EDUCATION GENERALLY (AND RELIGIOUS EDUCATION IN PARTICULAR) AS THE CRITICAL INTERPRETATION AND EVALUATION OF CULTURE
Examples of teacher use of a critical, research-oriented pedagogy that is relevant to religious education
Presentations from mini-research projects on contemporary social issues
Introduction: Basic principles underpinning the mini Research Projects
Reports from this assessment task illustrate the critical interpretation and evaluation of culture by teachers who were endeavouring to model the sort of research pedagogy they were hoping to encourage in their school students. The approach also represents an interpretation of contemporary spirituality that stresses the way people encounter spiritual and moral issues in the culture and in their own lives -- in other words, a basic human spirituality that may or may not be informed by a religious culture.
The assignment/mini-research project on education as the critical interpretation and evaluation of culture is based on the following premises:-
School education can make a valuable contribution in helping young people learn how to become critical interpreters and evaluators of culture. This is to help them learn how to identify and diagnose cultural situations, and to be able to think more critically about the shaping influence that cultural meanings can have on people's attitudes, values, beliefs and behaviour.
There is scope for teaching about spiritual and moral issues in special subject areas like religion, personal development, ethics, philosophy and politics. There is also scope for addressing these issues in across-the-curriculum studies.
If teachers are to be able to lead pupils in the exploration of contemporary social issues in an open, inquiring, research-oriented way, then the teachers themselves need to have some basic understanding of the issues and questions. They do not have to have all the answers, but they need to know enough to be able to help young people get moving in the direction of getting up-to-date information so that they can make better judgments in the light of particular values.
If educators develop even a basic understanding of the key principles and issues related to a particular topic, and if they can converse about these in a straight forward and coherent way, then their understandings will have a positive flow over into their interactions with pupils both within and outside the classroom.
While people usually have their own opinions on social issues, this exercise was designed to help educators see that there is a need to develop a relatively structured and organised approach to the analysis and interpretation of social problems.
Collaborative learning is a new buzz word in education. Is it all it is cracked up to be? Participants have to negotiate any difficulties in working together on a mini-project. Some interesting reflection may be made later on the pluses and minuses of this group activity. Does group work always result in ‘better' learning?
The sorts of skills that the educators use in these projects are comparable to what they might expect of their students.
Presentations by groups on their research findings
The following shows the materials developed by 5 class groups for their presentations. Some presentations were viewed in class, but in most cases because there was not class time available for looking at presentations, groups' materials were made available for viewing on the unit internet site. The presentations were intended to inform teacher colleagues about the topics and to demonstrate a critical research pedagogy that could be adopted with appropriate modification for use in religious education or in other parts of the curriculum where relevant.