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The Doctor of Practical Theology (DPT, DThP) is an advanced degree for professionals serving Church, non-profit, public, and private sector organizations, seeking to apply theological principles to their professional practice. The typical degree candidate is a part-time student who continues full-time professional responsibilities.

The Doctor of Practical Theology is typically a multidisciplinary program designed for consideration, reflection, examination and application of appropriate theological principles to practice-based settings. It is classified as a professional degree, contrasting with the academic degrees of PhD and ThD, which are designed for serious researchers or for teaching. By contrast, the DPT serves as a foundation for an original project that grows out of one’s own professional experience and contributes to solutions and development of the student's organization and/or profession.

Professional doctorates are designed to take explicit account of the work or practice-based setting of participating students as a central component (and knowledge-base) of an advanced research project. This reflects the need for structured forms of professional development in many areas of the public, private and voluntary sector. The program is therefore designed to introduce you to a range of dynamic and challenging concepts and methods with which to reflect critically and constructively on your current experience and context. Such a program responds to the need for structured learning and theological development among professionals serving Church, non-profit, public, and private sector organizations.

Typical areas for consideration and research include: Missions, pastoral care, pastoral counseling, chaplaincy, church growth and development, Christian administration, homiletics, spiritual formation, pastoral theology, Church administration, Biblical counseling, Biblical archeology, higher education, college/university/seminary administration, religious education, Christian management, church music, social work, spiritual direction, spiritual theology, and many other areas.

The program is particularly aimed at participants across a range of contexts and institutions:

  • Public sector professions, such as health care, education, social services;
  • Those working in the caring professions, such as psychotherapy and counseling, social work and community development;
  • Ministers of religion, in parish, congregational or chaplaincy settings;
  • Those working for charities, non-governmental organizations or in cultural industries or the arts;
  • Those in industry or business wishing to deepen their understanding of the ethical and theological dimensions of their professional and/or voluntary practice.

The DPT degree is also designed for working, and the program is structured to allow for part time study by pastors, missionaries, and denominational leaders who are practicing ministry. The purpose of the degree is to enhance the practice of ministry for persons who hold the equivalent of a MBS and have engaged in ministerial leadership. 

HOW IT WORKS
The program requires the equivalent of one full year of academic study and the completion of the doctoral or project. Normally, the degree requires from three to six years to complete.

Two approaches in particular will be used: Firstly, practice-based research and inquiry-based learning methods, in which participants' own professional context becomes a primary research resource. Secondly, you will be encouraged to keep a research log, or learning journal. This may take the form of a diary, or portfolio or other personal record; it is designed to encourage you to put into writing a record of reading and experimentation, thus both cultivating your writing skills and integrating your theoretical work with sustained reflection on your own practical context. Elements of this journal will be submitted for assessment.

The Doctor of Practical Theology program customarily integrates theological concepts into the context of professional practice. Most programs customarily include:

  • Assignments, reading, and research designed to strengthen writing and critical thinking skills while integrating theological principles and concepts with the context of the student's professional practice.
  • Practice-based research and inquiry-based learning methods, in which the student's own professional context becomes a primary resource in research.

The Doctor of Practical Theology has other distinct characteristics:

  • This program is specifically designed to be taken on a part-time basis over the course of five years. All DPT students meet 5 times a year locally. Sessions will include work on research skills and methodology, practical exercises in inquiry-based learning, and lectures, seminars and student-led discussions.
  • Participants will be encouraged to use their professional, voluntary or ministerial practice as the foundation of a structured process of research in practical theology.
  • Participants will be encouraged to develop their ability to generate new perspectives, data, paradigms in the engagement between religious, ethical and spiritual world-views and a range of professional and practical contexts.
  • The DPT is assessed by means of a portfolio of work, including a literature review, a publishable article, and a 50,000-word dissertation (which we hope might be published so as to be of help to the maximum number of your professional colleagues).
  • For part-time students, this program will require around 6-8 hours for independent work per week. That will include research and reading, and maintaining a regular research journal.
  • The DPT is a full doctoral award.

WHO CAN BE A CANDIDATE?

The Doctor of Practical Theology (DPT or DThP) is applicable to:

  • Public sector professions, such as health care, education, social services;
  • Caring professions, such as psychotherapy, pastoral care and counseling, alternative dispute resolution (ADR), mediation, social work and community development;
  • Church ministers in parish, congregational or chaplaincy settings;
  • Non-profit professions, such as charities, non-governmental organizations, cultural organizations, or the arts;
  • Business and industry professionals with an interest in the subject.

The DPT is suitable for all those actively involved in professional or substantial voluntary work across a range of contexts and institutions, who want to examine the implications of action guiding beliefs, values, and ideologies ('theologies') for their practices and vice-versa.  A variety of social science and other methodologies can be used to research practice and contexts.

Applications from those not involved in the above work sectors, but who have an undergraduate degree (any subject) and a Master’s degree (theology) will also be considered.

The University sets its fees annually. The cost of this program is likely to be in the region of $2,000 per year (on a part-time basis).  However students will be required to pay for travel and accommodation (if required) and the costs of participation in the scheduled sessions.

IS THIS PROGRAM FOR ME? 

  • The program is designed to appeal to those interested in relating theological, ethical and spiritual insights and methods to their own professional and/or voluntary practice.
  • Participants are required to have a personal faith-commitment and they should be interested in the role of religion, theology and ethics in relation to a range of contexts, from social policy, management, politics, health care, and community work, to congregational ministry and institutional chaplaincy.
  • In order to satisfy the entry requirements, participants will normally need to hold a Bachelor's degree, and a Master's degree in theology or related subject, plus appropriate professional accreditation and experience. If you do not have these formal degrees, consult with the Program director on the possibility of using Life Experience toward admission requirements.
  • Participants will need to have ready access to and facility with e-mail and Internet communication.
  • Candidates will be required to give evidence of the ability to work well with others in a group context.
  • Please note that it is the responsibility of individual international candidates to check the status and equivalence of the awards in their home country.

ASSESSMENT

Award of the doctoral degree will be via submission of a research portfolio with structured assignments and deadlines.

  • Literature Review (8,000-10,000 words)
  • Publishable Article (6,000-8,000 words)
  • Research Proposal (4,000-5,000 words)
  • Research Thesis (40,000 – 50,000 words)

HOW IS THE PROGRAM STRUCTURED?

Length of Study: The program is available over 3-6 years part-time.

Workload and student support:
For part-time students, we will expect you to set aside 6-8 hours for independent work per week. That will include research and reading, and maintaining a regular research journal.

In addition, you will be assigned a personal supervisor, who will respond via Internet to any questions or problems you may encounter.

Program Structure and Assessment Schedule
The program will be taken in stages, each marked by a written assignment to be completed:

Paper 1: Literature review
The aim of this exercise is to offer a foundation in the field of practical theology, by introducing participants to debates, methods and writers in the discipline. You will be expected to conduct a literature review in the field of practical theology in a way that demonstrates an understanding of methodological issues associated with reflection on practice and context. This should present an informed critique of the methods and assumptions of other scholars in practical theology using appropriate academic skills and conventions of presentation.

Paper 2: Publishable Article
The aim of this exercise is to examine the elements and stages involved in publishing your research, whether in article format or as a book. You will be asked to select a topic of research suitable to the production of a 7,000-word research report or article in a significant area of the academic discipline of practical theology and/or in your area of professional practice; then to demonstrate through the exploration of that topic a capacity for independent, original and in-depth thinking; finally, to relate that topic to appropriate context(s) of practice in your profession, communicating the findings of that research clearly and effectively in verbal form to peers, by means of a seminar paper, subsequently revised for publication. In some cases, it may be appropriate to select and justify research method(s) appropriate to the investigation of the topic. 

Paper 3: Research Proposal: Establishing advanced research practice in practical theology
In this part of the unit, you will be invited to develop a research proposal (7,000 words) for an advanced piece of research in the field of practical theology that demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of the issues, questions and methods that are particularly relevant to the context and performance that you wish to study. 

Paper 4: Research Dissertation
A thesis (40-50,000 words), which will contain the following elements:

      1. Presentation of your research, indicating how it may be evaluated as an original contribution to the discipline of Practical Theology.
      2. A critical evaluation of the contribution which this research makes to your context of professional practice.
      3. Further critical account and analysis of your own intellectual and professional development during the course of the research. 

What is 'Inquiry-Based Learning'?
A simple definition of inquiry-based learning is to say that it is an approach characterized by 'learning through doing'. The student takes an active role in learning, by engaging with case studies or scenarios that call for sustained analysis and inquiry. The work is very student-centered, since participants direct their own lines of inquiry and identify suitable methods and data. The process of inquiry encourages participants to draw on prior knowledge and experience; and since many of the exercises are drawn from 'real life', it enables students to relate to the demands of their own contexts and professional commitments.

In the professional doctorate in practical theology, we will be using inquiry-based learning as a way of fostering an ethos of 'practice-based research' among participants. Throughout your doctoral study, you will be encouraged to participate in exercises such as case studies and problem-based workshops which will enable you to sharpen important 'transferable skills' such as identifying research questions, problem-solving, research design and implementation, and communicating your research findings to others. 

Given that the traditional PhD or ThD has normally been designed for those seeking a career in academic teaching and research, the professional DPT doctorate is an alternative that offers advanced training for a wider range of career paths, while retaining an explicit research focus directed towards enhancing the knowledge base and understanding of your own profession. If the conventional Ph.D. was aimed at producing "professional researchers," then it may be said that the professional DPT doctorate is designed to develop "researching professionals."