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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 5: The Challenges that Emerged

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CHAPTER 5

The Challenges that Emerged

In the previous chapter, we began to explore the question ‘does What If Learning work?’ by telling the stories of how seven of our fourteen teachers responded to their encounter with it in the research project. We concluded that What If Learning ‘worked’ for these teachers since it enabled them to respond to the Churches’ aspiration that the experience of learning in their classrooms should be distinctively Christian. The teachers were comfortable with the outcome of their experiments when they perceived them to be professionally valid responses that promoted meaningful learning for the students.

The aim of our research was not to ‘prove’ in a positivist, objective fashion that What If Learning worked by, for example, demonstrating that the majority of the teachers found it helped them to plan meaningful lessons. Rather we wanted to explore how it worked in supporting teachers in promoting distinctively Christian learning in their classrooms. Alongside the positives, there were also significant challenges that emerged, which became barriers to the approach working as well as it might have. This chapter is an exploration of those barriers. It draws on the case studies in Chapter 4 and adds insights gained from the other seven teachers whose stories do not appear in that chapter.

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