Funding: The Westhill Endowment Trust
Researchers: Professor Robert Jackson; Dr Julia Ipgrave; Dr Kevin O'Grady; Judith Everington; Joyce Miller; Linda Whitworth; Nigel Fancourt; Gemma O'Dell; Kate Gater, Karen van Coevorden; Amy Whittall
Book of the project! The book reporting the research of the community of practice and telling the story of its collaborative work is now available
Ipgrave, J., Jackson, R. & O’Grady, K. (Eds) (2009) Religious Education Research through a Community of Practice: Action Research and the Interpretive Approach, Münster, Waxmann. ISBN 978-3-8309-2158-5
order the book from Waxmann http://www.waxmann.com/?id=21&cHash=1&reihe=1862-9547
The Warwick REDCo Community of Practice
The Warwick ‘community of practice’ (Wenger 1998) consists of a group of researchers based in universities, schools and a local authority in England. The group consists of teachers, an adviser and three teacher educators, plus Professor Robert Jackson as Director, supported by two research co-ordinators (Dr Kevin O’Grady, High Storrs School, Sheffield, and Dr Julia Ipgrave, Oxford Brookes University, both of whom are also contributing research studies). All are using action research or practitioner research methodologies with the aim of improving practice in religious education at a national level. Their studies are guided by the concepts of the interpretive approach to religious education (Jackson 1997, 2004) and the action research methodology developed by Kevin O’Grady (O’Grady 2003, 2005). Most researchers are focusing on primary and secondary religious education, with two working on teacher training at primary and secondary levels and one on school-based Continuing Professional Development. They are also working at the interface between religious education and other fields such as citizenship education and intercultural education.
In addition, members of the WRERU team (co-ordinated by Ursula McKenna) are contributing to qualitative and quantitative studies of the attitudes of 14 to 16-year-olds to religious education across the 8 countries participating in the REDCo project.
The Warwick REDCo Community of Practice is working in the fields of action research and practitioner research with the objectives of developing pedagogies which foster dialogue and counter religious conflict. The contributors to the project are all former or current PhD, EdD and distance learning MA students in religious education at the University of Warwick.
The Community of Practice communicates by internet/email, and has regular 3 monthly weekend residential meetings:
to provide mutual support and criticism
to identify and develop generic ideas and themes
to integrate our work into the wider European REDCo project
to evolve written research reports and
to identify the most effective ways to communicate with teachers for CPD purposes at the end of the project.
The following generic issues are under discussion in community of practice meetings:
- the community of practice is articulating and developing the shared concepts of the project (representation, interpretation, reflexivity), bringing insights from practices of teaching and learning in different settings, and working out how to apply them consistently, clearly and critically.
- the community of practice is giving increased attention to the concepts of dialogue and conflict and what these mean in religious education practice. For example, is dialogue always positive and conflict always negative? In promoting dialogue, is there a danger of failing to recognise difference and therefore setting up misunderstandings?
- the community of practice aims to present findings in language that is unambiguous to practitioners who have not had the benefit of working in a research context.
An outline of each of the studies is given here. The fieldwork for each study is scheduled to finish by summer 2008. There will then be a period of data analysis, integration and writing culminating in the publication of an edited book to be published by Waxmann in 2009.
Relations between individual studies
In addition to the general commonality of themes and methods found within the individual studies, there are potential specific co-operations across our individual projects. For example, all teachers address issues of assessment (with Nigel Fancourt providing specialist advice), and all teachers consider the needs of individual students or groups of students whether these are conceptualised in terms of background, academic ability or other variables. Moreover, all teachers will need to address the issues of dialogue and conflict that are central to the overall REDCo Project. We anticipate that a series of interconnections will emerge over time, enabling high quality dialogues within our community of practice.
Relations between the Warwick community of practice and the wider REDCo project
Similarly, there will be thematic and methodological interconnections with REDCo studies taking place in other countries. All REDCo research investigates the themes of religion, education, dialogue and conflict. Moreover, the main REDCo project has a number of cross-cutting themes. For example, there will be some comparative studies of religious education, or the study of religions in different education systems, across different countries.
Further information on the community of practice
Jackson, R. (1997) Religious Education: An Interpretive Approach, (London, Hodder & Stoughton).
Jackson, R. (2004) Rethinking Religious Education and Plurality: Issues in Diversity and Pedagogy (London, RoutledgeFalmer).
Jackson, R. Miedema, S. Weisse, W. & Willaime, J.-P. (eds.) (2007) Religion and Education in Europe: Developments, Contexts and Debates, Münster, Waxmann.
O’Grady, K. (2003) Motivation in religious education: A collaborative investigation with year eight students, British Journal of Religious Education, 25 (3), 214–25.
O’Grady, K. (2005) Pedagogy, dialogue and truth: Intercultural education in the religious education classroom, in: R. Jackson and U. McKenna (eds.) Intercultural Education and Religious Plurality (Oslo, Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief) 25–34.
O’Grady, K. (2007). The Warwick REDCo Community of Practice statement
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).