Student profile:

Dr Janine Luttick & Dr Emmanuel Nathan, with Professor Reimund Bieringer
Religious Education and Biblical studies
MA of Theological Studies/Prof Studies in Theology/MA of Religious Ed 
Transforming Religious Education through Scripture
Typically teams of staff from Catholic schools responsible for religious education


This case study explores the collaboration of Dr Janine Luttick and Dr Emmanuel Nathan from ACU with an external expert, Professor Reimund Bieringer of Katholieke Universiteit (KU) Leuven, Belgium, to co-design and co-deliver a masterclass on contemporising religious education using scripture and enhancing the Catholic identity of schools in Australia.

The design of the masterclass was a response to the challenges experienced by industry partners in responding to their results from the KU Leuven Enhancing Catholic School Identity (ECSI) Project tool. The tool is conducted as a survey and places schools on a scale with respect to their catholic identity.


A key feature of the masterclass is that the facilitators (ACU academics & the external expert) took an international process developed in KU Leuven and contextualised it for the Australian industry partners. In this way, the masterclass was not an external expert informing Australian catholic schools what they should do to enhance their catholic identity (and rate higher on the KU Leuven tool). Instead, the masterclass facilitated a dialogue and process with the industry partners that helped them design their own solutions for their particular contexts.

The masterclass also encouraged participants to articulate the issues they thought would be important for any future credentialed unit to address, and also what processes and structures would be required in this unit. Later, a credentialed unit which could be taken in two different masters programs within the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy was developed.


  • Leverage external stakeholder consultations in the course design
  • Co-design and co-facilitate the course with an external expert
  • Provide pathways into credentialed units
  • Facilitate contextualised strategies for cultural change.

ACU postgraduate priority areas

The masterclass and subsequent credentialed unit aligned with all four objectives of the 2018-20 postgraduate strategy. The four objectives and the specific strategies employed are listed below:

  • Objective 1: Global connectedness
    • Leveraging of ACU global connections and partnerships to support new models, student opportunities and global perspectives
  • Objective 2: Real world capability
    • Designing with industry to help shape workforces
    • Capability/skills based learning and experiences
    • Courses linked to careers, jobs and markets
    • Professional development pipelines into award courses
  • Objective 3: Leading with integrity
    • Courses and student experiences that reflect and embed our mission
    • Creating future leaders that tackle modern world issue with integrity, creativity and empathy
    • Supporting meaningful and relevant community engagement
    • Creating graduates with impact
  • Objective 4: Learning, teaching & service excellence
    • Learning and assessment linked to real workplace experiences
    • Quality prospective student experiences and conversion to enrolment
    • Greater flexibility through intensives and other student-focused practices

Market rationale

Stakeholder organisations (primarily catholic schools in Melbourne but also state catholic education offices in NSW, VIC & QLD) were perplexed with what to do next after having received their respective surveys assessing catholic identity within their school communities.

A need therefore existed to help these stakeholders come up with solutions to address their individual needs in enhancing catholic identity. While units already exist based on the KU Leuven Enhancing Catholic School Identity (ECSI) Project, it was felt that an Australian response to doing biblical studies more effectively in schools was needed.

Additionally, flexibility was required in terms of the delivery and some participants did not necessarily need a credentialed qualification.

Learning and teaching rationale

The ACU academics, having conducted many of the conversations with stakeholders themselves, understood the learning opportunity for Australian catholic schools to respond to their ECSI data by using a conversational approach that was inherent in the didactic process developed by Prof. Bieringer for learning and teaching scripture.

The masterclass was intentionally designed to have participants analyse in their school teams the issues they were facing, then together come up with contextualised approaches within the future-oriented to scripture framework developed by Prof. Bieringer.

The intention was that the solutions proposed by the teams would be easier to implement back in their schools as they had worked through the issues in conversation with the ‘expert’ and in their own teams had designed solutions. In this way, the ACU academics and the external expert acted more like partners in upskilling the participants, rather than providing didactic solutions.

This learning and teaching approach created the right conditions for cultural change to occur back in the schools and enhance their catholic school identity.

Solution and approach

In collaboration with Prof. Bieringer face-to-face, over Skype and via email, Dr Nathan and Ms Luttick co-designed a masterclass (Solution A) and subsequently a credentialed unit (Solution B). The learning was based on an existing tool and process developed by Prof. Bieringer, the "Normativity of the Future" approach to scripture.

Solution A: Masterclass

After the Data: Transforming religious education through scripture

Mode: Attendance

The masterclass was delivered over two days with pre- and post-session tasks:

1. Pre-investigative tasks

Two tasks were to be completed by participants prior to attending the masterclass:

  • Bring along an artefact of cultural change from your school.
  • Conduct focused conversations with 2 students and 3 adults from your school in order to get a sense of how the Bible is being used.
Task rationale

One of the key messages from the masterclass is that in order to make bible studies relevant, the participants needed to hear the very voices of the people involved, in order to truly understand the issues and the potential ‘blockers’. Additionally, the facilitators of the masterclass wanted the voice of these focused conversations to have an impact on not only the teachers and principals themselves, but also on the development of a credentialed unit that would ensue from the masterclass.

2.Two-day face-to-face masterclass.

During the masterclass the participants worked in their teams to:

  • analyse the data and information collected from their schools
  • determine interesting insights and patterns, and
  • highlight things that surprised them and things they were concerned about.

Once this analysis was completed within their own school group, the participants then worked with other school groups to get a perspective on what they were hearing. All of the groups then fed back to the facilitators and external expert who gave perspectives on what the groups were saying.

Using this approach the masterclass became a conversation between the participants and the 3 co-facilitators with a non-deficit starting position. That is, the participants were acknowledged as having expertise and knowledge of their schools and their children.  Next, they were encouraged to discuss dilemmas they’ve faced with each other and with Prof. Bieringer, and to use his future-oriented approach to develop solutions of their own that addressed their specific contexts.

During the two-day masterclass, the three facilitators were in constant conversation about what was working, what they would do differently, and what a potential credentialed unit might look like, including what processes and structures a credentialed unit could incorporate to support the stakeholders and their schools in their roles.

Solution B: Credentialed unit


THBS606: Interpreting biblical texts for contemporary times


The unit is normally offered in attendance mode, undertaken over a sequence of two-day face-to-face intensives (4 days in total). During these face-to-face learning opportunities, participants will learn with and from the teaching team and each other through critical reading, analysis, discussion, dialogue, workshops and reflection.

Participants are asked to engage critically with current approaches to biblical hermeneutical interpretation and to examine the significance of these approaches both theoretically and practically for the context in which they might lead learning in the study of the Bible. THBS606 positions the participants as active partners in the learning process. Participants in this unit are recognized as adult learners who develop deep understanding when their learning is relevant to them and connected to the context in which they lead others to learn. Participants are thus expected to accept responsibility for their own learning in this unit. Active engagement with, and contribution to, the learning of others is essential throughout the unit.

Results and feedback

Interestingly, the feedback differed by state.

Some feedback was extremely positive, other feedback was more mixed. The ACU facilitators attributed this to the extremely close relationships and detailed conversations they had had with the catholic education office in Victoria. In contrast, they had not spoken to the stakeholders in other states prior to the masterclass, except via an intermediary. The differences amongst the various state curriculums also created some tensions for participants in applying the strategies suggested during the masterclass.

Masterclass inspired and informed the development of a credentialed unit. The facilitators intentionally designed the masterclass so as to hear from participants their views on what the process and content of a credentialed unit should look like.

Lessons learned

Co-development with stakeholders

  • Consolidate the process you would like to use for facilitation prior to developing the masterclass or unit.
  • Speak with individual stakeholders (e.g. school principals) and ask them about their key issues along with their preferred structure, content and participation mode. This gives an indication of what financial resources stakeholders are prepared to commit and also better understand what they want and what they need.

State-specific contexts

  • When the nature of the unit is highly contextual, as was the case with the masterclass, the facilitators of the course need to be in conversation with all the stakeholders in each state, not just schools, principals and the catholic education office in one state. While there was a ‘middle man’ conducting these conversations, ideally the facilitators should have been involved. Had the facilitators been aware of the differing issues in other states, they could have designed the masterclass in a more responsive way for Brisbane and Adelaide.

Looking ahead

The masterclass initiative outline in this case study has already led to the development of a credentialed unit (also outlined in this case study), which forms 10 cp in three different masters programs.

Page last updated on 28/02/2020

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