RE PGCE Judaism & Islam subject knowledge development 8.3.19

As part of their subject knowledge development, RE PG trainees partook in a subject knowledge development day, focusing on Islamic and Jewish teachings.  Before the sessions, they completed subject knowledge audits of both topics (using a GCSE specification) which enabled the sessions to target specifically those areas which they have identified as in need of further work.

For the first session, Lauren Woolley from St Peter’s led an interactive and engaging session on Judaism – taken from the Edexcel specification. The group were joined by a number of Yr10 GCSE students who contributed to the session and who enjoyed their visit to Edge Hill immensely – especially as it coincided with the ‘Well-being’ Event in the hub!

After a short break, Waqaus Ali led the group through the differences in Sunni and Shi’a Islam – discussing differences such as beliefs about Ali, the way in which salat (prayer) is carried out and the controversial issue of ‘temporary marriages’.

In the afternoon, trainees visited ‘At home with…’ run by Liverpool Community Spirit. Sitting in Muslim and Jewish living rooms, they chatted to Hinnah and June about the Islamic and Jewish experiences and were able to build on their sessions from the morning.

RE PGCE & CND Peace Education 7.3.19

During their enhancement week, the PG trainees took part in a session led by Owen and Barbara from CND Peace Education. Trainees considered how to tackle issues such as Weapons of Mass Destruction and Just war in RE and then partook in a mock trial of President Truman and his actions of dropping the hydrogen bomb during WW2. After some very tense court room clashes (and very bad Perry Mason impersonations) – trainees found him not guilty of war crimes, concluding that his actions had been justified. The afternoon was a much more peaceful affair with trainees making peace cranes and some uncovering a talent for origami that they didn’t know existed!

RE PGCE & UG: Sue Philips ‘The Island’ 1.3.19

Sue Philips brought ‘The Island’ to the PGCE and UG trainees in an interactive session on experiential RE. Sue demonstrated with them how to lead ‘religion neutral exercises’, engage pupils in values and empathy and the power of pupils being able to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ in their learning. They all enjoyed getting in to the character of someone who is homeless to consider how to develop pupils’ empathy!

Holocaust Education Trust – joint session with History PGCE 18.1.19

Cat from the Holocaust Education Trust delivered a fantastic session for the RE and History PGCE groups. In addition to covering the events of the Holocaust, trainees explored the significance of the term, the non-Jewish victims and Jewish resistance. She was also able to provide trainees with some fantastic resources to use in their teaching and generate some insightful discussions regarding appropriate ways to teach the holocaust at secondary level.  A fantastic cross-curricula session!

Dharma in Manchester

We were welcomed at the Jain Samaj Manchester by Suresh Mehta, the Chair of Trustees at the temple. They are just building a large new annexe which has cost £1M. The centre was opened 18 years ago by Gerald Kaufman MP

Suresh showed us a picture of the huge temple complex at Palitana.  Jains have 24 tirthinkaras in each time cycle, who have each reached nirvana. The first reached nirvana there 

We moved into the temple room and rang the bell, as saw the statues of the three tirthinkaras that they have there: Mahavir , the 24th tirthanka 599 BC – 527 BC, Parshvanat  the 23rd, born 877BC and Shantinath the 16th Tirthinkara.

Suresh spoke to us about the temple, the life of Mahavir and Jainism. He pointed out that he was talking about Mahavir’s version of Jainism as that is written down. Both Mahavir and Buddha came from Bihar and lived at more or less the same time, teaching very similar things.  They walked everywhere, and many Jain priests and devotees will do the same today.  140 people took tiksha in 2016. They give up everything and live without possessions in the Ashram. 

He explained that Jainism is built on three pillars:

  • Ahimsa – non violence but taken to the extreme meaning not even thinking bad thoughts and including being able to forgive.
  • Aparigrah – trying to live at a level of comfort, but not of excess. This leads to Jains being very generous.
  • Anekantvad – there is no absolute truth, everyone is (potentially) right 

Jainism follows a lunar calendar but add an extra month every fourth year.   We are in the fifth of six segments of the current time cycle. During this period things will get worse. Suresh talked to us about how Jain beliefs and practices influenced the Hindu Mohatma Gandhi.  Mahavir gave 5 rules for lay people to live by: ahimsa, truthfulness, not stealing, none aquisitionness, control over sexual desires.  

Suresh talked a little bit about the Jain Community- they try to help the local community, and are open and pluralistic in their outlook. They started holding meetings in a hired school hall.  Now they have 125 families. During the recent Paryushan celebrations ( a period of personal reflection), four people fasted for 8 days, no food and drinking only water during daylight. Suresh came from Kenya, where he lived next to the temple until he was 12. 

On a Sunday evening, before a shared dinner, Gujarati hymns are sung. In July he flag on top of the shrine is changed in a special ceremony.  Diwali is celebrated , as well as a Christmas party!  The temple is like one you would have in a house, so this doesn’t need a priest to wash the idols each day and carry out other duties.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays the temple is open and people can come and pray in a personal way.

We then moved on to the Sri Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara where we were met by Sukhbir Singh.

Having removed our shoes, covered our heads and washed our hands we went into the Diwan Hall. Sukhbir demonstrated how he would enter the prayer hall. 

He gave us a quick overview of the history of Guru Nani Dev Ji and the founding of Sikhism, leading on to key beliefs and practices, including the five virtues, the Gurus and the Harminder Sahib. He talked about what happens at the gurdwara, both religious and cultural/community practices.

He explained that there are three pillars of Sikhism: 

  • Nama Jappo, praying to God.
  • Vand Chako, share everything you have
  • Kirat Karo, get what you can honestly through hard work.

A family who had just had a baby arrived straight from the hospital and we were able to listen as the granthi read a prayer from the Guru Granth Sahib. The first letter of the reading gave the family the start of the name, and they chose the name Ishtar. The granthi then prayed, for the baby and the family, including the blessing “bole so nihal”, “sat sari Amal” and we were blessed as the father offered us chocolates to show their thanks.

We finished off in the Langar Hall where we were served some delicious vegetarian pilau.

Back to the Sixth Form

Final Year Undergraduate QTS students visited Carmel  College to discover how it is different to teach in a Sixth form college.  We were met by Sarah Daley, who is in charge of 10:10 RE, the general RE provision for all students, and a Glenn Skelhorn, who is in charge of the A Level Philosophy and Religious Studies.  

After introductions, we thought about the Art of the A level RS lesson. Sarah and Glenn reminded us that sixth form students are not that different from Key Stage 4. They explained how hey have worked on the principles of The Flopped Classroom for their A Level lessons. They try to remove the element of ‘rote learning’ from lessons in college. This learning from text books, for example, is done at home prior to the lesson. As they do Buddhism at A Level, and there was no textbook for this, the department have produced their own flipped learning booklets, which have been very successful. This means that the role of the teacher is different- they do not deliver content in class, they are challenging misconceptions and developing students’ ideas, which in some ways is a much greater challenge.

Sarah talked us through how she would plan a lesson on the three marks of existence in Buddhism. It was clear that the focus was on engaging with the material, rather than being on transmitting knowledge.  She also introduced us to the idea of the Carmel Mindset, based on the Vespa material, developed from the growth mindset of Carol Dweck and others.  She then explained the general RE that the college delivers as part of their 10:10 programme, which is a common feature of RC colleges.

Next up was a tour of the college.

We then went to observe some 10:10RE lessons, one with Sarah and one win NATHAN a graduate of our course.  The lesson was an introduction to Human Rights, and began with a picture starter. This was followed by writing nine rights on post it notes and ordering these with a diamond 9 activity.  Students then questioned what is meant be Human Rights, It was great to see Nathan and Sarah really work hard to draw out answers from even the reluctant students.

In Glenn’s Year 13 RS lesson the students were continuing with Sexual Ethics, but began with some riddles, and a starter involving incest. Students were given two minutes thinking time, were they were asked to write a justification for their moral opinion.  They then shared and scrutinised their reasoning in small groups, before a whole class discussion. This discussion was ten widened to a broader discussion of sexual ethics. There was then a teaching episode ensuring students were aware of Mill’s Liberty Principle.

Sarah’s Year 12 lesson was on situation ethics, but was focussed on students developing their essay writing skills to improve their examination performance.

We then had some time to prepare a short part of a lesson, and we all got the chance to deliver to the lovely students of Carmel College.

GCSE Expertise

Year 3 undergraduates visited Lowton CE High school to spend a day looking at teaching GCSE. Having battled through the traffic, we were met by Heather Clare, a very experienced RE teacher and Senior Teacher at the school.

Our first task was to look at the Specification (From AQA) and decide what religions and themes we would teach it we were the Head of RE. We then planned in what order we would deliver that, leading to a discussion of our different answers.

Heather helped us to understand the importance of key words, and of teaching the content in an efficient way, using the exam boards definitions. Heather’s delivery modelled good classroom practice throughout. We tested our knowledge of Jewish key words in a fun interactive way.

We turned to look at evaluation questions, and Heather challenged us to get our pupils to write like a river, or even an ocean, and not like a puddle (lacking depth, breadth and with nothing much there), or a pool (structured, contained, with arguments going one way then the next. With this in mind we had a go at assessing some evaluation questions, using the marking criteria, before looking at a task to help pupils ‘develop reasoned consideration’.

A year 10 class joined us then, for a lesson on Animal Rights. This began with a picture starter and a quick survey of opinions on food. Whiteboards were again used for definitions of key words.  The lesson ended with some evaluation work, which would lead on in a future 12 mark question.

After Lunch, we looked at some examples from least years exam paper, looking at marking. Finally we looked at revision techniques, including Heather’s incredible audio revision recordings.

Fieldwork in Religion: Going Out and Finding Out

This last week has been very busy for our undergraduate students, who have benefitted from meeting and engaging with local faith communities.

Year 2 Ethnography students are currently engaged in their own fieldwork projects, exploring a range of topics including witchcraft, perspectives on the after life in a care home, life in a convent, challenges and controversies in contemporary religion, digital ethnography, as well as engaging with Paganism, Christianity, Sikhism and Islam. The principle of the module is to allow students to go out and find out more about how living religion is experienced as part of every day life.

Year 2 Judaism students and their module tutor, Dr Chris Greenough, visited Southport and District Reform Synagogue on Wednesday 7th November. They received a very warm welcome from the team there, especially Selwyn and Anne who gave an informative talk about the Jewish way of life and particularly the differences between the Orthodox and Reform movements. On Tuesday 13th November, the same group of students visited Southport Orthodox synagogue, where they were able to consolidate their subject knowledge about Jewish worship practices and the design of a synagogue.

Year 3 students, with Maggie Webster, were welcomed by Swaminarayan Hindu temple in Preston to mark the celebration of Diwali and new year.


Edge Hill University