module specification

SS5077 - Religion and Education in Contemporary Society (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Religion and Education in Contemporary Society
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Social Professions
Total study hours 150
105 hours Guided independent study
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 20%   750-1000 word critical commentary on selected passages from key texts outlining the aim of RE education
Coursework 80%   2000-2500 word essay from a list on topics studied throughout the module
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Tuesday Morning

Module summary

This module will introduce students to issues related to teaching Religious Education within the context of the UK over the last half-century. It will not only look at the changing status of RE within UK law and the National Curriculum during this period, but also at wider debates about religion within the culture at large, and theoretical positions formulated by the religions themselves by which they have attempted to conceptualise their standing in relation to other faiths and secular society as a whole. It will examine specific pedagogies of teaching RE, the growth of faith schools, and the criticisms elicited by the latter from New Atheists and others.

Module aims

Religion and Education in Contemporary Society aims to:
• Introduce students to challenges related to teaching RE in the UK
• Convey information concerning the status of RE within the National Curriculum
• Introduce students to prevailing pedagogical methods of teaching RE
• Introduce students to theoretical perspectives formulated by religious thinkers, as well as liberal secularists, applicable to contemporary approaches to teaching RE
• Raise issues concerning the relation between religious communities within the UK and liberal civil society
• Encourage students to reflect on the nature and function of religious belief and practice, and how this might influence the content of the curriculum and approaches to its delivery


The module will begin with a consideration of the 1944 Education Act’s conception of Religious Education as religious instruction and collective worship (and therefore as a Christian, confessional subject), before examining the social forces and cultural changes that led to the redefinition of RE as Religious Studies in the Education Reform Act of 1988.

It will examine the contemporary unique status of RE within the National Curriculum – an obligatory offering on the part of schools, but optional for pupils whose parents object, the content of which is fixed locally by SACREs rather than at the government level, in recognition of the dominant religious affiliation within the local demographic of particular schools. Pedagogical challenges arising from the subject’s two attainment targets – learning from religion in addition to learning about – will be surveyed in relation to the effectiveness of suggested (and often opposing) pedagogies which have been formulated to satisfy these targets (such as Ninian Smart’s phenomenological, undogmatic approach, and the experiential approach advocated by David Hay, amongst others). Questions concerning the purpose of religious education will be considered that relates it to opposing debates within the specific religions themselves – concerning whether religion is, essentially, a matter of existential and soteriological concern for the individual alone, or whether its focus is, or ought to be, supportive of community and group values.

The module will also look at theoretical positions within the theology of religions, by which thinkers affiliated to the main religious traditions in the UK (and elsewhere) have attempted to explain and conceptualise the existence of other faiths, as well as secular outlooks (exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism), in order to consider the extent to which any of these positions might provide useful standpoints for overcoming the challenges of teaching RE in a multi-faith, but predominantly secular society. The function of religious communities in passing on beliefs, values and patterns of feeling from one generation to the next will be addressed in relation to the broader agenda of a liberal society, and the latter’s concern to provide a neutral conception of law, politics and other modes of cultural activity that, in theory, aspires to minimise conflict with the more concrete set of beliefs and values adhered to by specific religious communities. The rise of faith schools will be considered in this context, and the criticisms they have elicited in relation to issues concerning the conflict between religious and scientific accounts of cosmology, as well as ethical issues concerning tolerance, among others.

Learning and teaching

The module will be taught in weekly sessions that combine lectures, seminar discussion and small group activities, plus additional scheduled online or face-to-face tutorials. Lecture summaries will be available on Weblearn along with other electronic resources that support the course.

Weekly sessions including seminars, lectures, tutorials and blended learning will add up to a total contact time of 45 hours.  In addition to this, students will be expected to undertake at least six hours devoted to the course each week, combining reading and writing related to the module.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
1. Understand the status of RE within the National Curriculum
2. Critically assess the effectiveness of specific pedagogies of teaching RE in relation to its twofold Attainment Targets
3. Understand and assess the validity of distinct positions within the theology of religions
4. Develop strategic responses to difficulties related to teaching RE in a multi-faith society
5. Reflect with conceptual rigour on the nature and value of religion to both individuals and communities

Assessment strategy

Formative activities and assessment:

● periodic reading comprehension and summary exercises
● individual or small group seminar presentations
● contribution to online activities/blogs/message boards
● staff feedback on seminar discussions
● staff feedback on written assignments
● peer evaluation by students

Summative assessment: Critical commentary (20%)
Essay (80%)


Ofsted (2007) Making Sense of Religion (HMI 070045)
QCA (2004) Religious Education: The non-statutory national framework (QCA/04/1336).
Kepel, G. (1994) The Revenge of God: The Resurgence of Islam, Christianity and Judaism in the Modern World, Cambridge: Polity Press
Broadbent, L. & Brown, A. (2002) Issues in Religious Education, London: RoutledgeFalmer.
Copley, T. (2005) Indoctrination, Education and God: The Struggle for the Mind, London: SPCK.
Copley, T. (1997) Teaching Religion: Fifty Years of Religious Education in England and Wales, Exeter: University of Exeter Press
Cupitt, D. (1989) Radicals and the Future of the Church, London: SCM.
D’Costa, G. (2000) The Meeting of the Religions and the Trinity, Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
Grimmitt, M. (ed.) (2000) Pedagogies of Religious Education: Case Studies in the Research and Development of Good Pedagogic Practice in RE, Essex: McCrimmons.
Mill, J.S. (1982 edn.) On Liberty Harmondsworth: Penguin Classic.
Newbigin, L. (1989) The Gospel in a Pluralist World, London: SPCK
Schleiermacher, F.D.E., (2000) On Religion: Speeches to its Cultural Despisers, translated by R. Crouter, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rodrigues, H. & Harding, J.S. (2009) Introduction to the Study of Religion, London & New York: Routledge
Stern, J., (2006) Teaching Religious Education, London; New York: Continuum.
Watson, B. & Thompson, P. (2007) The Effective Teaching of Religious Education, 2nd edition, London: Pearson, Longman.
Stone, B. & Wotton, V. (2005) Religion and Society 2nd edition. London: Hodder Murray.
Wright, A. & Brandom, A-M. (eds.) (2000) Learning to Teach Religious Education in the Secondary School: A Companion to School Experience, London: RoutledgeFalmer.