Religious education and spiritual development

Clive Erricker

RE and spiritual development

RE and spiritual development

a_Books-21.jpgSpiritual development causes the greatest difficulty for teachers because it lacks any precise definition and is controversial given its close approximation to the religious and its apparent distance from the secular. To make sense of spiritual development in the context of education, it must be related to the process of learning undertaken and the outcomes intended. It helps if the notion of ‘spiritual’ is broken down into the sort of qualities that we wish pupils to develop; for example, confidence and self-belief, resilience and perseverance, conviction and compassion, self-questioning and integrity.

Religious education in particular lends itself to spiritual development because of the subject matter it engages with; for example, its engagement with existential questions of meaning and purpose, its concern with beliefs and values and its focus on individuals and events, concepts and issues within which spiritual questions form an integral aspect.

Writers on the subject of spiritual development and spirituality in religious education have referred to it being rooted in a creative and dynamic process that is life-giving through attention being paid to ‘thinking, creating, imagining, becoming’ (Priestley 1997: 29) and for the need for the subject to concern itself with direct experience through ‘prayer, meditation and contemplation [becoming] the foci of religious education because they are “the heartland of faith”’ (Hay 1985: 143).

A further thread that runs through the idea of spiritual development is the focus on the importance of narrative (see Erricker et al. 1997; Erricker and Erricker 2000) and the need to engage children’s narratives with those found within religious traditions. This, in turn, links to the idea of relationship, that spirituality derives from the fact that ‘The story of my life is always embedded in the story of those communities from which I derive my identity’ (MacIntyre 1985:221). This emphasis is prevalent in Hay and Nye’s research from which they coined the term ‘relational consciousness’ (Hay with Nye 1998) as key to spiritual development.

A further focus in spiritual development has been on language and literacy, in particular the importance of figurative expression and metaphor. Religious language is steeped in metaphor and figurative meaning as a means to giving expression to both transcendence and affective expression. Thus, to engage with, respond to and articulate a sense of the spiritual suggests a need to engage with language in a non-literal way in order to communicate profound experiences of significance in both the lives of religious believers and those of pupils.

a_Books-21.jpgTo foster spiritual development in the RE classroom is more a matter of how pupils are engaged in learning than what they learn about. Therefore, spiritual development has to be understood in educational terms but with a larger sense of what education is for. In this respect the following passage on the approach of the educationalist John Dewey is helpful:

‘Lessons which adopt a Deweyan perspective are not focused upon the learning or memorization of facts by which students can be certain. Rather they are characterised by the children questioning and trying to become better investigators as “persons” rather than as “learners”’ (Webster 2009: 94).

The QCDA has also revised its description of spiritual development, as follows:

  • Spiritual development may be described as young people gaining personal insights from their experience of learning, enabling them to reflect on the significance of their learning, and to connect it profoundly, creatively and healthily to themselves, other people, society and the environment.

Children who are developing spiritually are likely to be:

Successful learners, who:

  • are creative, resourceful and able to identify and solve problems
  • have enquiring minds and think for themselves to process information, reason, question and evaluate
  • know about big ideas and events that shape our world

Confident individuals, who:

  • have a sense of self-worth and personal identity
  • relate well to others and form good relationships
  • are self-aware and deal well with their emotions
  • are open to the excitement and inspiration offered by the natural world and human achievements

Responsible citizens, who:

  • have a strong sense of their own place in the world

QCDA link

Promoting and evaluating pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (Downloadable resource OFSTED website)

Resources

Resources

References

References

  • Erricker, C. And Erricker J. (2000) Reconstructing Religious, Spiritual and Moral Education, London: RoutledgeFalmer.
  • Erricker, J. (2000) 'Moral education as relationship in community', Erricker, C. And Erricker J. Reconstructing Religious, Spiritual and Moral Education, London: RoutledgeFalmer.
  • Erricker, C. Erricker, J. Ota, C. Sullivan, D. And Fletcher, M. (1997) The Education of the Whole Child, London: Cassell.
  • Hay, D. (1985) 'Suspicion of the Spiritual: Teaching Religion in a World of Secular Experience', British Journal of Religious Education, 7.1, pp. 140-7.
  • Hay, D. with Nye, R. (1998) The Spirit of the Child, London: Fount.
  • Jackson, R. (1997) Religious Education: an interpretive approach, London: Hodder and Stoughton.
  • Jackson, R. (2004) Rethinking Religious Education and Plurality: issues in diversity and pedagogy, London and |New York: RoutledgeFalmer.
  • MacIntyre, A. (1985) After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, London: Duckworth.
  • National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education (1999) All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education, London: DfEE and DCMS.
  • Nesbitt, E. (2004) Intercultural Education: ethnographic and religious approaches, Brighton and Portland: Sussex Academic Press.
  • Office for Standards in Education (1999) Handbook for Inspecting Primary and Nursery Schools, London: Ofsted.
  • Office for Standards in Education (2003), Promoting and Evaluating Pupils’ Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development: guidance for schools, London: Ofsted.
  • Priestley, J. (1997) 'Spirituality, Curriculum and Education', International Journal of Children’s Spirituality, 2.1, pp.23-34.
  • Sharp, P. (2001) Nurturing Emotional Literacy, London: David Fulton.
  • Webster, R.S. (2009) 'The educative value of Dewey’s religious attitude for spirituality', International Journal of Children’s Spirituality 14.2. pp.93-104.
Books

Books

  • Alexander, H. (ed.) (2004) Spirituality and Ethics in Education: philosophical, theological and radical perspectives, Brighton and Portland: Sussex Academic Press.
  • Copley, T. (2000) Spiritual Development in the State School, Exeter: University of Exeter Press.
  • Copley, T. (2005) Indoctrination, Education and God: the struggle for the mind, London: SPCK.
  • De Souza, M., Durka, G., Engebretson, K., Jackson, R. And McGrady, A. (eds.) (2006) International Handbook of the Religious, Moral and Spiritual Dimensions of Education, (2 vols), Dordrecht: Springer
  • Erricker, C., Erricker, J., Ota, C., Sullivan, D. and Fletcher, M. (1997) The Education of the Whole Child, London: Cassell.
  • Erricker, C. and Erricker J. (2000) Reconstructing Religious, Spiritual and Moral Education, London: RoutledgeFalmer.
  • Erricker, C. And Erricker, J. (eds.) (2001) , London and New York: Continuum.
  • Erricker, C. (2001) When Learning Becomes Your Enemy: Spirituality, Education and Economics, Nottingham: Educational Heretics Press.
  • Erricker, C. (2009) 'A Buddhist Approach to Alternative Schooling' in Woods, Philip, A. and Woods, Glenys J. (eds) Alternative Education for the 21st Century, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Erricker, C. (2010) Religious Education: a conceptual and interdisciplinary approach for secondary level, London: FultonRoutledge.
  • Erricker, C., Lowndes, J., Bellchambers, E. (2010) Primary Religious Education-a new approach: conceptual enquiry in primary RE, London: FultonRoutledge.
  • Gardner, R., Cairns, J., Lawton, D. (eds.) (2000) Education for Values: morals, ethics and citizenship in contemporary teaching, London: Kogan Page.
  • Grimmitt, M. (2000) Pedagogies of Religious Education, Great Wakering, Essex: McCrimmons.
  • Hay, D. with Nye, R. (1998) The Spirit of the Child, London: Fount.
  • Jackson, R. (1997) Religious Education: an interpretive approach, London: Hodder and Stoughton.
  • Jackson, R. (2004) Rethinking Religious Education and Plurality: issues in diversity and pedagogy, London and New York: RoutledgeFalmer.
  • Nesbitt, E. (2004) Intercultural Education: ethnographic and religious approaches, Brighton and Portland: Sussex Academic Press.
  • Ota, C., Erricker, J., Erricker, C. (eds) (2001) Spiritual Education: cultural, religious and social differences – new perspectives for the 21st Century, Brighton and Portland: Sussex Academic Press.
  • Ota, C. and Erricker, C. (eds) (2005) Spiritual Education: literary, empirical and pedagogical approaches, Brighton and Portland: Sussex Academic Press.
  • Wright, A. (2004) Religion, Education and Post-modernity, London and New York: RoutledgeFalmer.
  • Wright, A. (2007) Critical Religious Education, Multiculturalism and the Pursuit of Truth, Cardiff: University of Wales Press.
Journals

Journals

  • British Journal of Religious Education
  • International Journal of Children’s Spirituality
  • Journal of Beliefs and Values
  • Journal of Moral Education

All these journals are available electronically at http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/online.asp

Useful websites

Useful websites