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Christian Faith in English Church Schools

Research Conversations with Classroom Teachers

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Trevor Cooling, Beth Green, Andrew Morris and Lynn Revell

Church schools are booming, becoming increasingly popular with parents across the world. However, research shows that teachers face considerable challenges as they try to offer a distinctively Christian education within a church school context. This book is the account of a qualitative research project investigating the joys and difficulties experienced in English church school classrooms. The research team spent a year working alongside fourteen teachers from Catholic and Church of England secondary schools, introducing them to What If Learning, a pedagogical initiative designed by an international team of educationalists to support teachers in developing Christian approaches to teaching and learning. The highs and lows of the teachers’ experience are documented in this book and the lessons that emerge are explored in detail. The findings of the project are highly significant for all those involved with church school education and point towards valuable new ways of thinking about Christian faith and learning.
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Chapter 1: Do Church Schools in England Work?

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CHAPTER 1

Do Church Schools in England Work?

Positivism in Education

Church schools in England claim to offer a distinctively Christian education. However there is a question mark over whether what happens in many of their classrooms is any different from community schools that do not have their religious character. Do we actually know how teachers in church schools apply their school’s claimed Christian ethos to their teaching and learning strategies when they are behind the closed doors of their classrooms? This book is an exploration of this question in the light of the findings of a research project conducted jointly by the National Institute for Christian Education Research at Canterbury Christ Church University and the National Centre for Christian Education at Liverpool Hope University (Cooling and Green, 2015). This research was a response to the findings of our earlier literature review that indicated that very little research had been undertaken on the distinctiveness of teaching and learning in Christian-ethos schools (Green and Cooling, 2009).

Our research project was set up to investigate the impact (a word we will discuss in detail in subsequent chapters) of a Christian-inspired pedagogical approach called What If Learning, which two of us (Green and Cooling) had been involved in developing as part of an international team. What If Learning is described in more detail in Chapter 2. The research itself came into being following a presentation I gave about the approach to...

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