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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 7: The Journey from Positivism


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The Journey from Positivism

In Chapter 5 we recorded some of the struggles that our teachers experienced with What If Learning and particularly noted the sense of weirdness that emerged for them in their attempts to integrate Christian ethos with the professional responsibilities of teaching a subject discipline. This sense of weirdness resonates with the comments made by the lecturers that Lynn Revell interviewed. David Smith argues that people are shaped by the mindset of their professional guilds (see Chapter 2) and that being asked to work within a mindset that contradicts that of one’s guild can be a deeply unsettling experience (Smith 2011). We suggest this clash of habitus accounts for the sense of weirdness and bafflement that was reported by the teachers and lecturers in our research. This is because the reimagining of one’s professional work required by What If Learning is not simply a mental shift within an accepted paradigm, but is rather an identity shift that puts one outside one’s community of practice. It is not surprising that this is experienced as weird.

Our teachers’ feelings of weirdness related first to their sense that their subject disciplines ought to be independent of religious faith, so trying to teach their subject Christianly was perceived as a violation of the subjects’ integrity, and secondly to their sense that their professional role requires them to be non-directive and non-confessional when it comes to matters of Christian faith....

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