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.


A Level Experience

Year 3 undergraduate RE with QTS students spent a day at Haslingden High school, looking at how to teach A Level RS in a school with a sixth form.  Ben Wood the Head of RE and the Chair of NATRE welcomed us and offered us pastries and coffee!

We then were able to observe a Year 13 RS lesson, focussing on sexual ethics, and specifically an introduction to Christianity and homosexuality. We saw how Karen, the teacher, skilfully introduced students to the massive changes to social attitudes which have occurred over recent years. Using the school produced literature, she guided students through traditional interpretations of key biblical texts relating to homosexuality. Drawing on prior Learning they applied Catholic teaching (such as natural law) to the issue, discussing how the church is responding to the complexities of the issue. Previously taught ideas, such as Jesus the Liberator, were used to show a more liberal Christian view.  The lesson was mostly discussion and reading of the materials, with students making a few notes on their handouts.

Ben’s year 12 class started with him collecting in homework. He then gave them the questions for a timed assessment that they would do next week, with a recommendation to work on a plan over the weekend. The lesson was the beginning of the Developments of Christian Thought module and was looking at Augustine. The students were given homework on the background of Augustine. Genesis 2 and 3 was analysed, and will be used over the next few lessons. Ben led the class through Augustinian interpretations of this text. The final part of this double lesson focussed on Augustine’s teaching on human relationships.

This was followed by another Year 12 class, They had the follow on lesson about Augustine, and began where the previous class had finished, recapping what we had just seen. Whereas the earlier lessons had been very teacher led, in this one there was much opportunity for students to work independently, but Ben was constantly helping individuals with their work, explaining the concepts repeatedly. When Ben looked at students’ work, his praise was very specific: “the language you have used here is spot on!”, for example.

After a fantastic lunch supplied by the school we stayed with the same Year 12 class, but this time being taught by Karen. We joined in with the first activity, which revised key terms and the basics of  Situation Ethics in an Active way. This was followed by a quick 15 minute test, as Karen wanted to see how well the students had got the basics, before moving on. Karen explained that the purpose of the test was not summative – about collecting marks, but about helping the students self identify what they need to revisit. In order to point out these areas, they were peer marked with missing information highlighted.Students were then set targets to work on in their independent study time.

At the End of the day we had a Q and A session with Ben and considered pedagogy, teaching styles, the intrinsic fascinating subject that Religion is, and Behaviour. Ben gave us a sample of NATRE materials and told us about the New2RE scheme.

RE ITT Conference @ Stretford High

For another year the RE PGCE trainees were able to attend the ITT conference at one of our outstanding partnership schools, Stretford High  in Manchester. Trainees were involved in a range of sessions such as developing their teaching persona (led by Faisal Ahmed, Professional Mentor and Head of Humanities/Social Sciences Faculty),  interview hints and tips (led by Headteacher Nicola Doward) and listen to the experiences of NQT and recent EHU RE ITT graduate, Emily Jones. They had opportunity to meet with some insightful and articulate Year 11 students who shared their thoughts on what make an effective teacher and a good RE lesson, before asking some tough questions to a range of staff who varied in experience. Despite some of the trainees being concerned that they didn’t have enough paper for all the notes they wanted to take (!) it was a great opportunity for them to not only develop their current practice, but also to think about taking their first steps in applying for their first teaching post. Many thanks to all at Stretford.

Visit to Tübingen

This summer I spent around ten days as a visiting lecturer at Centre for Islamic Theology the University of Tübingen, located on the edge of the beautiful and mysterious Black Forest in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. The University of Tübingen, now also known as Eberhard Karls University, was founded in 1477, and has a long-standing history in the fields of theology and philosophy.

I delivered a series of lectures on classical Islamic philosophy, beginning with the definition of “wisdom” (sophia in Greek, hikma in Arabic), then exploring different key foundational philosophers up to the Grand Master of Islamic Philosopher Ibn Sina, known in the Latin West as Avicenna.

As part of the visit, I met local scholars and visited a number of historical locations around the city, including the Stiftskirche (the university church and one of the earliest to convert to Protestantism) and the Bebenhausen monastery on the outskirts of the city.It was exciting to walk around the streets that were once frequented by likes of Lessing, Holderlin, Hegel, Karl Barth, and Rudolf Bultmann! On the final day, I was able to attend a stunning performance by the university’s Philharmonic orchestra of Tchaikovsky’s Liturgy of St. John Crysostom and Mozart’s Coronation Mass. Still, it was chilling to learn from the signs outside that the concert hall used to be a gathering place for Nazi officers during the Second World War, and the city’s once thriving Jewish community no longer exist.

I would like to thank the assistant director of the centre, Professor Lejla Demiri, for inviting me, as well as all of those who made me feel very welcome as well intellectually/spiritually energised from the visit.

– Harith Ramli, Senior Lecturer in Theology and World Religions

View of the Stiftskirche or St. George’s Collegiate Church, one of the first in the region to convert to Protestantism during the Reformation. Important rulers of the city are buried within.
At the entrance to the Bebenhausen monastery outside the city
The northern corner of the Bebenhausen monastery cloister where the monks would gather to read.
The pulpit in the monastery chapel, built after the Reformation.
View of the Neckar river that runs through the medieval city centre.
The entrance to a 16th century townhouse.

PGCE RE: Pop Culture & the media in RE

PGCE trainees excelled at the opportunity to explore the links between pop culture in the media and RE, creating strategy posters which showed how contemporary films, songs and TV shows can be used in the classroom to engage pupils and deliver high quality RE. They created a whole range of resources and lessons which  included; Groundhog Day (Buddhist Samsara), Futurama (attitudes towards homosexuality), Million Dollar Baby (Euthanasia), Friday night dinner (Reform Judaism), The Terminator (Christian Premillenialism) and Stormzy’s Blinded by your grace (Holy Spirit). They then developed their critical evaluation skills and give formative feedback on those strategies they liked, would change or would steal.

 

PGCE RE Professionalism Conference – Cowley International College (18.9.18)

Today trainees got the chance to visit one of our outstanding partnership schools, Cowley International College in St Helens. Led by the experienced RE team, trainees were able to reflect on the notion and importance of professionalism, benefit from the experiences of ex-Alumni and get some top tips for being professional from Principal Cameron Sheeran. They also got the chance to chat to some fabulous students who shared their experiences of RE and their thoughts on what makes a good RE lesson. A fantastic afternoon that got everyone looking forward to starting their first placement next week. Thanks Cowley!

PGCE RE New Worlds

As part of developing their confidence and presentation skills, the PGCE trainees all presented a collage which reflected either their ‘new world’, their journey or their vision for RE. Despite a very busy couple of weeks, they all really engaged with the task and as you can see, produced some fantastic work! Well done guys!

RE PGCE 2018: Religious Literacy

After a very hectic first week in which the new trainees have looked at everything from  constructivism and the Magenta Principles to SACRE’s and the place of RE, today they enjoyed trialing some independent work to develop their understanding of religious literacy – a key concept that in recent that has gone above and beyond the RE classroom! Trainees came up with some great twitter feeds and hashtags to promote religious literacy and to demonstrate progress in their own development #soproud

RE SKE 2018: Judaism development session

In addition to visiting the Princes Road Synagogue, trainees were able to further develop their understanding of Judaism thanks to a wonderfully engaging session led by Becky Scott, one of our amazing Partnership Curriculum Mentors. In addition to building on their experiences at the Synagogue, trainees were able to look at the differences between Orthodox and Reform Judaism, the nature of Covenants in Judaism and undertook some lively discussions about antisemitism in the UK. As an experienced RE practitioner, Becky was also able to share with them some practical strategies and activities for them to use in their teaching.

SKE 2018: Princes Road Synagogue & Liverpool Anglican Cathedral

The group took a trip to Liverpool as part of their ongoing subject knowledge development course to look at the differences between the Jewish and Christian places of worship.

First stop was the very grand and ornate OrthodoxJewish Synagogue. Trainees were able to hear about the history of the Jewish community in Liverpool, the features of the synagogue and the way an Orthodox synagogue would differ from the Reform. Our host was able to share with us a number of Jewish artefacts and demonstrate the significance of the Torah Scrolls in worship.

After a quick bite to eat, we moved onto the Anglican Cathedral, just down the road from the Synagogue and made from the same sandstone. After outlining the role of the Cathedral in Christian worship and the extensive outreach programmes the church runs, trainees were taken on a tour,  learning all about the building and development of the Cathedral, enjoying the Whispering galley and finding the Derby Mouse.