module specification

SS5077 - Religion and Education in Contemporary Society (2020/21)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2020/21
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
43 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
2 hours Assessment Preparation / Delivery
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 25%   500 word critical commentary on selected passages from key texts outlining the aim of RE education
Coursework 75%   1500 word essay from a list on topics studied throughout the module
Running in 2020/21 No instances running in the year

Module summary

The module enquires into the purpose of Religious Education in state schools, within the context of a multi-faith society and secular liberal state. It traces the cultural and sociological causes that motivated the change from Religious Instruction prescribed by the Butler Act of 1944, to Religious Education implemented in the Baker Act of 1988. It focusses on the two attainment targets of Religious Education, and asks whether they assist teachers in discerning whether the subject is to communicate knowledge of world culture, to deepen spiritual understanding, or to promote the socio-political value of tolerance and social harmony.

Religion, Education and 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. LO1,LO2

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.  LO2,LO4

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. LO2,LO3,LO4

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

The module will be taught in weekly sessions that combine lectures, seminar discussion and small group activities, plus additional scheduled 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 as part of the Basic rather than National Curriculum
2. Critically assess the rationale for pedagogies of RE in relation to its twofold Attainment Targets
3. Develop strategic responses to difficulties related to teaching RE in a multi-faith society
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
● staff feedback on seminar discussions
● staff feedback on written assignments
● peer evaluation by students
● Summative assessment: Critical commentary (20%)
● Essay (80%)


Core Texts

Ofsted (2007) Making Sense of Religion (HMI 070045)
QCA (2004) Religious Education: The non-statutory national framework (QCA/04/1336).
Broadbent, L. & Brown, A. (2002) Issues in Religious Education, London: RoutledgeFalmer.
Copley, T. (1997) Teaching Religion: Fifty Years of Religious Education in England and Wales, Exeter: University of Exeter Press
Grimmitt, M. (ed.) (2000) Pedagogies of Religious Education: Case Studies in the Research and Development of Good Pedagogic Practice in RE, Essex: McCrimmons.
Kepel, G. (1994) The Revenge of God: The Resurgence of Islam, Christianity and Judaism in the Modern World, Cambridge: Polity Press
Rodrigues, H. & Harding, J.S. (2009) Introduction to the Study of Religion, London & New York: Routledge
Ryan, C. & Hedley, D., (2009), “Nineteenth-Century Philosophy of Religion: An Introduction” in The History of Western Philosophy of Religion vol. iv, edited by G. Oppy & N. Trakakis, Oxford University Press
Ryan, C., (2010) Schopenhauer’s Philosophy of Religion: the Death of God and the Oriental Renaissance, Leuven: Peeters
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.
British Journal of Religious Education, London: CEM
Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, London: Equinox