Does RE Matter: What do Teachers Think?

Stuart-Buttle, Ros (2017) Does RE Matter: What do Teachers Think? In: Does Religious Education Matter? Routledge, Abingdon, Oxon, pp. 51-64. ISBN 978-1-472-48432

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The contemporary, complex and often controversial discourse about religious education is framed within a broad range of stakeholder views and understandings. Differing ideas as to what the religious education curriculum should include, what aims and purposes it should adopt, on what conceptual bases it is built, which pedagogical approaches it might follow, what priority it should be given, all vary according to type of school, involvement of faith communities, local and national educational policy, and professional academic and research perspectives. Meanwhile, wider public perceptions of religious education commonly ignore or dismiss the subject for having little educational importance or relevance for today’s secular world. Alternatively, they misunderstand, denigrate or view it with suspicion as coercion or indoctrination into a particular set of religious beliefs and practices. This is especially the case when religious education is linked with wider questions about the existence and role of faith schools.
The chapter answers affirmatively the question ‘does religious education matter’ by presenting the authentic voices of teachers in Catholic schools, through using digital ethnography to observe and report their online discussion and journal postings. This method allows critical insight into the conceptual and experiential world of over one hundred serving teachers in Catholic schools across the UK. A set of key concepts were presented to teacher participants in a study designed to explore and unpack their understandings and views about religious education. The concepts invited both personal journal reflection and shared asynchronous discussion around religious education as critical, complex, controversial, challenging, Christ-centred, communal, content, context, creative and celebratory. The findings that emerge from the fertile data demonstrate a wide range of opinions, attitudes, understandings, approaches and levels of engagement that illustrate the richness and diversity of why and how religious education matters to teacher practitioners in faith schools.
The role of the religious education teacher in the Catholic school is vital in that it carries a responsibility to represent the faith tradition and interpret it for pupils, inviting both faithfulness to and nurture in Catholic faith as well as critical reflection about one’s own faith and beliefs and those of others. Collectively, these teacher voices raise serious challenges for teaching the faith tradition in a postmodern pluralist culture where religion is fragmented and no longer assumed to be gained from home or reinforced by parish. Alongside this, concerns, questions and dissent or disagreement emerge regarding levels of Catholic identity, practice, acceptance of doctrinal authority, and indeed the confessional transmission of faith in today’s schools through the Church’s normative religious education curriculum. However, the same teacher voices simultaneously appreciate and support the special, though fluid and changing, place of religious education in the life of the Catholic school and affirm its contribution to the social, cultural, spiritual and moral education of pupils and the common good of society. Indeed many teacher voices state that religious education matters today like never before

Item Type: Book Section
Faculty / Department: Faculty of Arts & Humanities > Theology, Philosophy and Religion
Depositing User: Ros Stuart-Buttle
Date Deposited: 02 Nov 2016 11:53
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2017 18:55

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