STRAND 3: INTERPREPTIVE AND DIALOGICAL APPROACH TO RELIGIONS AND BELIEFS
Strand 3 - Interpretative and Dialogical Approach to Religions and Beliefs
There has been a growing awareness in the educational community that religion and belief is a deeply personal and relevant aspect of life for children and teachers in schools.
Belief is a complex and contested reality. In the Enquiring Classroom project belief and religion will be explored under the framework of teachings, rituals, ideas, experiences, values and worldviews that ‘really really matter’ to people. In a world where religion and belief is sometimes associated with divisive worldviews, narrow sectarianism, intolerance and extremism, educators might fear that any discussion of issues surrounding religions and beliefs is too divisive and sensitive, too challenging and difficult, to explore with children in classrooms. This project acknowledges the very real difficulties and challenges of trying to understanding peoples' diverse beliefs and religions. Rather than avoiding these discussions it suggests that educators should explore issues relating to religion and belief in classrooms because they are a deeply significant part of human life which should form a key part of the education of human beings. However learners should be invited to explore religions and beliefs in a safe, invitational, dialogical and respectful environment characterised by a recognition of the experiential and personal nature of beliefs and religious traditions as well as an openness to critical engagement. The Enquiring Classroom's imaginative and exploratory approach draws on Robert Jackson's Interpretive Approach. This approach encourages educators to examine how religions and beliefs are represented, interpreted and reflected upon in schools and in curricular materials. It tries to bridge the gap between the way that religions and beliefs are represented in formal curricular materials, and the lived experience of learners. Teachers are encouraged to move away from abstract religious concepts to the messy complexity of the life of believers as embodied in the lives of religious and belief communities at local and national level. The students do not just learn about religions and beliefs as abstract, distant concepts but rather they engage with each other’s lived experience of practicing beliefs and religious traditions and learn from each other.
The Enquiring Classroom also explores the use of the dialogical approach which involves participants talking to, listening to and learning from others whose beliefs and religious traditions are very different to their own. This is done in a secure, supportive and positive environment. The process of dialogue can lead to a refining and clarifying of learners' individual beliefs while simultaneously fostering a greater confidence in the expression of personal religious and belief commitments. In classrooms there is a variation in religious and belief identification, practices as well as diversity of opinion around certain aspects of beliefs and room for exploring commonality and difference of belief. Students of many faiths and beliefs can explore issues of social justice and mutual concern.
In both the dialogical and the interpretive approaches the starting point for teaching and learning is the learners' own ideas, values, experiences, and curiosity and the teacher facilitates learners as they deepen their self‐understanding through engaging with the religious and belief lives of others. The overall emphasis is on appreciating the complexity of lived experience and the nuance and variety of ways of practising a belief or religious tradition.