So, the last RE session of the year, and of the course, is about using assessment in RE and reviewing planning. The SACRE for Northamptonshire has a whole section dedicated to Assessment in RE. (enter reading here).
One of the first things we learnt within the session was that RE is actually more creative in how it is assessed as opposed to the other subjects. Additionally, we learnt that it is also different to other subjects as the context of the children needs to be considered when teaching RE lessons.
There have been a lot of occasions where the class teacher doesn’t teach RE, and instead either the teaching assistant or the head teacher takes the lesson. There was a lot of debate in the lesson about how we saw RE, as some students within my group didn’t totally get along with the subject.
So, we moved onto thinking about the following question:
Is Religious Education hindered, or at an advantage, as an academic subject because it is not regulated in the same way as other curriculum subjects?
I considered several viewpoints whilst thinking and discussing this question with my classmates, and came up with these points:
- RE can sometimes be hindered because obviously religion and PSHE are very personal, and can sometimes cause offence amongst not only the students but their parents and carers too if not taught well.
- It can also be hindered because of the fact that it needs extra funding for resources and training.
- Some children, and teachers, might also have the view that it is not as important as the core subjects taught at school so doesn’t need as much effort.
- It can also be hindered by the fact that there are no specific guidelines or outlines of what is meant to be taught, so teachers have to really know their subject knowledge and plan their lessons thoroughly.
- It can, however, be at an advantage because it could get children much more involved that other subjects as everyone has different opinions.
- The lessons could also be a lot more fun as they are taught completely differently, and teachers can have so much more freedom in teaching.
I think, overall, that RE can be hindered quite a lot by the fact it is taught very different to the other subjects and teachers have to really know their subject knowledge before teaching it. However, it is important to remember there are many advantages, too!
Moving on from that, we discussed what came first out of planning, teaching and assessing.
Do we start with planning? Well, we really need to know where the children are at before that.
Do we start with teaching? Definitely not – we need to plan first!
Do we start with assessing? The question is where do we start – don’t we need to teach the children first?
The debate goes on! It is hard to know where the cycle really does begin. They all should be happening.
We then discussed in our pairs about all the ways that we could assess in an RE lesson. Here are a list of ideas we came up with:
- Observing the children
- Self assessment
- Looking at the work the children have produced e.g. written work, spoken work etc.
- Peer assessing
- The feedback the children give
These were also inspired by the second directed reading we were set for this lesson in the McCreery et al. (2008) book.
Other ideas for assessment include talking, listening, explaining, Q&As, reflection on/evaluation of documents/artefacts, drawing, writing, sequencing, group work – jigsaw/expert groups, role play, hot seating, phrasing own questions for a visitor/expert and feeding back on research.
So what can assessment do?
- give us information on what children know and understand at a point in time
- help us to identify misunderstandings that children might have
- allow us to plan for future development
- allow us to plan for individual learning needs
- help us to evaluate our practice
Taken from McCreery et al (2010, p118)
NOTE: It is important to remember the difference between formative and summative assessment. Formative is ongoing, daily and helps to see what children know and where they need to go next. Summative assessment is formal, and is undertaken at the end of a unit of work, term or topic.
We watched a video of a lesson in RE where the children were experiencing being reflective. They thought about what sounds make them relax, and what certain images meant to them. The children in the class all come from different backgrounds, so had varied answers to one another. The class teacher said it was important that the children get the opportunity to be reflective and calm, and they were doing this outside of the classroom in the school field. The SACRE advisor believed that it is easier to be reflective outside, as even as adults we find it easier to reflect in the outdoors.
After being reflective, the teacher told the story of Siddhartha and the Swan from Buddhism, as the aim of the lesson was for the children to learn from religion (AT2 based lesson). It helped the children to think about their own opinions on complicated issues, and speak about them with one another.
The class teacher then took her class inside and asked them to think about “wise words”, which were basically linked to each of the children’s morals, and then they wrote down their own “wise words” for reflection.
What I took away from that video is that firstly, it is actually a lot simpler to teach RE than we might think as we can so easily find subject knowedge or make resources, and secondly, we can make the lesson interesting if we are creative in our planning and try different teaching styles. It was an inspiring video and has challenged me to rethink how I teach RE myself.
After watching the video, we went back to how we assess children in RE. Obviously, at the end of a Key Stage, teachers need to make a decision on what level children should be at. One piece of work on its own will not give you an overall view of how a child is performing – it should come from every aspect of a child’s educational journey.
Within RE, there is AT1 and AT2. Just to recap, AT1 is Learning about Religion, and AT2 is about Learning from Religion. There are three aspects to each AT.
- beliefs, teachings and sources
- practices and ways of life
- expressing meaning
- identity, diversity and belonging
- meaning, purpose and truth
- values and commitments
Teachers need to look at how children approach each of these aspects in both attainment targets.
We looked at 3 different ways of levelling children together and discussed which one we liked the best. One was made up of AT1 and AT2 and each AT had 8 levels and an exceptional performance level. Another one was made up of the ATs again, but these were then split into levels with attainment statements starting with “I Can…”. The last one we looked at was an APP document, made up of AF1, 2 and 3 which were taken from AT1 and AT2, and each level had several bullet points which children needed to achieve to get that level.
I preferred the “I Can” attainment statements document, as the table was easy to read and the statements could even be used as a lesson objective. Each box could be used to plan a different lesson. This can then help the teacher to mark the class’ work, and at the end of the term, can make a better judgement based on written work, and spoken work.
We then looked at some work from children and tried to level it using the APP table, before moving onto looking at planning. It was an interesting exercise, but it is hard to consider how to level the work without knowing the child’s background.
Moving onto planning…
What do you need to take into account when planning? You should consider:
- the role of the teacher
- the use of support staff
- the structure of lessons
- first hand experiences – artefacts, visits, visitors
- active learning strategies – drama, dance, music, art & design, making and baking etc.
- how ICT was incorporated into lessons
- most effective resources
And that was the end of our RE training. We briefly, after that, thought about PSHE, and it’s place in the new Curriculum. There is not a lot in the 2014 Curriculum – in fact there is not more than a few sentences! But the subject is so important to wellbeing in my opinion. The government also believe it is important to teach PSHE but it is not statutory until KS3. For any resources, a good website is the PSHE Association.
Within the directed reading list, there was another extract from the SACRE (2011) (Section 5) and a few chapters from the Achieving QTS: Teaching Religious Education book. The chapters from the latter were nothing to do with assessment though, so I decided to read Chapter 9 to keep within the theme of this session, as I had already looked through the other chapters last year.
The SACRE (2011) gave me a few interesting things to think about and to put into my teacher’s toolbox. In order to teach good lessons in any subject, assessment should be central. The SACRE (2011) says that learning objectives with relevant differentiated tasks set can help teachers assess during lessons, and gives them a good idea of where the children are in their learning – also known as AfL – assessment for learning. Success criteria and self/peer assessment is also useful.
According to the SACRE, the WAGOLL approach is particularly effective. WAGOLL stands for what a good one looks like, and the approach consists merely of the teacher modelling how to achieve the success criteria. I will keep this abbreviation in mind!
An interesting part of the section that I felt was good to remember was this one: it was a list of reasons what RE can assess and can’t assess in the children.
What is can assess is:
- knowledge (e.g. facts)
- understanding (e.g. of concepts in religion)
What RE can’t assess is:
- how “religious” or “spiritual” a pupil is
- levels of spiritual or moral development
Northamptonshire SACRE and NCC (2011) “Growing Together” – The Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education in Northamptonshire. Northampton
I think it is important to remember these things, as teachers may expect the bottom three things from children, but they are personal and don’t need to be assessed.
One thing I found frustrating both about Section 5, and, in fact, about the session, was that a lot of the assessment which was looked at is focused around levels. Allegedly, such things are going to be abolished come the new National Curriculum, but I don’t see how this will be useful in anyway to teachers, the government or Ofsted. So, the levels I have read and learnt about might not even be helpful in my future teacher training anyway! Nightmare.
Chapter 9: Assessment in RE from McCreery et al. (2010) is actually a fairly generic chapter on assessment, but it is good to go over different ways of assessing again which could work in all subjects, not just one in particular. For example, the chapter talks about how I could use formative and summative assessment in RE, and what ways I could assess through observation. Some examples of good ways to assess through observation include “learning through play or independent activities; taking part in discussions, practical tasks or collaborative tasks; using specific skills; experimenting and constructing” (McCreery et al, 2010).
The book gives examples of how this can be seen within an RE lesson in a table. One of the examples is: Can the children explain why the cross is a symbol of Humanity? (Year 2). It gives an assessment activity (which is: the children draw a cross and inside write associated words, then write “When Christians look at the cross they think of…” (McCreery et al, 2010, p121)) and what the teacher is looking for (“In the children’s work I will be looking for words such as Jesus, God, God’s son, death, Easter, spring, crucifixion, resurrection, Good Friday, sadness, new life, heaven…” (McCreery et al, 2010, p121)).
So, a lot of things to think about and reflect over this term. This is the last RE session I will be having at University, so after this I want to make sure I continue to keep my subject knowledge up to date.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you learnt a little more about teaching RE within the Primary School! I know I did by just writing these posts.