30th March 2001 at 01:00
PEDAGOGIES OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION: case studies in the research and development of good practice in RE. Edited by Michael Grimmitt. McCrimmons pound;12.50.

Pedagogy is a word that finds little favour in English educational usage, perhaps because of its association with "pedant" and "pedantic". But it would be a grave mistake to ignore this book because of such presumptions. Michael Grimmitt uses the word as a shorthand term for holding together not only aims, content and method as one operational whole, but also teacher and pupil relationships as partnerships in the educational process.

The book consists of two introductory chapters by Grimmitt followed by accounts of nine projects by their instigators: the Chichester Project on teaching Christianity as a world religion; David Hay's ongoing work on religious experience; the Westhill World Religions project; John Hull's Gift to the Child initiative; the Warwick Interpretative Approach; Trevor Cooling's work on theology as the basis for RE; Andrew Wright's current project on spiritual education; and Clive and Jane Erricker's Children and World Views project. Grimmitt contributes a final chapter on his latest initiative in constructivist pedagogies.

Together these chapters represent a lively ducational debate which nowadays perhaps can only come from this constantly ignored but remarkably resilient subject area. REis not part of the national curriculum; its pedagogy is not handed down, fully packaged, by government agencies. It remains open to creative critiques from professional and intellectual sources. Most refreshing is the way in which day-to-day classroom practice is related to underlying philosophical considerations.

Today's simple, if not simplistic, notions of teaching and learning, of "delivering a curriculum" to be measured by current effectiveness criteria, are absent. RE has never been permitted to be directly effective. While the citizenship debate assumes the production of better citizens, none of these writers assumes that RE aims to make pupils religious.

The debate within these pages is as much about a concept of education as about teaching a subject. RE does not fit a thought world dominated by fact but devoid of the consideration of values. For, as John Rudge comments in his article on the Westhill project , factualism is "the basis of a curriculum for no one, with no educational purpose, going nowhere".

Jack Priestley is an honorary research fellow at Exeter University's school of education

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