Raising the standard above the bog-of-superstition: Why faith communities should be delivering high class, high impact learning experiences to schools.
As we have discussed in multiple posts, RE presents a unique opportunity for students to work realistically and experientially with toxic issues and questions of opinion, meaning, argumentation, and multiple truth(s) needed in the ever more complex 21st century.
For a host of reasons most faith communities have a wish to stay relevant in relation to the wider society. All to often, schools pack multiple places of worship into a single tour to cut costs. While this does secure ticking the relevant boxes, this type of surfing is all too close to the speed-entertainment/consumption our children are accustomed to.
This would hardly be acceptable if the school invested in a visit to the Harry Potter Museum in London. So how can it be acceptable when visiting a faith community and experiencing an off-world point of view that relates to billions of real people, affect politics, start riots and wars and yet seems to have a magnetic influence on everyone, including atheists fighting their corner?
To be taken seriously, places of worship should start by taking themselves seriously, and understand they can, and should, add real value to pupils’ education, far beyond the A-C band of GCSEs.
Faith communities might want to start by looking at their values in relation to the surrounding society and ask themselves two questions:
- What do we actually want the children to take away from a visit?
- How can we deliver this effectively?
Using Enquiry & Immersion in Ihsan Mosque as a model: To facilitate the aims of the Muslim community in Norwich, the morning session is structured as a student-centred enquiry exercise, making students inter-dependent and yet individually accountable at every stage of their own learning.
First of all this helps negate potential concerns about “indoctrination” from parents and media (see post) by virtually removing the teacher from the initial picture.
Secondly, student-centred learning is the only way to fuse the (dare we say 21st century?) skill sets of higher level thinking, negotiation of meaning, exploration of personal values with relevant subject knowledge. We have discussed the nihilistic vacuum of social constructivism without footing in Deconstructing the Progressive-Traditional Dichotomy and elsewhere.
The following is from a drafted addition to the Secondary invitations:
Schools should invest in Enquiry & Immersion because RS/ Philosophy/Ethics students will
- get insight into their own assumptions about Islam, religion and spirituality in general
- prepare sitting for GCSE where relevant
- be taught effectively in a lesson format that meets requirements of Ofsted’s seminal report Realising the Potential and The Norfolk agreed Syllabus for Religious Education.
Students will hunt information across a vast body of differentiated materials; corresponding to Ofsted’s “Learning about religion” and will collaborate to and correlate a wide variety of differentiated GCSE-relevant materials on Islam. The mental framework created will be transferable to later studies of Islam and perhaps hopefully give cause to reflect on other religions and atheism in a new light.
The LO’s include a grasp of the specific areas of worship, history and development of Islamic law, scholarly traditions in the face of reform, intellectual heritage, political and sectarian issues, as well as sufism and its relation to other religions.
In relation to the moral and spiritual aspect of SMSC, students will then use this understanding to reflect on moral dilemmas from an “Islamic” viewpoint, corresponding to Ofsted’s “Learning from religion.” The historical insight gathered through working with materials will lead into a discussion of current issues, including the actions of Isis and domestic terrorists.
To achieve all these simultaneous aims, Cooperative Learning classroom management strategies will micro-manage every step of the lesson while giving students an experience of freedom and self-directiveness.
Forearmed by the the enquiry session, your students will question their reflections over lunch in the Mosque with Enquiry & Immersion staff and random members of the Muslim community. Lunch is fully gender segregated, and we have found that, especially for the girls, this creates a very different dynamic to the discussion of gender roles in Islam.
We hope this may serve as an inspiration to churches, synagogues and temples as well as other mosques, to become more than a faith version of Argos, and empower themselves to speak with their true voice. Schools and communities will be better of.
A final note. After her class had partaken Enquiry & Immersion visit, an RE coordinator mentioned a parent phoning the school. In normal circumstances, that would not be good news. However, this mother wanted to share how her daughter had been going on and on about how brilliant the trip had been, and wanted to share it.