RE Session 2- Religious Education and the classroom

The objectives for our second RE session were to explore AT2 in RE and to consider pedagogical principles in RE.

Before the start of this session I was not familiar with the terms AT1 and AT2 (although I probably should have known what they were!). Our first task in this session was to work in our groups to see if we could work out what was meant by these terms. As a group we decided that the letters AT stood for attainment target, however we did not know the differences between AT1 and AT2. When we fed back our understanding to the rest of the group it was evident that many people were unsure of the differences between the two or what the initials stood for. We were then told that AT1 stands for ‘learning from religion and beliefs’ contrasting with AT2 which stands for ‘learning about religion and beliefs’. A summary of the features of each attainment target has been summarised below:

AT1

–       Enquiring into, investigating and understanding religions and beliefs.

–       This would include thinking about and interpreting religious beliefs, teachings, sources, practices, ways of life and ways of expressing meaning with reference to the specific beliefs and religions studied.

AT2

–       Questioning, exploring, reflecting upon and interpreting human experience in the light of religions and beliefs studied.

–       This would include communicating reflections, responses and evaluations about questions of identity, belonging, diversity, meaning, purpose, truth, values and commitments, making increasingly insightful links to the specific religions studied.

In order for RE to be most effective, the teaching of it should include elements of both AT1 and AT2.

Learning from religion and belief includes:

–       Personal evaluation: the child will make introspective judgements about themselves and they learn from that introspection.

–       Impersonal evaluation: the child makes judgements about truth claims of religion and learns from that scrutiny.

In this session we also went back to the pedagogical principles that we covered after the first session as part of our essential reading. The pedagogical principles are:

  1. Remember the child
  2. Start with the particular and help children see connections
  3. Look for similarities between the children’s experience and the specific religious experience
  4. Also acknowledge difference
  5. Draw out themes from AT2
  6. Seek to engage head, heart and hand
  7. Use as many senses as possible

The reason for recapping these pedagogical principles was for us as a whole group to gain an understanding of different activities that we could do in order to meet these pedagogical principles. An example of this was an activity we did to meet the second pedagogical principle ‘start with the particular and help children see connections’. This was achieved through being shown an image of a typical Sikh boy, the image depicted a boy who was sitting down and there was a variety of characteristics about him that were specific to the Sikh religion for example his clothing. Our task as a group was to think of questions to ask the boy in order for us to gain a better understanding of the religion. This activity could be used in the classroom as a way for the teacher to gain an understanding of what children already know about a religion as well as what they want to find out, it also ensures that one of the key pedagogical principles is being met. Another example of an activity which can be used in the classroom to meet one of the principles is through the children hearing the story of the Good Samaritan. Through the children hearing this story, this helps to meet pedagogical principle five ‘draw out themes from AT2’.

In order to explore the pedagogical principles as a directed task for this session, we were set the task of getting into groups and each being assigned a pedagogical principle. We then had to decide on the main elements of our allocated principle, and present the group with a brief activity that puts the principle into practice. My group was allocated pedagogical principle seven ‘use as many senses as possible’. As a group we decided that our activity was going to focus on all of the senses with an added emphasis on taste. We also decided to take into account time of year and how our activity can be related to RE and decided that we were going to make our activity relevant to the festival of Diwali. We achieved this by having a go at making Diwali sweets for the rest of the group to taste and contrast these to the type of sweets typically found in the shops for example Haribo. As a group, we decided that the activity would focus on contrasting the sweets relating it to the senses so taste, smell, sight (appearance) and touch. This was achieved through us creating a table for the rest of the group to fill out as part of our activity. The result of this activity and how it went will be explored and reflected upon in session 3’s blog.

My first directed task for this session was to read ‘Northamptonshire SACRE and NCC (2011) – The Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education in Northamptonshire’. Unfortunately I was not able to access an electronic version of this text, however I was able to get a general feel for what the syllabus contains through reading around the subject and browsing through the Northamptonshire County Council website. I would expect the syllabus to contain information about what should be taught within RE, and I would expect it to contain a lot of information about Christianity (as this is still the predominant religion of this country) I would also expect to see information about the other five religions being taught; Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism and Sikhism across both key stages one and two.

Another directed task was to read a journal by Grimmet, M. (2008) ‘Inside a religious education research project: the influence of theological and educational considerations on the treatment of religious content within a prescribed pedagogic framework’. This journal was an insightful read, it provided information about what Grimmet considers to be successful teaching strategies within RE as well as what teaching strategies are not so effective. He also goes on to talk about how learning in RE is very focused on the same thematic approaches by covering the same topics such as festivals, the holy book and so on. Grimmet argues that in order for RE teaching to be effective there should be more use of stories, artefacts and objects within the teaching of RE. In my opinion, I believe that the teaching of RE should be a combination of both of these elements in order for the teaching of RE to be considered effective. I think it is important to look at religious festivals and key themed elements however I also agree with Grimmet that is important to consider other elements such as religious stories.

A final directed task was for our group to prepare for the pedagogical principle activity, my group achieved this by making the Diwali sweets, getting other resources e.g. haribo sweets and creating a comparison table. As well as undertaking these activities as a group we also rehearsed our activity and made sure that we were prepared for our next RE session.