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Creating Conditions for Learning in Religious Education: Fostering an Engaging Classroom

Strategies for Building an Effective Learning Environment

Ideas, guidance and suggestions to help you make the most of your physical space, to use creative learning techniques, and establish expectations in order to realise your vision of RE.

Conditions for good learning

A stimulating and encouraging learning environment tell students, before they even sit down, that they can expect to be challenged, engaged and inspired. Here are some ideas to achieve this space:

  • Communicate your expectations by displaying high quality work in a way that makes it clear why it is high quality. It should not just be very colourful, but reflect a challenge met or an important skill mastered;
  • Display a range of high quality work reflecting the variety of ways pupils can access good RE; through art, sculpture, poetry, extended writing, digital photography, and so on;
  • An ‘RE in the News’ display, updated by you and your pupils, communicates the constant relevance of RE to our modern world;
  • Create a ‘Big Questions’ board, basket, box, washing line or mobile, for the big questions you don’t have time for but wish to return to. This shows students that their searching questions are important, relevant and applicable to the whole curriculum;
  • Your walls are the easiest way to communicate your vision of RE. Set the tone you are looking for in your displays: thoughtful, creative, challenging, philosophical, respectful, meaningful or controversial RE. If your displays generate questions, they are doing their job.

The links below contain more detailed information on two particular ways of using space:

Sue Phillip's 'Theatre of Learning'

'Learning outside the classroom' (LOtC)

Organising ways of learning

RE teachers’ most common complaint is the lack of time for a subject of such richness and complexity. However, being aware of opportunities inthe wider curriculum could buy RE some more time. For example;

  • Consider requesting time for RE Days, where six or seven hours of RE are collapsed into one day. Some teachers prefer RE Days for the depth of analysis they afford. They work best when all staff involved are well-prepared and materials are well-designed. A successful RE Day can create a buzz which serves to educate staff and pupils about what challenging, creative and engaging RE is all about;
  • Team up with other departments. Combine money, resources and staff to offer workshop days on top of the standard curriculum. Why not offer an exploration of Islamic art over the course of an RE and Art day, or consider the idea of human stewardship of the environment with the Geograhpy department? A joint Science and RE day of debates on medical ethical issues could be useful for students considering a career in medicine.
  • Some schools collapse RE into a Humanities block with associated subjects such as History and Citizenship. This can be hard to manage but is not a disaster for RE as long as it well-designed. Take the lead for the RE sections of the block to ensure that RE does not disappear. Protect RE-specific skills and content and make it clear when pupils are engaged in RE-specific activities. RE could benefit from being part of a wider curriculum where RE skills and RE content are seen as widely applicable.

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