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Five-day field study on religious diversity in The Hague

Contact Person

dr. Marjo Buitelaar. m.w.buitelaar@rug.nl

Summary

The Bachelor’s degree programme in Religious Studies is a theoretically oriented, interdisciplinary programme that focuses on the interplay between religion and culture. It is a small degree programme, in which students and lecturers are in close contact and there is a strong sense of community. The added value of Learning Communities for this type of degree programme lies mainly in the project-based teaching through which practical competences (collaboration, planning, organization and applying theoretical understanding to practical situations) are acquired – competences that are largely overlooked in regular teaching despite their relevance given the learning outcomes of the degree programme. Students themselves have also indicated that these competences should be given more attention (NSE 2014).

Although knowledge and skills (e.g. research skills) are applied in practical situations in various ways in the current curriculum, this is usually done in rather small-scale assignments, often completed individually. Extending the learning environment beyond the degree programme will further enhance students’ understanding of the way the dynamics between religion and culture is shaped in today’s society.

The proposal is to have second-year students of Religious Studies prepare and conduct a five-day field study in The Hague, write a research report based on this study and use the results to write an opinion article for a Dutch newspaper. The qualitative study will focus on diversity (particularly religious diversity) in today’s multicultural society and the question how The Hague is dealing with it. The study thus ties in with the University of Groningen Sustainable Society research priority, and more specifically with the social theme of ‘Inclusion’. What role do religious and ethnic minority groups (Moroccan, Turkish, Hindustani, Indo and Surinamese people) play in The Hague, how do the city’s inhabitants feel about diversity (including religious diversity) in their area and how do the municipal authorities deal with this diversity in their city?

This Learning Community will offer students a meaningful practical experience and thus be a valuable addition to the current curriculum. In addition, if this pilot project results in one or more Learning Communities becoming standard parts of the curriculum, this will enable the degree programme to clearly distinguish itself from other Bachelor’s degree programmes in Religious Studies in the Netherlands, thereby solving one of the points of criticism listed in the State of the Art Report drawn up by the QANU committee for Theology and Religious Studies on the basis of the 2013 cluster visitation.

Best Practices

The LC project 'Anthropology of the multicultural city' was integrated into existing BA1 & BA2 methodology courses for students in Religious Studies. In addition to these parallel methodology courses, every other week we organised joint meetings in which literature and methodological issues concerning anthropology in the city were discussed. During each meeting, after a (guest)lecture, a small mixed group of BA1 & BA2 students prepared a presentation about literature concerning ethnographic research in a multicultural city, resulting in adding key themes and concepts to a collective 'topic list' that would be used for fieldwork in in Rotterdam. In addition, mixed couples of BA1 & BA2 students prepared their own small fieldwork project in Oud West.

The LC projected culminated in a week of ethnographic field work in Oud West, Rotterdam. To enhance the formation of a learning community, all organisational tasks were distributed among the students (e.g. contacting the hostel, organising the use of voice-recorders, managing a group whatsapp, etc.). During the week of fieldwork, our home base was 'De Leeszaal', a community centre in Oud West. In addition to guest lectures and joint excursions for which the students took turns writing reports about, students carried out their own fieldwork project in BA1 & BA2 couples. On the last day all participants were invited for a festive meeting with drinks and snacks during which the students presented the preliminary results of their research.

The LC project was highly successful and the fieldwork will be integrated into the regular BA programme. The main factors contributing to the close-knit learning community thus developed were the following:

  • By combining classes and working in mixed groups, BA1 students learned from BA2 students, while BA2 students realised how much they had learned already and reactivated their acquired knowledge through their cooperation with their BA1 peers.
  • Taking students away from their everyday environment into a new setting for an intensive week of fieldwork enhanced teambuilding and mutual commitment.
  • By distributing tasks and working with group presentations, students acquired a sense of shared responsibility for both the content and the organisation of their own learning processes.
  • The LC project allowed students to acquire practical experience in setting up, carrying out and analysing a collaborative qualitative research project.
Last modified:16 March 2017 1.19 p.m.
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