reflection (Sagor, 2004, p.12) on relationships among the
data, relevant literature and the steps taken.

Action research makes additional burdens principally in demanding action as well as observation and reflection (Dick, 1993). The
investigation defines the literature to be examined, increasing demands made of literature surveys. Challenges in reporting research are
increased as the choice of research style requires to be justified and research findings need to be presented (Davis, 2007b), an issue
addressed in section 4.0.3. Is this additional burden worthwhile? A case is made for its use within Christian education in congregations
since the activity, if not the reporting, is:

‘a common-sense approach to religious education, undertaken with more systematic, rigorous, reflective, and deliberately
collaborative mindset.’
(Martin, 2000, p.158)

Martin is among few describing action research in Christian education though it is widely used in educational research (Zuber-Skerrit,
1996a, p.3). English (2006) encourages its use in religious education because it produces practical knowledge and combines knowledge
with theory, arguably a development from ‘a preponderance of theorizing on needs and little investigation of them’ (Ibid., p.154) and is:

‘a direction worth taking if we are to be serious about our claim to be a practical field or at least one that wants to include
practitioners in a meaningful way.’
(Ibid., p.154)

Action research has also been used in investigating ways in which new technologies interact with each other (Knudsen, 2004, p.23) and in
examining the use of video-clips within professional communities (Steeples, 2002, p.4). It is therefore considered an appropriate style of
research for this investigation and the process adopted is now described.

Martin (2000, p.154), following McTaggart and Kemmis (1988), describes four phases of each cycle of research and action, namely:

• observing the situation, ‘identifying a general idea that some kind of improvement or change is desirable’ (Kemmis & McTaggart,
1981, in Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2000, p.234) and determining the ‘first action step’ (Ibid., p.235);

• implementing the plan for action;

• monitoring the effects of implementation involving observing participants and collecting data which is then analysed; and

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• evaluating the collected and analysed data to ‘develop revised plans based on what they are learning from their planning, acting
and observing’ (Martin, 2000, p.154).

This investigation commenced with a limited survey of relevant literature together with an initial questionnaire and research conversations
which informed early views on aspects of experiences of learning in church. This was followed by three research rounds, each of which
involved designing, planning, producing and distributing a resource and organising small group discussions. Informants’ descriptions of
their experiences were captured in audio-recorded research conversations, transcribed and analysed by the researcher who shared his
preliminary views among informants in subsequent group interviews. Insights from conversations and group interviews informed further
analysis and the design of subsequent rounds, indicated in Figure 1.1. Aspects of this process are described for each round in sections
3.5.2 to 3.5.5.

The research is conducted through three research rounds. How ought each be considered? Case studies provide a useful perspective and
their use in action research is now discussed.

3.1.1 Case study within action research

Each round requires observing the effects of implementing planned changes. The investigation studies experiences of church-goers using
and contributing to resources and discussing together. This makes a case study of these experiences possible, which may be coupled with
an action research style (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2000, p.183). Although case studies are generally concerned with examining a unit
which is representative of a larger group, it may be argued in this investigation the unit is the range of experiences of using the resource
and discussing the subject. The range and variation among these experiences may be captured and compared and, if successful, a series
of case studies may be formed. Each relies on analysing ranges of descriptions of experience and noting other salient issues. This appears
an appropriate approach within an action research style.

Representativeness, though common, is not an essential requirement of a case study (Ibid., p.185) and this investigation arguably offers
insight concerning the use of three similar multimedia resources among interested church-goers, albeit based in a particular setting (Ibid.,
p.185). Limited representation is not considered sufficiently problematic to render a case study approach invalid.

The broad approach to this investigation is accordingly an action research style of several case studies of experiences of using particular
resources and participating in group discussions. How may these experiences be analysed, and what would require to be captured to make
such analysis possible?

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3.1.2 Empirical research and practical theology

Investigating church-goers’ experiences in activities connected with faith falls within practical theology which has traditionally been
suspicious of empirical research using social scientific methods (Astley, 2002a, p.99; Astley, 2000a, p.15). How can their use be justified in
this study?

Van der Ven (1993, pp.9-29) outlines the development of the empirical theology movement and addresses several criticisms levelled
against it. Empiricism cannot be limited to observation but includes ‘social, individual, aesthetic, moral and religious experience’ (Ibid.,
p.10). Focusing on practice need not ignore theory and the ‘hermeneutic spiral’ applied to theology generally through liberation theology
approaches emphasises the mutual influence of action and understanding (Forrester, 2000, p.30).

Pragmatism need not be considered as reducing issues to ‘instrumental significance’ but rather as a theory of truth (Van der Ven, 1993,
p.12). Empirical methods uncover what actually occurs in people’s lives, without which theoretical approaches may be mistaken or
incomplete (Astley, 2002a, p.98) and this may be more fully realised using modern scientific methods.

This academic investigation which requires to meet appropriate standards is conducted among church-goers by a Minister in a
congregation. Van der Ven argues there need be no tension between such standards and the church’s pastoral work and notes the
‘adequate and differentiated synthesis’ offered by both combined (Van der Ven, 1993, p.23). It is therefore argued that methods of
capturing and classifying informants’ experiences informed by social science is an appropriate approach, one similar to methods employed
in recent studies of Christian education (Hella & Wright, 2009; Hella, 2008) described below. This raises questions about data collection
and analysis which are now considered.

3.1.3 Possible data collection and analysis strategies

Various data have been collected and considered in vicarious learning research and to inform communities of practice perspectives.
Ordinary theology additionally advocates certain types of data as worthy of attention.

Data collection techniques associated with assessing performance have been used in vicarious learning investigations. Performance in tests
or completing tasks have been measured after providing access to vicarious learning resources (Cox, 2005; Driscoll et al., 2003; Lee et al.,
1999; McKendree et al., 1998; Schober & Clark, 1989). Comparative performances before and after using a resource have been
considered, as have comparisons between a group using vicarious materials and a control group. Performances resulting from using
different types of media have also been compared (Mayes et al., 2002; Reznitskaya et al., 2001; Lee et al., 1999; Cox et al., 1999;
Hartmann, 1999; Stenning et al., 1999; McKendree et al., 1998a; Monaghan & Stenning, 1998).

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In addition to measuring performance, discussions among learners particularly in text-based on-line discussions and in face-to-face
dialogue have been captured and analysed using a content mark-up scheme (Howarth et al., 2005; Mayes et al., 2002; Lee et al., 1999;
Stenning et al., 1999).

These approaches arguably focus on performance or behavioural activity either directly through testing or indirectly through assessing
discussion activities, and they are not without difficulty. Ohlsson (1995, p.50) argues that demonstrating increased reflective skills is
problematic and that observing performance alone may not reveal the extent of their development. Performance measurement may also
fail to provide data on insightful experiences from using the resources and risks missing relevant data. A comprehensive investigation of
experiences requires greater openness to a wider range of data.

Further, measuring or assessing performance is not a natural part of church-based learning. Gathering performance data may be perceived
as unusual in this setting, and anticipating that performance may be assessed potentially influences ways resources are used. This reduces
confidence that data reflect naturalistic experiences of using resources or discussing in groups.

Pastoral concern also demands recognition be given to learners’ attitudes to possibilities of having their experiences investigated.
Performance observation or assessment may adversely affect participants’ sense of self-worth and may reduce perceptions of qualification
to belong within a group or community. Perceived performance inadequacies may be both unfounded and influential.

Participating through using resources and discussing is its own reward in this setting, leading perhaps to greater knowledge, personal
satisfaction, or a sense of belonging within a community. Inducements to participate such as external accreditation are absent. Any
potential disincentive to participate requires careful consideration both for the investigation’s sake and because this endeavour is part of a
wider Christian education effort.

In this setting there are pre-existing relationships among members and between members and the researcher as Minister which raise
further ethical difficulties if the Minister assesses performance. It may be considered inappropriate to risk altering a relationship of support
and nurture by introducing assessment and examination for the purposes of this investigation. This difficulty is not removed through
independent assessment since the investigation, and by extension any assessment, is the Minister’s initiative.

Consequences of research activities may not only influence this investigation but the faith-lives of participants. Possible effects of research
on informants require to be considered in its design (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2000, p.59) and effects potentially opposed both to this
research’s intent and the wider aims of the setting require to be anticipated.

For these practical, ethical and theoretical reasons an approach to data collection which has as its central focus the assessment of
performance would accordingly not be fit for this research’s purpose. Data relating to task performance are accordingly not captured in
this study.

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Does rejecting performance assessment exclude all assessment? Walton notes that Christian education, as other areas of learning,
requires assessment but is aware of difficulties in assessing subjects which largely fall into the affective domain (Walton, 2000, p.101).
Walton notes negative effects flowing from some sorts of assessment, characterised as a ‘litany of constant denigration’ (Ibid., p.94) which
may reduce learners’ capacity to hold others or themselves in sufficiently high regard. Christian education, he argues, has considered
performance assessment largely negatively. Additionally, the diverse nature of the subject introduces further difficulty with assessment in
church settings (Graham, 2002, p.228).

Reviewing two methods of supported self-assessment employed in theological education in the United Kingdom, Walton concludes:

‘There is evidence that self and peer assessment are proving very useful to churches and Christian education institutions.’
(Walton, 2000, p.103)

If self-assessment is understood as support and encouragement to reflect on one’s own learning experiences, it offers a promising
approach. Such self-assessment is not only commensurate with the setting but has been found valuable in other British Christian learning,
and permits informants to supply data necessary for this investigation whilst simultaneously engaging in a worthwhile activity which may
be regarded as a component of Christian education. Moving from performance to experience reduces negative associations of assessment
whilst providing data likely to be insightful for this investigation. Whilst processes of supporting this self-assessment require clarification,
the concept of reflecting on one’s experiences of learning appears valuable.

Ordinary theology suggests that it is not only what is learned that matters but the processes by which it is learned (Astley, 2002a, pp.6-7).
This strengthens an argument both that data ought to be gathered in ways which are consonant with informants’ experiences and that a
large range of learners’ descriptions of experiences be captured.

Whilst some data collected in vicarious learning studies focus on learner performance either during or following use of the resources, not
all do. Mayes (2002, p.7) notes that a few studies attempted to investigate a broader range of experiences of being involved in a learning
group, for example collecting students’ perceptions of vicarious learning and other materials in a case study (Monthienvichienchai & Sasse,
2002). Vicarious learning research has also employed interpretive phenomenological analysis ( Mayes & Crossan, 2007, p.296), described
in section 3.2, investigating learning relationships through analysis of transcripts of semi-structured interviews containing student
comments and descriptions of experiences.

Observation offers another strategy. The theoretical foundations for communities of practice perspectives on learning were developed
through ethnographic studies (Wenger, 1998, pp.11, 16) in which activities were observed, conversations were held with community
members and organisation documents were read. This supported the development of theory and these methods continue to be used
(Fuller et al., 2005, p.55). No documents were produced by informants in this investigation, commensurate with the spoken nature of
ordinary theology. Participants’ experiences may not be fully or clearly elaborated in group discussion and in any event cognitive activity is

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not necessarily observed from behaviour. Accordingly whilst activities were observed, conversations with informants constituted the
principal research tool and generate many of the findings reported in this study.

Given that this study seeks to investigate experience, other questions arise. How can experience be studied? Has such an approach been
adopted before in Christian education research? These questions are now addressed.

3.2 Experience as a focus for research

The analysis of experience has a philosophical heritage first made explicit in modern thought by Husserl as phenomenology, the study of
‘structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view’ (Smith, 2008, para. 1), a philosophical approach using an
introspective method.

Several methodological approaches to the capture and analysis of experiences are described in the literature. Marton and Säljö (1976a,
1976b) and Ellis et al. (2006) used phenomenography to conduct studies in university settings to discover ways in which students
approached learning tasks. These studies focused on student descriptions of experiences of learning and, in particular, the way learners
had approached and tackled tasks of learning.

Ordinary theology offers a contribution to a research methodology to investigate experiences of individuals’ theological thinking. It suggests that some
social science techniques are appropriate including participant observation and semi-structured interviews which may offer a sufficient range and depth
of description (Astley, 2002a, p.98). However it offers little further description of an approach to analysing such data apart from suggesting that
qualitative research methods should precede quantitative ones on the basis that current knowledge is limited and exploration is required before
hypotheses may be generated and tested (Ibid., p.100). This research contributes to such a provisional exploration by using qualitative research methods,
particularly semi-structured interviews, as well as some limited observation. However this requires appropriate means of analysing the captured data.

Vicarious learning research provides one possible analytical means through the method of Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (‘IPA’), a
technique employed in health psychology (Mayes & Crossan, 2007, p.296; Shaw, 2001, p.2). IPA focuses on capturing and analysing
descriptions of experiences offered by individuals who are the subject of the examination:

‘It is both phenomenological in its attempts to obtain a detailed story of the participant's own experience, and in its assumption
that participants are experts in their own experiences; and it is interpretive - the researchers bring their own expertise to bear
on the reflective processes of achieving meaning.’
(Mayes & Crossan, 2007, p.296, italics original)

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As with phenomenology, the focus of IPA is on the individual and priority is given to an individual’s sense-making in the phenomenological
tradition. This present investigation into church-goers’ learning seeks, however, to obtain not one but a number of informants’ descriptions
to ascertain a range of ways of experiencing the resources and discussions. The case study is not of an individual’s understanding through
exposure to the resources and discussions but investigates a range of experiences of a number of informants’ use of a resource and
discussing in groups. IPA is, arguably, too narrow for the purposes of this research given its priority on the experiences of one individual. A
method which permits experiences of a range of people to be captured and analysed with respect to each other would appear a more
promising route.

Salmon endorses Brookfield’s insight that researchers should use ‘people’s experience as the raw material’ (Salmon, 2002, p.197). Insight
may be obtained from data from informants who describe their experiences of the resources and discussions. An approach which captures
and classifies a number of described experiences in relation to each other may provide insight into aspects of the resources which merit
further investigation. Such a method is available and is based on phenomenography which appears fit for this investigation, and which is
now described.

3.2.1 Phenomenography informing an analytical method

Phenomenography is an empirical research approach distinct from the philosophical method of phenomenology (Marton & Booth, 1997,
p.116; Webb, 2002, p.2) with two uses. First, it permits understanding of a range of ways a phenomenon such as a text, or a situation, or
something heard, or a problem, is experienced and understood from the perspective of those who experience it (Hella, 2008, p.248),
providing empirical evidence as to how learners experience aspects of processes of learning (Laurillard, 2002, p.69).

Second, it offers a means of classifying this range of described experiences in a limited number of qualitatively different categories and
relating these to one another in a logical and hierarchical manner (Jones, 2004, p.3). This allows large quantities of data to be analysed
into a highly interpreted and relatively sparse form which is quite separate from the original data (Ibid., p.4). This process notes a range of
experiences and makes their relation to each other explicit, offering insight into ways situations are experienced.

Such a categorisation relies on capturing and analysing descriptions of a variety of ways of experiencing phenomena, achieved through
encouraging learners to reflect in a self-aware manner on their experience (Marton & Booth, 1997, p.34) and capturing their descriptions
of their experiences of learning (Ibid., p.16). Such an investigation places people’s experience of a phenomenon centrally (Ibid., p.13)
which leads to a non-dualist understanding of learning as a developing relationship between the world and the world as it is experienced.
They describe this as discovering what students learn and argue that phenomenography allows a route in to discovering this from the
described experiences of learners themselves (Ibid., p.13).

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Phenomenography focuses on learners’ experiences as described by them. This is appropriate for this investigation which seeks to
examine the relationship among experiences, resources and discussions. Various elements within the resources may influence users’
experiences of other elements, or of contributing in a video-recorded conversation or to a group discussion. This investigation aims to
capture data on these experiences, analyse them and make connections with relevant theories of learning. Informants’ descriptions of
their experiences provide the empirical base for understanding experience generally in using the resources and in discussion. This
navigates between potentially idiosyncratic case studies of individual experiences on one hand, and on the other wide-ranging but
superficial quantitative analysis of answers to set questions provided by a large number of respondents. Identifying differences in
experiences provides a potentially insightful analytical focus.

Phenomenography is useful for studies which aim to evaluate learning experiences (Jones, 2004, p.6) and is therefore potentially helpful
within a wider cycle of action research where evaluation informs improvement in subsequent practice. Part of its fitness for the purpose of
this investigation lies in its catalytic validity, providing both motivation and support to develop experiences which encourage better learning
(Marton & Booth, 1997, p.119, 175).

Laurillard argues that phenomenography is a useful method for understanding student learning because it reveals how students deal with
structure and meaning, is empirical, and places due weight on the context of learning by discovering what is going on when students learn
rather than by testing a hypothesis (Laurillard, 2002, p.43). It is also a means of describing and categorising experiences of a
phenomenon in a way which makes differences among these explicit.

Originating in researching student learning (Trigwell, 2000, p.1), phenomenography has been found useful in analysing networked learning
in higher education (Seale & Rius-Riu, 2001, p.23). Much research has focused on learners’ experiences of reading texts (Marton & Booth,
1997, p.17ff). This is a commonplace activity in Christian education as described in chapter two, further supporting phenomenography’s
use for this research purpose. It is also able to take account of the nature of Christian education material through recognising that most
experiences are not first-hand but are ‘mediated’ in the sense that they are described by one person to another (Ibid., p.139).

Phenomenography has been little used in research into religious education (Hella, 2008, p.249) though it has been utilised in recent
investigations (Hella & Wright, 2009; Hella, 2008).

The focus on differences in ways of experiencing the object of study may help understandings of what occurs both when resources are
being used and during discussions. This allows the researcher to consider different ways in which informants apprehend the object of
study. This investigation assumes that people do not all think in the same way about these subjects and may not have the same
experiences using the resources or in group discussions. Phenomenography promises to assist in distinguishing and in relating these varied
experiences rather than giving a full description of the experiences of learning. Such limited scope in this research context increases the
possibility that its aims can be achieved.

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3.2.2 Phenomenography in practice

The researcher requires to reflect on learners’ experiences as they describe them (Marton & Booth, 1997, pp.167, 179). Data is gathered
from research conversations in which those who have experienced a phenomenon discuss their experiences of it. Transcripts of these
conversations are iteratively analysed to draw out a parsimonious range of distinctly different ways of experiencing the phenomenon
(Trigwell, 2000, p.3; Marton & Booth, 1997, p.34) known as an outcome space. The unit of measurement in phenomenography is not how
an individual learner apprehends or experiences something but is the range of ways in which a phenomenon is experienced (Marton &
Booth, 1997, p.108).

It is a method which may encourage reflective practice which considers both individuals’ experiences of learning through particular
instructional designs and collaborative aspects of experiences of being involved with others (Cobb & Bowers, 1999, p.9). It accordingly
appears fit for the purpose of this investigation though it does not constitute the only data used (Marton & Booth, 1997, pp.116,132)
which also include insights from other sources including the producer’s experiences, some observations of the resources being used,
attendance at small group discussions and informants’ responses, in group interviews, to the researcher’s developing ideas. Nevertheless
as a means of monitoring the effects of innovation, it offers promise.

This investigation’s focus on learners’ experiences of learning (Laurillard, 2002, p.70) necessarily includes the researcher who is also a
learner both in respect of the subjects considered and the processes of learning in which participants engage. This description of roles is
appropriate in a context where Ministers are not ‘professional educators’ in the strict sense and may understand their roles as co-learners
with others. Focusing on the experience of learning sits comfortably with the researcher's perception of the role of Minister-researcher:

‘The co-operative style is more democratic, giving full representation to students’ as well as teachers’ conceptions.’
(Laurillard, 2002, p.77)

One aim of this investigation is to improve professional practice in supporting Christian education, achieved through examining the
described experiences of those who use the resources, meet to discuss issues of faith, and as they articulate their developing
understandings in video-clips made available to others. How are these artefacts understood by those using them to support, enable or
constrain their thinking and acting? These are questions which phenomenography seeks to explore (Marton & Booth, 1997, p.11).

Phenomenography is a tool which can be used on a relatively small number of informants (Ibid., p.125) because it does not seek to
describe a totality of experiences but, rather, the variation in the experience of a population (Ibid., pp.108,114). It tolerates errors in
description on the basis that what has not been correctly picked up in one interview is likely to be covered by others, and because the
focus is on variation, not on description or on quantitative analysis (Åkerlind, 2005, p.323; Marton & Booth, 1997, p.126).

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3.2.3 Criticism of phenomenography

Whilst phenomenography has been influential in educational research as a means of suggesting areas for research and development
(Stewart, 2004, p.5; Webb, 1997, pp.195-6) it has been subject to a number of criticisms, some of which are now discussed.

Webb argues that phenomenography does not encourage learners’ development, and ‘appears to have no particular view of humanity and
the social consequences of education.’ (Webb, 1997, p.198). Åkerlind (2005, p.322), though, considers that phenomenography is an
analytical tool seeking to detail a range of ways of experiencing a particular phenomenon and to relate these to each other, and argues
that Webb misunderstands phenomenography’s nature, criticising its innate conservatism which is a result only of its focus on analysis. It
is analytical, not inherently conservative.

Historically, phenomenography has emphasised ‘deep’ and ‘surface’ approaches to learning, in essence the difference between
remembering and understanding a text (Bates & Poole, 2003, p.36) and has, arguably, an inbuilt preference for understanding over
remembering, despite this view of learning having been challenged as a ‘prejudice’ inherent within phenomenographers (Webb, 2002, p.3-
5). This raises the possibility that phenomenography may not be able to differentiate between helpful and unhelpful learning experiences,
though this does not deny its analytical usefulness in categorising experiences. The hierarchical criteria which form the outcome space
may develop as a result of cultural, religious and philosophical traditions which exert an influence on the researchers, perhaps without
their being aware of it, tending to skew results in directions that might be expected (Haggis, 2003, p.93; Webb, 1997, p.201).

A range of techniques attempt to guard against idiosyncratic classifications. The focus on analysing transcripts encourages researchers to
substantiate analysis often by including representative quotations in reports (Ellis et. al., 2006, p.248). In this report excerpts from
transcripts provide the major source of data presented in chapter four and discussed in chapter five 70. Interpretations and classifications
are understood in terms of 'discovery' rather than 'assessment', to ensure the communication of the outcome space is sufficiently rigorous.
Marton suggests there ought to be a ‘reasonable degree of agreement between two independent and competent researchers’ (Marton,
1994, p.4), a form of verification and clarification employed in this investigation and described in section 3.3.5.

3.3 Data collection

How may descriptions of experience from a number of informants be captured for analysis using a phenomenographic approach? Research
conversations are considered fit for this purpose and are now described and discussed along with the instruments used.

3.3.1 Data collected through research conversations

70 Excerpts from transcripts provided in chapter four are not repeated in the discussion but are instead referred to, and connected in the electronic version of this report by means of hyperlinks.

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It may have been possible for participants to describe their experiences contemporaneously with using the resources, perhaps generating
accurate descriptions of experiences of using them but carrying the risk that at key points this may not provide an accurate or complete
account of thought processes (Laurillard, 2002, p.42). Additionally the act of observing may influence participation, and interrupting a
course of acting or thinking to seek further description distorts the activity. It is also not possible to have simultaneous participation in a
group discussion and commentary from participants on their experiences.

This does not rule out the possibility of gleaning data from descriptions of experiences by delaying the data collection:

‘A better method is to allow the student to complete the task undisturbed, and to give a retrospective account of how they
experienced it, much as one might describe an event witnessed. The student’s account is not taken as an objective description
of a psychological process, but as being itself a phenomenon which is to be analysed.’
(Laurillard, 2002, p.42)

Different types of research conversations have associated strengths and weaknesses (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2000, p.271). The
individual interview, carried out as a conversation, is the most common research method employed in phenomenographic analysis (Ellis et
al., 2006, p.247; Åkerlind, 2005, p.232; Trigwell, 2000, p.3; Marton & Booth, 1997, p.130) and may be a hybrid between an interviewer
guided interview and an informal conversational interview. The informant is encouraged and supported to describe as comprehensively as
possible experiences of the phenomenon in question (Marton & Booth, 1997, p.130), in an informal conversation where the topics are
addressed as they are raised by the informant.

There are weaknesses with this approach. The informant may not be aware of salient features of their experience or may require some
support to verbalize these. If different informants describe different experiences, categorization of the data from many informants,
essential to phenomenography’s key analytical feature (Åkerlind, 2005, p.323) becomes problematic or impossible. However too formal a
structure for the conversation may prevent the informant from describing personal experiences, instead attempting to fit these into the
researcher’s categories, risking negating the purpose of the analysis.

A more promising approach is for the researcher to consider salient topics beforehand and form an outline of the main areas for the
conversation whilst permitting their discussion in an order which may follow from the conversation’s flow (Cohen, Manion & Morrison,
2000, p.271). Additional questions may be asked for clarification or to make more explicit some description of an aspect of the experience
if this appears promising (Ibid., p.271).

Fleming (1986, p.553) is concerned that descriptions given in interviews cannot reliably be taken to reflect students’ activities because of
the dynamics of the interview setting and the implicit requirement to communicate in socially acceptable ways. Phenomenography, he
argues, takes interview data too literally as descriptions of what is, failing to see them as ‘tourist’s tales’, that is, ‘conducted tours of a
variety of learning experiences’ (Ibid., p.559) where accounts are edited to conform with expectations of what investigators might be

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expected to hear (Selwyn, 2002, p.9). There are several responses to this criticism. A number of tourists’ tales are sought and differences
among them are analysed: the unit of analysis is not the individual tourist. Part of the conversation’s purpose is to encourage reflection by
informants which may not have occurred before: these are not preconceived tales but arise in part from the conversation. The
conversations may properly be regarded as accounts from people who perceive a particular relation between themselves and the
researcher: the conversations may be treated as provisional and situated (Jones, Asensio & Goodyear, 2000, p.3).

Despite the criticisms of phenomenography described above it is arguably an appropriate tool for identifying and analysing different ways
in which learners experience the phenomena in question, namely the multimedia resources and group discussions. The research
conversation is a product of the engagement between informant and researcher and accordingly the researcher is the principal research
instrument.

To facilitate phenomenographic analysis, research conversations with informants who used and contributed to the resources, and
participated in group discussion were recorded and transcribed. Additionally, group interviews were held after the first 71 and second rounds
of research during which the researcher took contemporaneous notes.

This investigation assumes learning is complex and that obtaining a range of data from a number of sources is likely to increase
opportunities to note small but significant issues relevant to the research purposes. The range of data comes primarily from an analysis of
informants’ comments though other data sources such as casual conversations, other meetings, and the content of video-clips
incorporated within the resources are also considered. This is ‘a multi-method inquiry using mixed data sources’ (Knight, 2002, p.127),
though the importance of the research conversations requires a fuller description, which now follows.

3.3.2 Description of research conversations

In the first and second rounds of research, informants had access to the resource and participated in discussions prior to describing their
views in a research conversation. In the third round the conversation took place immediately after contributors made their video-recorded
conversation. They had been given access to other available video-clips but were still to receive the full resource and participate in a group
discussion.

Several general areas were covered in these conversations. Informants were encouraged to describe what they hoped to gain from
participating, how they went about using the resource and what they considered they had gained in respect of learning about faith. They
were asked to describe how they had used the resource and how they had approached participating in discussions. Those who had
appeared in a video-clip were asked how they had approached reading the text given that they knew they were to speak about some

71 The group interview in the first round was recorded and transcribed.

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aspects of it. Finally, informants were asked what they considered being involved in a group demanded from them, and what they gained
from participating.

Thereafter informants were asked more specifically about relations among the elements of the resource and discussions. They were asked
to describe how the video-clips had influenced their reading of the text, how the text had influenced their watching of the video-clips, how
text and video-clips had influenced the discussion and how video-clips and text had influenced articulating views in the video-clip. In the
third round informants were asked, prior to the group discussion, how they considered articulating their views in a clip might influence
their contribution to that discussion.

Additionally, in the third research round, informants were asked to note their views on the relationships they perceived among the
activities of reading, watching, articulating and participating by writing their responses on a sheet containing these four activities. They
completed this immediately following the group discussion.

3.3.3 Research instruments

The preliminary investigation used a short anonymous questionnaire and short written responses were sought immediately after
participating in a group discussion in the third research round by means of a questionnaire.

All remaining data were collected using the researcher as principal research instrument. Although this may be criticised on grounds of
insufficient knowledge of the subject, or bias (Stenhouse, 1985, p.15-16), it is also possible to argue that the review of literature carried
out in the course of this investigation has provided an adequate knowledge base and that sufficient time was given to this research.
Stenhouse rejects the claim that bias is inherent or more pernicious where the researcher is involved in supporting experiences of learning
and encourages teachers to perceive themselves as appropriate research instruments:

‘A teacher lays the foundation of his capacity for research by developing self-monitoring strategies... Through conscious art he is
able to use himself as an instrument of his research.’
(Ibid., p.16)

This investigation is in part about encouraging the researcher to develop such strategies in order that future efforts to support Christian
learning may be reviewed rigorously to improve practice. There is a formative and professional development aspect to this investigation
beyond users and participants: the researcher is learner together with them (Marton & Booth, 1997, p.179).

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3.3.4 Validity

Many issues of validity could be addressed and four principal issues are detailed in this section. Validity in phenomenography is understood
as the extent to which described experiences constituting the outcome space match the experiences of the phenomenon (Åkerlind, 2005,
p.330). The composite, interpreted nature of outcome spaces suggested that an opportunity for informants to reflect in a group on the
researcher’s developing analysis would be appropriate. Accordingly meetings were held after each of the first two research rounds. All
informants participating in that round were invited to comment on the researcher’s developing ideas which were presented in a short
written report. Informants’ views and comments were noted contemporaneously and in greater detail immediately afterwards by the
researcher.

The purpose of this was to assess validity of the tentative conclusions being drawn from the data at those stages of the investigation in
terms of informants’ views. This proved helpful not only in affirming some of the findings but in requiring the researcher to clarify
descriptions and to refine understandings. This is a form of internal validity checked through respondent validation (Cohen, Manion &
Morrison, 2000, p.120) where the findings from the round of research are taken to participants for their views.

The investigation is limited to this setting and accordingly no external validity is claimed, though the depth of description offered may
allow others to determine the extent to which elements are translatable to other contexts (Ibid., 2000, p.109).

Ecological validity has been addressed to some extent in section 3.1.3 by describing an approach to data collection which did not unduly
manipulate the situation. The intention ‘to give accurate portrayals of the realities of social situations’ (Ibid., p.110) is effected through
analysing informants’ captured comments and using these as the primary data source.

Catalytic validity is concerned with the usefulness of the findings in supporting further action (Ibid., p.331) and whilst the use of action
research may indicate this, the proper purpose of catalytic validity is to enhance understanding which may lead to informed action. It may
be argued that permitting informants to express their reflective views, then providing the admittedly interpreted analysis of the sum of
these, offers potential for a deeper understanding of Christian learning processes and greater collaboration between Minister and church-
goers in its provision. The fact that the research remained ‘controlled’ by the researcher suggests some issues of catalytic validity were not
addressed. However, other developments within the congregation evidence the possibility of empowerment to act based on understanding
developed in part through this investigation.72

72 The establishment of a ‘media group’ by some members of the congregation approximately six months after the conclusion of the third research round, independent of the Minister, may be some evidence
of this. This group proposed considering various issues of print and video-based communication and dialogue.

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3.3.5 Reliability and verification

Phenomenography is an interpretative analysis which raises the question: is the researcher’s interpretation reliable? Interpretations in
categorising descriptions require to be substantiated. This may be achieved in a number of ways, including an independent researcher’s
ability to identify the categories from the data (Jones, 2004, p.4), for example through a comparison of categorization of excerpts from
conversations (Åkerlind, 2005, p.331). Alternatively, whilst categorization is frequently carried out by a sole researcher, it is not unusual for
categories to be discussed with other researchers in order to clarify categories and to make explicit assumptions and hidden
presuppositions (Ibid., p.332). This investigation was conducted by a sole researcher, a feature not uncommon in phenomenographic
analysis (Ibid., p.328), but independent categorization was nevertheless undertaken.

A total of 304 statements excerpted from transcripts across all three research rounds formed the data pool (Åkerlind, 2005, p.325) which
were categorised in a range of six outcome spaces. The researcher’s classifications were described to the Rev. Jamie Milliken, a Church of
Scotland minister and researcher’s colleague who was familiar with the broad scope of this investigation. The process of
phenomenographic analysis was described to him and several papers explaining the methodology were provided.

Verification has two purposes. The first is to ensure that the categories are described in such a way that another researcher would be able
to identify categories applying to individual cases (Marton, 1994). Verification here is of the researcher’s clarity of expressing the
categories, and Marton suggests that a reasonable degree of clarity may be presumed if there is agreement on categorising at least two-
thirds of the cases prior to discussion, and on two-thirds of the remainder after discussion. In independent blind classification of excerpts
agreement was reached in 259 cases, and a further 43 were agreed after discussion. This represents agreement in 85% of cases on
independent comparison and 99% after discussion and falls within the limits suggested by Marton (1994).

The second purpose of verification is to check an independent researcher’s perspective on the data. The may involve a researcher in
detailing the steps they have taken in analysing excerpts to an independent researcher in order to clarify assumptions and, in dialogue, to
inform revisions to the proposed outcome space (Åkerlind, 2005, p.332). The process of discussing classifications led to their revision in
order to clarify the relations among categories. The revised classifications are provided in chapter four.

3.3.6 Summary of method

This discussion has argued that data in this investigation may be gathered primarily through individual research conversations and group
interviews together with written responses to questionnaires, and these have been described. Phenomenographic analysis of data permits
distinct ways in which the resources and group discussions are experienced to be made explicit. This analysis supports an answer to the
research questions posed in this investigation and informs development of resources in subsequent research rounds. In the remainder of
this chapter the resources themselves and the research procedure are described in greater detail.

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3.4 Multimedia resources

Appropriate resources incorporating material from local ordinary theologians required to be produced in order to capture and explore
relevant experiences. Whilst the resources included published texts, local production was necessary. This raised questions about feasibility
and production processes, a demanding though essential task since the resources were necessary for the larger research endeavour. This
required planning, advertising, information provision and administration to ensure that the necessary components of the research occurred
as required.

This section describes both the resources and their production processes. Articulating views is a constituent element both of resource
production and the instructional design and accordingly descriptions of conversations are offered in sections relating to both these areas.

3.4.1 Description of resources

Understanding roles for video-clips as learning resources deepened through observation and reflection in the course of each research
round and in turn informed the design of later resources. The first resource included a conversation among local clergy with few prompts
beyond the text. This developed to using two general, open questions in the second round and fifteen more detailed activities in the third,
designed to encourage articulation of views. Additional support for contributing to the third resource was provided by allowing prospective
contributors to see other contributors’ already-created clips. This offers a contribution to understanding the use of video itself as a prompt
to encourage articulations. An overview of the differences among resources is provided in Table 3.1.

Technical and administrative aspects of producing the resources are not the focus of this investigation, but some account of them is
necessary given their central role. All three resources were produced as printed sheets with an accompanying DVD-disc containing video-
clips. In addition the second and third resources were produced as a simple type of video annotated text73 (Rider & Hunting, 2006; Olivero
et al., 2004; Steeples, 2002) in which the text, made available as a Portable Document Format (‘PDF’) document74, contains hyperlinks75 to
relevant video-clips76. Chapter numbers on the DVD-disc corresponded with figures placed appropriately on the printed text.

In this form of resource both the text and video-clips were distributed on a CD-ROM disc capable of being viewed on a computer in a co-
ordinated way under user control. Features of PDF viewing applications were available to view and print the text. A disc containing all the
resources is included in Appendix E.
73 Some similar products are termed ‘videopapers’ and a software application entitled VideoPaper Builder is available (The Concord Consortium, 2009) which produces ‘videopapers’. These permit the creation
of a multimedia document navigable by the user and viewed in a web browser. In this investigation a similar but simpler multimedia document was devised and produced as a PDF document with
associated video clips.
74 Portable Document Format is an international standard (ISO 32000-1:2008) file format for representing documents across many computer platforms. Details of PDF specifications are available at:
http://www.adobe.com/devnet/livecycle/articles/lc_pdf_overview_format.pdf (Accessed: 18 May 2009).
75 The hyperlinks were areas of text which could be clicked, causing the relevant video clip to be played.
76 This material is referred to in this report as a ‘multimedia document’.

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First Second Third
research Round research round research round
Thinking about
What is God’s Kingdom? Studying the Lord’s Prayer Fostering Trust

Photocopied text Text of 12,500 words Text of 1,100 words


of 4,500 words with in 16 sections with clips of church-
conversation among with clips of church- goers offering their
clergy distributed on goers offering their views.
DVD-disc. views. Produced as PDF
Produced as PDF document with hyperlinks
document with hyperlinks to video-clips and as
to video-clips and photocopied pages with
alternatively as DVD-disc containing
photocopied pages with clips.
DVD-disc containing clips.

Table 3.1 Overview of resources

The resources contain contributions from local people, namely clergy in the first resource and ordinary theologians in the second and third
resources. In each case these views are presented through video-clips in a conversational setting. Access is provided to these clips in the
CD-ROM version through hyperlinks whose design and placement within the text may influence experiences of using the resource.

Creating such a resource demands expertise, funding and content. Alessi and Trollip (2001, p.73) warn that video can be demanding in
terms of time and cost particularly where professional actors are used. This investigation however makes use of church-goers’
contributions and Bijnens et al., (2006, p.6) point to the recent increase in amateur video displayed on-line through websites such as
YouTube.77 They suggest that whilst engaging and demanding, video production is feasible for use in educational settings. Prior experience
(Barclay, 2003) suggested that simple video recording of informal conversations at an acceptable standard was achievable and necessary
equipment was available.

77 A video-sharing website available at: http://www.youtube.com (Accessed: 16 June 2009).

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3.4.2 Preparatory investigations and piloting

One of the key principles of action research is that cycles start small with limited alterations to practice (Kemmis & McTaggart, 1992,
pp.22-5, cited in Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2000, p.229). Figure 2.4 in chapter two illustrates the alterations which were designed in
each of the three cycles of research in this investigation which are described below.

The practice of gathering to discuss a text is not unusual in this church setting. In May 2006 the researcher formed a small group of three
interested people78 to pilot group discussion of a text, namely three chapters from Christian Theology: An Introduction (McGrath, 2001)
which was considered a challenging but accessible work 79. Three discussion meetings were held and thereafter the possibility of using this
text more widely within the congregation was considered but rejected as too demanding for wider use. Other possible texts were explored.

3.4.3 Production process for the first resource

Following further investigation, a section extending to 4,000 words was extracted from one chapter of Introducing the Bible (Drane, 1990)
whose treatment of the kingdom of God was considered thorough and accessible and which had received a number of positive reviews.
The subject-matter was a range of views on a theological issue which had implications for Christian faith and life. Initial contact was made
with The Rev Dr David Lacy, a local Minister in another Church of Scotland denomination, and Miss Helen Cuthbert who, having recently
completed theological study, was continuing training for the Ministry. They agreed to participate in an informal recorded conversation on
this text.

Relevant pages from the textbook were photocopied80. Arrangements were made for a conversation among them and the producer to be
recorded by a local video production company. The total time taken to set-up equipment, record and clear-up was about three hours. The
producer captured video footage onto a computer, lightly edited it to provide appropriate starting and finishing points, added name
captions and credits using video editing software (Avid Technology, 2004), and thereafter produced a DVD-disc of a conversation lasting
30 minutes. A paper-based introduction to using the resource together with a User Record to record activities and reflections were created
and included within a case containing labelled DVD discs, all duplicated on a desktop PC 81. This was distributed with the photocopied
textbook pages. The completed resource was made available within a week of filming the conversation.

78 Membership, by invitation, included one student for the ministry formally connected with the congregation together with a Church of Scotland Reader and another member of the
congregation who had recently started training for Readership.
79 This material was reported to have been found to be accessible by school pupils aged sixteen in the UK (McGrath, 2001, p.xxvii).
80 The permission granted by the publisher for duplication of the resource prohibited its long-term inclusion in an electronic form and whilst not problematic in this research round raises issues of copyright,
licensing and the inclusion of material in digital multimedia resources.
81 A desktop Personal Computer running Windows XP operating system; DVD discs are able to be duplicated by many computer systems.

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3.4.4 Production process for the second resource

Initially a text from Exploring God-Talk (Astley, 2004) was considered and permission was obtained from the publisher and author for the
use of three chapters. Piloting with one potential contributor whose insightful comments are reported in section 4.3.4 below led to an
alternative, less complex though longer text being selected, an extract of 12,500 words commenting on The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew’s
Gospel (Matthew 6:9-15) contained in sixteen sections in The Daily Study Bible (Barclay, 1956).

This is a popular text within the Church of Scotland widely used to encourage personal reflection on the New Testament by interested,
non-theologically trained adults82. Although designed for personal reflection, it was considered suitable for group discussion. The subject-
matter was a passage from the Bible which nevertheless had implications for Christian faith and life.

The resource contained sufficient material for sixteen days of study in this manner but previous experience suggested that a longer period
should be offered, in this case four weeks during September 2007. It was advertised to the congregation through usual channels of church
magazine, spoken intimations and by cards placed on pews, and presented as an opportunity to spend the month of September studying
the Lord’s Prayer.

The selected text was inserted electronically into a desktop publishing 83 (‘DTP’) application (Serif, 2004) where issues of design and layout
were addressed. Volunteer contributors were sought by e-mail which, whilst speedy and convenient, denied some church-goers without e-
mail access the opportunity to contribute. Additional means of canvassing potential participants was employed in the subsequent round.

One section of the text from the sixteen in total was e-mailed to each person agreeing to contribute and the following guidance was given.
The conversation would be informal, though video-recorded, and would focus on the particular section of text each contributor had
received. Contributors’ views were sought in response to two questions: What is the text saying? and What does this mean to you? The
questions were crafted to be short, permitting a range of responses, not to be threatening, and distinguishing between interpretation of
the text and personal response to it. It was emphasized that contributions were being sought to a resource which may be helpful to
others, that the producer would also appear in the video-recorded conversation, and that there was no element of assessment of views.

Arrangements were made by telephone to visit all contributors. Where members of the same household had agreed to be involved,
simultaneous meeting with them all was arranged. It was found that meetings could be scheduled at hourly intervals which provided
sufficient time84 to set up equipment, conduct the conversation and travel to the next destination. In this way most video-recording was

82 The Daily Study Bible comprises seventeen volumes commenting on the entire New Testament corpus in sections, each extending to around 800 words and intended to be read daily as part of personal
reflection or devotional activity.
83 Desktop publishing applications permit text and images, together with hyperlinks to other files to be included within a document capable of being viewed on-screen or printed.
84 Locations were not distant, the programme attempted to reduce travelling to a minimum, locations were all known to the producer as were all contributors. Each of these factors contributed to the
feasibility of this timescale.

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carried out within two full days with the remainder being completed at convenient times, all within one working week, Monday to Friday.
The process of producing this resource is illustrated in Figure 3.2.

Whilst the first conversation was filmed with assistance from a local media production company, resource limitations in this round did not
permit such support, filming being required in a range of locations over the course of five days. The possibility of the producer carrying out
the filming was investigated, aware that this provided an opportunity to determine if video of sufficient quality could be produced in this
way. Practical issues surrounding making video recordings of conversations such as lighting, camera positioning, focus, exposure,
composition, microphone placement, audio levels and ambient sound were explored (Watts, 1997; Barrett, 2006). The necessary
equipment was available and proved sufficiently portable. Each meeting started socially and efforts were made to put contributors at ease.
The earlier guidance was repeated.

The recorded conversations were transferred to a PC and edited using appropriate software (Pinnacle, 2004) to create small video-clips
providing answers to the two questions earlier described. Extraneous material was omitted and editorial judgement was exercised at times
by the producer to remove additional material considered to be overly personal. This produced forty clips with a total length of 93 minutes
14 seconds.

The files were renamed following a predetermined convention and were saved in the same computer directory as the PDF file containing
the text. A still image captured from each video-clip was placed within the text and hyperlinks to the various media files were created.

Printed non-compulsory encouragement for users to set goals for personal learning was provided in each section with space in each page’s
left margin to record thoughts and accounts of learning experiences. Research conversations included informants’ reflection on this goal-
setting and recording, described in section 3.1.3.

Additional items, namely a title and introduction page, the suggested procedure for using the material including encouragement to develop
a personal target and space to record this, notes for participants and a brief explanation of this research, were added. Following revision a
PDF file was created from the heavily augmented original text document which provided access to the video-clips by means of hyperlinks.
A copy of a page from this resource is illustrated in Figure 3.3.

The relevant files were copied onto labelled CD-ROM discs. The same video editing software permitted the video-clips to be combined onto
a DVD disc with a suitable menu containing one entry for each of the sixteen sections. The DVD discs were duplicated in the same manner
as the CD-ROM discs with the addition of a printed text. The resources were distributed as appropriate to all twenty contributors and to a
further seven church-goers who had expressed an interest in taking part.

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3.4.5 Production process for the third resource

After investigation, an article of 1,300 words entitled Fostering Trust (Kidd, 2008) addressing issues surrounding the care of children based
on Christian perspectives was selected because it appeared to be of an appropriate level of difficulty and addressed a contemporary issue
from a Christian perspective. This distinguished it from a theological subject or a commentary on a Bible text, subjects in previous rounds.
It was also a shorter text than had previously been used and was given to potential contributors in its entirety. Copyright permission was
sought for its inclusion in the resource from publishers and author, though confirmation of permission was not obtained until after the
resource had been created.

A number of members of the congregation were invited to contribute to this resource based on their involvement in past rounds, or their
expressed interest in the resource or the subject. A total of fifteen church-goers contributed and arrangements were made to meet at
convenient times and places to video-record the conversations in August 2008.

The third resource was produced in a manner similar to the second, albeit with certain differences. First, whilst the text was made
available to contributors immediately prior to the conversation as a printed document extending to two pages and on computer as a PDF
file as before, in addition already-created video-clips were made available with hyperlinks on the final page of the resource viewed on
computer. Contributors were invited to take as long as they wished to read the text and view the video-clips, after which they were invited
to speak in a video-recorded conversation.

Second, contributors were invited to select one or more activities from a set of fifteen open questions in order to support their
conversation. These open questions were created for this investigation, based on categories of epistemic tasks identified in the production
of discourse (Ohlsson, 1995, p.51) and the concept of Task Directed Discussions (Lee, Dineen & McKendree, 1998, p.7; Mayes et al., 2002,
p.213). These activities are included in Appendix C. The possibility of articulating a contribution more than once, or starting a conversation
again, was offered. The printed text and list of activities was available for contributors to view and refer to during the conversation.

In this round the video-recording was simultaneously captured on a computer. Once the conversation was concluded the video-clip was
immediately edited to exclude extraneous material. Contributors were able to see their video-clip shortly after concluding the conversation
which was then immediately incorporated into the resource. In this way subsequent contributors had access to an increasing number of
clips of peers discussing the text in a range of ways.

The video-clips were linked to the text in the desktop publishing application and a fresh PDF file was produced to form a newly augmented
resource which was used by succeeding contributors. This production process is shown in Figure 3.4.

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Capturing the video data concurrently with the conversation both reduced the time taken to produce the clips 85 and permitted contributors
to have access to clips made in some instances an hour or two prior to their viewing the material. As well as influencing users’ perceptions
of proximity to those appearing in the clips, this practical step makes using video of this type more feasible.

The video-clips were captured at modest video quality but good audio quality 86. This permitted both the viewing of the resource and video
capture of the conversation to make use of the same medium-specification laptop computer 87, suggesting that extensive resources are not
required to produce this type of material.

Permission was obtained from contributors before including their clips in the resource. In one case this necessitated further investigation in
order that permission for inclusion might be obtained from a further church member mentioned in detail in one clip.

The resource was produced in two formats as earlier described within the week following video-recording the last conversation. It
contained the text together with thirty-five video-clips lasting between 36 seconds and five minutes 42 seconds, a total of 61 minutes
fourteen seconds and was distributed to all contributors. The page from this resource containing hyperlinks to video clips is illustrated in
Figure 3.5.

3.4.6 Summary of resource production

The process of producing the three resources has been described and indicates church-goers’ involvement in offering contributions. The
investigation however required church-goers’ not only to contribute views but to use the resources, participate in discussions and describe
their experiences in research conversations. The various procedures undertaken to achieve these ends are now described.

3.5 Research procedure

A number of discrete activities were undertaken in a preliminary investigation which was followed by three rounds of action, observation
and reflection. The progress of research activities in each round are indicated in Figure 3.6.

This research focuses on experiences of learning through reflecting on a subject addressed in each resource and some interactions with
others’ ideas is an anticipated consequence of using it. There may be different forms and perceptions of involvement with the resource
and other participants which may be experienced to differing extents. In what ways does involvement flowing from using and contributing
to the resources affect perceptions of what is required from contributors who articulate their current thinking, either when contributing in a

85 This had previously required them to be replayed to be captured on computer.


86 Video-clips were captured at a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels using MPEG-2 compression; audio was captured at 44.1kHz in dual mono using MP3 compression.
87 The computer used was a Pentium dual-core laptop computer with 2Gb RAM using the Windows XP operating system.

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video-clip or in a discussion? This investigation is broad, focusing on participants’ experiences of engaging with resources consisting of the
printed text, video-clips, and one another.

Aspects of experiences of participating by using and contributing to the resources and discussing in groups may be captured along with
connections made by informants among elements in the resources and the group discussions. The data which may be gathered within the
constraints of this project and methods of analysis have been described earlier and the following sections detail some practical elements of
this process.

3.5.1 Initial survey and research conversations: learning in church

Questionnaires contained in Appendix A were provided to eight congregations on one Sunday in February, 2006 and were completed by
388 self-selecting attenders. The purpose was to discover views of a number of churchgoers concerning the relationship, if any, they
perceived between church involvement and learning. The questionnaire consisted of one question which was to be answered by marking
one of six points on a Likert-type scale (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2000, p.253). The questionnaire’s brevity was intended to reduce
intrusion at a worship service (Ibid., p.245), an occasion when the greatest response was anticipated. Written information concerning the
research was available upon request.

No personal identification details were required from respondents and to that extent the survey was anonymous, but it included an
invitation to any who were prepared to describe their experiences of learning by being involved in church to provide contact details. Detail
which was not easily obtainable through a questionnaire survey could, it was thought, be captured in research conversations with those
who had indicated a willingness to describe their experiences of learning by being involved in church.

A total of fourteen research conversations were conducted. Arrangements for these conversations were made by telephone and the
researcher met informants individually in their own homes. Although raising issues of risk and personal safety, the researcher’s ordinary
working practices necessitate this approach, one which church and wider culture encourages. Informants appeared pleased that their
views mattered to a Minister and there was frequently a pleasant social element; these were no mere data gathering exercises (Ibid.,
p.279). Informants were advised of the purpose of the research and the conversation was guided by a schedule of issues to discuss which
is included in Appendix B. The questions were open, seeking informants’ descriptions of their experiences with follow-up questions to elicit
greater detail about particular issues or for clarification.

It was discovered after the first conversation that the audio recorder had not been operated properly and the conversation had not been
recorded. Notes were made from memory of the content of this conversation and greater skills in using the recorder were developed.
Steps were taken in subsequent conversations to ensure the recorder was operating and all other conversations were recorded and
transcribed.

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3.5.2 First research round

Whilst arrangements were being made to video-record the conversation, members of the congregation were advised of the opportunity to
consider this issue through advertising by spoken and printed announcements at Sunday services, in the monthly church newsletter and
by cards on pews, all commonly used advertising means in this setting. Seven people aged between 22 and 77 years responded to the
invitation and received the resource. Two group discussion meetings were thereafter held, arranged for times convenient to participants.
These discussions were audio recorded and transcribed.

Research conversations were thereafter held with the seven participants, recorded and transcribed. Transcripts in this and all research
rounds were anonymised and other names removed. Nominal initials were used to denote participants, and the same initials were used for
each participant’s involvement across all rounds of this investigation where appropriate.

Following analysis of the research conversations a report was drafted and participants were invited to a group interview meeting. Four
participants attended and this discussion was recorded and transcribed. Participants had been requested to complete details of the
frequency and duration of their use of the resource in a User Guide together with their experiences and changes to their thinking. Some
referred to this in interview but only one was returned. Data were obtained from two group discussions, seven interviews and the final
group meeting.

3.5.3 Second research round

Advertising the opportunity to consider the subject was made as described in section 3.4.4 and resources were distributed to twenty-seven
people. Four small group discussion meetings were advertised in the resource and church publications and held during September, 2007.
At the first meeting there was an opportunity generally to discuss aims in taking part in the study. In the subsequent three meetings issues
which arose from the sections of the text and video-clips were discussed. The meetings each lasted between 60 and 90 minutes. The
researcher recorded experiences of preparing the material in a research journal. The small group discussions were not recorded but the
researcher made notes immediately after each discussion.

The producer provided contact details and made his availability known to all users to support their thinking about the subject or their use
of technology. Two requests for technical support were received and resolved.

The inclusion of goal-setting in the resource permitted investigation of informants’ anticipated gains using the resource and ways they
approached it to meet self-set objectives. Whilst a novel approach in this setting, the request was considered potentially insightful for
discovering approaches to using the resource and ways it was used, which Ellis et al. (2006) suggest are helpful in understanding learning
experiences particularly in regard to reading texts.

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A research conversation schedule was drafted, piloted with three members of other churches and one potential informant who had used
the resource, subsequently revised and is included in Appendix C. Research conversations were held with ten users who self-reported
using the resource for more than two hours in the month allocated for study and had either attended at least one discussion or
contributed to the resource. These were recorded and transcribed for analysis.

A summary of provisional findings was distributed to informants who were invited to a group interview meeting to reflect on these findings
at which the researcher took contemporaneous notes of comments made. These comments were considered in drafting a final report.

3.5.4 Third research round

At the conclusion of the video-recorded conversation, a research conversation took place in which informants’ experiences of using this
resource and contributing in conversation were captured. The conversation was guided by means of a schedule with further exploration of
issues raised by informants, included in Appendix B. This conversation was recorded and transcribed.

One week after the resource was made available to the fifteen contributors two small group discussions were held, each lasting one hour,
and in which aspects of the subject were addressed. Fourteen contributors participated in the discussion meetings.

At the conclusion of each discussion meeting participants were invited to complete a written questionnaire to indicate ways in which they
considered the resource components and discussion had influenced them to reflect on this issue. The questionnaire included a diagram on
which participants were asked to mark and describe the connections they perceived among the various media components and is included
in Appendix D.

3.6 Development of research conversations

Principles from Kvale (1996), reported in Cohen, Manion & Morrison, (2000, p.272) were adopted whereby conversations focused on the
real experiences of informants, through interpreting what the informants said and encouraging them to provide subtle detail either by the
researcher offering interpretations of what had been heard for clarification, or seeking more detailed descriptions. Specific issues and
areas where the literature indicated informants’ experiences might be most insightful provided a focus in the conversations, and the
researcher endeavoured to be open to those described. Informants were encouraged to think and reflect deeply.

Two initial conversations in the first research round adopted an open and flexible approach regarding issues to be addressed, focusing on
informants’ experiences of reading and watching and how these related to experiences of participating in the group discussion. Informants
were also asked what they considered they had gained from this activity. This approach was anticipated to permit issues which interested

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informants to surface (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2000, p.207) and to guard against too rigorous a response frame which may have
inhibited this (Ibid., p.273).

However these interviews proved long to conduct and lengthy to transcribe. The informal conversational approach required greater
resources to obtain and transcribe than appeared available and did not offer particularly specific descriptions of experience. Although
allowing informants to speak about issues which mattered to them, it raised the potential problem of comparing varying issues across
conversations. Accordingly a schedule guiding the conversations was prepared for the remaining conversations covering identical subject
areas using similar questions, though the opportunity to re-phrase questions during the conversation was retained as was the benefit of
exploring areas in order to clarify descriptions or examine issues in greater depth.

Whilst a conversation schedule was used, the researcher may be considered the main research instrument whose product, co-produced
with the informants, was the conversation. A transcribed record of this was the main source for analysis. Despite the weaknesses of
transcription in providing an incomplete account of the transactions during the conversation it was considered the best means of recording
what informants said. Capturing conversations through video-recording would have been possible (Hay & Hunt, 2000, para. 2.4) but would
require greater resources for transcription. Selected excerpts from these transcripts are included in the findings reported in chapter four.

Discussing experiences in conversation rather than writing about them in a questionnaire appeared a more natural means of expression for
informants. Nevertheless those who attended the discussion meetings for the third research round were asked to write brief notes about
their experiences of participating in it. This method was used to capture as many experiences as soon after the discussion as possible,
though all informants’ views about their wider experiences using the resource had been elicited in earlier individual research conversations.

This research process, in addition to capturing data for analysis, has developed the researcher’s ability to consider, plan and conduct
qualitative research of this type and has contributed to professional development and research proficiency. A number of practical and
ethical issues required to be addressed and these are now described.

3.7 Practical and ethical issues in conversations

Ethics procedures provided by Lancaster University were followed in conducting this research. The Revised Ethical Guidelines for
Educational Research (British Educational Research Association, 2004) advise that respect should underpin all educational research
undertakings and describe specific responsibilities owed to participants. Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2000, pp.50-63) also offer advice
concerning ethical practice and relevant issues are now described.

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3.7.1 Informed consent

All informants were advised in advance of the purpose of the investigation in general terms and of the form the conversation would take.
Oral information was given and permission obtained from those in the exploratory phase and the first research round, and written
information and permission in the second and third rounds of the research. Possible benefits and potential harm to participants were
explained and the researcher attempted to bring his experience as a pastoral visitor to bear to ensure the conversations were conducted
appropriately and in non-threatening ways. Participants were advised that they were free to withdraw from the research at any time and
that this would not preclude them continuing to use the resource or participate in discussions, that they could have access to the transcript
of their conversation and any reports written thereafter, and that all transcripts would be anonymized though excerpts may be used in
reports.

3.7.2 Access and acceptance; betrayal and deception

Aware of unavoidable pre-existing relationships with all participants, the researcher consciously encouraged informants to be full and
honest in their descriptions. The purpose of the investigation was explained to informants prior to the conversation not least to avoid the
possibility of deception. All conversations were held either in people’s homes or in church premises. The researcher endeavoured to adopt
a collaborative and friendly approach, stressing that experiences of the resources rather than individual performances were being
investigated. To remove a potentially unhelpful authoritative appearance clerical clothing was not worn when conducting the conversations
88
.

As far as possible informants’ views were held in high regard and the experience aspired to be enriching. Whilst difficult to determine, the
impression from some informants suggests they valued the experience and none reported it as unhelpful or unpleasant, though they may
have been inhibited from saying this to the Minister.

A report was prepared following the first and second rounds of research and distributed to informants, partly informed by a participative
action research methodology but also to guard against betrayal, where information gleaned from informants is used against their interests
(Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2000, p.63). All informants were invited to a meeting following the third research round at which the
preliminary findings contained in chapter five were summarised.

88 The research was part of congregational learning activities and my involvement was in part as the Minister and so Ministerial clothing may have been appropriate.

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3.7.3 Gratitude and support

All informants were thanked for their contributions at the conclusion of research conversations and group discussions as well as in written
correspondence. Social events were held to which all informants were invited as a way of expressing the researcher’s gratitude.

3.7.4 Anonymity and non-traceability

The recordings of conversations were stored on a computer and back-up copies were made. Transcripts of the conversations for the
exploratory conversations and the first two rounds of the research were created by a church member who kindly agreed to type them 89.
They were reviewed and corrections were made by the researcher at which time all names 90 were replaced with nominal initials to ensure
anonymity, and references to individual informants were replaced with non-identifying descriptions.

Whilst the researcher was aware of the identity of particular informants and excerpts from the transcripts are included within this report, it
is not possible to identify informants. The location of the setting is not given in this report 91.

3.8 Summary

This chapter has described and argued for an action research approach to investigating the research questions which focus on the
experiences of informants. These experiences are captured through transcribed research conversations which are analysed using a
phenomenographic approach, an empirical research method from the social sciences which nevertheless is argued to be fit for this purpose
and appropriate for investigating these types of Christian education experiences. The resources and processes of their production have
been outlined and the process of conducting research conversations has been described together with practical and ethical issues arising
from this investigation.

Findings from this investigation now require to be reported, in chapter four, and these findings discussed in terms of relevant theories of
learning, participation and Christian education, in chapter five.

89 This was carried out by the late Elaine Duncan whose enthusiastic support is gratefully acknowledged.
90 The names of David Lacy and Helen Cuthbert, the clergy members who appeared in the first resource, were not removed.
91 It would however be possible from information in the public domain to identify this.

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CHAPTER 4 RESEARCH FINDINGS

4.0 Introduction

Findings are reported thematically, first on experiences of participation and, second, on the influence of elements of the resources and
combinations of these. This report does not describe reflection and planning in terms of discrete rounds within cycles of action and
research for reasons addressed in section 4.0.2. Findings are presented as outcome spaces and additionally the researcher’s perspectives
as producer, researcher and Minister are offered.

4.0.1 Overview of data collected

This investigation collected quantitative data through a questionnaire-based survey and qualitative data consisting of transcripts of forty-
six research conversations between the researcher and thirty-six informants, summarised in Table 4.1.

Preliminary First Second Third


investigation research round research round research round
Experiences of learning Resource: Resource: Resource:
by being involved in church. Thinking about Studying the Lord’s Prayer Fostering Trust
What is God’s Kingdom?
Conversations with Conversations with Conversations with
fourteen informants seven informants ten informants Conversations with
(two by telephone, one by email) in November, in October and fifteen informants
in March, April December and November 2007. in August and
and May 2006. January 2006-2007. September 2008.

Table 4.1 Overview of research conversations

Some participants sought information or assistance out-with formal meetings and these conversations were noted within a few hours after
they occurred. One invitation to contribute in conversation was declined as described in section 4.3.4 below and reasons were explored at
some length in an informal conversation which was noted afterwards. There is a limited longitudinal element to this investigation since six
people participated in two of the three research rounds and two participated in all three rounds.

Group discussion opportunities were offered in each round. The two first-round discussions were recorded and transcribed, though the
potential inhibiting effect of recording these together with resources required for transcription led to a decision not to record subsequent

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meetings but take contemporaneous notes and amplify these thereafter. There were four discussions in the second round and two in the
third round, a total of eight group meetings.

Group interviews were held at the conclusion of the first and second rounds to which all participants in each round were invited.
Contemporaneous notes were taken at these meetings. Immediately after each of the third round group discussions a short written
questionnaire was completed by fourteen participants.

4.0.2 Tensions in reporting action research findings

Action research investigation findings could be reported chronologically but narrating activities and findings from case studies within each
cycle has weaknesses. Relations among findings across cycles and insights gained from more than one case study may be omitted and the
researcher’s personal experiences may be over-emphasised. A topical presentation of results more readily allows themes and informants’
experiences to be described and related to one another.

Such thematic reporting may, though, misrepresent the investigation by suggesting greater clarity of thought and action than the
investigation warrants and minimising the influence of many factors, most unanticipated, which took the research in particular directions.
Davis argues that:

‘[a]ction research is a dynamic, circular and evolving research process. It does not fit easily into a format or writing process that
is formulaic and linear.’
(Davis 2007b, p.196)

Whether that should result in ‘a text that is somewhat disjointed and discontinuous, but reflective of the reality of the research itself’
(Ibid., p.196) is debatable. A tension lies between comprehensibly reporting findings and accurately reflecting the progress of the
investigation.

In each research conversation informants bring lived experience and a range of insights, offering a unique contribution. This report
requires adequately to reflect the richness of informants’ lives and describe experiences in breadth and depth. The description requires to
be rigorous and rich and at times may require a focus on individual contributions which appear important.

Whilst the investigation involved a deal of trial and error (Steeples, 2004) mainly on the researcher’s part, the report seeks to describe
clearly the study and findings. A standard reporting approach has been adopted and relevant literature and methodologies have already
been described and discussed.

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The electronic version of this report92 in PDF format makes use of hyperlinks to allow navigation among related sections and is offered as a
means of assisting the reader to gain an overview of the process of the research, whilst allowing orderly and thematic description and
discussion. Davis (2007b, p.195) suggests this may be useful in reporting action research findings and Pea and Lemke (2007, p.40) note
some benefits of this technique as a means of distributing a fuller account of investigations.

4.0.3 Interpretation in reporting findings

Phenomenographic analysis involves selecting and ordering particular excerpts from research conversation transcripts. This is an integral
part of the analysis, itself an interpretative process which produces the findings from this investigation. Such analysis is useful for raising
awareness of themes which may not be explicit in the data and its catalytic validity lies in supporting insight into innovations in practice.
The process used in this investigation was guided from descriptions of phenomenographic practice in Åkerlind (2005) and Ellis et al.
(2006). Findings presented in this chapter are discussed in chapter five.

4.1 Preliminary investigation into learning in


church

Three hundred and eighty-eight churchgoers in eight


Church of Scotland congregations in west and south-west
Scotland responded to a single-question questionnaire 93 by
marking one of six points on a Likert-type scale (Cohen,
Manion & Morrison, 2000, p.253) in response to the
question: How much would you say you’ve learned by
being involved in church? The results are shown in Figure
4.2. Of the 388 responses received, 349 (89.9%) marked
one of the three points tending towards reporting greater
than lesser learning, a response pattern found in all eight
congregations surveyed.

In fourteen research conversations a range of resources


used to support learning were noted. One informant
Nothing at all A very great deal
described books as the major resource for learning with
the Bible paramount, and a number described a daily Figure 4.2 Preliminary survey responses

92 This is included on a DVD disc in Appendix E to this printed report.

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practice of personal Bible study and prayer which in some cases had continued for many years. Yet reading the Bible alone was difficult,
partly because of the required discipline but also due to uncertainty in interpreting, for example, creation stories and unfamiliar vocabulary
in a text “full of begats and begets and all the rest of it.” (CL, para. 0.13)94. Other books, and other people, helped. Group Bible study was
remembered warmly though only two informants were attending such a group meeting at least monthly. Other books about issues of faith
or theology, or stories about other people’s faith, or television programmes, particularly showing other peoples’ experiences, were
mentioned.

Several informants described themselves as people-oriented rather than book-oriented and spoke of learning about faith through meeting
with others. AF noted that the Jesus she read of in the Bible “was always with the people” (AF, para. 0.45) while CL described meeting
others in her church: “I think it’s being with people because it’s like a community centre down in that church” (CL, para. 0.45). One former
missionary in India spoke of rich experiences of engaging with people in a culture different from Scotland.

Informants described having opportunistic discussions about faith issues with family or church members as well as in organised groups, all
potentially helpful encounters for bringing other viewpoints to the fore, learning about implicit practices from those who had been around
longer, or being challenged to reconsider long-held views. One informant described seeking someone’s help initially to accomplish a novel
task and thereafter used books to supplement expertise gained through practice. Other people provided a supportive, friendly setting for
thinking, described as “belonging” in church or “that family sense in the church; there definitely is.” (CK, para. 0.75). Others’ views
encouraged personal reflection, further reading or reflecting on ideas in a conversation remembered later. Two informants specifically
mentioned ministerial contributions to learning, both in worship services.

These experiences had associated difficulties, including the dullness of much worship and not least the Minister’s sermon, and implicit
practices understood by some but not made explicit, particularly to newcomers. Organised discussion groups had weaknesses.
Contributing at them was daunting: a comment might be perceived to upset others, or result in a negative or abrupt response, illustrated
by this description and reflection on contributing at group discussion:

“They were astonished that I would think that way.


Did they ask you to explain why you thought what you thought? How did you feel at their astonishment?
I just thought: I’ve obviously got this the wrong way. Maybe I’m looking at things in a different way but I believe it was and still
is my right to tell my friends.

What knocked you for six was that you said something and were you quite shocked that the reaction of others was really
different?

93 This is reproduced in Appendix A.


94 Throughout this report excerpts from transcripts of informants’ conversations are attributed by use of nominal initials followed by the research round (0, 1, 2 or 3) from which the excerpt is taken with a ‘D’
to denote a comment made in a group interview; and the paragraph number within the transcript. Researcher’s words are indicated in italic type.

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Uh-huh. I just felt everyone was [growl] in on me.
And what consequence did that have for you sharing in the group later?
I think I kept back for a wee while. But not now. But at that point of time. And the other thing that came through my mind at
that point was, What happened if that was a new Christian?
Like, if somebody new-ish had said what you had said?
Uh-huh and how would they react? Then I thought: always need to be careful at a Bible study. To be honest, but to be sure I
didn’t put anyone off in any way, because I think sometimes we can talk so much in biblical terms but a lot of folk don’t
understand. And even when they’re new Christians... But maybe I do that as well.”
(AT, para. 0.55-71)

Other difficulties included the challenge of remaining focused on the subject, retaining confidences, use of specialised vocabulary not
known to all participants, and anxiety about anticipated performance demands such as being required to find a particular Bible passage
quickly. Having a sense of being out of one’s theological or spiritual depth as others spoke was also off-putting. More practically, work and
family commitments sometimes made attending meetings at specific times impossible and demands of group meetings competed generally
with time for family, partner, friends, other interests or work.

4.2 Participating in Christian education: general views of experience

Transcripts from the first round95 initially proved difficult to categorise as some informants described the content of the resource whilst
others referred to experiences of using it, or to other events which the resource or research conversation had prompted. Ascertaining
qualitative differences in the descriptions which could be related to one another was a demanding and time consuming task (Marton &
Säljö 1976b, p.120) which required repeated readings of the transcripts.

These relations were examined using a phenomenographic approach resulting in the development of an outcome space (Marton & Booth,
1997, p.112) which describes, in a logically connected hierarchy, a variety of ways users experienced aspects of participation. The
relationships among these categories of description were found to form a linear hierarchy though it is their relationship to one another
which is of paramount importance (Åkerlind, 2005, p.322). Defining relationships among categories does not promote some experiences
as more worthwhile but facilitates an understanding of the range of possible ways of experiencing the phenomenon among the population
being studied (Ibid., p.323).

A range of themes were attempted as interpretative ‘lenses’ for analysing the data, initially focusing on experiences of using the resources.
This was partly due to the central part their production had played in the researcher’s thinking and effort to that point. However each

95 This is the first of three rounds in research using a multimedia resource; this took place after the preliminary round earlier described.

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theme proved insufficiently comprehensive. Experiences of using the resources accounted for fewer than half of the descriptions given,
suggesting the resources were not as formative an element of the experiences as anticipated. Was there a way of understanding the
experiences which reflected this broad range of descriptions?

Analysis during this frustrating and challenging period was restricted through focusing on the resources. This initially resulted in missing a
more profound experience of participation or involvement. Whilst specific experiences of using parts of the resources did appear
important, a broader issue emerged, clarified through the second research round, suggesting that involving church-goers in video-clips
was a promising approach.

During a number of months96 the transcripts for rounds one and two were read repeatedly aiming to categorise described experiences and
during this analysis the broader theme of participation appeared more relevant than one limited to using the resources. This broader
theme could be discerned from a range of descriptions of different activities from a number of informants. It was not simply what they did
but how they approached the activities which could be grouped thematically in distinct, though related, categories.

Transcripts from the third round were incorporated into this analysis resulting in 136 excerpts being identified from transcripts of thirty-
three research conversations from all three rounds. These formed an outcome space consisting of four principal categories labelled A to D,
Category A representing the most inclusive description of experiences from a participation perspective. The four categories are now
described with illustrative excerpts from the transcripts across each of the three research rounds.

In blind rating by an independent researcher agreement was reached in 117 excerpts and on a further fifteen of the remaining nineteen
after discussion, falling within the level of agreement suggested in section 3.3.5.

4.2.1 Category A

These descriptions cluster round two themes, first of integrating Christian faith issues with lifestyle and attitudes, and second of
involvement with others. Faith is connected to commitment, or life choices:

“I think it has changed me because, because I don’t know, because of the fact that after reading that I felt that he [Jesus] was
in me more; that I was closer to Jesus whereas before I felt as though I was going to church and ... I was going but I wasn’t
fully committed. So I think that’s why it’s kinda changed a bit. Believing more in him.”
(CP, para. 1.111)

96 A period estimated at around nine months.

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“It’s quite good when you get into these kinds of situations, you actually get to know people and it’s about your own self-
awareness as well. About where we’re coming from, and what things mean to you, and how you can progress and move on.
Like what kind of things would you like next to help you to develop your faith and your understanding.”
(CT, para. 1D3.228)

“I would say there were a number of things but all of which were personal in so far as they were a better understanding of how
God works in my life... So from my point of view there was a learning process about how I’m living my life and a reminder of
things I already know and don’t put into practice.
...
I was trying to use it as a tool to open the prayer a bit more and get past the traditional thinking of what The Lord’s Prayer is
about.
How can you use it as a tool to do that?
All I did was read it, think about what was there, think about what I felt about it, an assessment of what was written on the
sheets, … where I understood or agreed with what was written on the sheets. Then thinking about how that practically pans
out in my life. If it did, and I think it did in almost every occasion.”
(AJ, para. 2.66, 84)

“I think it’s important that we listen to what he’s [God’s] saying to us through the Bible and comments that other people are
making like William Barclay and taking that away and thinking right OK because I’ve studied this, because I’ve been looking at
this in a fair bit of depth, how is this going to change the way I live? And I think that must be happening.
But it’s certainly what you were doing - that’s how you were using it?
Yes. I would say that.”
(DB, para. 2.60-62)

“We’re always learning... Learning and putting into action must go together. So you’re finding out further information more
information that you’re either extending your knowledge or you’re going to do something practically about it.”
(BJ, para. 3.58)

This category included changes of attitude, ways of viewing the world and one’s action in it. Tolerance of others’ views was reported as
“strengthened” through using the resource (DA, para. 2.117; CP, para. 1.101). Viewing a contribution about experiences of homelessness,
CY commented:

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“It’s made me realise, wait a minute, there will be a reason why that has happened to them [homeless people] so don’t be
judgemental towards them.”
(CY, para. 2.55)

Increasing honesty both in considering and sharing views was described:

“Yes I was... A lot of it [resource] was what I would have thought of it myself... It made me think about it honestly and maybe
more important to talk about it honestly.”
(CW, para. 3.39)

A connection was made between the resource and worship:

“I suppose I was using it to support my faith, using it as a kind of time of reflection or a time of prayer as well So using it as a
time with God as well as kind of an educational thing - using it as a kind of worship, well not quite…”
(AP, para. 2.94)

The second theme, noted in a small number of comments, was that one’s action in contributing might help others to participate:

“I think I was hoping I was helping other people in the group by introducing my contribution and I suppose I had a little bit of a
background I could bring to it…”
(AH, para. 1.96)

Informants described a sense of personal engagement with the issue, or an increased commitment to the person of Jesus or a life
following Christ, or an increased commitment to other people, or other participants, or a desire to extend the implications of the subject
beyond themselves or the small group into some practical outworking. These excerpts also suggest progression with little sense that
expertise had reached a plateau. The informant describing sharing views with others to participate appears to be intending to aid
understanding rather than limiting alternative interpretations.

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4.2.2 Category B

Informants described a focus on the development of their understanding of ideas or the increase of their knowledge without making
explicit connections between this and altered lifestyle or attitude. The distinction between categories A and B was described explicitly in
this comment:

“...it was more what I understood from that section [of the Lord’s Prayer resource] could be applied in my life. What I had
learned about my life from it not what I had learned about The Lord’s Prayer.”
(AJ, para. 2.32, italics added.)

In this category informants described reflecting on the subject:

“I said that it did change my thinking on the subject because really I didn’t hadn’t really put an awful lot of thought into What is
God’s Kingdom prior to this if you want. You know it’s not something that I’ve really had a lot of thinking about.”
(CM, para. 1.78)

“Well taking it piece by piece I wanted to take each piece of The Lord’s Prayer and learn a wee bit more about what that wee
[little] bit meant - each wee phrase.”
(DA, para. 2.16)

Informants noted that they had access to a range of interpretations of the text which they found useful in understanding both it and the
wider subject. This range included the views of the authoritative author of the text:

“Did you have something you wanted to get out of doing all this? What was that?
Yes, well, uh-huh. I wanted to see what Professor Barclay said about it.”
(DC, para. 2.26-7)

“To aid my thinking by reading it and seeing their thinking and Professor Barclay’s thinking and then using it to come back on
my thinking.”
(CR, para. 2.70)

The range also included other contributors’ views:

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“I like to read something for myself and get my own views and thoughts on it and I liked the DVD because it gave other
people’s views and thoughts on the same thing so it made me, made me, think more. ...I think listening to other people and
their views helped my understanding of what I had read.”
(CS, para. 1.23,25)

“What are you doing when you’re watching the clips? What are you thinking?
Just thinking whether I agreed with folk or not.
...
What were you looking to do with the material?
To understand a wee bit better. To see other people’s points of view.”
(DA paras 2.83, 87)

Learning was perceived to occur in the activity of observing others in conversation:

“In a way one of your original questions there was, ‘Do you think it actually teaches?’ And I think, the way up until now I hadn’t
thought about it, but yes, David and Helen [appearing in the first resource video] were actually teaching us the passage
although you weren’t aware of them doing it.”
(CN, para. 1D3.80)

The activities supporting articulating a response in the third round were described as stimulating a “deeper” understanding of the text:

“Answering the boxes questions [the activities] makes you take the next step in your reading. Often when you read you just do
that and move on. By answering these questions you’re almost having you have to verbalise your thoughts and that leads you
to realise you haven’t understood it at all but only read it in a superficial way. By doing one of these tasks it makes you go
slightly more in-depth, not in a terribly hard way but it makes you think more. It’s easy just to read it, just to understand it, but
not take the next step of thinking: What does this mean? Once you start answering these questions you start thinking about
what actually what is she [text author] really saying, what does it mean?”
(DE, para. 3.48)

The descriptions of understanding meaning might be termed a cognitive participation, distinct from the holistic participation of Category A
by not making reference to practical outworking or life or attitude changes. Nevertheless this participation is important for developing
greater understanding. It is participative because views from others are considered valuable, be they subject experts or fellow church-

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goers. The cognitive element appeared to be supported in the third round through offering activities as a starting-point for discussing
aspects of the subject.

4.2.3 Category C

Informants described either increasing confidence of their place within the group or developing strategies to determine whether they had
such a place:

“Did you have something you wanted to get out of doing all this? What was that?
I think maybe just to know if I was taking the right thing out of it. If my ideas were what were the right ones from it ...I would
have thought I was just giving them my opinions before but I’ve discovered through doing both this and Freshchurch [another
church activity] my opinions are the general opinion so we can’t all be wrong.
Yes and you’re not saying things that are strange and unique?
Yes.”
(CW, para. 2.14-15, 44-46)

This was connected with issues of confidence and experiences:

“I’m not a great one for getting into conversations of any depth kind of thing. I’d rather listen to people and you know but that’s
just me. It probably stems back to my upbringing years and years ago, ‘You’ll sit in the corner and be quiet,’ and that’s just me I
think.
You used the word “confident” there. Do you think that’s a confidence thing?
I think so, yes. I was never any good when I was young, so I never did things to the right standard. So that’s just grown up
with me, I think.”
(CS, para. 1.9-11)

“Did seeing videos of others help you speak about the text in your video?
It did. I think it gives you confidence when you see other people taking part people that you know. If you see people that you
know doing it you think that’s fine I’ll be able to do it as well.”
(AS, para. 3.70-71)

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Personal views honestly held were apparently offered rather than ‘saying the right answer,’ described in the third research round when one
informant was pressed slightly to explain use of the word “honesty” in a comment:

“The video-clips, well, it just gave me an idea about really what you wanted.
Like what I wanted when we were making our video-clip?
And what you wanted from me as well. It was just really my ideas you were looking for. Mine personally.
What did you think I was looking for?
I wondered if you had been wanting, maybe if you wanted me to say what you wanted me to say [laughs]. But no.
Sometimes you think that’s the game we’re playing in church?
Sometimes yes you know I think. You said you wanted honesty. Well I’ll say...
I do. I do.
Well I’ll say I got the impression that you wanted my views on it not what I thought you wanted me to think. Or the church
wanted me to think.”
(CW, para. 3.22-30)

A sense of being valued through being permitted to participate was described:

“The fact that although we’re all sitting there with the same background in regards to the church, nobody can turn round and
say ‘you can’t say that,’ or ‘your views aren’t relevant’. I feel that by doing it [participating in a discussion] some people are
taking notice of what I say with regards to church life.”
(CM, para. 2.152)

The importance of the group discussion as a safe place to air and discuss views was noted:

“When you are in a group like this you can be heard. And you can be accepted and you can be challenged or whatever for your
views and that but you’ll never be put down. It’s a safe environment.
I think for many people that’s a really important thing.
And I think it is building up that trust as well and being able to feel like a valued member of the church or whatever.
Does the material you looked at in this round of stuff help that process or does it not make any difference in that process?

For me it does. All be I forget it now but I’m going to go back and look at it again and I think you should watch it as well it
would be quite good for you to watch it… What was I doing there? I was feeding myself. Feeding my own need.”
(CT, 1D3.191-5)

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An experience of successfully contributing is perceived to be positive:

“I think I maybe got more out of it because I participated in the last two. I got more out of it than I would have done if I’d just
sat there.”
(CR, para. 2.178)

The experience of being invited to make a video-clip was described as involving:

“I think once you’re sort of sucked in with a video and you’re part of the system...
Do you feel “sucked in” here?
A wee bit. But not in a negative way. But there’s more involvement than just, ‘Go and read an article.’ So because you’re
suddenly involved you realise you’re in a participation thing rather than just a reading. I think participation is an important thing
especially in the church and I think when people are participators they give more and they get more.”
(DF, para. 3.60-62)

Some described a sense of being accompanied when thinking about an issue as they saw and heard others discussing it in video-clips.
Although recorded, the discussion nonetheless gave a sense of companionship:

“You said just a wee minute ago that they were beside you. Em, now, it’s only a disc but, so why did you say they were beside
you? What’s the, what feeling do you have?
Well, I just thought that they were that I was there with them that they were there with me helping me understand helping me
understand it and like the parts I didn’t understand watching the DVD helped me understand more.”
(CP, para. 1.36-7)

“The DVD … was letting me kind of hear everybody else and with me doing it myself what I noticed at the discussion everybody
else seemed to have talk to somebody else about it because obviously some couples were there.
Talk to me about this togetherness thing What was it about the DVD?
It felt as though there was somebody else kind of there doing it with me.
Describe that to me.
I think just because there were other voices talking about it and if I had been using the written material without the DVD I
would probably have felt more isolated but just because there were other voices hearing other people before coming here kind
of made me feel as though I wasn’t entirely on my own.
...

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I think even though they had kind of already had the discussion they were kind of having it there. I felt I could sit there and
kind of think my views while they were kind of talking about it so it was kind of as though there was kind of someone else there
as well. Sounds stupid I know, but…
Why do you think it sounds stupid?
I just think it sounds daft saying you’re interacting with a DVD.”
(CR, para. 1.103-7, 181-3)

“[P]eople could watch that [video-clips] and think ‘I could relate to such a person’. It’s not somebody that’s way up here above
me. And I think that’s good.”
(DB, para. 2.28)

The focus here was neither the meaning of the text or the application to Christian living but awareness of membership of or participation
in the community. It appeared that perceptions of community membership were supported through using the resources, and that activities
such as contributing views in a video-recorded conversation encouraged a perception of involvement and sense of qualification to be a
member.

4.2.4 Category D

Two apparently opposing experiences are related by a common theme of non-participation. Some considered that a lack of knowledge or
skills precluded discussing:

“Sometimes at a discussion group you feel you should be saying something. I’m sitting here quiet at a discussion group and
they think I’m either not interested or I don’t have any views or I don’t know what they’re talking about.”
(DA, para. 2.188)

Adjectives such as “frightening”, “overawing” and terrified” were used to describe church meetings:

“How would you describe church discussion groups?


A bit frightening.
Why do you say that- is it experience what you’ve heard or for other reasons?
A bit overawing. I haven’t gone to very many so possibly I’m maybe not the right person for you to be asking that.
But that’s your view and that view comes in part from some of the groups that you’ve gone to?

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Possibly when I was younger even. A bit frightening. A bit overawing. I know myself it’s lack of confidence. I would worry about
going to it. I wouldn’t look forward to it. I would worry about it and I don’t think that’s the right frame of mind to go, to be
sitting terrified, ‘Are they going to ask me that next?’”
(CW, para. 2.165-168)

Others noticed that sometimes group members only listened and, whilst supporting a right to do so, considered contributing was
preferable:

“I don’t think it’s good if you have people in groups that don’t speak. But then that’s their right if they don’t want to say
anything, just to listen, and I would never be in the way of forcing anybody to speak. But sometimes it’s good to hear other
viewpoints. At [Name’s] house on a Wednesday night for [a church meeting] the great thing there is, everybody contributes.”
(DB, para. 2.191)

The second form of non-participation was dominance by others whose contributions appeared to render further comment redundant, or
were phrased such that any response would be taken as argumentative:

“I think you can tell when somebody’s got a viewpoint and they’re not going to change from it.
Is that not as helpful?
Absolutely not.
Why not to you?
I think because you know people have switched off, you can tell that they’ve decided that’s what the case is and that there’s not
going to be a discussion and you think that any discussion will feel like a personal attack.”
(AP, para. 2.176)

One of the group discussions was described as involving “posturing” with a desire to:

“make their position, their stance on the study material known. Actually it wasn’t really about the study. It was about them and
their positioning relevant to what we were doing, I felt.”
(AJ, para. 2.167)

“Once people start talking they sort of take over. You maybe get one or two who talk and they are the ones who keep talking
and the rest just let them talk.

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And it’s hard to come in and it’s hard to stop people from hogging the show?
Yes.”
(DA, para. 2.161)

Whilst participation may be precluded through unfamiliarity or dominance and may be a result of poor group management, these extracts
suggest that more profound issues are involved. If widespread, this may offer some insight into low participation in such groups.

4.2.5 Summary

These excerpts summarise a hierarchy of four categories of described experiences of participation. The most inclusive category involves
reflecting on an issue with a view to influencing beliefs, attitudes or lifestyle. This may lead to participating with others or supporting
aspects of their faith growth. In the second category skills and knowledge are developed, generally by individuals who do not disclose an
awareness of enabling others’ reflections. The third category is concerned with senses of membership, belonging within the group, or
having a right to be present. This is achieved through observation and limited initial attempts at articulating. In the fourth category
participation is attenuated through silence or by dominating discussions.

How do the resources influence these experiences of participation? This issue is addressed in the following sections.

4.3 Relationships among elements in the resources

The multimedia resources present both text and video-clips. Contributions were sought from participants either after reading a section of
the text alone97 or after reading the text and watching other contributors’ video-clips 98. Informants’ self-reporting of the amount and
frequency of using the second resource is shown in Table 4.3. Observation indicated that contributors used the third resource for
approximately thirty minutes prior to the video-recorded conversation and that this involved a combination of reading text and watching
video-clips99.

This investigation does not seek to explore the experiences of using individual media components of the resource. The resources allow
text and video-clips to be used, permitting participation in two types of activity, a video-recorded conversation and a group discussion. The
media and activities all require some action and so it is possible to refer to each of these using verbs, namely reading (the printed text),

97 This occurred in the second resource.


98 This occurred in the third resource.
99 Earlier contributors necessarily had fewer video-clips to view. The duration of using the resource increased with additional video-clips, but not beyond forty minutes of use.

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watching (the video-clips), articulating (a view made available in a video-clip) and discussing (listening and responding in a group),
illustrated in Figure 4.4.

It is beyond this report’s scope to describe and analyse all relations among all elements. There is a linear progression in resource use since
material is read before a video-clip is made100 and all video-clips are distributed to all participants prior to group discussion. Whilst other
relationships among media and activities are likely to be present, approaching resource use in this linear way allows for manageable
reporting and analysis. Accordingly the relations among the components reported here are:

• How watching influences reading;

• How reading influences watching;

• How reading and watching influence discussing;

• How reading and watching influence articulation; and

• How articulating influences discussing.

One outcome space was produced in respect of each of these following analysis of transcripts from all research conversations. In some
cases the outcome space formed a linear hierarchy while in others a different set of relationships among categories was perceived, and for
these the outcome space is illustrated.

4.3.1 Relationships between reading and watching

Experiences of reading the text and watching video-clips were discerned in forty-four excerpts from transcripts. Analysis of these led to the
creation of an outcome space as shown in Figure 4.5. In blind rating by an independent researcher agreement was reached in thirty-six
excerpts and on six of the remaining eight after discussion.

100 In the third research round the clips of previous contributors were made available to subsequent contributors prior to video-recording their conversation.

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4.3.1.1 Category A

In the most comprehensive category both text and video-clips were considered complementary and both were used:

“[O]nce I got the video and probably because I could recognise the people’s faces and who they were and all the rest of it then
I wanted to do it that way and I wouldn’t go back and just simply use an MP3 player if the video was available because it brings
it to life. It’s a human person that’s standing there speaking if that makes sense.

I think no matter what I have studied in the past I’ve always read it first of all and then started to think about it. ... But
knowing then that I was going to be listening to what other people were going to be saying, I wanted to have my own thoughts
relatively clear on what was being said. So that I was happy with what was written down and had worked it out exactly before I
listened to somebody else. ... But I wanted to be sure what I had read... I’m a questioner I suppose.”
(BJ, para. 2.121-129)

“Obviously Professor Barclay … was a very learned man and had put a lot of thought into what he was writing … but as I’ve
said before what I particularly like about it or what I like about this one is the fact that there was so many people had got
involved in it.
What is it you like about that?
It helps me to sometimes understand what we are talking about a bit better because you are getting these different people’s
points of views... That fact that you can read the text then go to the video-clip at the same time, basically. …
It wasn’t just Professor Barclay and for example it wasn’t just you [understood: researcher as Minister]. It wasn’t just one
person’s views. These are different people and that fact it was the clip was relevant to the part in the text, so the people like
you done with ourselves. You asked to read this part and then put across our views.”
(CM, para. 2.35-42)

One informant described a technical but effective approach combining watching and reading:

“I read the article on the computer. I prefer the computer copy. I read it twice, then looked at the video-clip page, then looked
at a couple of the video-clips. Not all the time but sometimes when the video was playing I went back to look at the text.
How did you find doing that?
Easy and useful and good.
What was helpful?
My short term memory seems to be poor so it was good to refresh and link it at the same time.

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You mean as these people were talking about it? ...
You can read what part they’re talking about.
You’re doing all that on the computer?
Uh-huh.
Is it a hassle to jump back and forward?
No, I think that’s quite straightforward.”
(AP, para. 3.16-26)

The text was understood to provide an authoritative presentation of the subject while video-clips had a role in providing a range of views
and in raising other questions.

4.3.1.2 Category T1

Both text and video-clips were used, but the text was considered to have a higher priority:

“Why did you do those things?


Because some times I can take things in better reading than watching. It depends what it is.
...
I suppose the video-clips would be there if there was something I missed or something was said on the clip that wasn’t in the
sheets.”
(CY, para. 2.65-95)

“What helped you get what you wanted from this?


The thing that was written on the study more than what was on the video. What was on the video, all the stuff, it was good to
hear other people’s thoughts on it. Different ideas and Barclay’s ideas, put on what people were saying on the video, that was
good. But I think I got more out of the written material than the audio visual stuff.
So if it had only been video-clips and no written material?
It wouldn’t have worked for me.”
(AJ, para. 2.47-50)

The text provided both structure and significant detail about the subject, to such an extent that the video-clips were considered to offer
limited reinforcement of the text’s content.

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4.3.1.3 Category T2

The text alone was considered sufficient and the video added little if anything:

“I’m not sure if the AV discussion really for me added very much to the actual text. It was sort of personal experiences and
whatever, and that’s what the discussion was about ultimately. I’m not sure if that contributed much to assisting with the
understanding of the text... For me the AV, even if it was a slick presentation with bullet points, I think that could be ditched as
long as - one caveat - as long as the text was understandable.”
(AH, para. 1.50,139)

“Did you need both text and clips or could you have got by without either? Why?
I enjoyed both of them but I preferred the article. I mean you read your bible but I wouldn’t like to see it on the telly.”
(DG, para. 3.20-21)

The video could have been omitted without great loss for the contributions were almost superfluous, or the medium was considered less
appropriate, with one qualification relating to the comprehensibility of the text. AH’s prior knowledge of the subject may be relevant and is
discussed in section 5.4.1.

4.3.1.4 Category V1

While text and video-clips were both used, the video was considered to have a higher priority:

“I needed the two [text and video]. Reading it I had my own thoughts and when I seen the clips I had someone else’s
thoughts, and that was good because that brings in the balance, you know. Mostly it brought out some of the text that I hadn’t
stressed on listening to [video contribution] and it also, well, it made me go back and read that bit again. I went back and read
some of it again. Just to see and put the two together. That was better.”
(CW, para. 3.44)

“I read through the literature and then I looked at the video.


So the first thing you did was to read through the whole thing?
Yeah.
And how did you find that?

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Oh dead beat. I’ve gone by this point. The first couple of chapters, that was me. It was no, and I thought I don’t know whether
I want to do this or not.
Right, was it as bad as that?
Yes.
OK. Em, then what did you do?
Then I looked at the DVD... And listening to the DVD I looked at it, and then sort of went back to the literature on some of the
bits and stopped it and then started it off again.”
(CN, para. 1.11-22)

Video-clips appeared helpful here for some who found the text alone difficult, aiding understanding and encouraging persistence in reading
it.

4.3.1.5 Category V2

The video-clips were considered sufficient:

“Would you use material of this sort, text and video together with discussion, again?
I don’t know ... because I’m too old.
What is it about it makes you feel you are too old?
Well You don’t have the same up here. You forget things. I’ll tell you why. I’m not a reader. I don’t read much. I read my Daily
Bread at night and my Bible. I don’t like reading lots of books. It’s not something I do. And I’m too busy!
So having more stuff to read wouldn’t be your thing? What about the videos?
They were good. They gave me other people’s views.
Was that easier or better for you? See if I just typed up what the folk had said and given you it? No, that wouldn’t have done
because I told you - I’m not a reader.”
(DC, para. 2.93-100)

The complexity of the text, or views expressed, or a general dislike of reading meant that the text was not found helpful. However the
entire resource was not ignored and the video-clips provided perspectives which were found valuable.

4.3.2 Relationships between watching and reading

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Fifty-eight excerpts from the transcripts of all three rounds were identified. The relationship between watching video-clips and reading the
text was found to form a linear hierarchy based around the concept of elaboration, that is exploring the subject further, or understanding
more deeply, or making broader connections with other ideas. In blind rating by an independent researcher agreement was reached in fifty
excerpts and on the remaining eight after discussion.

4.3.2.1 Category A

Experiences of careful reflection on one’s existing thoughts or views were described:

“Well as I say, because I’d watched, I’d read, and then I was like I just don’t like this man [Schweitzer] at all (Laughs) … The
things he was saying about how God had abandoned him [Jesus] and all of that. I was like that’s so wrong em, and then when
I watched the DVD and Helen said that she disagreed … I think she said that she disagreed so I thought right, so that means
I’ve kinda disagreed, so I’m kinda right. I’ll give it a … I will read it again. And after I’d read it again, I understood well there is
some things they’re saying that I still disagree with, but there are things that I do agree with. But at the same time you have
still got the right to have your opinion… It is strange when you think about it, ‘cos after seeing that she disagreed I’d have
probably, I should have thought well I’m right enough and I shouldn’t have done it again. But I don’t know why… It made me
read it again and there isn’t, I don’t think there is an explanation, why I did it again.”
(CP, para. 1.138-164)

“I read the material took quick notes on the side of the material … thought about actually what was being said. What William
Barclay was saying within that and what - did I agree or disagree. Whether I had the right to disagree or agree but I thought
about it and wasn’t sure... Was I right in disagreeing or was I wrong in disagreeing or was it because I had been conditioned to
think in a certain fashion and hadn’t thought about it and therefore it was slightly contrary to my way of thinking. I’m slightly
concerned at times because in the traditional fashion am I actually right to be questioning that part of thinking of it in that
respect... Then I came back and watched the clips.
What were you doing when you watched the clips?
Listening to what the people said pausing it and if I disagreed or hadn’t thought of it that way went back and referred to my
notes or the actual words on the page to double check the meanings if it was something I wasn’t sure about or hadn’t picked
up where had they picked that up from or where had they got that idea from and then back and listened to the clip usually
again. And I found it was so much better to see the person - watch them speaking.”
(BJ, para. 2.109-119)

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This included an honesty in speaking about one’s own thoughts (CW, 3.22-30) indicating a development from CW’s comments in the
second round:

“When I watched the clips and the views were different from mine I had to think about it really hard about how other folk
thought about it so it made you go right deep down into it really. Why I had certain views and why other people had different
views and it made you really think. Sometimes you came to be between a view as well you know between the view that you
had and the view other folk had. I didn’t disregard my views completely but thought their views made sense.”
(CW, para. 2.50)

This reflection included but transcended better understanding, encouraging deeper reflection on reasons for holding one’s views even
though this did not necessarily lead to a change of opinion.

4.3.2.2 Category B

Experiences of having access to others’ views assisted informants’ understanding of the text or the subject were described, though there
was no evidence of deep reflection on one’s views to the extent described in the previous category:

“Well when I was reading it I was reading it very quickly so I have sort of vague ideas but I think listening to other people and
their views helped my understanding of what I had read. To me I like the two together I don’t think you’re bothered about the
DVD so much but I enjoyed being able to link the two together.”
(CS, para. 1.24)

“Em, now, it’s only a disc, so why did you say they were beside you? What’s the, what feeling do you have?
Well, I just thought that they were that I was there with them that they were there with me helping me understand helping me
understand it and like the parts I didn’t understand watching the DVD helped me understand more.”
(CP, para. 1.36-7)

“What helped you do that? What hindered you from doing that?
I think listening to other people’s views, getting their perspective on it. Maybe I wasn’t sure what I understood about it and
what they’ve put across.
Because their views were?
Different.

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And how did the different views that they expressed help you think yourself both about The Lord’s Prayer and about your own
faith?
I can understand it a bit better.
Than what?
Than my interpretation.”
(CY, para. 2.35-41)

“What did you get from the video-clips themselves?


It was quite good to hear other people’s opinions or thoughts. Especially my husband because I think he might think differently
and sometimes you just presume everyone thinks the same as you do.
What are you getting the chance to do here?
Hear other people’s slants on things. And maybe that makes you think differently or think maybe I’m wrong to think that.
Do you think there is a right and wrong answer?
No, but maybe when you hear other people you didn’t think would think that way. You think again, or you think you hadn’t
really thought about that. Seeing a bigger picture.
Did the clips affect what you got from the text?
They probably did a bit. The subject isn’t easy and when people have such random views to get a group together and do
something would not be easy. You read the article and think oh well that’s possible but then you watch the clips you realise the
picture is bigger and there may be more issues.”
(DH, para. 3.19-26)

“I think what people have said, while I didn’t necessarily agree with it all, I think it’s worth considering again. It’s worth
revisiting. There is a lot of material there. Even tonight I was just thinking about the video-clips. An hour and a half it is a lot of
material and while it’s not all brilliant it’s certainly not all bad and it’s well worth listening to again.”
(AJ, para. 2.60)

This category may be described as ‘broadening’ rather than ‘deepening’ views by offering alternative perspectives on the issue, though
informants described this as “deepening” understanding.

4.3.2.3 Category C

The video-clips were described as making difficult ideas in the text simpler or easier:

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“And then I read, I listened to the whole DVD, and then I re-read the literature and it made a lot more sense.
...
The two together made more sense but it was easier for me to listen to someone talking about it than what it was for me to
actually read it but when you re-read it back it made more sense to re-read it after having somebody tell you what it was.”
(CN, para. 1.32-36)

“Is there something for you that’s different between reading some of these ideas and watching them speaking them?
Kind of easier to understand. I think the language that David and Helen used probably more simplistic than maybe what was in
the written stuff.
And that makes it easier to understand?
Yes. Because reading something I don’t always kind of take it in, but hearing someone else saying it.
Do you think their ideas were easier or were they just explaining in easier words?
I think they were just explaining it easier than the text.”
(CR, para. 1.78-82)

“Did the clips affect what you got from the text?
It’s better for me because I’m not a good reader. I preferred watching the clips.”
(DC, para. 3.16-17)

The verbal elaboration and use of simpler vocabulary in speech heard, as opposed to text to be read, aided understanding though this was
not described as leading to deeper reflection.

4.3.2.4 Category D

The enthusiasm of others conveyed through video encouraged reading and thinking, and fostered a sense of companionship or confidence
in considering the subject:

“So what was worthwhile about the DVD. I mean would it have worked as well if I had just given you the chapter out the book?
I don’t think so.
And why do you think that?
I think because it gave you company to watch it with to read it I mean you were part of something while you were reading it.
What do you mean by that?

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Well you don’t always have somebody to talk to about it so it’s quite nice to be able to read it and watch...
Somebody talking about it?
Uh huh. Aye cos it didn’t feel kinda like an isolated event kinda thing.”
(CT, para. 1.115-121)

“Would you use material generally of this sort (text and video together plus discussion) again?
Yes. It’s given me confidence. If I hadn’t done that I don’t know if I would have come to Freshchurch [another church activity].
… I just feel I’ve got that wee bit more confidence now to maybe go forward a bit.”
(CW, para. 2.101-2)

“It wasn’t until I got to the clips, you know, that helped more.
How did that help more?
Just hearing other people’s views, too. You thought more. You thought everybody was doing it then. You could see folk doing it.
It wasn’t as if it was just me.
You sensed you weren’t on your own? Yes. Does that help you or does that put you off?
Well, it helped me because I really don’t like to take part in big discussions or any kind of show, you know. So it was helpful
that I could do that, interact with folk in here.
Even though - I was going to say you’re not interacting with them - but you are interacting with them because you’re thinking
about what they’re saying?
Yes. I was interacting with them because they were in my living room, you know. But they weren’t really here, but I wouldn’t
have probably discussed with them if I’d been face-to-face.”
(CW, para. 2.73-81)

“I just think this generation, reality TV, seeing people being honest and opening up isn’t always helpful but very often it really is.
It helped me. It made me more relaxed about my speaking because others had gone before me... You can tell that people care
passionately. You see their body language, hear words, tone in voice, facial expressions. The text of what people said wouldn’t
have been as good. Like a telephone conversation: it’s only sound, not facial expressions, so there’s something missing. I think
if you get video you get something more than a telephone conversation. You get to see the whole picture. That’s more helpful.”
(DF, para. 3.24, 47)

This category did not describe the elaboration of ideas, but involvement or interaction with others through the video-clips was described as
helpful and appeared to promote a sense of belonging.

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4.3.3 Relationship among reading, watching and articulating views in video-clip

Contributions to the resources were invited in the second and third rounds through articulating views in a video-recorded conversation on
the text and wider subject. Twenty were offered in the second resource and fifteen in the third. Support was given to prepare for this
conversation as described in sections 3.5.4 and 3.5.5, intended to aid contributors by providing some focus to their comments.

Twenty-seven excerpts from the transcripts of all three rounds were identified. The outcome space describing the relationship between
using the resource and articulating views on the subject appeared to fall into two categories each of which could be further subdivided and
are shown in Figure 4.6. A basic distinction appeared to be between those whose focus was generally on the text, and those who focused
generally on themselves or their experiences. Two categories were identified among those whose primary focus was on the text. In blind
rating by an independent researcher agreement was reached in twenty-six excerpts and on the remaining one after discussion.

4.3.3.1 Category T1

The primary focus was on understanding the text in order to communicate this understanding to others:

“What were you trying to get from it so that you could speak about it?
An understanding what these verses actually meant and to try and get this across to people.”
(DB, para. 2.127)

“What did you think you needed to get from your section of the text so you could talk about it in your clip?
You had to understand what the text was going on about and know what the man was talking about so you could put across
what your thoughts were.”
(CM, para. 2.129-30)

“What are you doing in all this?


Reading the text gives a background, and then what I wanted was to hear what other people were saying about things. So I
thought, ‘I never thought about that,’ or else perhaps, ‘I don’t agree with that even.’
Why did you do those things?
I’m preparing and getting organised for what you’re going to be saying. You’re extracting information from what you’ve read or
heard and applying that to how you think.
In the back of your mind are you thinking I’ll have to speak about this?
Oh yes.

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Is that kind of gentle push almost there throughout this?
Yes I think it’s there all the time. Really the focus of the whole thing is that you’re going to have to do something with it. Not
just read it but make a contribution as well. So in that way you’re focusing in and organising your thoughts.

Did the fact you were going to be videoed affect how you used the resource? How?
Probably read it in more detail and more carefully. It’s a good thing.”
(AS, para. 3.18-24, 66-7)

“Does knowing you’re being videoed help your thinking?


I’m not sure being videoed helps your thinking. … [B]ut I think that the fact someone comes and videos it and you know it will
be shared makes you actually do the thinking in the first place. My experience of myself is that if I thought I was going to a
group to discuss an article it would be that it would go to the bottom of my list of priorities and I wouldn’t really have thought
about it before I went.
Having all this helps you understand this?
Yes because as soon as you start to speak you get whether you have really thought about this at all and I’m way all over the
place in my thinking so I think it helps you to clarify your thinking.”
(DE, para. 3.50-4)

Other people as well as concepts featured in these informants’ thinking.

4.3.3.2 Category T2

Understanding the text for personal benefit was the focus rather than communicating this to others:

“What did you think you needed to get from your section of the text so you could talk about it in your clip?
I think just fully understanding my point of view of it. What he was saying to me what I was taking from it and how I
understood it was probably the biggest thing.”
(CR, para. 2.128-9)

Nevertheless the fact that the conversation was video-recorded itself prompted greater effort at understanding the text:

“If it wasn’t being videoed I would probably just have been holding it and listening to what you were saying and thinking oh

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that’s right. I think because it was being videoed I had to come up with what my view on it was and that view might have
changed by the time you’ve edited the video but at least I had to make ... it does make you come up with your own opinion as
opposed to let’s just wait and see what somebody else says about it.
You’re more proactive than reacting?
Yes I’d say so.”
(AJ, para. 3.49-51)

These categories, though distinguishable, nevertheless share in common a focus on the subject-matter. They differ in the extent to which
communicating to others was described.

4.3.3.3 Category P1

Two categories were identified among informants whose primary focus was on their thinking or life experiences. In the first, the primary
focus appeared to be assessing the text as right or wrong from one’s own standpoint:

“Did you ever find yourself comparing your thoughts or understandings with what was said in the text?
Oh yes.
Can you describe this?
I tend to do that with any Christian book that I read because there are many things that I read that are very good but there will
be things that maybe a person says in it that you’ll think "I’m not quite so sure about that." If I listen to you preaching a
sermon I’m not going to sit here and say I agree with absolutely everything you’re saying.”
(DB, para. 2.72-74)

Assessment is part of critical Christian faith. This category highlights a personal source informing such assessment distinct from other
sources of authority, for example authors or church teaching.

4.3.3.4 Category P2

In the second category the primary focus was on personal experiences including participating in the resource, incorporating anxieties
about one’s contribution on video:

“What did you think you needed to get from your section of the text so you could talk about it in your clip?

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That’s what I wasn’t particularly clear on. I thought that I spoke more about my own feelings, my own interpretation of that
section, rather than quite a few people [who] spoke more specifically about what Barclay said and they were sort of analysing
what he said. Whereas I thought I was speaking more about how that worked out in my life. I’m not sure that was necessarily
that was the best way of doing it. ... If I was doing the clip again I would probably be answering the questions in a different
way. I think exploring more of what Barclay was saying and thinking more deeply about how that applies would have come out
more clearly in the clips... If I was doing the clip now after I had done the study I think that might have been more useful a clip
than it was before the study.”
(AJ, para. 2.125-134)

“What did you get from the text itself?


I think it started a train of thought I’d already thought about. It refreshed my thinking.
What did you get from the video-clips themselves?
It was quite good to hear other people’s opinions or thoughts. Especially my husband’s, because I think he might think
differently and sometimes you just presume everyone thinks the same as you do.”
(DH, para. 3.17-20)

“Do you really think there is a right answer you should be saying?
I do. But that’s me, my kind of psyche. I want to say the right answer. I want to say the right thing. And I suppose I’m not that
uncommon. I’m sure a lot of people must think like that.
Why are you keen to say the right thing?
Well it makes it all kind of nice. It might be about acceptance.”
(AP, para. 3.81-84)

“Being filmed matters and somebody else is going to watch it and you think, ‘Am I going to talk a complete load of drivel and
somebody else will think oh that’s drivel?’ I’d rather people didn’t see me talking drivel! Even if it helped others I’d rather not
show myself talking nonsense.”
(DE, para. 3.16)

“What really helped me was the fact I’d just watched other people doing the same thing. You think well I’m not out on a limb
here. It’s a shared experience. Must have been tougher for first. It’s good to see that others have done it.”
(DF, para. 3.38)

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In this novel, daunting endeavour potential contributors understandably have concerns about appearing in video-clips. Seeing peers’
attempts supports efforts but does not eliminate concerns about appearing.

4.3.4 Conversation on a jettisoned text

An unexpected issue arose when one enthusiastic participant was asked to read one chapter from a book, anticipated to be useful for
group study, with a view to talking about it in a video-recorded conversation. The participant was clear about and content with the task.
However the text incorporated several ‘exercises’ where readers were asked to perform tasks and note the results.

The informant reported that these exercises rather than the demanding text had caused her to stop reading and thinking about the
chapter. She thought, correctly, that she had originally been asked to read a chapter from a book then talk about it and only whilst reading
the text were these additional demanding tasks discovered. The attempt was negative: comparing her small, simple list of religious words
with the sixteen in the book, some complex, caused her to feel “useless” through lack of knowledge or understanding of words or phrases
in the text. Comparing her efforts with the author’s caused her to give up.

Vocabulary was one difficulty and exercises diverting attention from the text and the line of the author’s argument to the tasks was
another. The task perception changed in the course of reading the text, the substituted task was overly demanding and direct comparison
between relative knowledge levels was off-putting so the broader task of reading the text to have a conversation about it was abandoned.

As producer I had ignored the exercises partly because they were difficult and my knowledge was limited, but also because I focused on
the author’s intent rather than the exercises. My perception of the task differed from the other reader’s but I was at fault in not making
this explicit, particularly omitting to explain in advance my difficulties with the exercises. The material was more demanding than I had
anticipated but my approach to reading the chapter with my background knowledge in the subject gave me confidence to omit difficult
words, phrases and exercises yet still understand the author’s argument.

Texts such as these are valuable and simpler texts are not sufficient substitutes. Neither is any criticism of in-text exercises implied here.
Poor guidance in explaining the task was responsible but it afforded opportunity to consider the role of other media. Would incorporating
video within a text influence learners’ perceptions of expectations in tasks? If familiar faces were seen, possibly reflecting honest views of
difficulty or expressing concepts in their own words in conversation, would this encourage others to persist or clarify task demands? This
encounter followed the first research round and prompted several important reflections, some of which were incorporated in the second
and some in the third round.

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4.3.5 Relationships among reading, watching and discussing

All participants were aware of opportunities to take part in one or more small group discussions though participation was not compulsory.
Participation was daunting for some contributors. The investigation sought to capture features of the relationship between the resources
and users’ experiences of group meetings (in the first and second rounds) or their thoughts as they anticipated participating (in the third
round).

Twenty-six excerpts from the transcripts of all three rounds were identified. In blind rating by an independent researcher agreement was
reached in twenty-three excerpts and on the remaining three after discussion. The relationship between using the resource and
participating in discussions was found to form a linear hierarchy based around the concept of confidence to participate in discussion.

4.3.5.1 Category A

Informants understood discussions to involve both listening and speaking, so both were required of participants:

“Do you need to, or would you like to discuss this subject in a group now that you’ve read it and seen the clips?
I probably wouldn’t need to go, but it would be nice to go and discuss it further. Because you can’t talk back to the video. You
can’t say, ‘Well that’s an interesting point, but what do you mean by that?’
Would you like the chance to be able to do that with some of them?
Yes.”
(AP, para. 3.109-112)

“I quite like that idea, yes the competitive idea, of really sort of a brainstorming situation where there is serious discussion.”
(AH, para. 1.60)

“It [the resource] certainly deepened my knowledge, deepened my understanding. But there were sections and parts within it
that I would have liked basically to discuss further with somebody, or to discuss with a small group of people where you felt
comfortable about discussing these things.”
(BJ, para. 2.53)

“If you had only had the article to read would you come to a discussion?
I’d probably have come but found it more difficult because I hadn’t heard other people’s views. And at discussion you don’t just

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want to hear other people’s views, but contribute.
But you don’t have much time to do the contributing and hearing all at the one time?
It gives me time to think what I think and the videos help in that process.”
(DA, para. 3.69-72)

The delay between watching others converse and discussing in a group could be used productively to develop one’s views in order to
contribute in the discussion. The alternative, of silence or un-reflective agreement, was considered inferior:

“CM But the thing about that is if you’ve got a length of time between watching the video-clip and coming along to the
discussion you can either forget all about it or you can then go and look at more material with regards to that particular video-
clip.
CN Or you could just go along and just agree with everybody else.
CM Well yes but …
Would that be as worthwhile?
CN No. Well it wouldn’t be worthwhile because you’re not honest with yourself as to what your opinions are. You’re just going
to say oh I’ll just agree with him I’ll just agree with her I’ll just sit and shut up.
And part of this whole business is not learning to say yes…
CN … it’s learning to accept everybody else and form your own opinions on it and speak out from it. So you’ve got if you had a
video-clip or a passage you could read … you know what I mean you’re going to get two different opinions on the same video-
clip by doing it two different ways.”
(CM & CN, 1D3.279-285)

Whilst the primary exposition of the issue was provided in a printed text, these comments indicate that an interchange of views and
responses is also necessary, most naturally accomplished in a dialogue. A range of types of dialogue appear mentioned here, from a “nice”
discussion to “competitive brainstorming,” suggesting that different activities may be anticipated in discussion. The opportunity to reflect in
advance of the discussion was considered helpful.

4.3.5.2 Category B

Some experiences of gaining confidence to engage in discussion about a subject were described:

“Will the clips help you to discuss the article in a group?


Yes they do. Well not just this one but the previous ones I’ve done with you has actually given me more confidence to talk

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about things. I have spoken and taken courses that I would never ever have had the confidence to do before. This one hasn’t
knocked that.”
(CW, para. 3.79-81)

“Will the clips help you to discuss the article in a group?


Yes definitely because it’s like overcoming something it’s not so bad and a bit more confidence you get.
If you had only had the article to read would you come to a discussion?
I couldn’t do it.
But now you’re saying to me having had this stuff you might come. What’s the difference?
Because I think seeing something makes a big difference. Like a child with a book with pictures.”
(DJ, para. 3.72-77)

“Will the clips help you to discuss the article in a group?


Yes, I think it will because having seen other people’s points of view and heard it you’re maybe able to put forward an argument
for something you agree with or disagree with.
And that’s because you’ve done what?
You’ve done the background thinking and you’ve prepared.
Would you normally have done the background before you get to the meeting?
Probably if it had been reading yes I would have read it.
Do the clips help you prepare or would the reading have been enough?
I like the idea of the clips actually seeing the people taking and listening.
If you had only had the article to read would you come to a discussion?
I would still have come. But I like the clips.”
(AS, para. 3.88-97)

“They [people in video conversation] were showing you in a sense, if you had never been in a discussion, if you have never
been in that kind of learning, … had to learn the experience of sitting down and discussing like that ... People are frightened to
say and probably give some people confidence. Need confidence. Maybe a confidence building thing.”
(CT, para. 1D3.204)

“I think it’s good because here you were meeting with people who were ordinary folks in the congregation from all sorts of
different backgrounds doing all sorts of different jobs and people could watch that and think ‘I could relate to such a person’.

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It’s not somebody that’s way up here above me. And I think that’s good.”
(DB, para. 2.20)

Confidence may be supported by hearing authentic views which encourages attempts to participate, something which the text alone was
unable to provide to some informants. Modelling discussion seemed also to promote confidence as well as provide insight into what such
discussions may be like.

4.3.5.3 Category C

Some informants described being aware that some background knowledge of the subject was necessary for a meaningful discussion. In
this category, however, there were no reports that this had been obtained:

“If it had just been a case of right lets eh turn up and discuss it, then I think it would have been far more difficult.
What was it then about the material do you think that helped?
It was the fact you got a wee bit of understanding what the subject was. As I say I’d never really thought of What’s God
Kingdom... So the fact you had a bit of background material, if you want. I suppose it’s a bit like, it’s a bit like going to a Bible
study. If you haven’t read or you don’t read it, you know, when you go there you don’t have a bit of background knowledge
then how can you discuss something?”

I think it’s important that you’ve got to have either some reading material or in this case the DVD and the reading material.
You’ve got to be prepared before you can I mean there’s no point in, for example, if you know there’s no point in going in and
trying to talk about something if you don’t know a bit about the subject.”
(CM, para. 1.191-202, 324-328)

“Will the clips help you to discuss the article in a group?


Yes. I think they would give you a better knowledge of the subject. You’d know people’s opinions strengths and weaknesses
and you’d say I’m coming and think right these people perhaps have given me a chance to express what my opinion is.
Does watching the videos help?
I think on a subject you didn’t know, yes.
If you had only had the article to read would you come to a discussion?
I would have come if I’d only had the article.”
(DD, para. 3.72-77)

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There is a need to provide some opportunity to gain background knowledge. While the text has a primary role in this, the variety of views
contained within the video-clips may have encouraged greater breadth of thinking as well as outlining some areas which might be
approached in discussion.

4.3.5.4 Category D

Some described being satisfied with the level of companionship or support provided by the resources such that participating in a
discussion was superfluous:

“Did the discussion help you to get what you wanted out of all this?
I had already got it there on the DVD. I just went to the one [discussion] and I liked what you were saying, but I just feel I’m
getting as much watching people on the DVD.”
(DC, para. 2.189-90)

“How helpful do you think watching them speaking on the DVD was, to help you speak in a meeting where people were talking
about the same subject? You know, did how their talk affect you at all, or was it not really anything to do with how you spoke
at the meeting?
No, I don’t think it affected me. No, I think we would still have had the same outcome even without that. …
So what was worthwhile about the DVD? I mean would it have worked as well if I had just given you the chapter out the book?
I don’t think so.
And why do you think that? I think because it gave you company to watch it with, to read it I mean, you were part of
something while you were reading it.”
(CM, para. 2.110)

One participant spoke about the benefits both of the interchange of group discussion and the opportunity for quieter and prolonged
reflection when using the resource alone:

“Do you need to, or would you like to discuss this subject in a group now that you’ve read it and seen the clips?
Yes probably- that’s just me because it’s [the group discussion] a different thing. You may get the same answer at the end of
the day, but in a group discussion it’s being bounced off one another there and then, so you can hear. Although sometimes it’s
hard to take it all in and make it out in a group of ten or twelve and everything’s being bombarded at the one time. Whereas
doing it this way with the video you can sit down. You can sit in the quietness, or you can sit with a couple of people and it’s
more, you’ve more time to sit and study it as it were. I like group discussions but I find this more relaxed, doing it by yourself.

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It is a different way of looking at it. Discussion is going on there and then.”
(CM, para. 3.66-67)

Whilst reflecting on faith is important, faith is not an exclusively intellectual activity. Friendship and companionship also matter and are
part of experiences reported here. However, discussing a subject involves interaction among people, requiring some knowledge which
takes effort to obtain. In addition to domain knowledge is awareness that one has a sufficient grasp of the subject to enable involvement.
Where this awareness is lacking, a sense of being accompanied in the process of coming to know appears helpful.

4.3.6 Relationship between articulating and discussing

Group meetings are organised in this congregation as opportunities to express and reflect on faith, though preliminary survey findings
suggested people also used informal conversations to consider faith issues. Airing one’s views in a group discussion is a daunting challenge
particularly where those others’ views are not fully known. Contributing to the resource involves articulating one’s views in a one-to-one
conversational setting, parts of which will be seen by others.

Whilst the described experiences could be categorised into four separate issues, it was not possible to make logical connections among
them and so form an outcome space. Accordingly these categories are noted independently. Twelve excerpts were identified. In blind
rating by an independent researcher agreement was reached in eleven excerpts and on the remaining one after discussion.

4.3.6.1 Category 1

Articulating one’s views supports thinking about it:

“Having all this helps you understand this?


Yes because as soon as you start to speak you get whether you have really thought about this at all, and I’m way all over the
place in my thinking, so I think it helps you to clarify your thinking. ... It’s almost a kind of process of thinking through what
your thoughts are.”
(DE, para. 3.52-54)

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4.3.6.2 Category 2

Being required to articulate a response requires more effort than simply being asked to read a text. The anticipated demand of speaking
encouraged greater cognitive effort. Having opportunity to rehearse one’s contribution was also helpful, even if actual contributions in
discussions were different:

“Did the fact you were going to be videoed affect how you used the resource? How?
Probably read it in more detail and more carefully. It’s a good thing.”
(AS, para. 3.66-7)

“Will the clips help you to discuss the article in a group?


With people in the clips?
Yes.
Yes, probably. You’ve got an idea what people thought originally when they read the passage. They might have a different
viewpoint now that they’ve had time to think about it more or perhaps have more to add.
So you maybe wouldn’t hold them to their original view?
Nor me to mine.
What would the benefit be?
You’ve got an idea where people might stand on certain issues and you might feel more confident.
“If you had only had the article to read would you come to a discussion?
Yes, probably.
Would you have approached coming differently?
I think you might well have just read that [text] while you were there, and just given it a quick glance through, and not thought
about it any further.
And now that you’ve gone through this have you thought about it further?
Yes. A bit more than I would have if I had just read it. On the whole that’s good.”
(AP, para. 3.116-130)

4.3.6.3 Category 3

Having opportunity to articulate views in advance of a discussion gave confidence to speak at it. Knowing that one’s comments would be
viewed by others suggested they mattered, and implied the contributor was a valued member of the community:

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“Do you need to or would you like to discuss this subject in a group now that you’ve read it and seen the clips?
I think after that experience I would, because it doesn’t - now that I’ve done it I don’t feel as bad going and talking...
Will the clips help you to discuss the article in a group?
Yes definitely because it’s like overcoming something it’s not so bad and a bit more confidence you get.
If you had only had the article to read would you come to a discussion?
I couldn’t do it.”
(DJ 3.63-4, 72-4)

“[W]hat really is at the back of my mind is that this man [William Barclay] studied theology for years and years and here’s me,
Joe Soap, and you interviewed me and I don’t know one per cent of what he knew. It may not matter but there’s something in
the back of your mind. It’s the same I suppose if you’re doing any kind of course. The fact that you’re reading the text written
by some expert.
So the fact that the video-clips are made by people who are not any more expert than we are doesn’t that make them
valueless?
No. That helps. The fact that we’re learning from each other … I think the fact that you know the people on the video. That
matters. I think it gives you a better insight into what they’re thinking. You don’t have the opportunity to see Professor Barclay.
All you’re reading is what he wrote.... So I suppose that’s what you’re doing with this. You’ve got the text that is written by
somebody who is very knowledgeable and you’ve got people who are maybe less knowledgeable but everybody has their own
perception of what they’re being asked and from that you’re learning from both the text and from what the people are saying.”
(CM, para. 2.114-6)

4.3.6.4 Category 4

Articulating in advance made little difference:

“Did these activities help you or hinder you understanding the resource?
I quite enjoyed it but I would have been as happy with a discussion.”
(DG 3.30-1)

This suggests the articulations in the resources were superfluous and a group discussion would have been sufficient.

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4.3.7 Informants’ summaries of elements and relations among them

Fourteen participants in the third round discussion groups were


provided with a diagram on which they were asked to indicate
where they considered connections existed among the various
media and activities. The collated connections are contained in
Figure 4.7. Informants were also asked to summarise in writing
what they found helpful and off-putting about each of the
elements. Written responses on questionnaires were invited and
all comments are included here.

Reading the text was reported as helpful because:


“Gave me subject to reflect on; base my thinking on to
allow thoughts to begin to form.”
“Forced me to consider things I’d rather avoid.”
“I’d not thought about these problems.”
“It made me aware I was trying to ignore this very difficult
subject.”
“Brought the subject to the fore, gave me some knowledge
(and author’s view) before I spoke.”
“A ‘taster’ but made me look deeper at the subject.”
“Challenged my ideas.”

Reading the text was reported as unhelpful because:


“I found it hard to concentrate on a long passage.”

Watching video-clips of others was reported as helpful because:


“Helped me broaden my perspectives.”
“Some of what people said was new to me.”
“I could form thoughts in my head from what people said.”

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“I enjoyed them and realised most people had children’s best interests at heart.”
“Made me realise I should be more aware of problem.”
“I was interested to hear what other people thought.”
“Having others’ views helped me form my views.”
“Raised other, personal issues for me- people need help.”
“Gave other ways of thinking and challenged my thoughts.”
“Helped me broaden what I’d previously thought.”
“Gave you time to digest what people said, and it tied in with the article.”

Watching video-clips was reported as unhelpful because:


“I didn’t like seeing myself in the clip.”

Articulating a view in video-recorded conversation was reported as helpful because:


“Makes me realise I’ve something to add.”
“Made me think maybe what I had to say was worthwhile.”
“Encouraged me to think about exactly what I thought and to say that.”
“I was more relaxed than I imagined.”
“It made me face these problems.”
“It helped me work out and put across my views.”
“I had to think quickly- it clarified my thoughts.”
“I got chance to vent my spleen.”
“Gave me an idea what I thought about this because we don’t normally speak of it.”
“It was easier to speak in just two-person conversation (but I didn’t like watching myself).”
“I had to decide what I was going to talk about.”

Articulating in a video-recorded conversation was reported as unhelpful because:


“I was anxious about how I looked and sounded- it’s all superficial but true!”

Participating in a discussion was reported as helpful because:


“It’s about real people right there and encourages you to act.”
“I was forced to consider what my views were.”

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“Listening to others helped me form my thinking and opinions.”
“Made me think about what we could perhaps do.”
“I enjoyed getting together with other people.”
“Encouraged me to be optimistic and pray.”
“People perhaps more open here than in videos?”
“Allowed us to think about taking action.”
“Gave other ways of seeing and thinking about things.”
“I felt good because I count and because it gave me confidence.”
“I could talk to others and expand on what they’d said in the video-clips.”

Participating in a discussion was reported as unhelpful because:


“I felt people were judging how I felt.”

The greater number of positive to negative comments either suggests that the elements of the resource were valued or that informants
responded artificially positively to the research who is producer and Minister. Nevertheless reasons for considering aspects of the elements
as positive are insightful. Organising and information-giving roles of the text were noted. Watching video-clips appeared to serve a useful
supportive purpose whilst appearing in clips seemed to increase confidence, offer an opportunity to develop a view through anticipating
articulation and offered a less demanding setting for speaking despite being video-recorded. The additional benefit of re-recording a
contribution, used occasionally, is a feature worthy of further investigation. The group discussion was also considered valuable in terms of
companionship, development of confidence of membership and in considering the issue. The order of presentation of material and
activities appeared to support reflection on the issue, though this was not investigated in detail.

4.3.8 Summary

This section has demonstrated a range of connections users make among elements which influence their experiences of the resources and
subsequent discussions. These elements vary in the ways they influence informants’ thinking, approach to articulating their views and
participation in discussions.

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4.4 Practical experiences of using the resources

4.4.1 Viewing system

Distribution of video-clips on DVD or CD-ROM prevented unauthorised access and was necessary because widespread high-speed Internet
connections were not widely available, though there was little perceived demand for on-line availability in this setting.

All informants reported the discs operated satisfactorily, though some required assistance. Home visits to provide requested support
revealed unfamiliarity with the concept of chapters or a menu system on a DVD, and that selections could be made 101. A short period of
demonstration and practice enabled both to navigate the DVD. No meeting was held to instruct users as to how the resources might be
viewed and on reflection such support may have been useful.

All who wished to were able to print from the PDF file or had a printed copy supplied. Resources could be produced easily and at low cost
102
. No users objected to printing several pages for personal use.

4.4.2 Extent of use of the resources

It was difficult to gauge the extent the first resource was used due the low number of user records returned. Informants’ estimate of time
spent using the second resource are summarised in Table 4.3 which indicates both wide variety and diverse patterns of use. Observation of
contributors in round three indicated that between twenty-five and forty minutes were spent making use of the resource prior to
articulating a view in recorded conversation. The time spent in general rose as the number of available clips increased. In the third round
the completed resource was made available to participants one week prior to the discussion meetings but no data as to use within that
week was gathered.

4.5 Researcher and producer perspectives


Whilst focusing on experiences of using the resources it may be insightful to note some issues from the producer and researcher’s
perspective.

101 Chapters permit easy selection of and navigation to relevant sections of video on a DVD disc, accessed through a Menu system which at times requires to be activated by the user.
102 The cost was comparable to photocopying printed sheets.

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4.5.1 Technical issues

The unanticipated interest in participation by church-goers without ready computer access or necessary skills necessitated repeating the
first-round approach of producing a DVD in all rounds in order not to limit availability only to computer-literate owners of technology.

Eight informants used the CD-ROM version of the second resource and three used DVD discs. The third resource was made available to
nine participants as CD-ROM and to six as a DVD disc together with printed pages. A significant number of those participating in this
investigation (27% in the second and 40% in the third rounds) did not have access to computers at home yet were able to use a resource
employing appropriate technology available to them103.

4.5.2 Creating video-clips

Some expertise in operating a consumer video camera adequate for these purposes was developed during the investigation and simple
ways of video-recording a conversation among two or three people were piloted. Straightforward techniques were sufficient to produce the
video-clips used in the resources.

4.5.3 Technology requirements

The resources could be created using two readily-available software applications 104 sufficient for these purposes. It was also possible
simultaneously to record the conversation on camera and capture the audio and video on computer, allowing more rapid editing and
incorporation into the resource.

4.5.4 Emphasising the role of text

Ministerial work practices emphasising textual literacy cloaked the researcher’s preference to deal with written material 105 which was not
shared by all informants, a number of whom used a greater range of resources more creatively. Lack of engaging with the texts was
initially considered a failing of the resource, its design, or the participants. Maturer reflection reveals a range of resources being used by
people in their faith development. Preference for texts may be widely shared yet involvement in discourse is a widespread means of
communicating theological views, a tension which requires greater reflection in the researcher’s wider work.

103 Whilst DVD players are also technology resources they are more affordable and in this setting were found to be more widespread than computers.
104 A further application was required to duplicate the CD-ROM and DVD discs, and this was supplied with the computer operating system.
105 Sarno (1987, p.6) notes that the root of the Latin clerici denotes an ability to read and write.

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4.5.5 Encouraging participation

A weakness of this investigation was the researcher’s


influence in encouraging participation. Did informants feel
compelled by the Minister? Was participation about saying
what informants thought the Minister would want to hear?
Yet participation was also seen through this investigation to
have greater significance than the researcher had
previously imagined, succinctly described by CM:

“It’s about becoming more involved in the church


itself. Learning is becoming involved.”
(CM, para. 3.73).

The resources provided a sense of involvement and


supported ways of interacting with others. Whilst weak in
certain respects, they appeared to permit participation to be investigated in ways which would otherwise have been more challenging.

4.5.6 Activities supporting articulation

The activities described in section 3.4.4 were used by contributors as indicated in Figure 4.8. Insufficient data has been gathered to
provide an analysis of the influence of these activities on supporting articulation of the subject, though four activities were not selected for
use by any contributors. The design and development of activities such as these is an area for further research.

4.5.7 Self assessment in adult Christian education

Two informants in the second research round described using the four-stage approach to considering the issue described in section 3.5.4.
Both had previously been familiar with this type of approach which appeared not to have been used or found helpful by other informants.
This study accordingly does not contribute to knowledge about self-assessment in Christian education.

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4.6 Summary

Findings from this investigation inform views of participation in discussing aspects of faith in a church congregation. Using the resources
permits insight into the interacting influences of elements of the resources on one another and processes of reflecting, articulating and
discussing. Some practical considerations from this investigation have also been noted.

Connections need to be made between these findings and relevant literature in order to come to some conclusions about a role for
multimedia resources in supporting participation in Christian education in this setting. This is the focus of chapter five.

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CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION

5.0 Introduction

This study began by collecting a range of general descriptions of church-goers’ experiences of learning through church involvement. It
then examined experiences of participating in discourse-based Christian education activities supported by particular resources. Findings,
reported in the previous chapter, were analysed principally using an approach from phenomenography to produce outcome spaces
classifying categories of informants’ experiences.

These findings generate five principal areas for discussion. First, general views of discourse-based Christian education activities in churches
106
provide some background description. This permits experiences of participation to be discussed in the second section. This participation
is influenced by the resources and this is discussed in section three whilst some interactions among elements of the resources and
activities are discussed in section four. Finally, some of the producer-researcher’s reflections are considered in section five.

The investigation contributes to social learning insights by indicating their relevance in this voluntary, non-formal and faith-based setting.
Additionally, understandings of identities of participation, vicarious learning and ordinary theology in this context are explored. The study
contributes to Christian education by discussing the concept of participation as an influential element in Christian education processes.
Finally, it offers insights into possible roles for combining video and text in multimedia resources to support Christian education
endeavours.

5.1 Christian education in this setting

The church-goers surveyed in the preliminary investigation indicated that they had learned through their involvement in church. Whilst
such a limited survey has weaknesses including varied interpretations of the question, the scale’s limited sensitivity, greater likelihood of
response from those with a positive view of learning in church and possibilities of bias from assumptions about a Minister-researcher’s
attitude to Christian education, these data nevertheless suggest that church-goers perceive they learn through being involved in church.

The survey did not capture data regarding age and gender, nor length or frequency of church involvement given the survey’s purpose.
Responses suggest that investigating means of supporting learning through church involvement is worthwhile, something attempted in this
study and consistent with the Mission and Discipleship Council’s view 107:

106 All informants in the preliminary investigation were members of the congregation where this investigation is set or of other neighbouring Church of Scotland congregations.
107 This is an executive agency pursuing the intentions of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

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‘Education and nurture are the key elements that equip the Church for mission. We cannot be a missionary church if our
members are not learning, discovering and moving deeper into their knowledge and experience of God.’
(Mallon, 2009)

Church-goers were found to use a range of resources including print and television though not computers, and particularly other people
both around and beyond church, in self-directed learning based on perceived needs and interests. A combination of learning and religious
experience provided a means of exploring ‘some of the most profound questions touching their humanity’ (Wickett, 1991, p.26).

Some church-goers considered issues by reflecting on what they heard, read and discussed with others. Whilst important, this runs the
risk of remaining focused on individuals’ personal concerns without some external encouragement to adopt a wider perspective (Fleischer,
2004, p.323). How may horizons be broadened?

Some reported that collaborations with other church-goers in structured settings helped them consider faith issues provided there was
freedom to share ideas and develop views. Active involvement within the faith community to support faith development has been
demonstrated as important in chapter two and Groome (1999) has developed a process of shared Christian praxis which involves shared
reflection leading to Christian action, nevertheless driven by discussion within groups and requiring communication among participants
(Fleischer, 2004, p.317).

Church discussion groups also had weaknesses and some found participating in these challenging. A transformative and inter-personal
perspective on Christian education108 understands participating with others in a community of practice as a necessary part of the
educational process. On this view church-goers require to participate with one another to develop faith. Participation may, then, be
considered an important and challenging element of Christian education. The following section discusses aspects of participation disclosed
in the findings.

5.2 Participation in Christian education

Participation was a recurring theme in this investigation and included a sense of companionship described as supporting attempts to
understand (CP, 1.36-7), allowing some cognitive if not physical interactions (CR, 1.103-7, 181-3), emphasising contributors’ personality
(BJ 2.121-3) and helpfully indicating similarities among users and contributors (DB, 2.28).

108 This is outlined in section 2.2.

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5.2.1 Categories of participation

These snatches from transcripts, however, do not provide a systematic description of the range of ways participation was perceived,
something offered in the outcome space in section 4.2. This present discussion suggests the space may be graphically represented as a
circle with one quadrant partially separated as shown in Figure 5.1.

Each quadrant in this figure is discussed in the


following sections which raise issues of participation Category B Category A
and learning. Learning relationships offer further Cognitive Holistic
participation participation
insight and are discussed in section 5.2.2. This
analysis offers a contrary perspective on roles for Individual development of Knowledge and skills
media to those suggested by Sarno (1987) and this is knowledge and skills to influence lifestyle and
understand domain and the attitudes.
discussed in section 5.2.2.2. The use of arrows ‘art’ of participating May include a concern to
suggesting movement among certain categories is through listening and support others to be
described in section 5.2.3 which may be informed by articulating. involved.
insights into discernment and variation, and Category C
negotiating meaning, considered in sections 5.2.3.2 Identity of participation Category D
and 5.2.3.3. Non-participation
Increasing confidence of
one’s place in group leads Lack of participation
to listening to others’ views through silence, or
5.2.1.1 Category A: holistic participation and tentative sharing of domination where
one’s own views. views expressed in
This category contained two aspects connected with ways admitting of little
faith-informed influence on lifestyle and Christian discussion.
practice, one tending towards the believer’s individual
Christian living and the other tending towards the
believer-in-community. In the first, Christian
education is concerned not simply with learning about Figure 5.1 Categories of participation
Christianity but with becoming Christian in attitudes, beliefs and lifestyle (Astley, 2000a, p.2). This central feature of Category A was
described by AJ, 2.32, 66; AP, 2.94; BJ, 3.58 and DB, 2.60-62. This may be understood as participating in Christian faith through
exercising faith in one’s life.

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The second is a community-focused perspective, self-consciously participating in Christian faith with others, and in this respect is distinct
from categories B and C in which informants primarily focused on themselves. In this aspect of this category, informants perceived their
views may influence others, and that their comments would be used by viewers in developing their own ideas, described by AH (1.96) and
observed by CN (1D3.80) among the clergy contributors in the first resource. Personal views were, then, described within a context of
others’ views. This offers insights into a participatory perspective on Christian education (Driesden, Hermans & De Jong, 2005, p.247) and
suggests value lies in using video-clips both as a means of encouraging articulations of views and making them available to others.
Awareness of subsequent availability and use may influence the articulations made in video-clips (AJ, 3.49).

This category’s two aspects are simultaneously liberating and challenging, offering possibilities of disseminating a range of viewpoints on
Christian thinking and living. As such it offers one response to Drane’s charge of ‘McDonaldization’ of spirituality (Drane, 2008b, p.27) by
broadening the range of contributions. The challenge is that whilst facilitating more contributions, this still demands verbal activity.
Contributors need to speak in clips and discussions. Speaking may have replaced writing, but words are still needed (Drane, 2008b, p.27).

Non-verbal communication elements may have been captured through demeanour, gesture and facial expressions (DF, 3.24, 47).
Nevertheless focusing on discourse without encouraging other communication forms is, arguably, restrictive and illustrates that church
settings may offer limited participation opportunities (Lee, 2000, p.112; Hull, 1985, p.18; Brueggemann, 1996, p.79) partly due to
Christian educators' lack of imagination or planning. However this tension also illustrates the central part played by language in
participation (Tusting, 2005, p.40) echoing issues raised in sections 1.0 and 5.3.2. It may not be possible, or wise, to remove
communicating in words; the question raised is whether communication in this setting should be confined to particular verbal content and
processes. It also highlights that church culture at times privileges individual success over collaboration (Martin & De Pison, 2005, p.159-
61), for the producer principally sought individual contributions without further reflection on deeper collective issues.

Despite these limitations, this category suggests there is value in seeing each learner in a wider social setting (Lave & Wenger, 1991, p.52)
and supports investigating ways in which social or cultural forces enable individuals to act or think in particular ways (Marton & Booth,
1997, p.11). Vygotsky’s social view of development offers an orienting perspective which has not been explored fully in Christian education
(Estep, 2002, pp.144-145). More detailed consideration of his theories may inform Christian education, particularly since they emphasise
the communal nature of learning (Lee, 2000, p.109) with a view to influencing how life is lived in community (Groome, 1999, p.15),
referred to by CM (2.110).

This category has practical implications. It suggests a communal, not solely Ministerial, responsibility for faith growth and indicates that
tasks of supporting reflection may be more widely shared and facilitated by the types of resources used here. This view challenges
traditional understandings of ministry roles and is discussed further in section 6.5.2.

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5.2.1.2 Category B: cognitive participation

Experiences classified in this category built upon a sufficient identity of participation 109 to permit engagement with the text and with others’
views. There was a willingness to expand knowledge and develop understanding of concepts, a distinction referred to by Moreno and
Mayer (2007, p.312) who describe two activities of adding information to what is already known, and making better sense of it. Informants
described both these activities as they read the text, watched video-clips and took part in discussion groups, doing so without expressing
anxiety about their perceived membership of the community (DC, 2.26-7; CS, 1.23,25; DA, 2.83, 87). Through this, tolerance was
increased (CY, 2.55), more effort was made to understand ideas (CM, 1.78) and meanings were clarified (DA, 2.16).

This category also suggests that content, “their interpretation of the passage” (CN, 1D3.17) and process, “they were there showing you in
a sense,” (CT, 1D3.204) are connected (Astley, 2002a, p.12). Some informants appeared to see the way in which a discussion in this
setting might proceed as this was modelled to them, something vicarious learning suggests (McKendree et al., 1998b, p.115). This
appeared a subtle use of video, not overtly describing an educational intention but permitting users to enter into activities which generated
thoughtful reflection (CN, 1D3.80).

Sufficient confidence of membership permitted meaningful participation, a process of negotiating meaning which achieves a shared
understanding (Garavan, Carberry & Murphy, 2007, p.37) whilst recognising varied nuances, interpretations and applications. This results
in two observations: first, that not all members think alike (DH, 3.17); and second, that meanings and understandings must be
‘negotiated’ among members (Wenger, 1998, p.54), issues addressed in sections 5.2.3.2 and 5.2.3.3.

Providing access to real examples of others articulating their views may encourage persistence in cognitively challenging experiences and
in considering and articulating views with greater honesty (CW, 3.39), possibly connected with the courage to articulate views different
from others. Watching others articulating their views may promote participation in a similar discourse form (DF, 3.24,47), though the effect
of video-clip material in restricting rather than supporting expression of varied views requires to be considered and was not investigated in
detail in this research.

5.2.1.3 Category C: identity of participation

The third category highlights the importance of a perception of belonging and being a valued member of a community. Exploration
through discourse is a luxury which those who perceive themselves clinging to the periphery of membership may not afford. Some
informants described anxiety anticipating an obligation to speak at discussion groups. DA described unease remaining silent when a
contribution seemed to be required (2.188) while DB considered non-participation in discussions was a right, though not as beneficial as
contributing (2.191).
109 This is described in section 5.2.1.3.

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Demanding contributions from relative newcomers in particular but unspecified ways or to undisclosed standards may be perceived as
“terrifying,” “frightening,”or “overawing” (CW, 2.165) and may account for the variety of described experiences of discussions. For some
they were intimidating, unhelpful, awkward, disappointing, and involved posturing more than discussing (AP, 2.176; AJ, 2.167). Others,
though, describe discussions as enjoyable, interesting and friendly, giving insights into others’ readings of the text and opportunities to
hear different views (CM, 2.152).

Contributing to group discussion is a central practice and not a peripheral activity in a discoursing community of this type. In this respect it
is similar to meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous (‘A.A.’) in which Lave and Wenger (1991) noted that:

‘Language is part of practice, and it is in practice that people learn. In Cain’s ethnographic study of identity construction in A.A.,
talk is a central medium of transformation.’
(Ibid., p.85)

Awareness of one’s involvement in a community comes partly through contributing to its discussions. By such activity one comes to
possess an ‘identity of participation.’ Wenger uses this phrase to describe the two-way process of contributing to a community and being
self-aware of one’s right and ability to do so110.

This identity has three parts. First, participants need to know that they may participate or belong, an issue of identity rather than resulting
from accreditation. It is connected with perceiving one has a right to participate, knowing there is a ‘place at the table’ which one may
justifiably occupy, which is not entirely dependent on the content of one’s contributions or ‘saying the right thing’ (AP, 3.81). The second is
possessing skills necessary to engage with the Christian tradition. This involves handling both insights and views from the past which are
frequently transmitted in texts (CM, 1.191), and views of other contemporary believers which are frequently transmitted in spoken words.
Participating in the community through group discussion requires combined skills of reading, listening, assessing, interpreting and
responding quickly to dialogue. Finally, participants need to have a motivation to participate as they understand their membership of a
community which assists their faith growth and depends, to some extent, on their participation for its life and development.

Elements of this identity formed a theme in this category. Fear of not having ‘right’ answers may inhibit sharing tentative, developing views
(AP, 3.81) and in extreme cases may preclude participation. This potentially leads the community in a conservative direction where
contributions perceived as ‘correct’ are exchanged whilst critical or imaginative ones are suppressed, possibly leading to ‘surprisingly
narrow perspectives’ in some Christian communities (Holdsworth, 2003, p.18). Nonetheless some shared understanding among
participants is essential to meaningful participation (Wenger, 1998, p.53). There is some tension, then, between membership founded on
‘right speaking’ and that based on an identity of participation, with the latter partly supported through audio-visual clips of other
community members. This raises issues of learning relationships and social literacies 111.
110 This is described in section 2.4.1.
111 These are discussed in section 5.2.2.1.

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Participation may not only be understood as joining a community but as being accompanied in thinking. CW, an active church-goer for
many years but who had not participated in group discussions, described perceiving through video-clips that others were engaged in
similar tasks of reflecting on the text. This awareness of companionship, albeit at some distance, developed a sense of confidence in
considering the subject and participating in further groups within the congregation (CW, 2.102).

5.2.1.4 Category D: forms of non-participation

Small groups are a traditional and widely used means of participating in Christian education (Astley & Christie, 2007, p.22; Fleischer, 2004,
p.323; Withnall, 1986, p.35; Hull, 1985, p.17; Fraser, 1980, p.45). Potential benefits of group discussion include its lively and brisk style,
the ability to address a number of issues, pose questions and suggest alternative scenarios. These are also potential drawbacks of group
discussions. This category contained descriptions of non-participation in two forms.

First, a brisk pace makes it easy to miss an insufficiently loud or distinct contribution (Foltz, 1986, p.32), possibly resulting in losing a ‘train
of thought’ (Ibid.; 49). Pace may also preclude making useful, timely contributions if there is insufficient opportunity to reflect, formulate
and articulate a view. Rapid interchange may become a bombardment by information and opinions, resulting in non-participation through
a sense of anxiety impeding contributions (Ibid., p.49). However where pace is limited to the rate of the least able member or the flow is
constantly interrupted to ascertain everyone is keeping up, there may be a sense of frustration. Whilst ‘heated oral discussions’ may be too
much for some (Nicholls, no date), “competitive” or “brainstorming” discussions were described positively (AH, 1.60). This suggests that
immediacy has both positive and negative aspects. The cut and thrust which makes some anxious is the engine which fires others’
enthusiasm. Forbearance on the part of some may require to be matched by others’ developing knowledge, skills and confidence in order
to participate in discussions.

Second, over-involvement or taking charge of the group agenda (DA, 2.161) may result in little genuine participation, resulting from poor
group leadership or flowing from experience driving competence. This occurs where the experiences or preoccupations of individuals lie
out-with the competence of the community and individuals attempt to realign the community to their experience in order to establish
membership (Wenger, 1998, p.138). Elements of some group discussions were described as ‘posturing’ which did not encourage AJ
(2.167), who had attended a number of prior discussions, from participating fully with the subject. This approach in discussion was
adopted by a new church member who was perhaps anxious to establish membership within the community or to defend significant
formative experiences which differed from views being expressed (Harris and Shelswell, 2005, p.169). Collaboration involves power
relations among participants which affect issues such as trust (Roberts, 2006, p.628). Participation by means of a strongly-worded
statement which admits of no other viewpoints may close down alternative possibilities and discourage engagement (AP, 2.176).

Yet CT who had attended few church discussion groups considered that hearing others’ views supported self-development (1D3.228) and
that discussions were a safe place to share thoughts which assisted with Christian living (1D3.191-5). Perceptions of contributions may

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themselves vary. There is a balance between discussing issues perceived directly to be relevant to adult learners and allowing experience
to supersede competence.

The idea of participation or involvement, therefore, appears both widespread in research conversations, and at times featured prominently
where responses discouraging involvement were received.

5.2.2 Participation and learning

Connecting participation and learning suggests that learning relationships may be relevant to learning and a discussion of their role forms
the first part of this section, after which connections with communication technologies and religious education are made. Three social
aspects of participation are then raised, namely discernment and variation, negotiating meaning and legitimate peripheral participation
before possibilities for technology roles in supporting vicarious learning are discussed.

5.2.2.1 Learning relationships

Learning relationships are connections made among people which influence learning (Mayes & Crossan, 2007, p.292). While varied, they
involve modelling an approach to learning based on some connection with another person in the learning community (Ibid., p.291). The
closer the learner’s identification, the more likely the relationship will influence learning. This includes learners’ perceived identities as
involved with others and being part of a community of learning, ‘important in processes of engagement with learning in the widest sense’
(Ibid., p.298).

Mayes et al., (2002) build on earlier work by Fowler and Mayes (1999) to suggest that vicarious learning ought to relate primarily to ‘the
learner’s personal identification with others’ (Ibid., p.225). Learning on this view is broader than connections made with a subject matter
or resources. ‘Learning is always situated in a social context’ (Mayes, 1995, para. 21), that is, education occurs through relationships
(Kramer, 2001, p.66; Buber, 1947, p.135). Attending to influential learning relationships (Cuban, 1986, p.96) accordingly appears wise
(Brown, 2000, p.20) given that:

‘Smith found it strange that we all believe that people learn by the company they keep, but that we have designed learning
theories and environments that disregard the theory.’
(Greeno, Collins and Resnick, 1996, p.26)

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Perceptions of peers’ attitudes influence a learner’s approach (Mayes, 1999, p.7; cp. Marshall, 2004, pp.186-7), supporting or inhibiting
continuing involvement. Cooling (2005, p.11) argues that relationships in a church context are ‘of paramount importance’ in respect of
learning.

Benefits of viewing peers have been noted to include a sense of social presence (Steeples, 2002, p.8), hearing how they speak about a
subject, and offering affective support as others are seen to find thinking challenging (McKendree et al., 1998b, p.115). Values and beliefs
are developed through social interactions (McKenzie, 1986, p.14) so encouraging relationships which support learning is important.
Technology may be used to support relationships which encourage learning (Brown, 2000, p.20) both within and beyond Christian
education.

Such development of relationships is reminiscent of the New Testament where ‘communication is nearly always in the context of a
dialogue’ (Holdsworth, 2003, p.15). Presenting information alone is inadequate to support adult Christian learning, even using modern
communication technologies, because a fundamental aspect of this learning is a developing awareness of membership of a discourse
community. This is a contested view in religious education which has seen technology as a primarily transmissive tool as described in
section 1.4.1, a view which is now discussed.

5.2.2.2 Learning relationships, religious education and communication technology

Sarno (1987) connected modern Protestant religious education in America with the rise of mass media communication (Ibid., p.10) and
argued that embracing audio-visual technology was the only appropriate route for religious education’s development:

‘The most effective way to communicate in today’s world is by using audio-visual media.’
(Ibid., p.36)

His argument appears restricted to using new media within existing teaching paradigms, so in describing ‘significant role changes’ required
of teachers Sarno deals largely with media-literacy, mentioning enticingly but only briefly that teachers ought also to:

‘abandon their traditional authoritarian roles and be more willing to become fellow-participants in a mutual learning process.’
(Ibid., p.79)

Sarno advocates that learners move away from passivity but only to the extent of becoming aware of the influence of mass-media on their
lives and attitudes, a skill he describes as the ‘more participatory role in their own education’ (Ibid., p.79).

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This view has been overtaken by developments in communication technologies which were incapable of being anticipated and which offer
participation possibilities. These present challenges which have yet to be explored fully in education (Thompson, 2007, p.1). Bates and
Poole considered that:

‘Media, such as video, audio, and computing can provide teachers with alternative channels of mediation.’
(Bates & Poole, 2003, p.30; emphasis added.)

Yet three years later a growing focus on student-produced video was observed (Bijnens et al., 2006, p.11). This investigation approaches
religious education not solely as a subject to be communicated but as participation in certain activities, and asks what impact video may
have in supporting this participation. In doing so it makes a contribution to knowledge in this field.

In this investigation video was found to support participation. The additional information it supplied over text appeared to encourage a
sense of presence (Knudsen, 2004, p.6) and a sense of spanning time and space (Enlund, 2001, p.2) was perceived even though users
were aware the video-recorded conversations in the resources had occurred earlier and in another location. Simultaneous listening to a
conversation and inner cognitive activity were the synchronous events leading to a perception of presence shared with those in video-clips
(CW, 2.73-81, CM, 2.110), something achieved with widely available technology among peer church-goers with pre-existing relationships,
able to be maintained by limited perceptual clues (Knudsen, 2004, p.51).

The resources supported participation as they ‘involved’ users and contributors (DF, 3.60-62) through reading and watching the material
and also, in the second and third resources, creating video-clips in recorded conversations. Technical features encourage participation, so
the audio volume of video-clips could be altered which CT (1.289) reported as helpful. Whilst subtitles were not added to video-clips this
would be feasible, though requiring further resources.

Face-to-face presence may discourage further participation (AT, 0.55-71). CS described a lack of confidence articulating a view in a group,
connected with earlier non-affirming experiences (1.9-11). This conservative picture of participation suggests that contributions, or not,
may be based on perceptions of others’ views. However, some group discussions were profitable and positive experiences of contributing
were considered helpful for learning (CR, 2.178).

Video-clips were found to support participation in subsequent discussion groups. AS described gaining confidence to contribute through
seeing others’ similar activity (3.70). CW described helpful confirmation from video-clips that her views were not dissimilar to others’
(2.14), leading to participation through articulating views in a subsequent resource and greater church involvement (2.101-2).

Social cognitive approaches to learning recognise motivational and social as well as cognitive benefits of participating in learning
experiences (Bennett, Howe & Truswell, 2002, p.7; Mayes et al., 2002, p.220) and this extends to Christian educators who are aware that

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the setting affects the participant (Groome, 1999, p.114). Unsurprisingly, some informants described in positive terms their experiences of
general social engagement with others in church (CL, 0.45) as well as through using the resources (CT, 1.115-21; CW, 2.73-81).

5.2.3 Movement among categories

The outcome space is a hierarchical and logically-connected ordering of observed categories. As such it does not seek to privilege one
category over another and recognises variations in experiencing the phenomenon. This study adopts a transformatory perspective of
Christian education which encourages conjoining personal and cultural narratives aimed at supporting developments in individuals and
communities.

Phenomenography as an empirical approach does not require a view to be taken with regard to progression, though many
phenomenographic studies are influenced by a desire to improve learning. This investigation aims to capture and describe experiences of
using the resources and discussing, but stopping at these limits its catalytic value. Coupling the analysis presented with a transformatory
perspective of Christian education offers insight into possibilities for development in Christian learning which are explored in sections
5.2.3.1 and 5.2.3.2, while ways of supporting this are suggested in section 5.2.3.3 and roles for clergy are suggested in section 5.2.3.4.

5.2.3.1 Development in Christian learning

The developmental aspect of Christian education (Astley, 2000a, p.2) suggests church-goers’ development through the categories in Figure
5.1 may be encouraged as part of experiences of participating in a faith community. Whilst other developments from Astley’s taxonomy
(Astley, 2000a, pp.5-6) ought also to be expected, attitudes and skills concerning participation in the Christian community might be
considered important. To the extent that awareness of such participation has not been explicitly identified in Christian education, this
insight offers a contribution to knowledge in this area.

An attempt to recognise some element of progression is indicated in Figure 5.1 above through arrows moving from a lower category to the
next higher one, tentatively suggesting that each lower category provides a base from which progress may be made to a higher category.
Whilst Category D is separate in the diagram, it may be possible for movement towards an identity of participation and beyond to occur,
and this is indicated by a hatched arrow.

An adequate identity of participation supports engagement in reflecting on deeply-held and complex issues. People need to be aware that,
even with limited knowledge or experience of engaging in dialogue with others on issues of life or Christian tradition, they are still
welcome to ‘walk in this way’.

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Gaining a sufficient identity of participation may permit community members to explore aspects of their understandings and learn more
about the Christian tradition and others’ perspectives without being required either to accept it wholesale or be excluded from this
exploration through a sense of not-belonging. Included in this process is a developing ability to articulate current thinking and to reflect
with increasing discernment and a critical view on other information from a variety of sources.

In turn, this development of knowledge and skills, which also influences self-perceptions of one’s identity of participation, may influence
life decisions and attitudes. Included within these developing attitudes, on this account, are ones concerning participation. Those whose
lives are influenced by their reflecting may come to recognise that the community, other members, and potential members, all to some
extent rely on their appropriate support if they are to grow in Christian faith.

The arrow from Category A to C accordingly indicates that the highest category of description includes some sense of responsibility to help
relative newcomers112 to develop an identity of participation which will enable them to grow in faith, an arguably different perspective from
Wenger’s conservative view of communities of practice (Tusting, 2005, p.44). Established community members may not intend that new-
comers are made in their image but be concerned that they belong sufficiently to grow into full, though perhaps challengingly different,
participants within the Christian community. Therefore the concept of discernment and variation, not thoroughly explored by Wenger but
addressed by others, requires to be discussed.

5.2.3.2 Discernment and variation

Marton and Wing (2005, p.336) argue that all meaning flows from discernment among variation, and Green (2005) reads Bowden and
Marton (1998, 2004) to argue that variation is therefore essential to develop learners’ skills of discernment (Green, 2005, p.294). Learning,
on this view, occurs not by being told but through having opportunities to discern among different ways of understanding concepts. Whilst
different conceptualisations could be developed and presented by a teacher or text (CR, 2.70) they could also be generated by learners
who, Hella and Wright (2009, p.58) suggest, bring a range of perspectives which a phenomenographic approach may capture. This follows
Hella’s (2008) argument, based on Marton and Booth (1997), that:

‘Qualitative differences are critical for learning, because learning is about being able to discern new aspects in terms of
experienced variation within and between varying aspects ... one cannot discern a feature that is always present.’
(Hella, 2008, p.248)

Whilst few studies have utilised this concept of variation in religious education (Hella, 2008, p.249) its insight may be useful in this
investigation. Without recognising that many variations exist and being aware of the need to discern among them, community membership
may rest on a foundation of perceived conformity rather than an identity of participation. Making variation explicit, demonstrated for
112 These may not be newcomers to Christian faith or the faith community but to exploring faith issues in a discourse environment.

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example through multiple video-clips, and encouraging discernment may be an important step in supporting learning where a sufficient
identity of participation already exists.

Offering variety is not to argue that all views are correct: a deal of these may be wrong. The utility lies in the opportunity to discern from
among those presented. This may account for informants’ description of using video-clips to stimulate their thinking (CS, 1.23). No
informants described hearing others’ views as confusing. Rather, exposure to differing views or alternative expressions appeared to aid
reflecting on the subject. Such variation gives a quality of conditionality to any topic which increases abilities to make ever finer
distinctions between views, termed ‘mindfulness’ (Langer, 1997, pp.28, 106). The perspective of every person is, then, a means for others
to understand their own views better (Ibid., p.135). This process of ‘thinking through others’ may explain in part the described learning
benefit of hearing others’ views on a subject (Hess, 2002, p.33).

Whilst articulating ideas knowing others will view these appears daunting, no expressed anxieties in contributing were found in Category B
and articulation was understood partly as a means of developing one’s views. This echoes the description of Martin Luther that he did not
know what he believed until he heard himself saying it (Hull, 1985, p.112). Speaking may be supported so that the combined emotional
and cognitive experience within a social setting may enable a developing confidence to think and speak further: ‘it is the meeting which is
educationally fruitful’ (Buber, 1947, p.135). However, disseminating a range of views requires some means for handling difference, offered
by negotiating meaning.

5.2.3.3 Negotiating meaning

A range of views must be ‘negotiated’ among community members which partly connotes bargaining, at least over a shared
understanding, though this need not necessarily lead to literal and complete agreement (Wenger, 1998, p.84). Negotiating meaning may,
however, also be understood as a process of ‘navigating’ a subject domain including coming to a broader awareness and appreciation of
possible meanings, achieved through participation and using a range of objects, practices and cultures (Wenger, 1998, p.227). Negotiation
may operate in two directions. The bargaining process may enable learners to move around a subject domain with greater confidence and
cognitive ease, and such greater facility in traversing the subject may empower participants more readily to share their understandings
and defend positions.

Other people’s views were provided throughout the resources, and this investigation emphasises that knowing is social, involving others
(CR, 2.128; DB, 2.72). No informants used material beyond the resources except AH and who nevertheless found the discussion groups
helpful and stimulating (1.60). This investigation suggests that knowing may be supported through offering varied views and enabling
negotiation of meaning through reflection on a text, video-clips and in discussion.

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If learning is understood in terms of relations among people and objects (Lave & Wenger, 1991, p.51-2) then Christian education which
supports only private, individualistic learning may be considered incomplete as well as practically unhelpful (Brueggemann, 1996, p.79;
Hull, 1985, p.18). This is due in part to a lack of variation through the failure to offer opportunities to negotiate meaning among
community members.

This investigation accordingly advocates greater student participation in learning (Greeno, Collins & Resnick, 1996, p.24), given that
knowledge is distributed among people and artefacts (Brown, 2000, p.15). It suggests that meaning in theological education may be
created through student and expert collaboration (Hess, 2002, p.37) and also that wider issues of community and the use of power cannot
be ignored (Messer, 2003, p.113; Pullinger, 2001, p.143). Accordingly this research has not adopted an individualist, cognitive perspective
where the focus is on individual learning (Cobb and Bowers, 1999, p.7) and has noted influential communal aspects within experiences of
participation.

Group discussions may have potentially negative aspects including those identified in the preliminary investigation. However they may also
allow realistic and worthwhile learning activities as well as provide feedback (Mayes, 2002, p.2-3). Even if the quality of discussions varies,
there are social and emotional benefits of expressing ideas and defending viewpoints within a group (Schank, 2001, p.1). This
investigation indicates that whilst sharing varied views requires sufficiently strong perceptions of identities of participation, it aids the
development of discernment skills.

5.2.3.4 Access and power relationships

Contributing to a resource is more than participating in a resource-supported discussion. Resources may be considered products created
by the knowledgeable for the needy ignorant, but seeing one’s contribution as part of a resource may appropriately convey a sense of its,
and by extension the contributor’s, worth (DB, 2.20; CM, 2.114-6). Grouping links to video-clips in the third resource according to similarity
of contribution and not distinguishing among contributors conveys an impression of equality. Contributions from peers encouraged greater
reflection on the subject (DB, 2.28). In contrast, in the first resource, informants suggested clerical contributions were less amenable to
critique or discussion.

Issues of power and relationships among members are implicitly present in group discussions. Resources permitting many voices to be
heard may support increased participation though issues of power, control and editorial decision-making remain. While technology may
overcome distances of space and time, bridging social distance may be more challenging (Brown & Duguid, 2002, p.224). Electronic tools
afford greater opportunities to seek and share knowledge both with peers and tutors (Hara, Bonk & Angeli, 2000, p.117) and assist
learners who have limited opportunity to participate in group discussion (McKendree & Mayes, 1997, p.2). It is, however, the use made of
the technology that remains important (Jinkins, 2002, p.55).

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Therefore supporting access is a key aim for technology. This includes issues of availability of necessary infrastructure and skills. The
networks created through technology may themselves alienate as much as liberate (Bogan & Hartman, 1998). Accordingly it may be better
to think of technology creating spaces where a range of social interactions may occur (McFarlane, 2003, p.224), for good and ill, polarising
or unifying an already divided educational system (Brown & Duguid, 2002, p.226). Some technology uses may promote rather than inhibit
participation, and so relationships between the resources and participation now require to be discussed.

5.3 Relationship between the resources and participation

The resources each included a text and video-clips and represent a novel use of technology in this setting. The resources’ influence on
participation by presenting text and dialogue are now discussed.

5.3.1 Texts and participation

Theological reflection frequently involves textual literacy (Farley, 2005, p.201) and access to earlier Christian thought is largely gained
through texts even where Christianity is understood as reflecting on lived experience (Fraser, 1980, pp.15, 51). Social literacy and textual
literacy may be combined where, for example, members of a group independently read the same text and thereafter engage in discussion
(Esselman, 2004, p.167).

Texts in the resources provided a structured overview to the subject (Laurillard, 1995, p.186), presented a coherent argument of
publishable quality to stimulate discussion, and offered one means of incorporating broader, sometimes challenging views. Including texts
may have resulted from the producer’s un-reflected bias toward written material or the culture of the setting which emphasises literacy
artefacts.

Watching video-clips influenced and supported some informants’ reading 113 particularly where texts were found difficult and demanding.
Whilst using resources introduced additional demands, video-clips’ support for textual literacy challenges not the central place of texts
within Christian education but a dependence on textual literacy to the exclusion of other communication means, particularly by and among
learners. Astley argues that emphasis should be placed on learners’ activity rather than on content (Astley, 2002a, p.18) and that faith is
developed and altered through participation with others (Ibid., p.20). Faith is simultaneously an individual commitment and a communal
act, developed by encountering variation (Ibid., p.21) as earlier described. Accordingly whilst requiring multi-literacy proficiencies is
demanding, benefits may be gained from exploiting them. Where these literacy proficiencies already exist it would seem wise to utilise
them.

113 This is discussed in section 5.4.2.

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Information provided only through texts is, like preaching, generally one-way communication. This investigation supported the sharing of
developing, tentative (Ibid., p.61), often personal theological views among ordinary theologians. This encourages contributions to be
considered valuable to the faith community (CM, 2.152) though it demands attention as others listen attentively (Ibid., p.114) and
encourages not only talk but action and practice to be taken seriously (Ibid., p.115). The sharing of views by people engaged in living
Christian faith differs from comments, however authoritative, which are limited to observations of practice (Wittgenstein, 1980, p.38).

Skills in participating, a part of social literacy, may support learning and be a valuable addition to textual literacy. This investigation
suggests that value lies in developing and exploiting social literacies particularly through dialogue, an issue which is now discussed.

5.3.2 Dialogue and participation

The practice of the community investigated here is largely discourse and dialogue 114, widely regarded as a fundamental part of learning
(Lave & Wenger, 1991, p.105; McKendree et al., 1998b, p.112; Mayes, 1999, p.27; Kramer, 2001, p.66) used by Jesus (Cabral, 1998, p.3;
Holdsworth, 2003, p.15), Socrates and Freire (Hill-Brennan, 1988, p.58). Hull notes, though, that the questioning and challenging
dialogues of Jesus and Socrates resulted in their executions (Hull, 1985, p.101). Dialogue may, then, be regarded as both necessary and
risky. Elements of the resources’ influence on dialogue include the ability to engage peripherally in dialogue activities and is now discussed.

5.3.2.1 Peripheral participation in dialogue activities

Until recently, observing spoken contributions to a discussion needed observers’ presence with a corresponding sense that the cost of
attendance should be contribution (DA, 2.188 ; DB, 2.191). Whilst a sense of valued membership supports the ability to contribute, an
impasse arises if the two are too tightly coupled. Some participants may gain more from initially greater observation, making limited
appropriate contributions rather than feeling compelled to contribute too much, too soon (DF, 3.24,47).

Communication technology makes earlier spoken contributions available to users in a multimedia resource (Mayes & Fowler, 1999, p.10;
Mayes et al., 2002; Barclay, 2006, 2008, 2009) without a requirement or possibility of contributing. Whilst this lack of ability to respond
may have negative consequences it may also support involvement by encouraging an identity of participation to develop which may in turn
provide both motivation to participate in group discussions and some of the skills necessary to do so.

Some informants in Category A offered their discourse in discussion (AH, 1.96) and in video (DB, 2.127) in part to support others’
understanding, and those in Category B found the process of articulating on video challenging and helpful (AS, 3.18-24, 66-7; DE, 3.50-4).

114 From the immediately preceding paragraph it may be considered that this is a limitation created partly by the context and the researcher in the role of Minister.

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What accounts for the differences between these described experiences of relative freedom to discourse, and the anxiety at times
described in Category C (CW, 2.14-15, 44-46; CS, 1.9-11)?

An important step towards full participation is legitimate peripheral participation (Lave & Wenger, 1991), valid involvement which is not
central to the community but which permits learners to observe as well as to participate to a limited extent in valued practice. Apprentices
participate both through observing experts and ‘other learners with varying degrees of skill’ (Collins, Brown & Newman, 1989, p.456), and
by making use of opportunities for practice (Berryman, 1991, p.2) in which dialogue plays an integral part:

‘For newcomers then the purpose is not to learn from talk as a substitute for legitimate peripheral participation; it is to learn to
talk as a key to legitimate peripheral participation.’
(Lave and Wenger, 1991, p.109)

Some church practices such as worship services do not encourage widespread discourse, leaving that to informal contexts for the majority
of Christians (Astley, 2002a, p.5). This practice may implicitly, though incorrectly, suggest their views are insufficiently valuable for a wider
audience (Fraser, 1980, p.29). Where discourse is encouraged in group discussion within a congregational education programme,
participation requires confident knowledge of sufficient background information sourced from texts, others’ contributions and the life
experiences which adult learners bring to Christian education (Lee, 2000, p.114).

It is tautologous to suggest that discussion needs appropriate discourse, but discussion of faith cannot be divorced from personal faith
issues. Wittgenstein’s view that faith is concerned with what people do rather than what they say or speculate (Wittgenstein, 1953,
p.§344, p.110 in Astley, 2002a, p.116; Wittgenstein, 1980, pp.32, 73) is a reminder that faith and action may be less clearly separated in a
non-academic setting. The question then arises: how might church-goers who are hesitant to discuss aspects of their faith be encouraged
to do so among one another?

5.3.2.2 Encouraging dialogue concerning faith

Why should faith be difficult to discuss? This investigation was partly prompted by the observation that whilst some are able to grow
apparently naturally into a community discoursing about faith, there are those for whom this does not occur, and discourse about faith
remains too challenging to attempt. This is an apparently widespread experience in this congregation among a number of long-standing
church-goers. Must they forever be relegated to the margins of a community of discourse? How can “terrifying” (CW, 2.165) discussions be
made less daunting?

Astley argues that involvement in Christian living requires some self-disclosure or articulation to encourage Christian people to be
participants with others in an authentic life of faith, not merely to be readers or observers:

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‘The church’s educational ministry, therefore, must be more radical. It must create participants.’
(Astley, 2002a, pp.33, emphasis added.)

The strength and cost of personal Christian faith is that it is personal, thereby highly influential but with a consequently high cost if such
views are dismissed or considered unimportant by others (Ibid., pp.65, 147). Revealing aspects of ourselves to others is existentially
challenging:

‘It might also be said: hate between human beings comes from our cutting ourselves off from each other. Because we don't
want anyone else to see inside us, since it's not a pretty sight in there.’
(Wittgenstein, 1980, p.52)

Despite the high cost, the need to participate is pressing. Christian education should create communities of people who ‘develop their
native tongue and act accordingly.’ (Lindbeck, 1984, cited in Astley, 2002a, p.117), suggesting that dialogue, though challenging, is
essential to the process of faithful living in community.

Although ‘personal’ faith is easy to dismiss, it is clearly of value to those holding it (Ibid., p.66) and probably more widely, though in
practice it may be overlooked in favour of specialist theology or seemingly authoritative views communicated by specific people within
congregations (Ibid., p.50). The tension is that while inherently precious, ordinary theologians’ views may be regarded as too personal,
idiosyncratic (Ibid., p.59) and commonplace for public communication (Ibid., p.60), yet sharing them may be a central part of Christian
education, something whose support is attempted in this investigation.

The nature of such sharing is clarified through a distinction made by Stenning et al., (1999, p.344) between exposition, which is adding
new material, and derivation, which is saying differently what has already been said . Derivation, not exposition, demands listening,
interpreting and applying the content of exposition. Adding new material unconnected from previous contributions is the more readily
practised activity in group discussions. McKendree et al., (1998b, p.113) argue vicarious learning supports modelling the derivation
process, something implicitly described by CS (1.23,25) and CM (2.35-42). Seeing derivation in video-clips may encourage it in discussion.

This may be achieved initially in limited and peripheral ways. Vicarious learning may provide both observation and limited contribution
experiences. The daunting requirement to contribute to group discussion could be removed by temporarily making speaking an
unnecessary or impossible component of the listening and reflecting process. Decoupling listening from speaking may support developing
abilities to contribute, providing discourse activities only after opportunities have been given to observe others, to derive personal views
and to see that anticipated tasks are achievable (AS, 3.70-71; DF, 3.24,47).

Such access to examples of others describing their understandings of the subject, their processes of thinking about it and some
applications they make to life situations, may be helpful. It is an approach potentially useful beyond relative novices. Mary Hess who is

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Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at Luther Seminary in Minnesota, advocates it even for professors who might benefit from
listening for a time to understand communities’ approaches to a subject rather than ‘wade right into them,’ in a manner she describes as
sometimes ‘confrontational’ (Hess, 2005a, p.88).

Stenning et al. (1999, p.341) describe a range of benefits of vicarious learning including the sense of membership of a community of
learners. Reports of companionship or being accompanied in cognitive efforts to understand relevant issues from CP, 1.36-7; CR, 1.103-
7,181-3 and CT, 1.115-121 may reflect a similar experience. Observing others discoursing about a subject operates at a number of levels.
It gives a potentially authentic example of how such a conversation might proceed, it models processes of listening to others or reading
what others have written and deriving responses to this in a range of ways, and it supports observing learners to develop some affinity
with peers whom they watch. Vicarious learning not only fosters a sense of belonging but influences approaches to learning (Mayes, et al.,
2002, p.213) by demonstrating what being involved in this group of learners is like, rather than by providing pre-packaged answers
(Mayes, 2002, p.5).

Watching others dialogue about the subject has other benefits. Lowering or removing response requirements may allow more effort to be
devoted to understanding the content of the dialogue and processes of derivation or exposition within it (McKendree et al., 1998b, p.112).
Although observation does not teach participation, acts of participating are nevertheless demonstrated and may be reflected upon or
mentally rehearsed by the observing learner (Wouters, Tabbers & Paas, 2007, p.329). Such exemplification permits learning from others’
talk.

Lave and Wenger advocate newcomers’ learning to talk and not merely observing it. Talk is encouraged by offering early possibilities for
articulating views (CM, 2.129-30; AJ, 3.49; AS, 3.18-24, 66-7; DE, 3.50-54) and video-recording these allows repeated attempts at
articulation and editing before they are displayed to others. Their dissemination is cognitively valuable, stimulating greater effort (AS, 3.18-
24, 66-7; DE, 3.50-54) though not without daunting aspects (DE, 3.16). This is distinct from having one’s silence in group discussions
masked by others’ contributions (AP, 3.116-130). The largely individual video-recorded contributions demonstrated contributors’ unique
views (CM, 2.114-6) in a persistent form which may be viewed repeatedly and when convenient (AJ, 2.60). Reading, watching and
articulating as a combined activity is more demanding and involving than reading alone (DF, 3.60-62).

Bandura notes that through electronic media, symbolic modelling is accessible to many and is potentially influential on belief systems and
lifestyles (Bandura, 2003, p.169). Despite being investigated in tertiary education more broadly its use in Christian education has not been
explored. Oman and Thoresen’s suggested programme has influenced this investigation:

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‘In the light of evidence described earlier, we believe that a potentially powerful intervention strategy would be to give people
the tools to establish effective relationships with individually appropriate spiritual models whose lives facilitate the observational
learning of important spiritual skills. Contact with such models might in part be mediated through various community or group
contexts, with information about model behaviour obtained from sacred texts of all kinds, from live observation, or from both.
Informed by relevant psychological theory, interventions to facilitate spiritual modelling might target either individuals or the
social environment, for example, by altering a community’s exposure to media to include more positive and fewer negative
spiritual modelling influences.’
(Oman & Thoresen, 2003, p.158)

This study suggests that multimedia resources incorporating video-clips of proximate models articulating views on a subject combined with
a text may be a facilitating tool, potentially influencing attitudes to tasks such as discussing issues of faith. Visual media such as television
have been recognised as an ‘influential source of social learning’ (Bandura, 1986, p.70) who presciently described using computer-
controlled visual media to support learning many useful skills.

5.3.2.3 Discourse as a communication medium

Video-clips captured professional clergy and church-goers’ spoken views, a natural way of communicating in this setting permitting
otherwise fleeting oral contributions to be made persistent and distributed (CM, 3.66-67). Romiszowski notes Hooper’s observation that
much interactivity in computer-supported learning is the ability to control presentations, leading to the question whether the major
innovation is video, not computers (Romiszowski, 1992, p.3). This investigation makes use of video as a capture and presentation system
and whilst the resources are made available in a multi-media format to ease navigation, the validity of Hooper’s question remains.

Dialogue is central to participation but other communication forms captured in this investigation also contribute. Facial gestures are
commonly interpreted; emotive and enthusiastic views may be transmitted non-verbally or extra-verbally; and non-verbal feedback can be
influential (Johnson, Rickel & Lester, 2000, p.57). Expressions and gesture were to some extent captured and communicated in the video-
clips, something impossible in text alone or in audio-clips and referred to by BJ (2.109-119). The familiarity of contributors to users may
also have been significant (AS, 3.70-71), though further research is required to investigate the extent to which this influences reflection on
the text or subject. A number of informants responded positively to the opportunity given by the resources and discussions to hear others’
views and, while some considered articulating views for others to hear was daunting, others found the experience positive.

However, the relative novelty of video as a communication medium in this setting attenuates some benefits of these resources. Appearing
on video creates reservations and anxiety about appearance and speech (DE, 3.16). As informal video use becomes more commonplace,
this attenuation may itself reduce as suggested by DF (3.38) making this type of resource less daunting and possibly more ubiquitous and
beneficial.

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5.3.3 Instructional strategies and features

In addition to relations among resource features and participation, this investigation endeavoured to employ strategies designed to
encourage engagement with the subject matter, three of which are now discussed.

5.3.3.1 Presenting activity questions

Local clergy in the first resource required little more than general prompts to initiate discussion. Talking on a known subject is a familiar
activity for them, even if video-recording is unusual. The two questions asked in the second round were arguably general and vague.
Responses appeared to include more exposition and personal reference than derivation from the text. McKendree et al., (1998a) had noted
difficulties encouraging appropriate student contributions on a subject and they developed a means to encourage learners to contribute to
dialogue as well as provide a focus for comments through Task Directed Discussions (‘TDDs’).

Although differing markedly from those created by McKendree et al. (1998a), fifteen open questions contained in Appendix C were created
and provided to contributors in the third round to stimulate contributions to encourage participation within Categories A-C in Figure 5.1.
This gave contributors permission to speak of their experiences and explore issues raised in the text (Lee, Dineen & McKendree, 1998, p.5)
whilst possibly also describing changes in personal belief and practice.

The frequency of activities chosen by contributors is illustrated in Figure 4.8 and indicates preference for some over others. The small size
of the population makes it difficult to account for this or to determine what alterations to these activities may be helpful, though their
utility in encouraging reflection was noted.

Cox et al., (2005, p.8) note that TDDs are useful in encouraging dialogue which will be used as a vicarious learning resource and are in a
strict sense ‘discrete language activities’ (Ibid., p.8). Their use was less precisely formulated in this investigation where they encouraged
appropriate dialogue by providing a focus for discourse whilst reducing the possibility for embarrassment through articulating insufficient
understandings of a subject (Ibid., p.10) as well as giving a reason for contributors to speak in the video-recorded conversation
(McKendree et al., 1998a, p.250). Answering these questions may have clarified to contributors that they were providing a resource for
others to watch (Cox et al., 2005, p.10), though the pedagogical benefit to contributors of articulating a view following reflection on the
subject was also relevant.

Whilst requiring further refinement, some of these activities supported verbalising thoughts and focused contributions in order to produce
video-clips for inclusion in the resource (McKendree et al., 1998b, p.112; Bijnens et al., 2006, p.14).

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DE noted the beneficial additional burden of verbalising thoughts in response to a question and described a meta-cognitive activity of
assessing the meaning of the text as opposed to a more superficial understanding or simple reading (3.48). This echoes a distinction
observed in the literature between surface and deep processing (Marshall & Case, 2005, p.259) and affirms other findings that learners are
supported to engage in deep processing if precise demands such as answering specific though open questions are made on them (Marton
& Säljö, 1976a, p.121). However, issues of deep and surface processing were not explored in detail in this investigation.

5.3.3.2 Learner aims and activity

Astley points out that it is impossible to separate the content of Christian knowledge from the process of coming to know (Astley, 2002a,
p.6). In the first and second rounds users were encouraged to set aims for using the material and to record this. It proved unsuccessful:
only two users in each of rounds one and two completed any aims. Aim-setting is unfamiliar in church and potentially off-putting,
appearing unhelpfully like negative earlier schooling experiences (CN, 1.302). People may not think sufficiently about what they aim to get
from participating, but instead simply experience it and attempts in this setting to clarify or stimulate this type of goal setting were not
successful.

Nevertheless, adult learners need to take an active role in their learning (Steeples, 2002, p.2). Setting goals may have encouraged this to
some extent. Increased student participation is a goal of educational reform (Greeno, Collins & Resnick, 1996, p.20) and this investigation
offers a workable possibility for using video to encourage this, appearing to engage learners by giving them some control over material to
watch and questions to which they may respond (Bates & Poole, 2003, p.28), combining rehearsal of views, and watching others to gain
insight and confidence. This implicitly values all contributions and allows initial views to be provisional (Merriam, Courtenay &
Baumgartner, 2003, p.186) and subject to change, though this may not have been made sufficiently explicit (Hull, 1985, p.111).

5.3.3.3 Asynchronicity

Whilst a feature of recorded video-clips and not designed into the resource, the time delay between watching clips and discussing seemed
to provide some opportunity for personal reflection on the subject though it was also possible to forget the issue during this period (CM &
CN, 1D3.279-285). The lack of immediate response was missed by BJ (2.53). A combination of face-to-face discussions and resource
material may meet a range of needs, but not all needs all of the time. Nevertheless such resources generally increase the range of
opportunities for interacting with others compared with a traditional study approach in church by offering opportunities to think twice, or
more, and review material in video-clips as well as to speak more than once to capture a clear articulation in a video-clip.

This investigation revealed a number of practical issues surrounding participation experiences including life schedule difficulties (Wickett,
1991, p.153), and balancing self-pacing and working as part of a group (Graham, 2002, p.234). The ability to re-read text is not novel but

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video-recording contributions permitted once-fleeting discourse to be re-viewed. The resource is persistent and available, capable of being
used at convenient times and for suitable lengths of time, a new ability in respect of dialogue contributions. Offering both resources and
group discussion on a subject matter which was related to real life (Ross, 1983, p.527), particularly in the third round, appeared to benefit
learners.

The various modes of participation here may have suited different people and together encouraged greater participation (Brown, 2000,
p.15) whilst basically guiding learners to do what they should do – talk about the subject (Laurillard, 1995, p.182). It may be argued this
approach of offering video contributions to interpreting a text provides some guidance about a subject and a starting-point, as well as the
freedom to explore it in different ways and to articulate different positions. However, using resources such as these in conjunction with
discussions requires competencies in textual, technological and social literacies. This demanding cost cannot be overlooked or assumed,
and means of supporting their acquisition may need to be developed as part of Christian education provision.

5.3.4 Summary

A range of connections between the resources and experiences of participation was found to exist, generally supporting the view that
participation was encouraged through the resources for a range of reasons. There were also interactions among elements within the
resources and these are now discussed.

5.4 Analysis of relationships among media elements

Elements within the resources appear to interact with each other to influence users in various ways. The resources contained two types of
media which are capable of being viewed according to user choice and permitted contributors and users to engage in specific activities,
illustrated in Figure 5.2.

How do the varying media affect the experiences of users, and how may this be accounted for? This discussion examines some of these
influences, reported in section 4.3 above.

5.4.1 Influence of reading on watching

Whilst giving a written text prominence in the resources may flow from the researcher's un-reflected preferences for written
communication it was nevertheless considered valuable. BJ (2.125-129) placed priority on it to help clarify thoughts before hearing others
in video-clips, implicitly emphasising the text and personal reflection. CM (2.35-42) described the text’s author as “very learned” making
the text a useful source while welcoming the breadth from others’ views. AP (3.16-26) described moving quickly between the text and the

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video-clips which were both viewed on-screen in separate computer applications, a technically more complex computer use supporting
cognitive load (Mousavi, Low & Sweller, 1995, p.319) to read parts of the text as video-clips were playing.

Offering a text within each resource creates a textual literacy environment. Whilst this has been a stable and ubiquitous approach for
centuries it is now being ‘disrupted’ by technology innovations (Barton & Hamilton, 2005, p.23) who also note that ‘most literacy
interactions involve unequal distributions of power between people’ (Ibid., p.19) and that textual literacy is only part of the social context
in which people operate. A Minister’s selecting texts for inclusion involves exercising unequal power even where the subject addressed is
determined collaboratively. The texts' nature and perceived difficulty, including vocabulary and grammar, assumption of prior knowledge
and manner of discourse within the domain, all reinforce particular concepts of the community and the Minister’s un-reflected assumptions
and preferences.

Some informants found the texts unfamiliar and difficult and in some cases the video may have provided sufficient support to encourage
persistence which the text alone did not115.

Christian education and growth is supported by reading texts 116. The importance assigned to written material may come at the expense of
other forms of communication, possibly influenced by earlier difficulties of capturing oral discourse. Continued emphasis on textual literacy
when technology provides alternatives is one example of Drane's concern noted in section 5.2.1. It would appear somewhat exclusive not
to permit some who are less comfortable with particular aspects of textual literacy to engage in discussion, particularly when alternative
communication avenues are available. The disruption referred to by Barton and Hamilton (2005) may still not have influenced Christian
education significantly. This is illustrated in the producer’s highlighting the text as the predominant material even in the resources so that,
for example, it appears first in the CD-ROM versions. Subliminally a view of particular literacy activities are conveyed, an influence which
this investigation challenges.

AH, the only participant who had studied a subject previously in a distance-learning theology course found the text sufficient, provided
“the text was understandable” (1.139). Being familiar with the subject, language and discourse activities appeared to render the video-
clips redundant. This suggests either that audio-visual material may be more useful for those coming afresh to Christian education or for
whom the subject is novel, or that the consequences of technology-based disruption of familiar literacy practices have yet to be fully
experienced in this setting. Perhaps that is why DG would not like to “see [the Bible] on the telly” (3.20-21).

DC (2.93-100) expressed a strongly alternative view after a lifetime of being “not a reader,” that this attitude was unlikely to change and
that watching video-clips was preferable, notwithstanding this activity is novel in a church setting. Providing opportunities to watch in
addition to the ubiquitous tradition of reading, may offer some a helpful alternative. A multi-media approach offering both text and video-
clips may permit increased access by a greater number of interested ordinary theologians.
115 This is discussed in section 5.4.2.
116 This is described in section 1.4.2.

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An implicit bias favouring reading over watching is apparent in the literature, for example Marshall (2003, p.95) who argues that reading
narrative necessarily exercises imagination where viewing need not. However Hess argues that in new media culture there requires greater
self-consciousness about how people ‘engage, resist, contest, and in other ways play with mass media’ (Hess, 2002, p.33; Goshen-
Gottstein, 2001, p.161). Text, whilst important, is not always self-sufficient and this current investigation highlights some deficiencies in
using text to encourage reflection among church-goers lacking background knowledge or confidence.

The second round text had many marginal annotations. Some were designed to stimulate reflection while others were hyperlinks to
relevant video-clips. The stimulus to reflect provided in the second resource appears not to have been widely used and may have had
negative consequences, technifying the activity of reading and encouraging focus on answering the marginal questions. This may have
resulted in more superficial reading (Marton & Säljö, 1976b, p.116) and, whilst initially appealing, marginal annotations were largely
omitted in the third resource.

This investigation reveals a tension in the use of texts in this setting, principally by juxtaposing them with discourse captured on video,
another resource for making meaning. Text appears to be both indispensable and insufficient except for the one participant who had
studied the subject before. Most of those who watched video-clips returned to review the text, at least in part.

5.4.2 Influence of watching on reading

Discourse in video-clips used more accessible and understandable language than the text (CR, 1.78-80). Westerhoff notes that in Christian
community vocabulary and language play an important role (Westerhoff, 2000, p.141) but some of this is specific to the community or the
subject domain (Lee et al., 1999, para. 2). The conversation on the jettisoned text indicated that vocabulary had played a part in the
difficulties CP (138-164) had faced both in attempting to read the text and in forming a self-perception of inexperience compared with the
author. CR (1.82) considered the video conversation “explained” the text which was difficult to understand alone and described returning
to use the DVD because it used simpler language than the text while AJ (2.60) described the accessibility of ordinary and non-technical
language as helpful.

Where the text is challenging, audio-visual comment may be preferred to text (CN, 1.32-36), have encouraged persistence in reading (CP,
1.138-164) and occasionally replaced it altogether (DC, 3.16) though the same informant described using another text to stimulate their
thinking (DC, 2.26-7). Occasionally printed text and video-clips were used simultaneously (AP, 3.16-26).

Concepts in the text may be elaborated in video-clips allowing viewers to construct a mental representation through listening to the
conversation which permits rehearsal of conceptualisation through inward reflection (Wouters, Tabbers & Paas, 2007, p.329). Learners who
have more experience with reading theological texts or are more familiar with the subject may require fewer such opportunities for
elaboration. The resources, however make elaborations available without making them mandatory.

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Although CM (2.35-42) and AJ (2.47-50) place priority on the text, they both describe using the video-clips to “reinforce” the text or to
broaden ideas from ones given in the text alone. It appears that the video component is a useful addition to the text, but the text retains
some priority. Video-clips may act as a form of cognitive ‘foothold,’ described by Gal who observed a student offered a ‘critical reflective
moment’ crystallising past progress and revealing a way forward through using a technology tool (Gal, 1996, p.226-7). Video “reinforcing”
understanding of the text may be operating in a similar manner, allowing users to develop understanding of the subject.

Elaboration from ordinary theologians (Astley, 2002a, p.61) is more likely to be oral rather than written for most church-goers talk rather
than write about faith. This may be distinguished from academic theology or Christian tradition which are often literacy cultures. Writing is
arguably more demanding than conversational speaking, and reading appears for some informants to demand more than listening. It may
also be easier to communicate other elements such as commitment or passion through articulating in video-clips than in writing.

Using video to capture and share ordinary theologians’ views in a familiar medium which implicitly values contributors (CM, 2.114-6) need
not diminish the use of texts. So BJ (2.109-19) referred back from video-clips to the text after having come to a view following
independent thinking.

Cognitive reflection on novel theological issues, as opposed to personal life experiences, is a daunting undertaking due to a lack of skills to
determine key issues quickly, unfamiliar language or terminology, novel types of texts or lack of an immediate obvious connection between
the subject and life experiences.

Such reflection may be supported by making use of others’ views, the approach adopted in this investigation. An alternative approach may
be to attempt simplify the issue, potentially achieved by reducing the range of perspectives, keeping language simple, giving little weight
to nuances and subtlety, and by allowing only limited applications of principles to life situations. However this approach arguably does not
only simplify issues but makes them simplistic, reducing variety and possibility and failing to do justice to a complex issue on which there
may be a number of valid views. The tension uncovered in this investigation is between retaining sufficient complexity with regard to the
subject without imposing inappropriate requirements of literacy, cognition and articulation on participants.

Having access to a number of perspectives on the subject may encourage a richer and more ‘mindful’ understanding (Langer, 1997, p.23)
where participants are not only aware of a variety of views but are able to distinguish among them and develop their own responses in
part by making use of others’ views.

The variety among video-clips and text may also encourage users to persist with the resource. CM (2.35-42) contrasted the two-person
conversation in the first resource with the breadth of contributions in the second resource, and made further comparisons between the
ready availability of a range of material in the resource with a more traditional approach at a small group discussion.

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Both the text alone and the video-clips alone were considered insufficient in themselves by different informants for different reasons. AH
considered the video conversation added little to understanding the text, being more concerned with personal experiences (AH, 1.50,139)
and, provided the text was comprehensible, video-clips seemed redundant. However the same text alone proved impossible for CN (1.11-
22) who considered giving up and was encouraged to persevere through watching the video conversation. Using the resources demanded
technological literacy to enable the material to be viewed on computer or through a DVD-player and may be regarded as an additional
burden. Yet the combination of elements appeared to have a role in encouraging participants to continue considering the subject order
subsequently to discuss it in a group.

5.4.3 Influence of the resource on articulating a video contribution

Rapid production of clips immediately following each conversation in the final round permitted contributors to view previously made video-
clips immediately prior to articulating their view. This was a significant development and an apparently helpful one (DF, 3.38). Watching
peers' clips supports confidence to contribute by demonstrating that a potentially daunting task is achievable.

Bandura describes both the ‘disheartening’ effect of observing skilled and competent models (Bandura, 1986, p.105) and the ‘recurring
motivation’ of ‘more proximal successes of similar peers’ (Ibid., p.302) which in this setting motivates ordinary theologians both to
contribute to a video-clip and participate in discussion. This modelling starkly contrasts the distinction in churches observed by Drane
between providers and consumers of religious material (Drane, 2008a, p.110). To this extent, encouraging articulation extends the scope
of ordinary theology by making overt to other ordinary theologians the natural discourse of others. Capturing the spoken words is
essential; capturing in addition the visual image of passion, conviction, uncertainty and struggle is influential (Mayes et al., 2002, p.315).

The researcher’s unconscious assumption had been that seeing people on-screen was rather like television, even though producing video-
clips evidenced no ambition to make substitutes for broadcast television. Others expressed a similar feeling, saying casually, “I don’t like
seeing myself on TV.” The video-clips however were not television, literally “seeing from afar”, but viewing people largely known to us and
developing into what DF described as a “shared experience” (3.38). Perceptions and pre-conceptions may be imported from other
experiences and colour views, particularly of a novel use of an apparently familiar medium. It will be interesting to see whether greater
use of local video-clips or a differing conception of video as a regularly used on-line communication method alters perceptions of video
used in church.

Video-clips for the second resource were expected to last for several minutes. The nature of this subject appeared to provide a limited
exception to general guidance that clips should not exceed thirty seconds in length (Alessi & Trollip, 2001, p.74) yet there was a concern
not to constrain contributors too tightly. The producer understood his role as encouraging articulation, more concerned with elucidation
than with criticism. On reflection this may have been insufficient guidance (AJ, 2.125-134).

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Greater guidance was given for the third resource117, intended to support articulation of views on the subject. This research affirms the
tactic of utilising Task Directed Discussions as a means of supporting students to articulate views and to provide a focus and reason for
speaking.

5.4.4 Influence of the resources on participating in discussion

The most comprehensive category in the outcome space included descriptions that engaging with others was essential to learning,
recognised in the broader instructional design since resources precluded dialogue only for a time 118. Yet engaging with others requires a
deal of confidence in oneself, one’s role in or membership of the community, and of the subject matter. It appeared the resources provided
some opportunity to gain this background. The subject’s background could be ascertained from the text whilst a range of views held by
participants were provided in video-clips (DA, 3.69-72).

This suggests that discussing supports learning and in turn is supported by resources enabling preparation for discussion, made available
in advance and providing some indication of others’ views (AS, 3.88-97). Brown (2000, p.15) argues that knowledge is brought out
through participating with others. Groups are there to help us to know, not to show us that we do know. If their perceived function is to
validate rather than support knowledge development it may not be surprising that people, otherwise interested in the subject and eager to
develop their Christian knowing and living, do not participate. However, through repeated activity within communities, learners may
develop identities of participation and increased confidence to contribute (CW, 3.79-81).

Therefore the resources fulfilled an important function if they supported potential participants to gain sufficient confidence to attend
groups and to discuss (CW, 3.79-81, DJ, 3.72-7). For some, the resources exceeded that function and provided all the support they
required such that they did not feel a need to attend a discussion (DC, 2.189-90), raising questions about whether reasonable resources
for individual use may be preferable to poor group discussions.

Observing videos with no possibility of contributing had positive and negative consequences. It reduced the immediate task demand,
permitting reflecting without a requirement to respond (McKendree et al., 1998b, p.114). Negatively there was a sense of frustration that
issues raised while resources were used could not be discussed immediately (AP, 3.109-12; BJ, 2.53). Observation alone is insufficient
(Wouters, Tabbers & Paas, 2007, p.329) and learners require at some stage to engage in practice. However observation alone prior to
participation appears useful even where delayed engagement is frustrating.

Technically, the ability to increase the volume of the clip, pause and repeat it, was reported as valuable by an informant with hearing
impairment (CT, para. 1.289).

117 This is described in section 5.3.4.1.


118 This is described in section 5.3.2.2.

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The additional material incorporated in resources is, for more novice learners at least, a useful preparatory addition, disclosing aspects of
the language of the practice, revealing conventions within discourse and exemplifying what it means to be involved in this community.

Some informants described cognitive engagement as they watched the clips, such as CW who described hearing other views encouraging
a deep reflection, not merely contrasting views but attempting to explain the differences, and reconsidering earlier views in light of these
contrasts (CW, 2.50). This varied perspective was reported by CY (2.35-41) as helpful. The resource encouraged some informants to be
aware of a larger range of possible ways of considering the subject (DH, 3.19-26), a useful preparation for group discussion.

5.4.5 Influence of articulating a video contribution on participating in discussion

Attending a discussion is a daunting prospect. It is an environment where subjects are dealt with quickly, where the conversation may
move around rapidly and not always clearly and where contributions are derived, to some extent, from what has just been said.
Participating as opposed to remaining silent, or domineering, requires effort and preparation. It may be that a resource of this type
provides a useful primer since it couples text-based transmission together with seeing and hearing contributions of a sort which might
occur at a discussion.

Whilst daunting and problematic, the dynamic of face-to-face discussion can be helpful in supporting developing ideas, even generating
excitement about the subject (CM, 3.66-7).

Active reflection on a text is necessary both to articulate a view for a recording and for a discussion. Church members who have many
demands on their time may be encouraged to give necessary effort to understanding a subject when they have to speak for themselves
about it in contributing to a resource (AP, 3.116-30; AS, 3.18-24, 66-7). Discussions do not demand contributions and possibilities of
‘sitting on the sidelines’ may reduce a sensed requirement to prepare adequately. This “gentle push” as described by AS (3.18-23) may be
important, particularly since it is less about “jumping through hurdles” or answering particular questions and is instead about sharing
views in advance of a discussion. Video-clips also provide some familiarity with the views of others, helping prospective participants gain a
sense of the general terrain and an awareness that they have a right also to share their views (DD, 3.72-7).

Even where a novel resource was not considered more helpful than a discussion, it did not appear off-putting, but was still “enjoyable”
(DG, 3.30-1) The new opportunity afforded by the resource requires an earlier articulation than at a group discussion but in an apparently
less public forum119. It may be that the demand of listening, reflecting and composing an articulated response within a group setting is
unduly demanding and encourages silence or deters attendance.

119 In fact, the forum is potentially more public since video-clips are distributed for all participants to view. This does not appear the perception during the one-to-one conversation, however.

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The recorded articulations have a provisional quality (AP, 3.116-123). This fits with a view of discourse within a religious community as
providing space for ideas to be viewed and re-viewed, tested and explored without a premature need to commit to particular positions
(Merriam, Courtenay & Baumgartner, 2003, p.186; Hull, 1985, p.111).

It also suggests an awareness of development in thinking. Articulations in the video-clips are ‘early drafts’ of views, amenable to change
after reflection or under the influence of additional information, possibly from other video-clips. At the same time the resource offers a
general indication of what people may think and removes some ‘unknown quantities’ of participating.

Whilst being video-recorded is daunting, for some the ability to re-record conversations reduced anxiety about contributing compared with
articulating views in a group. Contributors in the third round were briefly shown their video-clips before these were incorporated within the
resource and on one occasion further investigations were made before incorporating a clip which made reference to another individual.
Video provided the flexibility to capture useful comments, check that these were acceptable to the person mentioned in the clip, allowing
useful material to be incorporated having ascertained the propriety of doing so.

Discussion groups are live performance settings where contributors’ comments are made to an audience. Rehearsal may be important
prior to such performance and some comments suggest this is a function of the recorded conversation (DE, 3.52-4; AS, 3.66-7; DA, 3.69-
72). Such rehearsal opportunity may have been a key factor which encouraged DJ to attend and participate in the discussion (3.63-4, 72-
7). This is distinct from the to-and-fro of a group discussion which others valued (AP, 3.109-112; BJ, 2.53). An awareness of others is an
aspect of both the text-focused and person-focused experiences. Some contributors expressed a concern about how they would be
perceived by those watching the clips (DE, 3.16).

The novel task of speaking in a recorded conversation which would be available to others might be considered daunting. However the high
level of responses to invitations to contribute in this way may reflect church-goers’ willingness to attempt something challenging and new,
or may result from persuasive encouragement from an authority figure in the organisation to explore a new approach, or a reluctance to
refuse to assist the Minister who needs help. Levels of response to further invitations to contribute to future projects will be interesting to
observe.

5.5 Other features of the resources

The resources were able to be produced in forms suitable to all who wished to use them, exploiting features of widely available software
applications. Technology innovation has extended material which was once restricted to computers to other devices (Department for
Culture, Media and Sport; and Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, 2009a, p.54) and this investigation provides a
simple example.

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Issues of potential exclusion arise if some community members are not able to participate in technology-enhanced opportunities (Ibid.,
p.59). Yet making innovative content such as created in this investigation may not only enhance learning in this setting but broaden users’
understandings of potential benefits in communication developments. There are potential learning gains about the technology which may
flow from participating in these activities and using technology which exceeds this investigation’s scope.

Producing the text in a widely accessible standard PDF format made distribution and access straightforward where necessary infrastructure
and skills were available. This format also permitted easy printing of the text by those wishing to read a paper-based rather than on-
screen version, a preference widely shared (Buzzetto-More, Sweat-Guy & Elobaid, 2007, p.247 ; Wastlund et al., 2005, p.389). It also
permitted the material distributed to users without computer resources to be identical to those used by participants with computers,
supporting issues of justice in accessing resources.

Providing hyperlinks to video-clips at the end of the text in the third resource appeared to detract less from the text’s structure and
allowed a visual and thematic gathering of similar video-clips. Mayer argues that adjacent presentation of words and explanatory diagrams
supports understanding (Moreno & Mayer, 2007, p.310). In this investigation contributors’ images were not diagrammatic representations
and communication in the video-clips remains verbal. The verbal modality of speech competes with reading text where the two are placed
adjacent on a page. Mayer’s (2001) cognitive theory of multimedia learning encouraged links to video-clips containing verbal expressions
of views to be presented in relation to one another on a separate page in the third resource rather than being placed adjacent to the text
in the second resource.

The resource was persistent in that it was available whenever convenient to users and in periods of time suitable for them, and that it
remained available to them both prior to and after the discussion. Captured video conversations are capable of being stored and used in
subsequent resources. At the same time the speed and ease of production made it possible to create new clips.

Little direction was given as to how the resources were to be used. This arguably allows flexibility though is a weakness if users requiring
support are unable to access it. No evidence suggested that users had a sense of being overwhelmed by the available material apart from
the text in the first round, though the likelihood of such admissions to the Minister may be questioned. CW (3.44) described a “balance”
between the text and the video-clips which encouraged repeated reading of the text.

Laurillard et al. (2000) note that operational aspects of using media differ with the medium being used. Control aspects of a medium may
overwhelm engagement with knowledge and concepts which are the focus of learning. Providing option choices alone within multimedia
may provide an insufficient guide for learners to achieve worthwhile outcomes (Ibid., p.15). Instead a narrative structure is encouraged
which makes the developing argument visible. This can be provided by a well-written text. CY (2.65) described being able to “take
something in better” through reading than watching, notwithstanding additional helpful material was conveyed in video.

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5.6 Summary

Shuell notes that technology has an important impact on learning processes, noting presentation of information through stained glass
windows and by listening to sermons (both often in churches) and stories. Print, Shuell argues, forced the development of new skills and
influenced a move away from predominantly oral culture. New technologies, he further argues, will influence ways of learning though the
nature of this influence is too early to determine (Shuell, 1992, pp.50-1). Botha similarly notes that tendencies towards ‘visualism’ and
literacy is culturally influenced, implicitly by the types of communication tools to which people have access (Botha, 1993, p.414).

This investigation provides an early exploration of some influences of communication technology, particularly video, and suggests that
issues of participation and social learning may be among those which predominate in using these technologies to support learning. It has
also noted a range of influences among the various activities encouraged through this resource. Whilst retaining a central role for text it
has indicated that capturing learners’ early thoughts on video may be a pedagogically useful process in itself and the products valuable for
other learners.

The value to others results from foregrounding church-goers’ views, a perspective supported by ordinary theology whose relevance is
foundational to this work. Vicarious learning and particularly observational spiritual learning were noted to be supported by the video-clips
leading to developing identities of participation particularly among novice participants or those with less self-confidence. This investigation
therefore supports Hess’s claim that communication technologies may be of value in Christian education:

‘Let me conclude by noting the reciprocal impact: digital technologies can make a huge difference in helping us, as theological
educators, to align our Christian convictions and our pedagogical strategies more effectively.’
(Hess, 2005b, p.88)

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CHAPTER 6 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

6.0 Introduction

This study investigated church-goers’ experiences of participating in adult Christian education activities supported by resources
incorporating text and video-clips to encourage reflection and discussion. Findings, discussed in the preceding chapter in light of relevant
literature, provided insights into participation in some Christian learning activities. This modest innovation, principally using video to
capture views of professional clergy and ordinary theologians, might be considered insufficiently worthy to be studied in depth or reported
at length. However this investigation reveals that a number of aspects of participation may be discerned, and to some extent influenced,
through resources of this type.

Analysis of data from informants’ described experiences which were captured in research conversations identified a range of connected
categories of participation. This informed a response to the research question which asked what experiences of participation were
described by church-goers using these resources and attending discussion groups, and how such experiences were influenced by the
resources.

This concluding chapter commences with a summary of relevant issues after which various reflections on the research are presented.
Limitations and strengths of this investigation are noted and thereafter ways in which this study contributes to the researcher’s
professional development and more personal responses are described. Following this narrower view, wider implications of this study are
presented. These include contributions which it makes to theories informing this study and to Christian education as well as learning in
other settings, including some possible uses for emerging technologies. Finally, some tentative suggestions for further research and
practical developments arising from this study are offered.

6.1 Summary

This investigation raised four principal issues, namely supporting reflecting on aspects of Christian faith, participating in Christian education
activities, experiences of interactions among constituent elements of the resources and technical issues of production, distribution, and
access by users. Each of these is considered in the following sections.

6.1.1 Reflecting on faith

The resources offered informants a range of views and permitted articulations to be captured and shared. Whilst access and articulation
are together enabled in more traditional settings such as discussion groups, this investigation provides some evidence that their

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separation, for a time, may be useful in promoting learning. The acceptable impossibility of discussion whilst viewing video-clips alters the
immediate task to reflection alone, without consideration of articulation within a group at that point, and encourages engagement with
ideas rather than focusing on concerns of contributing appropriately.

This insight from vicarious learning theory appears here to have supported some informants to develop an identity of participation which
anticipating a demand for early contribution might have impeded. It may also have encouraged participation amongst those hesitant to
attempt something novel and daunting as they observed peers, proximate models, articulating their views. Using video in this investigation
enabled ordinary theologians’ views to be shared more readily, though the scope of this investigation is largely limited to non-theologically
trained church-goers120 and effects of using similar resources in other settings remains unexamined.

6.1.2 Experiences of participation

Church-goers’ experiences of participating were classified in an outcome space consisting of four hierarchical categories. In the most
inclusive category, access to the Christian tradition through texts and other church-goers’ views and contributing one’s own articulation
influenced informants’ attitudes, reflections on the subject and, in some cases, perceptions of responsibility towards the community as
one’s views were understood to be helpful to others.

The second most inclusive category comprised a range of cognitive and affective processes supporting knowledge and skill development in
subject domains. The variation of views and their expression by other community members was reported to be positive. Potentially
negative aspects such as confusion or conflict over negotiation of meaning appeared less important than the additional knowledge
supplied or cognitive assistance provided through the resources, which encouraged discernment in thinking. The activity of articulating
one’s developing views was considered personally valuable, although an awareness of their value to other community members was not
explicitly described in this category.

A positive identity of participation in the third category encouraged involvement with other members of the community. A development of
this identity was noted in some informants who, initially unsure about their being qualified to engage in discussion about deeply-held
issues, or the quality or appropriateness of their views, nevertheless found the experiences of reading and watching provided both
companionship to consider the subject and support to consider themselves able to participate with others. This may have developed from
seeing peers’ contributions.

The least inclusive category included non-participation in two forms. Participants either did not engage with others or they contributed in
ways which did not encourage alternative viewpoints. This may be understood as deriving from perspectives which place less emphasis
either on the community or on one’s rightful role within it. Where confidence of community membership is limited, offering potentially
120 The two contributors in the first research round were local clergy.

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useful insights may be impeded because contributions are not considered sufficiently valuable. Where the community is not held in high
regard, efforts to encourage its growth and development may be limited, or personal views and needs may supersede those of the
community. Both these perspectives suggest that the view taken of one’s relationship with the community may be influential in
determining participation.

6.1.3 Elements within resources

Discrete elements and their combination within the resources appealed to different informants in a range of ways, suggesting that
permitting varied uses of the resources was useful. Opportunities to observe other church-goers’ reflections encouraged peers, particularly
those lacking self-confidence or unfamiliar with this activity, to attempt participating in discussion.

Ordinary theologians’ views appeared a valuable alternative to professional clergy views, emphasising a potential strength of ordinary
theology. Informants’ comments suggest that clergy views may be perceived to be less amenable to questioning or criticism. In contrast,
the perception that ordinary theologians’ views may more readily be questioned, or alternative positions may be taken, led to a deeper
engagement with others in discussing the issues.

The distribution method permitted verbal articulations to be captured and made available persistently and on demand to contributors for
later study or reference121 and implicitly reminded participants of the fact of their participation, potentially contributing to a developing
identity of participation.

6.1.4 Feasibility of production and access

It was found possible with the available technology to create multimedia resources in two formats which, whilst restricting access to
participants in this case, nevertheless demonstrates that one faith community ‘could publish the things they had created to support
religious learning and religious practice’ (Hess, 2005a, p.84). This has potential, if not fully realised in this investigation, ‘to develop a
deep, rich, and wide community of peer review’ (Ibid., p.87) which engages with issues of concern to ordinary theologians and supports
communication by means of text and captured discourse.

Notwithstanding that this was achieved by an early adopter (Rogers, 1983, in Rogers, Singhal & Quinlan, 2009, p.426) of technology in
this area who brought some pre-existing skills and knowledge to bear, resources were produced using widely-available equipment. Current
contributions to video-sharing websites suggests that producing video of sufficient quality is no longer the preserve of a few with

121 Copyright permission granted for use of the text in the first resource prohibited its retention by participants. The video conversation was however able to be retained.

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appropriate resources but is available to a greater number. The uses to which such opportunities are put, however, may require greater
reflection than has currently been undertaken and this study offers one contribution to that process.

The resources could be viewed using available tools and in formats which supported broader access than solely using computer
technology, in this case by means of DVD-discs viewed on a widely-available platform of domestic DVD-player and television. This study
contributes a demonstration of the feasibility of supporting potentially critical and liberating dialogue (Freire, 1968, pp.47-8) among
ordinary theologians using readily available communication technologies.

6.2 Reflections on the research

The time interval between completing data analysis and finalising this report has provided opportunity to reflect on the conduct of the
research. This has revealed limitations as well as strengths, both of which are now noted.

6.2.1 Limitations

A number of issues in this investigation may have been approached differently and a number of weaknesses may be observed.

Research conducted by the Minister within the congregation he serves necessarily involves issues of authority or power whose influence
cannot be fully accounted for or removed. Findings in research conversations may be implicitly coloured by informants’ attitudes to this
Minister or church authority, and decisions to participate or not may similarly result from many factors.

A weakness was the researcher’s pre-existing interest in issues of learning in this setting. This was potentially unhelpful in emphasising
aspects of Christian education within the congregation's life, though it provided the necessary motivation to conduct the research. Further
investigation in congregations with which the researcher has had no prior connection may be insightful, though lay beyond the scope of
this study.

Ordinary theology suggests that both theologies and their processes of development are inherently valuable. A Minister who develops
resources for consumption by church-goers arguably acts inconsistently with this approach. It is, though, unclear that sufficient interest to
develop a manageable means of producing such resources existed in the setting beyond the researcher’s attempts to produce them. Whilst
this study demonstrated the feasibility of producing such resources it will be interesting to see whether other church-goers in this
congregation or beyond are encouraged to produce similar products.

No resources contained the views both of professional clergy and ordinary theologians though published texts were included in each.
Further investigation of the influence of a mixed-contributor resource may be insightful.

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Whilst a number of church-goers agreed to participate, the majority of regular church-goers in this setting did not. It lay beyond this
investigation’s scope to examine reasons for a general lack of interest in Christian education, a relevant issue noted in section 1.4.1, and
no evidence for the popularity of resources of this type was gathered in this investigation.

The findings and discussion reported here are relevant only in relation to a perspective of Christian education in which individuals develop
personal understandings of faith through relating to others, outlined in section 2.2. The extent, if any, to which these findings may inform
alternative perspectives has not been explored in this investigation.

Findings from this investigation may be unique to this population and the combination of factors may not be commonplace. Therefore no
generalising beyond this group has been attempted. Nevertheless some findings in relation to participation and the influence of media
types may be noted in the literature as indicated in the discussion in chapter five.

Considering issues of participation and the interaction of constituent media elements may have resulted in a study which is broader than it
is deep. This may be helpful in order to see relevant issues in a wider context which is appropriate when innovation in practice is
introduced. Klimosky (2005, p.2) advocates developing a range of understandings of the effects of introducing technology to religious
education. However, the breadth of this report exposes a weakness in a lack of detailed analysis within particular areas. Accordingly this
report can be viewed only as an initial contribution to roles for a type of multimedia resource within Christian education in a specific
context and viewed from one perspective.

The nature of the study exposed it to the risk that it would be unmanageable by attempting too much. It required not only to produce
resources but organise contributions from professional clergy and church-goers, to arrange meetings for discussion and to capture data. It
demanded significant time resources to transcribe research conversations and analyse these and, not least, to reflect on a quantity of
literature whose boundaries were not clearly defined by the study. The part-time nature of this investigation, its location within the
researcher’s working environment and, perhaps most significantly, the willingness of church-goers to be involved in a novel and untested
approach along with their courage in describing their experiences were all important though unplanned factors which, if different, may
have fatally flawed this investigation.

Video-recording contributions was time-consuming and, whilst argued in this thesis to support participation, may come at too high a cost
to be practicable in other settings. Nevertheless alternative means of obtaining video-recorded contributions including those produced
directly by contributors may be more feasible and requires further investigation.

The investigation was set in one congregation where most participants knew the others, leaving unanswered questions surrounding the
appropriateness of using this type of resource where learners are not known to each other to the same extent, or at all. Likewise the
investigation used features such as video-capture of conversations which are novel in this setting. The influence of this novelty in

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informants’ experiences and comments may not have been considered in sufficient detail and further research in a setting where
communication technologies are more familiar may be insightful.

The instructional design in each research round included face-to-face group discussions, seen as an integral part of the experience. It
would not be possible to apply the approach described in this report to a wholly distance-learning situation without giving sufficient regard
to the opportunities for direct engagement among participants. The instructional strategy of blended learning incorporating communication
technologies and traditional meetings was feasible in this setting and appears to have supported participation and reflection.

Assistance to set goals and self-assess learning was unsuccessful in this investigation, possibly resulting from poor implementation or
unfamiliarity with the concept. Some activities supporting articulation developed for the third round were reported to be useful though not
all were used, and further investigation of their efficacy and design is required.

Informants’ specific learning gains were not measured due to difficulties assessing reflective skills and possible influences of assessment in
this setting and on informants, detailed in section 3.1.3. Further quantitative studies may therefore be insightful in determining the
effectiveness of providing opportunities for learners to articulate their views and for these to be made available, together with written
material, among peers or other learners. Whether such specific measurement is achievable within a church congregation without unduly
influencing the setting is unclear though other possibilities in further and higher education may be envisaged.

6.2.2 Strengths

Problems inherent in being a researcher who is involved in the setting have been considered above. However the benefits of conducting
research within an authentic setting amongst church-goers who necessarily have relationships among each other and with their Minister
also require to be noted, as do practical benefits of straightforward access to church-goers and the ability to influence programmes within
a congregation's life over an extended period.

Whilst pre-existing attitudes may have coloured some informants’ descriptions, it is also possible that the same level of participation and
disclosure in conversations would not have been achieved if this investigation had been conducted by an independent researcher unknown
to informants. In addition, common knowledge shared among researcher and informants meant greater sense could be made more quickly
of some comments, albeit with a consequent risk of making un-reflected assumptions.

It may be argued that the researcher’s interest in learning in this setting has encouraged others to continue their Christian learning and
has afforded opportunities for some who wished to explore this to do so. Although some features of the resources and instructional design
may have been sub-optimal, they nevertheless permitted interested church-goers to explore Christian learning in different ways. The

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development from offering local clergy views to those of other church-goers may have provided some ordinary theologians in this setting
with a novel means to share their views and thereby encourage their reflecting as well as increasing their sense of worth as contributors.

Whilst arguably exploratory, this investigation offers insights which may be of value to adult Christian endeavours from a perspective of
ordinary theology, to vicarious learning, social learning theories, and pedagogical uses for emerging communication technologies, which
are discussed in sections 6.4 and 6.5.

The study has demonstrated that current communication technologies enable ordinary theologians’ discourse to be captured and made
available to others whilst retaining some influence from the wider Christian community through a written text. It has noted that issues of
access to such material is limited at least by infrastructure and skills, and has demonstrated one strategy to address some of these
challenges by utilising an alternative approach also enabled by communication technologies.

6.3 Professional development and personal reflections

This investigation was part of the researcher's professional development and the following insights which inform practice have been gained
in the course of this research. This study has also been a personal journey and elements of this are described in section 6.3.2.

6.3.1 Professional development

This investigation has emphasised the importance of the concept of participation in Christian education activities especially among those
who might be reticent to become involved in church-sponsored discussion groups.

Incorporating video-clips in a multimedia resource was technically demanding and conducting, transcribing and analysing research
conversations was time-consuming. Nevertheless this combination of acting, observing and reviewing experiences of using these resources
has enabled me to explore alternative means to support reflecting on aspects of Christian faith. Possibilities for further use of similar
resources in supporting Christian education have been identified and may prove beneficial within this congregation and possibly elsewhere.

Increased familiarity with action research, together with phenomenography as a research tool to capture and discern variations among
experiences are useful skills which may be productive in further investigations. The perspective of ordinary theology together with this
empirical approach has enabled development of skills in pastoral listening and in identifying themes and variations across a number of
informants.

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Whilst acting as the principal researcher, frequently working alone (Martin, 2000, p.156), strengths of a collaborative action research
approach within a congregation have been indicated and these offer possibilities for wider reflection, planning and development (Ibid.,
p.162; Davis, 2007a, p.60).

6.3.2 Personal reflections

During the analysis of the data it was noted with regret that informants considered themselves insufficiently good or worthy to learn more
about themselves, or their faith, or understanding of God; or to share this with fellow-travellers in this faith community. Connected with
this, and informed by the transformative inter-personal perspective described earlier, was an encouragement to understand my ministry in
part to encourage such exploration by ordinary theologians, distinct from transmitting a single view in the hope that ‘the sheep are … fed’
(Astley, 2002a, p.139) from one individual’s limited resources. It is nonetheless troubling to discover issues inhibiting church-goers from
participating in activities which may encourage them to explore their faith and, in so doing, to find that a number may be fed from
community resources.

Church-goers who are interested in reflecting about their faith though reticent to attend formal meetings courageously volunteered to
participate in this investigation. Positive reports of these experiences of participating have apparently encouraged a few to greater
involvement within the church community, leading me to consider there was some value in this investigation.

My participation with others as researcher allowed me to discover more about some to whom I minister. Two informants died unexpectedly
during the investigation, a reminder that participation opportunities are limited. One of these informants responded to my asking if she felt
she had learned all there was to know about faith:

“No. I don’t think that you ever learn all that there is to know. It’s a never ending story. There’s always another bit you discover
or, em, it’s like walking on ice: you don’t know what’s underneath it until you get underneath it and there’s a full new world
underneath the ice. Things you’d never have thought happened or existed ... there’s always more to learn.”
(Participant AN, para. 0.27)

The effort of considering approaches to research, framing research questions, determining and implementing methodology and not least
reading and considering a deal of literature in this study has permitted me to ‘get underneath’ the superficiality of some of my earlier less
reflective practices. In doing so I have discovered a ‘new world,’ or at least previously uncharted provinces, of experiences of participating
in collaborative processes of developing Christian faith. This investigation has revealed ‘things [I’d] never have thought … existed’ and
suggests large areas of as-yet uncharted and exciting territory. This study has led me to greater appreciation of Astley’s words:

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‘If I have learned one thing about religion and about people over the years, it is that our judgements about both are as a rule
quite superficial. If I have learned two things, the second is that the depths are worth the plumbing.’
(Astley, 2002a, p.14)
Whilst there have been moments of darkness and anxiety in this attempt to plumb some depths to some extent, the investigation has
been insightful and rewarding, offering both insights into practices which may hinder learning (Mayes, 2002, p.169) and informing future
development of my ministry.

6.4 Contributions to other theories

This investigation was informed by a number of theories. It offers an extension to ordinary theology, suggests roles for vicarious learning
resources and supports phenomenography as a research methodology in this field. It also advocates encouraging aspects of participation
to be more clearly understood by all those engaging in Christian education activities, offers insight into pedagogical uses of and access to
communication technologies and addresses issues of textual literacy, social literacy and discourse. These issues are now addressed in
greater detail.

6.4.1 Pedagogical uses of communication technologies

Clark’s (1994, p.22) view that media is primarily a system of delivery and as such does not influence learning has been criticised on
methodological grounds (Bates & Poole, 2003, p.72) and by Kozma who argues that ‘media and methods influence learning and they
frequently do it by influencing each other’ (Kozma, 1994, p.11).

Further, using technology may deepen understandings of learning processes and offer new pedagogical possibilities (Byer et al., 2002,
p.113). This investigation provides one instance of investigating alternative approaches, deepening the researcher’s understanding of
learning processes using a combination of media. This raises several issues which are now discussed.

6.4.1.1 Textual literacy and oral discourse

Articulating by speaking rather than writing highlights a cultural phenomenon which Botha describes:

‘We must remind ourselves that the connection between education and literacy, which seems so natural to us, is simply a
cultural convention of our own times.’
(Botha, 1993, p.414)

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Rather than removing texts, this investigation sought to present both text and video-clips in a combined resource. Elements within this
combination appeared to vary in influence among informants suggesting that presentation of material in both modes is both possible and
desirable.

Textual literacy issues were raised. At times it appeared that information in the texts was considered less fully than the researcher had
envisaged and narratives in video-clips appeared more frequently the subject of closer scrutiny. Some informants found parts of the texts
challenging and complicated, experiencing video-clips a supportive companion in engaging more deeply with the texts. The Bible may be
considered a ‘dominant literacy’ (Hamilton, 2002, p.181) particularly in this setting where texts are:

‘standardised and defined in terms of the formal purposes of the institution, rather than in terms of the multiple and shifting
purposes of individual citizens and communities.’
(Ibid., p.181)

Making ordinary theologians’ articulation on the texts available permitted dissemination of ‘vernacular literacies:’

‘essentially ones that are not regulated or systematised by the formal rules and procedures of social institutions.’
(Ibid., p.181)

This activity of distributing views, implicitly encouraged by ordinary theology, is one means whereby such vernacular literacies, arising at
times in response to dominant institutions may be demonstrated to be valued by ‘formal social institutions’ (Ibid., p.181), something
Hamilton considers occurs rarely.

There is accordingly a political dimension to this investigation which has sought to some extent to address a situation in which vernacular
literacies:

‘may be actively disapproved of and trivialised and … can be contrasted with dominant literacies, which are seen as rational and
of high cultural value.’
(Ibid., p.181)

These findings have highlighted the researcher’s un-reflected bias towards textual literacy and raise issues about an unquestioned priority
given to printed presentation of information in a church setting where, apparently, many ordinary theologians operate more naturally
through the medium of speech. Oral, vernacular literacies appeared more commensurate with ordinary theologians’ processes of reflection
as well as being a more natural means of discourse. They could be captured and disseminated through video-recording.

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6.4.1.2 Influences of media on participation

This study has emphasised the significance of McLuhan’s insight that use of any media has personal and social consequences which result
from ‘the new scale that is introduced into our affairs ... by any new technology’ (McLuhan, 1964, p.7). Utilising technology in ways novel
to church-goers in this investigation influenced relationships among them.

The format of the resources appears not to have been particularly relevant. Mayer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning (Mayer, 2001,
p. 191) suggests that proximate placement of relevant text and images supports understanding in scientific procedural explanations.
Reflections on texts such as investigated in this study are distinct from scientific explanations and marginal hyperlinks to video-clips of
views appeared to discourage perceiving the argument and flow of the text, serving instead to ‘technify’ the task of reading (Marton &
Säljö, 1976b, p.116). Accordingly whilst multimedia may have been a convenient distribution medium, the principal benefit was making
use of video, and particularly of peer ordinary theologians’ articulations, which influenced the relations among informants and appeared to
support participation.

Participation depends on access which may be understood in two directions. One direction refers to the ability to view and hear already-
produced material, though difficulties associated with utilising new technologies were noted in this study and are discussed below. For
those with the necessary skills and infrastructure, viewing video-clips was noted to have several helpful aspects. It supported positive
identities of participation and offered a sense of being accompanied in cognitive efforts to understand ideas and form responses.

The resources were persistently available at users’ convenience and permitted communication in a mode commensurate with ordinary
theologians’ articulation. However, discourse need not be a fleeting experience and oral transmission, particularly of narrative, has a very
long history without utilising technology. Capturing discourse may simply reflect a technology-enabled reliance on artefacts, though doing
so in this form may equally represent a new cultural phenomenon. The type of access investigated here made a range of views available,
something distinct from a sole preacher’s sermon to a congregation.

The other direction refers to making contributions available to others. Whilst much media for use in churches to date has been
professionally produced for mass consumption, recent technology developments have increased both the range of ways and locations in
which media may be watched, as well as widening the scope of potential producers. This investigation has noted ordinary theologians’ role
in theological development within a community partly through using such technology. Church-goers were found to be prepared to share
some of their views by having conversations video-recorded. Support to converse was provided by texts, a range of open questions, and
access to video-clips of other contributors.

The opportunities afforded by modest technology to create and access video-clips appear to offer support in a number of ways. These
include opportunities to rehearse one’s view and to refine concepts through a process of self-monitoring of personal dialogue with the
freedom to re-record an articulation in the absence of any anticipated requirement to justify a view to a live audience.

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A combination of these two directions was noted as contributors observed that their articulations formed part of the resource. Whilst
downplayed by some, others noted the affirmation of value implied in this inclusion, suggesting there may be value in being able to see
ourselves as we see others, and to see ourselves as part of a community of practice, emphasising participation within groups rather than
relationships to activities (Mayes, 2002, p.173).

What effects may access in these directions have? It is possible to watch known peers, and ourselves, speaking about issues in an
arguably inter-personal manner. A tendency toward ‘communication as deeply personal interchange through language and gesture’ rather
than receiving an ‘impersonal (though informative) announcement of the official communiqué’ (Tinsley, 1990, p.3) may be noted. Seeing
oneself in resources including other community members may support a developing understanding of being-in-relation to them. Whilst
present in face-to-face meetings, some identity of membership appeared supported as audiovisual materials created by members within
the community were used. Variations in understandings and articulations may be made more explicit through many views than by uni-
vocal presentation such as a sermon. Technology affords different opportunities to reflect on these compared to a live discussion.

The bi-directional nature of the resource, providing access to views and enabling articulation of current understandings, appeared to
strengthen some informants’ perceptions of the necessity for participation in the community. To some extent the community was perceived
to depend on continuing contributions and activity for its ongoing life. Learning was perceived to be socially situated and the importance of
learning relationships was evident. Among the informants in the holistic participation category the concept of participation transcended the
subject matter to include other community members, an important element within the perspective of Christian education adopted in this
study.

6.4.2 Educational innovation and participation

This investigation supports the view that educational innovation may support participation:

‘Educational innovations that have the goal of developing participation in social practices of inquiry and discourse can be
organised to provide a community of learners to foster the engagement of students in those practices.’
(Greeno, Collins & Resnick, 1996, p.26)

In this investigation the innovation involved the use of video-clips as a medium to support participation in Christian learning. In altering
the scale of human relations (McLuhan, 1964, p.7), media may be used either to project views or to encourage participation in considering
them.

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Whilst some uses of media may be perceived as tending towards a projection of views by a few to many, emerging communication
technologies may afford some possibilities to encourage communication and participation among a broader range of people, something
which this investigation has endeavoured to attempt and investigate.

Contributing in video was not only an opportunity for rehearsal but a prompt to reflect, something which neither the text nor anticipating a
discussion provided. Whilst the requirement to think about a subject in order to offer even early views in an articulation might be thought
to inhibit potential contributors from participating, it appeared that, though daunting, this was achievable. The sense of accomplishment
on completion appeared widespread and positive, but the extent to which contributors took this step merely because their Minister
encouraged them to do so leaves open to question the popularity of such an approach among potential contributors in other settings.
Students in higher education at times need a ‘reason to talk’ (McKendree et al., 1998a, p.250); church-goers may at times need a reason
to think rather than passively receive material transmitted to them. The requirement to articulate a response to a text and video-clips may
have provided this.

It was also possible to make earlier video-recorded articulations available to subsequent contributors in the third round, a feature which
appeared to support confidence and encourage articulation. The opportunity to rehearse views whilst retaining the freedom to regard
video-recorded articulations as an early contribution to the subject and not a ‘final word’ appeared to encourage attendance at, and
contributions in, discussion groups in this round.

6.4.3 Learning relationships and social literacy

This investigation supports the contention of Mayes and Crossan (2007, p.293) that learning relationships are closely connected with an
awareness of belonging and that learning is motivated by a desire to belong so that ‘[a]lmost by definition, the group provides the
individual with a reason to learn’ (Ibid., p.294). It also supports Mayes’ view that:

‘For insight into the learning opportunities offered by the new technology, the main focus should certainly be on the relationship
of the learner to other people, rather than to information.’
(Mayes, 2002, p.173)

This investigation however provides further insight by suggesting that motivation to learn might be better understood not only through
identifying with a community (Ibid., p.171), but through understanding varied perceptions of participation. That is, learning relationships
operate in more complex ways than providing motivation to learn. This investigation contributes a response to the question Mayes poses:

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‘unless we can say more about why self-esteem might be influenced by identifying with particular communities, groups or
relationships, then this social identity account has the feel (to me) of a circular argument.’
(Mayes, 2002, p.171)

This study contributes the insight that members’ perceptions of their participation within these communities, in the terms earlier described,
may inform understandings of influences on self-esteem. As such, this investigation provides further insight into another social aspect of
learning, namely perceptions of participating with others. Attitudes concerning participation may be one of the:

‘characteristics of … groups or communities that are powerful determinants of the nature of the learning that actually occurs.’
(Ibid., p.171)

Perceived relationships to the wider community and contexts for early practice may also be relevant, and are described later. Failing to
regard these influences may lead to negative learning experiences which may discourage further engagement with learning (Mayes &
Crossan, 2007, p.297).

6.4.4 A role for vicarious learning resources

This investigation has provided some evidence that learning relationships may be supported through vicarious learning, that is observing
dialogues from peers (Mayes, 2002, p.169) offering their articulations. Using video permits capture and presentation of peers’ actual
speech together with visual aspects of communication which appears to support reflecting on the subject.

Some informants reported a sense of being accompanied in the cognitive effort of reflecting while others noted the authenticity of having
peers’ articulations made directly available without being mediated in writing. The requirement to articulate views imposed some additional
demands on participants which, though daunting, was reported upon reflection generally to be helpful and supported greater engagement
with the subject.

Vicarious learning has been explored in higher education and professional development contexts and this investigation broadens its scope
to voluntary involvement where participation is its own reward. Findings from this investigation suggest a role for vicarious learning in this
setting and this study draws the attention of Christian educators to observational spiritual learning which appears not to have received
much consideration beyond Oman and Thoresen (2003a, 2003b) and Bandura (2003).

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6.4.5 Extending ordinary theology

Extending ordinary theology by supporting the sharing of ordinary theologians’ views among one another, whilst implicit in the literature,
has not previously been reported and experiences of using resources of this type involving some communication technologies have not
previously been investigated. This study provides some empirical evidence of a range of cognitive, social and affective benefits resulting
from extending ordinary theology by sharing views among ordinary theologians.

6.4.6 Phenomenography as a research methodology in Christian education

Phenomenography has been a useful research approach in this investigation by allowing attention to focus on variation in experience
among a number rather than among individual informants. The frame of reference for understanding individuals’ experiences is larger than
the individual (Weiner, 1992, p.621).This has allowed a perspective stressing the importance of the social setting in supporting learning, a
feature possibly requiring greater recognition in congregation-based adult Christian education. This study contributes insights relating to
participation to endorse the view that we need ‘to understand better than we do the social roles of education’ (McKenzie, 1986, p.15;
Bates, 1995, p.244).

It also contributes to the use of phenomenography as an appropriate methodology in investigating Christian and religious education and
accordingly supports Hella (2008) and Hella and Wright (2009) in their use of phenomenography in this field.

6.4.7 Contexts for early practice

A suggestion flowing from this investigation is that contexts for early practice are important. In a similar way that apprentices frequently
commence on work where mistakes are not costly (Berryman, 1991, p.3), the repeatable and editable nature of the recorded conversation
distinguished these articulations from contributions to group discussions. The early articulations for these resources were less costly to
contributors which may have been significant, particularly for those new to discourse within church settings or about faith issues.

There was some evidence that those more familiar with discourse found the video-clips less helpful, suggesting that an approach using
text and video-clips may be most supportive among those unfamiliar with the subject or setting. This is potentially a sizeable group given
the number of church-goers who presently do not participate in Christian education activities. This has led to a perceived lack of culture of
adult Christian learning within the Church of Scotland (The Church of Scotland General Assembly, 2006, p.4/10) though participation has
not previously been explicitly recognised as a contributing factor.

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6.4.8 Access to communication technologies

There are several aspects to the concept of access, including the availability of technology, possessing requisite skills, and personal
attitudes including a felt need to engage in technology-supported communication (Department for Culture, Media and Sport; and
Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, 2009b, p.33). This investigation suggests that individual perceptions of the
demands of membership of particular communities may also influence access. Some informants reported considering having their
articulations recorded would be overly demanding, but watching peers as proximate models provided sufficient support to attempt the
task. A supportive environment encouraging articulation on contributors’ terms may have assisted both in achieving the task and in
developing a sense of personal efficacy which was emphasised by seeing one’s own contributions incorporated within the resource. These
subtle and implicit perceptions may nonetheless influence access through supporting initial participation efforts.

Technology may facilitate access to resources and to other people. In this study digital video files could be produced in three 122 formats,
permitting access to some church-goers who otherwise may not have been able or willing to participate. Resources could have been made
accessible on other media players and the ability easily to transform viewing platform and format is likely to be an important feature of
new media use, though this was not further required or explored. An awareness of technology-afforded malleability such as that
demonstrated in this investigation may be relevant for future producers of products exploiting new forms of communication technologies.

6.4.9 Diversity of video as a medium

In the same way that print in ink on paper is the common foundational technology for material as diverse as academic articles and comic-
books, so video is ‘highly diverse’ (Shephard, 2003, p.296) and may readily be incorporated in a range of multimedia resources
(Monthienvichienchai & Sasse, 2002, p.2). Video is much more than television programmes or films, though these prominent uses may
influence perceptions of the medium of video. This diversity is likely to require a range of skills and approaches to be developed to aid
understanding, interpreting and evaluating these media as well as creating an expanding range of resources which make varied
pedagogical uses of the common foundational technology of video.

6.5 Supporting Christian learning

Whilst based on the analysis of described experiences of participation among church-goers in one congregation, some issues highlighted
by this research may inform developments within Christian education in faith communities, based both on aspects of participation and a
developing mutuality in ministry which are now discussed.

122 Video-clips were initially produced as Windows Media files and thereafter as Apple Quicktime files and were also produced as DVD-video files.

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6.5.1 Participation in Christian learning

This investigation has aided understanding of participation within this community of faith practice, principally by revealing a range of ways
in which participation is experienced. It suggests not only that these aspects of participation are insightful for understanding learning in
this community but indicates a route which members may take toward greater participation in the community. The resources were found
to offer some support to this developing participation largely by making varying articulations available in a persistent form available at
times and for durations suitable to users.

Insights relating to participation identified in this study may be used in three ways. The first is to make the hierarchy of participation
explicit to participants in Christian learning situations. It may be helpful for learners to identify their current position within this variety, a
range which informants in the group interview during the second research round indicated they had not perceived but which they
considered consonant with some previous experiences. Greater awareness of this range may encourage participants better to understand
that differing learning goals may be valid among Christian learners, and may help to remove some concerns about a necessary minimum
domain knowledge or limitations to ways of discoursing about a subject.

The second is to make group leaders aware of the hierarchy to support participants to develop thinking, articulation and reflecting skills in
ways which are currently relevant for them. For example, a debate developing greater discernment among variation for those generally
within the cognitive participation category may be inappropriate, incomprehensible or off-putting for those developing an identity of
participation. This awareness influenced the third research round in which two discussion groups were held, one focusing more on
identities of participation while still considering the subject, whilst the second encouraged debate, greater discernment among views and
reflecting on one’s attitude and response to the subject. It appeared that making this different focus explicit and allowing participants to
select their preferred group may have been helpful and was one factor in encouraging greater attendance and reported satisfaction with
the group discussion experience.

The third is to encourage the concept of developing participation among church-goers. Attending discussions ought to support
participation by all, but if the group’s implicit aim is to reach consensus or affirm already held beliefs or prejudices, possibilities for such
development may be attenuated. Those whose experiences fall within the holistic participation category may still develop as individuals as
they reflect on their attitudes and life-choices as well as by supporting identity-building among new-comers. Whilst this may already occur,
its absence in the second research round discussions appeared noticeable as a form of posturing or ensuring one’s view was heard and
prevailed, a quite different approach to participation from that advocated here.

This challenges Wenger’s conservative view of communities of practice (Fuller et al., 2005, p.53) by suggesting a role for experts and old-
timers in developing new-comers as participants. Equally, core members may impede such progress.

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Clergy are among those who have reflected on their theological views and accordingly their actions and contributions within groups may
be significant to the development of all participants’ views, either deliberately or through authority or power invested in them by others.
Clergy roles in supporting ordinary theologians’ learning may therefore be particularly influential. Professional clergy require to know
something of the beliefs and theologies of those whom they serve (Astley, 2002a, p.146). While apparently straightforward, discovering
this through direct questioning might appear threatening or an unfair exercise of power. Instead, community engagement in a common
venture of disclosing ideas and describing developing understandings has potential to help both other ordinary theologians and clergy,
such as this researcher, to understand others better. If participation for ordinary theologians demands articulation, for clergy it requires
willingness to listen. Such an act respects the speaker, indicates that they matter (Ibid., p.147) and challenges understandings of ministry,
discussed in the following section.

6.5.2 Developing mutuality in ministry

This investigation challenges ministerial function to be understood as enabling participation rather than focusing on transmission. Pickard
(2006) notes a continuing ‘clerical spirit’ dividing those both in Reformed churches and other traditions and suggests a proper response is
not one which ‘underplays the ordained ministry and exalts the wider ministries’ (Ibid., p.83) but rather one where distinct ministries ‘are
skewed or bent towards each other and derive their vitalities from their relationship to each other’ (Ibid., p.91).

Using video arguably enabled a greater number of voices to be heard than may normally be possible given meeting constraints but more
fundamentally by developing identities of participation among a number of church-goers. Requesting articulation of views alters
relationships by removing the opportunity only to be a passive recipient, and instead supports active participation. Using video to achieve
this provides vicarious support as others’ articulations are viewed and permits initial and perhaps hesitant views to be articulated with
increasing confidence as these may be re-recorded, edited and viewed prior to wider distribution. Participation rather than technology,
though supported by technology, appears the more significant feature. Ecclesiastical implications of increased participation lie out-with the
scope of this report which raises questions about official acceptance of ordinary theologies (Healy, 2009, p.31).

6.5.3 Connections with other education settings

Although findings from this investigation are not generalisable beyond this setting, some connections may nevertheless be noted which
may inform further research or practice in higher education. The contribution of this study to understanding learning relationships has
already been discussed, and other aspects are now described.

The feasibility of capturing and distributing early thoughts through video combined with the support provided to enable these articulations
to be made suggests this is a potentially useful instructional strategy. For example, eliciting tutorial group members' early views on a paper

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and distributing video-recorded early thoughts offers one means of initiating discussion at the face-to-face group. There are significant
resource implications in such an approach, though exploring students’ self-generated content may reduce demands on teaching staff.

Issues concerning perceptions of participation may be usefully explored in higher education settings and whilst learning relationships
(Mayes & Crossan, 2007) and approaches to study (Ellis et al., 2006) have gone some way in such an investigation, this study suggests
that further research may yield greater understanding of learners’ perceptions of tasks, requirements, barriers and benefits in relation to
participating with others in a community of discourse and reflection.

6.5.4 Possible uses for communication technologies

Distributing video-clips in two formats raises possibilities for further similar uses of video in communication technologies. The resources
loosely connected texts and video-clips either through hyperlinks or a DVD-menu and offer possibilities that similar loose connections may
be made between written resources printed or available on-line, and video distributed for viewing on personal media players or mobile
telephones. A further development may flow from learners’ self-generated clips captured on mobile devices and distributed to others.
Insights from this study including aspects of participation and the open questions and activities developed in the third round may
contribute to pedagogical aspects of using such technologies.

6.6 Beyond this investigation

6.6.1 Possibilities for further research

Whilst confined to Christian education in a local church setting, findings from this study raise possibilities of employing similar resources in
other areas. There appears little technological impediment to this though resource implications particularly in relation to creating video-
clips may require careful consideration. Findings from this research suggest that the use of multimedia resources including video-clips of
local church-goers may provide support for a conversational dialogue ‘in the context of relationships and community’ (The Church of
Scotland General Assembly, 2009, p.4/9) currently sought by this denomination.

Stenning, et al. (1999, p.341) argue that capturing vicarious resources is worthwhile only if it increases understanding compared with
other presentation forms such as text or lecture. This investigation suggests that vicarious resources influence confidence, identity and
participation and so support important aspects of engagement beyond increasing comprehension, though also providing a variety of views
for comparison and contrast. However, this study made limited connections between factors affecting approaches to learning and learning
gains themselves, an issue which may prove valuable for further investigation.

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The extent to which experiences of participation, or experiences of using and contributing to similar multimedia resources, may be
reflected among other church-goers or in other ecclesiastical settings, for example in clergy education and formation, also offers an
interesting area for further research.

This investigation examined uses of communication technologies to encourage participation in certain Christian education activities but did
not explore other, perhaps more readily available means, for enabling participation. This investigation does not suggest that technology
use is the sole or even a preferred means of encouraging participation in these activities. However, in highlighting aspects of participation
it may contribute to further research into roles for strategies supporting participation in Christian education and other learning settings.

Some limited participatory research was undertaken as informants’ views on developing ideas were sought in group interviews following
the first and second research rounds, indicating possible benefits from greater participatory action research as advocated by Davis (2007a,
p.50).

Whilst gratefully acknowledging the various copyright permissions which were extended to enable this research to be undertaken, further
research is required as to the possibility of including excerpts from copyright materials in resources such as these, particularly if their
persistence is educationally beneficially. Such inclusion raises issues of intellectual property rights which have not been explored further in
this study. Alternative approaches to distribution of video-clips such as on a DVD-disc contained within a printed book are foreshadowed
by this investigation which has not sought to investigate practicalities or difficulties inherent in such an undertaking.

6.6.2 Practical developments

The feasibility of producing resources of the type investigated here means that their use in settings such as this may be considered
reasonable, provided necessary resources are available. This may influence the types of resources used in Christian education provision in
this setting and possibly elsewhere.

This investigation suggests that expanding the ability for ordinary theologians’ articulated views to be captured and distributed to support
Christian education both by technology and more traditional means may be valuable. Whilst the difficulties associated with traditional
participation in group discussions may encourage greater focus on technology-assisted communication, technical requirements for
producing video and multimedia resources may impede using such technologies for this end.

If technology is to be used more widely, then strategies to support its confident and sufficiently skilled use among a greater number of
church-goers require to be developed and implemented. These strategies depend to some extent on the distribution method employed
and practical issues surrounding appropriate communication methods require further investigation.

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A further envisaged development involves ordinary theologians’ greater involvement in capturing and producing resources and in
determining subjects to be considered. Each round in this investigation was largely planned, implemented and controlled by the Minister.
This involvement may be reduced with beneficial results.

6.7 Concluding comments

This investigation has drawn attention to issues of participation in Christian education activities in a church congregation and has indicated
a range of experiences of participating. A reasoned, evidenced case for extending ordinary theology to include sharing of ordinary
theologians’ views among one another has been provided by arguing that the views of ordinary theologians are pedagogically valuable to
one another.

It has demonstrated a role for video and text, possibly combined in multimedia resources, in Christian education endeavours and in so
doing has indicated pedagogical uses for technologies in this setting, as well as noting limitations through lack of infrastructure or skills. At
the same time this study has illustrated the feasibility of producing a range of audio-visual resources encouraging participation and has
noted features which make them potentially useful. These include their persistence and availability, and the variety of their content, the
importance of vicarious learning, benefits of rehearsal opportunities, and stimulus combined with contexts for practice in articulating early
views which the resources demand.

This investigation has spanned five years, involving planning and making arrangements, reading relevant literature, producing resources,
capturing and analysing data and reflecting on experiences. It has been demanding and has contributed to the researcher’s professional
development. Whilst few depths have been plumbed adequately in this study some contribution to adult Christian education has been
made. This report is produced partly in the hope that the insights contained here may be of benefit to others in the future.

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APPENDIX A PRELIMINARY QUESTIONNAIRE

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Learning in Church questionnaire

The information you give in this questionnaire will be stored securely. Only Grant
Barclay will have access to the completed sheets.
You will not be identified at all as an individual, though the church you attended when
you completed the questionnaire may be identified.
The answers you gave will not be identified with you at any time, though the total
answers given by individual churches or groups of churches may be identified.
If you gave your name and contact details, these will only be used for the purpose
indicated on the questionnaire. Your name and contact details will not be retained in
any list or database and will not be given to anyone else.
The purpose of the questionnaire is to gauge roughly whether people make
connections between learning and their involvement in church.

If you would like more information on some of the thinking behind this research,
please contact Grant Barclay on (01563) 571280 or at grant.barclay@bigfoot.com.

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APPENDIX B CONVERSATION SCHEDULES
B.1 Questions guiding conversations in preliminary investigation
What things or types of things have you learned by being involved in church?
How do you think you learned them? What helped you learn them?
How would you describe your experiences of learning in church?
Do you expect to learn still more as you are involved in church in the future? If you do, what do you think you might learn?

B.2 Conversation schedule in first research round


For each entry in the User Record, could you go through the answers you wrote down? Did you look at the material at any time when you
didn’t write something in the User Record? If so, could you answer the same questions now about the time(s) you looked at the material
but didn’t write anything down?
In what ways do you think filling in the User Record affected your thinking about this subject?
For each big contribution you made in the discussion (repeat each in turn), could you say what caused you to think the way you spoke?
What has made you think what you have expressed?
How did it feel to you:
To read the material?
To watch the DVD?
To take part in the discussion?

B.3 Conversation schedule in second research round


1 To begin with
1.1 Did you enjoy reading and watching the material (the written stuff and clips), and taking part in the discussions?
1.2 How much did you use the material? Where and when did you use it? What did you think of it?

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2 Aims you set
2.1 Did you have something you wanted to get out of doing all this? What was that?
2.2 Why did you want to get that out of it?
2.3 How did you keep that aim in mind?
3 What you think about what you got out of it
3.1.1 Did you get what you wanted out of all this?
3.1.2 What helped you do that? What hindered you from doing that?
3.1.3 Is there anything else you still need to do to get what you had wanted out of it?
3.2.1 You put a lot into this. Do you think it was worth it?
3.2.2 Why?
3.2.3 What do you think you’ve gained?
4 Using the material (the pages of writing and the video clips)
4.1 Can you describe how you used the material? What did you do with it?
4.2 Why did you do those things?
4.3 What were you looking to do with the material?
5 Doing this again?
5.1 Would you do use material generally of this sort (that is, text and video together, plus opportunity for discussion) again?
5.2 Would you recommend doing this sort of thing to others?
5.3 What changes in the material (that is, what was on the disk) do you think would have helped you?
6 Making Comparisons
6.1.1 Did you ever find yourself comparing your thoughts or understandings with what was said in the text?
6.1.2 If so, can you describe this?

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6.1.3 Was this helpful or unhelpful to you?
6.2.1 Did you find yourself comparing your thoughts or understandings with what people said in the clips?
6.2.2 If so, can you describe this?
6.2.3 Was this helpful or unhelpful to you?
6.2.4 One section of the text (section 8) didn’t have any clips. Did that make any difference to what you got from that section?
IF YOU APPEARED IN A VIDEO CLIP
7 Being involved in appearing in a video
7.1.1 How did you feel about being filmed talking about a subject like this?
7.1.2 It took courage to be filmed speaking about this subject. Would you appear in other clips? Why?
7.1.3 If you would appear in other clips, what would help you more?
7.2.1 What did you think you needed to get from your section of the text so you could talk about it in your clip?
7.2.2 What sorts of things did you do to get that from the text?
7.2.3 Why did you do those things?
7.3.1 As you used the final (completed) material, were you looking to get anything different from the sections where your clips
appeared compared to the other sections?
7.3.2 Did you think about the sections where your clips appeared in the same way as you thought about the other sections? Were there
any differences in the ways you thought about them?
7.3.3 Have your views changed from the ones you gave in your clips?
IF YOU DIDN’T COME TO ANY DISCUSSIONS
8 Views about church discussions
8.1 Discussion times were offered, but you didn’t have to come to them and you chose not to. Why was that?
8.2 How would you describe church discussion groups? Why do you say that- is it experience, what you’ve heard, or for other
reasons?

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8.3 Were your views about what people do at church discussions changed by watching the clips? If they were, in what ways?
IF YOU CAME TO ONE OR MORE DISCUSSIONS
9 Views on these discussions
9.1.1 How would you describe church discussion groups? Why do you say that- is it experience, what you’ve heard, or for other
reasons?
9.1.2 Before you came to a discussion, what did you think you would have to do at it? How did you feel coming for the first time to
one of these discussions?
9.1.3 Did what you thought you’d have to do, or how you felt about the discussion, change during or after it? In what ways?
9.2.1 What did you get out of the discussion? Is that what you expected?
9.2.2 What sorts of things did you do to take part (or not take part) in it?
9.2.3 Why did you do those things to take part (or not take part) in it?
9.3.1 Were the discussions what you thought they would be? What did you think they would be?
9.3.2 Did the discussion help you to get what you wanted out of all this?
9.4 Is there anything else you’d like to say about the discussions?
FOR EVERYONE
10 Additional items
10.1 Is there anything else you felt was important that you haven’t spoken about?

B.4 Conversation schedule in third research round


1 General
1.1 Did you enjoy using the resource? What for you were good and bad things?
2 Using the resource
2.1 What do you think you have got from this?

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2.2 Was this satisfying, or are you left wanting more, or have you had too much?
2.3 You used the resource for [ ] minutes. What did you do with it- describe activity.
2.4 Why did you do those things?
2.5 What did you get from the text itself?
2.6 What did you get from the video clips themselves?
2.7 Did the clips affect what you got from the text?
2.8 Did the text affect what you got from the clips?
2.9 Did you need both text and clips, or could you have got by without either? Why?
3 The activities
3.1 How did you feel about having activities to do?
3.2 How did you choose which ones to do?
3.3 Would you have preferred to see what the activities were before reading the text?
3.4 Would you rather have done other activities not included here? What sort of things?
3.5 Did these activities help you or hinder you understanding the resource?
4 Being in a video
4.1 Did the fact you were going to be videoed affect how you used the resource? How?
4.2 Did the activities help you to speak about the text in the video?
4.3 Did seeing videos of others help you speak about the text in your video?
4.4 What do you think of your video contribution? Are you happy it be included?
5 Other people
5.1 Did the videos of other people help you get anything from this resource? What?
5.2 Are you giving anything to other people by doing this? What?

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6 Group Discussion
6.1 We’re likely to hold a group discussion about this article. Do you think you would come to that or not? Why?
6.2 Do you need to / would you like to discuss this subject in a group, now that you’ve read it and seen the clips?
6.3 Will the clips help you to discuss the article in a group?
6.4 If you had only had the article to read, would you come to a discussion?
7 Final
7.1 What do you actually mean by learning when it’s to do with faith?

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APPENDIX C OPEN QUESTIONS / ACTIVITIES IN THIRD RESEARCH ROUND
Activity A So What?
Does this have anything to do with your life, or your family, or your church, or what you see around you? What does it say to you to you about any of
these things?
Activity B Consequences...
Take one idea from the text and say what might happen if it were put into practice. That could be you, your family, your church, or society at large.
What would the result be?
Activity C Spot the Difference!
What have you come across here that’s most different to what you think about this subject? Can you describe the differences?
Activity D On the Fairway
Draw a simple ‘fairway’. Mark where you think ideas from this stuff sit, compared to your own ideas about the subject.
Activity E P2S - Paragraph to Sentence
Can you say (in about one sentence) what each paragraph or section in the text says? You can use words which are in the text- or can you use your
own words?
Activity F Customer Satisfaction
If the publishers of the text wrote to ask you how helpful you found it, then what would you say? Why do you think that?
Activity G Rings a Bell?
Does any of this ring bells for you from your own thoughts or experiences? Could you talk a bit about those?
Activity H Have a Look at This!
What would you say to someone else to encourage them to read and watch this stuff? Why should they make the effort to look at this?
Activity I How did you do that?
Can you explain how you went about reading this, and understanding it, and making connections with what you think or how you live?
Activity J Safety Clip and Compass
What words, or phrases, or ideas here leave you a bit unsure, or stumped, or lost? What would you like to be more sure about if you were to talk
about this subject in a group?
Activity K What’s Missing?
Is there anything the articles or video should have said but didn’t? What would you add to it?

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Activity L Picture this!
Could you draw a diagram or picture which would help you explain ideas here to someone else?

Activity M New Frontiers...


Is there anything from this stuff which makes you think, ‘I’d like to find out more about that...’? What would that be, and what would help you discover
more?
Activity N Gold, Silver, Bronze
What were the most important two or three things for you from this? Why were they important to you?
Activity O Under my skin!
Is there an idea here which really intrigues or attracts you, and makes you stop and think? Or maybe it annoys you and you strongly disagree. What is
it, what’s your reaction, and why?
NOTE Nominal initials refer to frequency of use Figure 4.8.

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APPENDIX D QUESTIONNAIRE FOLLOWING THIRD ROUND DISCUSSIONS

Could you take ten minutes to fill this in, please? It would help me very much to discover what you think about this way of doing things.
Your responses won’t be shared or discussed with any-one, and you’ll not be identified in any reports.
This is all about your experiences, and what you thought of this. You’re not being tested. Together we’re having a think about using videos
and texts and talking together. You help most if you give honest answers which are as full as you can make them. You don’t need to put
your name on this sheet, unless you want to talk further.

What about each part?

You did four things: you read the written stuff, you had a conversation about it which was videoed, you saw other people’s videos and you
came here to talk together.
What helped you think about your faith, or your living as a Christian?
What did the opposite? Can you say why?

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Continued over...

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What about the different parts?
Did one part affect what you did in another part? If so, can you draw an arrow from one to another and say what the connection is for
you? One example is given. You can have as many connections as you like!

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APPENDIX E RESOURCES

Extract taken from An Introduction to the Bible by John Drane. Copyright © Lion Hudson 1990. Used with permission of Lion Hudson plc.
Extract taken from The Daily Study Bible Matthew volume 1 by William Barclay, Copyright © 1975 The Saint Andrew Press. Used with permission of the
Estate of the late William Barclay and The Saint Andrew Press.
Article Fostering Trust by Kerry Kidd taken from Third Way Magazine. Copyright © Kerry Kidd 2008. Used with the author’s permission.

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Whilst the resources were distributed individually, for convenience they are all contained on this DVD-disc. The first resource is designed to play if the
disc is inserted in a DVD-player. If the disc is inserted in an appropriate computer, option choices to view the second and third resources are designed
to be displayed. If this feature does not operate, the file intro.pdf in the root directory should be opened using a PDF viewing application. The
electronic version of this report is also contained on this DVD-disc and may be accessed through the options for viewing the second and third
resources. The first resource may be viewed on a computer by using a media player to open the DVD-video section of the disc. Whilst the DVD-disc
has been checked for viruses no liability is accepted for data loss or for damage to equipment resulting from its use.

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