Welcome to the coloured glass classroom! We hope to provide you with lots of creative ideas and resource links to help you engage the young people in your religious and Christian education classes. This blog is sponsored by the Anglican Schools Commission of the Anglican Church Southern Queensland.

30 September 2015

Students bored by religious education? You aren't being affective.

If students are bored in class, no learning is taking place!

The affective learning domain was described as part of Bloom’s Taxonomy, a system for identifying, understanding and addressing how students learn. The affective domain is particularly focussed on student motivations, attitudes, perceptions and values. Teacher attention or lack of it to the affective domain can enhance or inhibit student learning. This is particularly true when it comes to religious education. This post won't come close to doing justice to this topic, but its a start.

When entering the religious education classroom students may come with strong pre-existing feelings about the topic of study, and may have been influenced by negative cultural and peer values about it.  It is important we make sure that we address student attitudes and motivations, and structure learning in a way that will not turn students off.

The affective domain should be central to the teaching of religious education because of the nature of the subject. We should not be solely focused on providing students with information but with providing them with the resources and space to grow and learn spiritually, emotionally and morally. Affective learning enables them to reflect on what is important to them and what may be of value to their life. We don’t want students just to receive information but to respond to it, to find value in their learning and to integrate it into their own thinking, feeling and being. This means finding approaches that will draw students in.

There are five levels in the affective domain moving through the lowest order processes to the highest.  To some degree each of these can be addressed by using creative, engaging and appropriately selected learning strategies, however, the teachers must also be aware of broader issues.

At this level the student is just paying attention.  If we can’t make it to here then no learning will take place at all. When structuring lessons, it is important we do so in way that will grab the attention of students. We can do this by connecting it to things they care about. This could include the use of popular culture or issues of concern.  Expecting students to listen to the teacher talk for too long without interaction may interfere with student’s ability to give their attention.

It is possible to turn students off very quickly if language is used in an unthinking way. It is important that the educator doesn't make statements about beliefs that assume students agree with them, for instance “we all know that Jesus rose from the dead”. The teacher may believe it, but if the students don’t then they may stop receiving. Rephrasing the statement to “I believe...” (Owning – saying you believe it) or “Christians believe…” (Grounding – saying who believes it) goes a long way to wards overcoming this issue.

At this level students are responding to stimulus and reacting to it in some way. This could include providing their own opinion, answering or asking questions or sharing their experiences.  One way of achieving this is to provide an open and safe environment. The owning and grounding approach above provides students with the invitation to offer their own view. It is also important that teachers don’t engage in unstructured debates with students about their beliefs or criticise or belittle them but provide them with opportunities to express clearly what they believe and why. I think it is counter-productive for a teacher to overly defend their own beliefs as well.

Activities such as think, pair, share may provide students a safer way to reflect, to share with one other and then offer their ideas to the wider group. Approaches that provide students with creative and engaging ways to respond to stimulus are critical to this level.

At this level the student is reflecting on how the information is of value to them and their life. It relates to personal beliefs, attitudes or commitments to particular ideas.  It is at this level that students see the importance of what is being taught and decide to take positions and discuss why it important to them. In this process they will begin to identify their own values. Values clarification exercises may help students to do this, especially if they are given an opportunity to articulate why particular things are important to them. I suspect that students may approach this level if the issues discussed are of importance to their daily life and world view. It is important in religious education that when issues relating to the life of the student are discussed that they are given the space to think about how it impacts them and the people close to them.

At this level students are considering different values and ideas and accommodating, integrating or prioritizing them into their own values. The goal for teachers is to help students reflect on moving good values to a higher priority and poor values to a lower priority. One way of approaching this is to seek to make students annoyed or angry about something such as an injustice or wrong in the world. This may motivate students to re-evaluate which of the things they value are important and why.

At this level the student has a specific value that becomes characteristic of them by the way it influences their behaviour and way of living. I suspect that if we can make students care about a particular value enough then we can spur them on to action. Providing students with opportunities to act beyond the classroom, either in the school or at home or in the community may enable them to test out values through action. In doing so they may have the experience that helps them make the expression of the value part of their way of life.

28 September 2015

God and Music

“I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music.”
― Johann Sebastian Bach

“The final aim and reason of all music is nothing other than the glorification of God 
and the refreshment of the spirit.”
― Johann Sebastian Bach

Music is an important part of the life of many young people.

Research released by Philip Hughes a few years ago had young people listing music as the top way they deal with the challenges of life and one of their top ways for achieving peace and happiness.

Much of the best music ever written in the West has deep roots in Christian spirituality and even today many “secular” bands continue to incorporate spiritual and Christian themes throughout their music.

So why wouldn't we be using this obvious resource for religious and Christian education.

What might a unit based around God, spirituality and music look like?
There are three approaches that come to mind for me, depending on what you hope to achieve. A blend of all of them might be most desirable and would allow students not only to learn about Christianity but also from it.

Approach 1: The development of Christian music

In this approach a survey might be done of Christian music throughout the ages. A unit like this might explore some of the following questions:
  • what is sacred/religious music?
  • are there different types?
  • why is it important?
  • what it is used for?
  • how does the artists perceive God’s involvement?
  • does sacred music differ to music with spiritual themes?
  • what impact does sacred or spiritual music have on Christians and people in general?
  • what does the importance of music in Christianity tell us about how they perceive God?

Throughout this exploration use the music to help answer the questions above.

You could explore:
  • Gregorian and other types of chant
  • Classical Music with Christian themes
  • Hymns and Psalmody
  • Christian rock and roll and hip hop
  • Modern worship music

Approach 2:  Music and Spirituality

A second approach would be to listen to, discuss and analyse modern or ancient songs that deal with issues affecting the live of students. The songs chosen should be ones that seek to reference the Christian faith or Christian themes in some way. These songs don’t need to put a positive spin on everything but should somehow draw on the stories, motivations or beliefs of Christianity.
In this unit some of the following questions might be explored:
  • Why is music so deeply connected with spirituality?
  • Why do secular artists incorporate Christian or spiritual themes into their music?
  • How can music help people deal with problems?
  • Is there a difference between Christian music and music written by Christians?
  • How does music influence peoples thinking?

Approach 3: Exploring Christianity through Music

With this approach some of the key themes of Christianity could be explored through music either ancient or modern. These themes could include:
  • creation
  • Jesus
  • sin
  • redemption
  • community
  • love 
  • service
  • justice
  • forgiveness

Use music to explore what different people have to say about these topics through their music. Investigate how these ideas are similar or different to Christian theologies.

Just thinking about the idea of a unit relating to God and music made the following songs pop into my limited imagination. Some of these draw on Christian tradition and some on the beliefs of other religions or on popular spirituality. There are a million songs that could be helpful, many more modern than these.
  • The Outlaw - Larry Norman
  • Audience with the Devil - Hilltop Hoods
  • Highwayman - Johnny Cash
  • Take my life - Garage Hymnal

22 September 2015

Time Travelling Jesus

Ever wondered what the world was like when Jesus walked the earth. The idea below could be used as a unit of work to help students discover the world Jesus lived in or it could be used as a piece of assessment.

Students are given the following scenario:

"You work for a time travel agency and are required to create a travel guide for people travelling to Jerusalem during the time of Jesus (~30 AD) as this is one of the most popular time travel destinations. It is essential however that your customers understand the time and place they are visiting so that they will  fit in and not disturb the time stream."

Students may be asked to do the following:
  • Create a time travel guide for the time of Jesus.
  •  Write it in a travel guide format - this could be book or website format.
  • Provide information on:
    • Israel - The Land, Important History and Geographical Features, Language etc.
    • Life in 30 AD – Lifestyle, Government.
    • People – Important Groups – Saducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Romans, Zealots.

There are a few ways to provide this information.
  • Each expert group could be given a Bible passages from the Gospels relating to their topic.
  • Books about the life of Jesus designed for the classroom could be provided.
  • Students could be provided with access to the internet and guided to some useful webs sites.
  • A mixture of these resources could be provided.

There are many ways this could be completed, including individual or pair research,  however one alternate way could be to use the Jigsaw approach (Innovative Teachers’ Companion:  Secondary Edition 2012, page 132, or see www.itcpublications.com.au )

Students are first put in home teams of five members and numbered 1 -5. Home teams are then rearranged into expert teams based around the number assigned. Eg. All number 1’s group together, all number 2’s group together.

2. Each expert team then researches the specialist topic assigned to them:

3. Each expert team should record their findings.

4. Expert teams then break up and return to form their home teams. Each home team should now  have an expert in each area. Each of the experts teaches the others what they have discovered in order to create the their travel guide.

In order for this to work students would need to be provided with good structure and resources for each of the topics they are covering.

16 September 2015

Transforming Service Conference 2016

April 14-16 2016 - Brisbane

This is an invitation to educators involved in leading or organising service learning activities in Australian schools. The Transforming Service Conference will bring together Service Learning Professional from all over Australia to share a national picture of service learning activities and to.work together on advancing the understanding of service learning and the foundations which underpin service encounters.

The Transforming Service Conference is an ecumenical initiative that recognises the rich variety of approaches to service across Australian faith-based school. The conference will focus particularly on secondary schools but recognises that many schools adopt a whole-of school approach to service learning. International; and cross-cultural service encounters will be a focus of discussion, alongside local endeavours.

Registrations Open Term 4 2015
Venue: Australian Catholic University Leadership Centre, Elizabeth St, Brisbane

3 September 2015

Asylum Seekers and Refugees: Scriptural, theological and ethical approaches

This resource produced by the Anglican Church Southern Queensland's Social Responsibilities Committee would be very useful for developing a unit around the issue of refugees  for senior school students. It provides a great structure and lots of links to all kinds of information and resources.

Read from the Introduction:

"In 2010 the Social Responsibilities Committee of the Anglican Church Southern Queensland (SRC) commissioned the Anglicare Southern Queensland (Anglicare SQ) Social Justice research unit to publish a series of discussion papers on the subject of refugees and asylum seekers. The first paper covered the context of current political issues surrounding refugees and asylum seekers, including the operation of international law within Australia. The second paper researched statistical informationconcerning applicants for refuge and asylum in Australia and Australian policy responses. The third paper explored scriptural, theological and ethical issues which confront Christians particularly when seeking to engage with the public debate."

"This study guide, prepared by The Reverend Gillian Moses, has emerged primarily from the third paper. It is designed to assist parish and other groups to explore the issues covered in that paper in more depth and through focused engagement with relevant scriptures. The questions which surround our engagement with those who come to our country seeking refuge are profound and continue to shape the political and social landscape of Australia. Our response to refugees and asylum seekers continues to be a hot topic in election campaigning. Ongoing conflict around the world continues to generate new sources of refugees at an unprecedented rate. The issues are not going away."

"As Christians we have theological and ethical resources available which can inform and direct our personal and corporate responses to these issues. This guide will help Anglicans to utilise those resources so that they can contribute meaningfully to the public conversation."