Learning outside the classroom (LOtC)
There is wide agreement on the benefits of pupils learning outside the classroom. From the non-statutory National Framework for RE to the 2008 Ofsted report on LOtC, there is plenty of support for taking pupils out of the classroom and evidence that it can improve learning and enhance motivation.
For many years, RE teachers have organised visits to places of worship and these remain an essential element in the curriculum, but there are many other places – Sacred Spaces – where excellent RE can happen and these can be gardens, museums, art galleries, ancient sites, sculpture parks, memorials or monuments and open spaces. See www.refuel.org.uk/sacred-space/index/ for some inspiring case studies and for other advice, such as ideas on how to avoid parents withdrawing their children from visits.
As well as visits to individual places and spaces, there are also religious and cultural trails www.retrails.org.uk/. This site not only tells you where existing trails can be found but gives guidance on developing your own. The LOtC site www.lotc.org.uk/ tells you which places and organisations have been awarded their Quality Badge though remember that there are many places that will not apply for this option but can still offer excellent learning opportunities.
Enquiry based learning
Learning outside the classroom in RE can enhance both learning about and learning from religions and beliefs. In ‘learning about’ it is essential that learning is active and challenging for pupils – doing worksheets and having a guided tour are unlikely to provide stimulating experiences. Instead, ensure that there are many different ways of gathering information and deepening understanding: interviewing and recording community members; photographing key features; observing rituals and activities; gathering materials. There are comparisons and contrasts to be drawn. There are questions to be asked about design and its relation to ritual and belief. There are endless opportunities for cross-curricular learning and in-depth investigation of communities and places.
Learning from religions and beliefs
In ‘learning from’ religions and beliefs, visits and trails need to be planned to include opportunities for engagement with religious and philosophical questions and for spiritual development. The use of silence, times for reflection and private writing and recording, raising questions about the purpose of sacred space, belief in God or religious experience and discussions about key concepts such as community and social action – all these can enable young people to think and experience more deeply.
At their best, visits can contribute enormously to effective RE, can promote community cohesion and can challenge prejudices but none of these will happen automatically. You have to be willing to enable dialogue in ‘safe space’ if sacred space is to have real impact on the opinions, mis-perceptions and stereotypical images that some pupils might have.
Wherever you take your pupils it is essential that you should go first and make sure that your hosts understand the learning that you want to take place on your visit. Careful planning is needed to ensure a coherent learning experience for which you have planned and which you will follow up. You remain responsible for the learning that is taking place, wherever it is. Enjoy!
Community cohesion – suggested reading
- Alam, M Y and Husband, C (2006) British-Pakistani Men from Bradford (York, Joseph Rowntree Foundation)
- Commission on Integration and Cohesion (2007) Our Shared Future (London, CIC)
- Finney, N and Simpson, L (2009) Sleepwalking into Segregation? Challenging myths about race and migration (Bristol, The Policy Press)
- Ipgrave, J (2001) Pupil-to Pupil Dialogue in the Classroom as a Tool for Religious Education, (Coventry, University of Warwick) WRERU Occasional Papers 2,
- Lewis, P (2007) Young, British and Muslim (London, Continuum)