Building learning power, existential thinking and religious education: an exploratory study

Shakeshaft, Kristina Elizabeth (2023). Building learning power, existential thinking and religious education: an exploratory study. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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RE as personal or human development is one of several models used in the teaching of RE (NATRE, 2021). This model advocates an approach to Religious Education (RE) in which students, through the study of existential questions, are encouraged to engage in what Michael Grimmitt (1987) refers to as a ‘dialectical relationship’ between the student’s own religion or worldview and those of others. In RE as personal development students are encouraged not only to learn about but also from the religious material studied and use it, as appropriate, to enrich their own religious views, or to use as a ‘critical filter’ for their own developing beliefs and values. Put another way, the aim of RE as personal development is to encourage students to develop their existential thinking. A range of strategies exist to encourage student reflexivity, and for some simply being exposed to the views of others is enough to facilitate some form of personal engagement. However, for others more is needed to tackle the apathy and disinterest shown towards the RE and encourage more student buy- in.

This study explores how the explicit teaching of Building Learning Power (BLP) in an RE curriculum may help student buy-in to the subject more and support them to become better existential thinking in RE. My research questions are:
How does explicit teaching of learning habits support the development of existential thinking in Religious Education?
• Do different groups of students respond differently to attempts to develop their existential thinking?
• Do some learning habits play a greater role than others in supporting the development of existential thinking in RE?
• How does this exploratory study of the impact of learning habits on the students’ development of existential thinking translate into conclusions for the pedagogy of RE today?

To investigate whether a learning-powered RE curriculum could enable better existential thinking I carried out a year-long curriculum intervention in which I delivered an RE curriculum in which the teaching of learning habits was explicit. I collected and analysed a selection of data from the intervention which included student questionnaires, interviews, student written work and field notes. My findings suggest that the use of learning habits in an RE curriculum did seem to play a role in enabling many of the students to engage more in their own learning in RE and develop their existential thinking. The learning habit of metacognition, in particular, played a role in the development of student self-reflection, and the teaching of empathy created more interest in learning about the views of others and for some, even promoted personal views to change.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: School of Education
Funders: Other
Other Funders: Self-funded
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1603 Secondary Education. High schools


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