RE at Edge Hill

Month: November 2018

Juma Prayers at Quwwat Ul Islam Mosque

The PGCE cohort visited the Quwwat Ul Islam Mosque in Preston as part of their subject knowledge development.  In addition to touring the mosque and observing Friday prayers, the group also had a fantastic opportunity to speak to some Yr10 pupils from Preston Muslim Girls High School about their experiences of Islam and what their faith means to them. Thanks Waqaus for a great day as always!

Merseyside Buddhism

Year 2 QTS undergraduates spent a day looking at two forms of Buddhism in Merseyside. Our first visit was to the Triratna Buddhist Centre in Liverpool. Sumnadipa and Janet welcomed us and  offered us a drink. Sumnadipa explained her name meant graciousness and lamp, and she was given it when she was ordained. She reminded us that the five precepts have both negative and positive sides, for example the second precept, not taking the not given can also mean living with open handed generosity. She suggested that mindfulness meant taking notice of he things around us.  Normally we cannot do this adequately as our ‘monkey minds’ are full of noise and chatter. Meditating, just stopping and being is one was to still the mind and become mindful.  Sumnadipa explained some of the fundamental teaching of the Buddha, including the three jewels.

Sumnadipa gave us some of the historical background to the Triratna movement, starting with the life story of Sangharakshita. She explained that Sangharakshita realised that different schools of Buddhism may look quite different and teach different things, because they had taken on the culture of where they are.  Underlying his, he suggested there was a core Buddhism, of taking refuge in the three jewels. He set up the Western Buddhist Order to translate the Buddha’s teaching into a form that would appeal to the Modern Western mind. Since the 1960s it has spread worldwide and became the Triratna Community in 2010. Sangharakshita died a few weeks ago aged 93.

She explained some of the differences between the Triratna and other Buddhist schools. Right livelihood appears to be very important in many of their activities and involves both helping others and freeing themselves.  We heard how Sumnadipa became a Buddhist, through an initial desire to meditate.  She suggested that Sangharakshita might have been a bodhisatva, but people such as the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu may be enlightened beings.

We finished our time with a meditation session which Sumnadipa led.

A short minibus ride took us to the Wat Phra Singh UK Buddhist Centre in Runcorn. Tony welcomed us and explained that they are from the Thai Therevada tradition. He began by explaining how the two branches of Buddhism developed. Their parent temple is he Wat Phra Singh Chang Mai in Thailand.  Tony told us the story of his ordination and how he became Samart, meaning one who achieves. He was ordained in 2008 in Thailand – the first foreigner to be Ordained at Wat Phra Singh Chang Mai, and the last person to be ordained by Lonpornu. The Head monk arrived from Thailand in June 2012, staying with Tony who had a vision for a Temple in the North West of England. The temple opened in June 2014. They now have ambitious plans to build an ubersot – a consecrated Hall.

Every morning and evening the monks, who reside on the third floor of the temple, chant and meditate for 45 minutes. One of the rules of the monastic life is that they can only eat before midday. They do duties and learning during the day. There is a free weekly meditation class.

Tony says that he has always been a Buddhist, although he was raised as a Christian, and only became aware as he encountered Buddhist teachings.  Other religions say this is right and this is wrong; the dhamma says this is what the Buddha realised. Tony helpfully explained some of the Buddha’s teachings on diverse subjects including kamma, right living, intention and meditation.

A Hopeful school experience

Year 1 Undergraduates QTS students gained their first experience of school with a day at Hope Academy.  We were met in the foyer by Rachael Critchley (Head of RE), Catha Seddon (Assistant Head of RE) and Jayne Cantwell (A very experienced RE Curriculum Mentor) and given a tour of the school. We met the Head of Year 7 as we visited the Year 7 Inspire time. Each year group has their form-rooms grouped together.  We also had a quick look at the School Chapel, before we returned to our base in the conference room and briefly met the Academy Principal.

The next session was with Rachel Bradburn, the Professional Mentor, who looks after all trainees and NQTs as well as being an English and Media Studies teacher. Rachel helped us to think about what it means to be a professional.  She asked us how we would develop our own professional persona and we did a rank ordering exercise with elements of Part 2 of the Teachers’ Standards. We then looked at some scenarios, before Rachel gave us some tips on how she would expect a trainee to demonstrate professionalism.

We then had another hour with Rachael and Catha, focussing on RE. Hope Academy is Outstanding RE department and they explained some of the features of their department that enabled them to achieve this inspection outcome.  Hope Academy used the DTT approach to assessment, and so we were introduced to this.  Students do a multiple choice test every 5-6 lessons (3 weeks) which they use to track their own progress. This ensures that pupils have mastery of the required knowledge. GCSE assessment formats are used throughout the school.  Individual assessments are marked and then a class crib sheet is produced, which enables pupils to work on their own areas of weakness, something g which is being adopted across all subject areas now.  Thinking about the roles of the RE teacher, we worked in pairs to sort some cards, initially into five categories, before giving the categories headings and ranking them. We shared our ideas together before completing a take away consolidation sheet to give us good evidence for our standards folders.

At break we met the rest of the RE department and then Bradie Gallagher, an NQT who graduated last year from our course. She gave a number of tips on how to take best advantage of the course.  She helped us understand what would happen at the end of the course during our NQT year.  She explained that observing people teach might seem like a chore, but is really useful.

For the last part we divided into two groups, one to observe Nicola Lyon (another graduate of the course) teach a year 7 lesson, and the other group to watch Catha teach year 8 who were doing a ‘therapy’ session as part of the DTT process.  We were struck by how, in both classes, pupils were busily working independently with the guidance of the teacher. The year 7s were working on knowledge of the Ten Commandments which led up to a 5 mark Demonstrate Question. Pupils were given guidance on how to structure their answer.

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.


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.

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