Original Research

Decolonising an introductory course in practical theology and missiology: Some tentative reflections on shifting identities

Ian A. Nell
Transformation in Higher Education | Vol 6 | a103 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/the.v6i0.103 | © 2021 Ian A. Nell | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 December 2020 | Published: 21 May 2021

About the author(s)

Ian A. Nell, Department of Practical Theology and Missiology, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa

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Background: The shifting identity of a first-year class over a decade in terms of demography and representation, inevitably led me to reflect deeply on what I teach them and how I facilitate the learning process. I had to pay close attention to decolonisation and contextualisation. The basic research question is: How does one reflect on the shifting identity of a first-year class and how does one decolonise a first-year module in Practical Theology and Missiology?

Aim: To answer the research question by taking the following route. Firstly, aspects of the changed context and shifting identity will be discussed and secondly, attention will be given to what is meant by decolonisation, with specific reference to the curriculum. Thirdly, the focus will be on a proposed curriculum that uses a theo-dramatic approach. Fourthly, I reflect on the learning process (pedagogy) and how it also contributes to a shift in my own identity.

Setting: The research is set against the backdrop of changes that took place over the last two decades in Higher Education in South Africa including the commodification of higher education, the lack of adequate financial resources and the #FeesMustFall movement.

Methods: As the research design, a case study is selected for the study project.

Results: The development of a new pedagogy.

Conclusion: With this contribution I attempted to reflect, in the light of the changing profile of the class composition of a first-year module in Practical Theology and Missiology in terms of demography (BCI students), to what extent it also leads to a shift of identities.


decolonisation; contextualisation; practical theology; #FeesMustFall movement; pedagogy; curriculum; theo-drama


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