Approaches to teaching and learning in religious education

Julian Stern

Researchers in the Classroom: Thoughtful Teaching and Learning in RE

The purpose of this section of the RE CPD website is to show three things:
  • How can teachers of RE develop their own work through research?
  • How can pupils be researchers in RE?
  • How can the work of researchers outside schools be used in school?

It will be done through section on each of the key themes or topics discussed at the various Westhill Seminars between 2004 and 2010. The full answers will of course be found in books, websites, universities, and, most of all, in RE classrooms. Here, we will be providing starting points and clues.

a_Pencils-21.jpg RE has always been a thoughtful and thought-provoking subject. That is good, yet I have lost count of the children complaining ‘my brain hurts’, after a particularly challenging piece of work – such as the sound of one hand clapping, the nature of the trinity, what happens when we die. Teachers of RE can say much the same, although this is often phrased in terms of concerns over subject knowledge and how to deal with controversial issues. This section looks at research in RE as a cure for, as well as a cause of brain ache.

Teaching has for a long time been a graduate-only profession, and is now becoming a masters-level profession. We as teachers are expected to work at high academic levels, including as researchers. Meanwhile, research in RE has been going on in universities, not only in the UK (see for example but around the world (see for example

For several years, thanks to the generosity of the Westhill Endowment Trust (, groups of teachers, advisors and researchers in RE have been coming together to discuss the overlap between research and practice in RE. These ‘Westhill Seminars’ started in 2004, and the eleventh seminar took place in 2010. Over 50 teachers, and a similar number of advisors and researchers have been involved – 240 ‘attendances’ in Leeds, Manchester, Darlington, Leamington, Luton, Cheltenham, Warwick, Norwich, York, Glasgow, and Oxford. The first six resulted in a book: Teaching Religious Education: Researchers in the Classroom, written by Julian Stern (see or bookshops such as Amazon at

Each of these sections links to publications and websites that might be helpful for those involved in research in RE – in classrooms, as part of normal lessons, as well as for postgraduate qualifications and personal interest. Those wishing to do more research in RE can contact universities and other organisations where such research is already taking place – and some of the writers mentioned in this part of the site have their names linked to their institutional homes. There are also some key websites that may be helpful, and some key publications too.



  • BJRE is a journal published by Christian Education (, and covers research of relevance to teachers and academics from around the world.
  • EFTRE (the European Forum for teachers of RE) ( links RE teachers across Europe.
  • The Farmington Institute (
  • NATRE (the national association of teachers of religious education) ( is the professional body for RE teachers, and it links to professional development and research projects and publications of various kinds.
  • REOnline ( links to all kinds of organisations involved in RE, including those who support and fund research.
  • ReligiousTolerance ( is a big and informative site for information (and links to further information) about a very wide range of religions.
  • AULRE (the association of lecturers in religion and education) ( links university lecturers in this area, and is the association linked, in turn, with the Journal of Beliefs and Values: Studies in Religion and Education, one of the leading academic journals.
  • Resource is a journal published by Christian Education (, and covers research that is clearly relevant to professional teachers.
  • Francis, L J and Kay, W K (eds) (1997, 1998, 2000, 2003) Religion In Education: Distance Learning: Volume 1, 2, 3, 4; Leominster, Herefordshire: Gracewing.
  • Francis, L J, Kay, W K, and Campbell, W S (eds) (1996) Research in Religious Education; Leominster, Herefordshire: Gracewing.
  • Grimmitt, M (ed) (2000) Pedagogies of Religious Education: Case Studies in the Development of Good Pedagogic Practice; Great Wakering, Essex: McCrimmons.
  • Ipgrave, J, Jackson, R and O’Grady, K (eds) (2009) Religious Education Research Through a Community of Practice: Action Research and the Interpretive Approach; Münster: Waxmann.
  • Stern, L J (2006) Teaching Religious Education: Researchers in the Classroom; London: Continuum.