How I… use ‘Research for RE’ – Abi Maguire

In September, I began a PhD. It was, and is, the second most daunting task of my life to date (the first was having children!).

I started my career as a RE teacher in a delightful secondary school in Sussex, where I taught for a number of years. I liked teaching all year groups, but there was something about my year 11 and sixth form classes that got me buzzing. I loved the discussions, trying to get our heads around tricky issues and watching pupils grow in confidence. But most of all, I loved the journey that I went on with my classes as we tried to understand, appreciate and learn from different religions and worldviews that were often so different from our own.

However, I was so busy with the everyday ‘life’ of a teacher that research in RE was something I rarely encountered (apart from the odd CPD session). It definitely wasn’t something that I had thought about doing myself. Yet, the more time I spent teaching, the more I came to realise that there was a particular area that I felt ill-equipped to deal with – how to best handle controversial and ethical issues that crop up on the syllabus like abortion and euthanasia. Upon talking to colleagues, I found that some of them also struggled with issues that have the potential to be exceptionally sensitive. So, I dived in and decided that more research needed to be done in this area, and that I was the person to do it!

That’s when the Research for RE website came in so much use. On a quick glance, I was able to gain a good overview of some of the key research that is happening in RE at the moment, all in one place. Each of the research reports provides an overview of the project along with key findings and how they might be useful for teachers of RE. I can then provide feedback on how useful and relevant that I think the project is. There’s also space for people to suggest new areas of research, or opportunities to get involved in a project.

For me, the best bit about Research for RE is that it opens up a dialogue between research and practice. The world of academia is still relatively new to me but (much to my surprise) I have found that the majority of RE research is done by teachers, for teachers. The ability to connect with other researchers and teachers who are working in a similar area has been immensely encouraging. One thing that I love about the online RE community is that it is supportive, uplifting and reassuring. The same is true for the research community and I’m looking forward to getting more stuck in in the following months.

So, why not log on (https://researchforre.reonline.org.uk/) and have a nose around to see if there’s something that would help your own teaching practice? Or whether there’s a project that you would be interested in helping out with?

Abi Maguire PhD Student in Education at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham

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