Imagine an old-fashioned scale with trays on both sides. On one side stacked with books and theories. The other side is filled with the experiences of our lives. The scale weighs head knowledge against heart knowledge or thinking against doing. The university has traditionally tipped the scale on the side of theory while practitioners around the world claim that they discover real knowledge on the experiential side.
For the Christian, this scale can be viewed through James’ words on faith and works—they need one another. The true Christian cannot live solely in her head nor in her heart. We are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Practice-led research is a way to balance the scale. Practice-led research affirms that there is legitimate knowledge to be found in and through experience, but that experience needs to be critically reflected upon.
In his PhD dissertation, Neil Ferguson gathers the disparate threads of practice-led research and develops a definition that is neither too narrow (it has application beyond the art and design world where practice-led research was born) nor too broad to be of any practical use. He then illustrates his definition with numerous potential practice-led projects in the field of theology.
Ferguson’s dissertation brings clarity to a muddy field and provides a practical way to do practice-led research in any field, including theology.
Ferguson, Neil. “Practice-Led Theology or Thinking Theology Through Practice.” PhD diss., University of Notre Dame, Australia, 2014.