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Christian Faith in English Church Schools

Research Conversations with Classroom Teachers


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 4: When What If Learning ‘Works’: Teachers’ Stories


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When What If Learning ‘Works’: Teachers’ Stories

In our research, we were looking for examples of teachers responding to their encounter with What If Learning by finding a meaningful approach to student learning that focussed on Christian character development. That was what we meant by ‘working’. We had no particular conception of what that would look like, although we did hope that the teachers would be able to link their pedagogical innovations with the distinctive Christian ethos of their school. It was this notion of promoting meaningfulness in the context of Christian ethos through pedagogical innovation focussing on character development that we explored through our conversations with the teachers. In this chapter we introduce in more detail some of the teachers and one or more of the lessons each taught in response to their encounter with What If Learning where we judged that this sense of meaningfulness seemed to emerge. The challenges that the teachers discovered in using the approach are discussed in Chapter 5. The intention in this chapter is to offer a flavour of what we as researchers perceived to be lessons that ‘worked’.

The sections that follow first introduce each selected teacher through a pen portrait which seeks to capture something of their personal educational philosophy. Then I go on to describe and comment on a lesson or lessons that they taught. These vignettes are distillations of the longer profiles which were constructed for all...

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