Does this happen in maths?

Its been a while since I blogged, and this one is really a collection of thoughts and I am not sure how coherent it is either. However, after our NATRE Exec meeting yesterday, I have been persuaded to ‘put it out there’!

I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading about the history of pedagogy in RE recently. What strikes me is that the pedagogies that have been put forward over the last few decades have all ( more or less… I don’t want to make assumptions!) come about because academics in the main have tried to redefine the purpose of RE.

For example, many experiential approaches tried to redefine RE in terms of spiritual development whilst critical realist approaches tried to define RE in terms of grappling with truth claims. The vast array of pedagogies which you can explore on RE:ONLINE and learn more about have come about because of changes in the way the subject is understood. This makes sense. If your purpose in teaching RE is to help students grapple with truth claims, then your approach may be different to someone who wants students to make meaning or construct knowledge from the learning taking place.

The problem is that this had led to confusion. I have written quite a lot about the purpose of RE and am currently working on a paper with some colleagues to try and define it more coherently.

We might say that these pedagogies have formed layers, that now look a bit like a rock strata.

If you look at a rock strata, there are some smooth lines, some more prominent than others, all layered on top of each other, but in places a bit mangled or mixed up. We and not sure where one begins and another ends… so to use this analogy we have been left with a ‘mixed up purpose and pedagogy’. The layers are confused, and perhaps have become unhelpful.

The question that I want to ask, is does this happen in maths? In fact, does it happen in any other subject? I don’t know. I’d like to know.

However, I think it is doubtful (although please put me right!). From my very limited knowledge of maths, my thinking is that pedagogy is generally tied into pupil outcomes. A new approach is advocated because it improves the pupils’ chances of being better mathematicians. I’m not sure, but I don’t think teachers of maths rethink the nature of maths and its purpose and then create a new pedagogy to support it. I am not sure that this happens in history or geography either, or in fact in any other subject.

I think we need to clarify the purpose in RE…perhaps we need a bit of an earthquake to split the rock strata and start again. This might sound a bit drastic, but we need to focus more on pupil outcomes in relation to pedagogy, and in order to do this we have to have a very clear purpose.

The reason I think we are a bit stuck with assessment in RE at the moment is because we do not know clearly enough what outcomes we want to see. This is because we do not have a clear purpose.

So my quest for 2016….

– whatever else happens I really want to be clear in my own mind what the purpose of RE is and to be able to clearly articulate this to all the teachers I work with. I think I’m nearly there on this with some help from other colleagues!

– to ensure that pupil outcomes are the focus of all professional development and learning that I run this year, but to do this I need to have defined what outcomes I want to see – so I need to really sort out the assessment issue – this is more tricky!

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I’m an independent Religious Education Consultant. I work mainly in the Eastern Region for the Diocese of Norwich, and also for Culham St Gabriel’s Trust managing their TeachRE course. The views here are my own, and do not represent any of the organisations I work for.

2 thoughts on “Does this happen in maths?”

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