The Signposts Teacher Training Module
A freely downloadable teacher education resource for Religion and Worldviews, from the Council of Europe / European Wergeland Centre
Ana Perona-Fjelstad, Angelos Vallianatos and Kevin O’Grady
RE / Religion and Worldviews teacher educators, advisors, department leaders or, generally, professionals concerned with RE / Religion and Worldviews teacher preparation, should find interest and practical use in the Signposts teacher training module. The module is freely downloadable from the link at the end. [i]
The module turns the book Signposts into a teacher training resource. Signposts was written by Robert Jackson in 2014 as a summary of the Council of Europe’s work on religious and world view diversity and education in European schools. [ii] It covers a great deal of research and policy in a concise way, including several themes: terminology associated with religions and beliefs, pedagogy, safe space, media education, non-religious worldviews, human rights and linking schools with communities.
The ideas behind the Signposts teacher training module
The Council of Europe and EWC worked jointly since 2011 on the issues embedded into the policy Recommendation CM/Rec (2008) on the dimension of religious and non-religious convictions within inter-cultural education, to translate it into the academic world: what were the main topics it tried to address, what were the discussions around them from a human rights perspective, what methodologies needed to be explored or developed further. This is the idea behind the original Signposts publication.
The policy came closer to research and development, but it needed a further step to come closer to practice and practitioners. When Angelos approached Ana with his ideas for a module for teachers and teacher trainers, there was no doubt, the cycle was completed: from policy to research to practice. And then in 2020, the second publication, the Signposts Teacher Training Module – Teaching about religion and non-religious worldviews in intercultural education – was finalised.
The Structure of the Signposts Teacher Training Module
The module aims to support educators in dealing with human rights and citizenship issues linked to religions and non-religious worldviews in their educational context. Thus, it is structured following (or oriented to) the educators’ needs. For every chapter of Signposts it states the key points, refers to the possible controversial issues raised, as well as the relevant competences for democratic culture needed to address them. Four fundamental practical questions are posed: how do those issues affect me as a person? As a teacher? What can I do? What do I need to develop? These guide to a critical awareness of the educational environment and the self, and link to proposed practical activities, that can be adjusted to the time available and the needs of different educational environments.
The module was officially launched in 2021. As it is a “ready to use” tool for teacher training, it has been piloted and tried in initial teacher education as well as in practising teacher training, both face-to-face and online.
The Signposts teacher training module has some overlaps with the religion and belief literacy framework of Adam Dinham and his colleagues, including broad categorisation of religious and non-religious worldviews; attention to knowledge; awareness of dispositions; and development of skills, within the broader concept of competences. [iii] The focus is on meeting the needs of the teacher, but those of pupils are not likely to be met otherwise. Activities are provided to train teachers to map out their knowledge needs; communicate with school community members, for instance, through letter-drafting; analyse different situations arising in Religion and Worldviews teaching to prevent or deal with problems; or establish safe spaces for classroom discussion using clear rules and techniques.[iv] The competences are developmental and align with democratic values and attitudes including openness to cultural otherness and valuing diversity. [v] In Chapter 1, for example, resources are provided to guide teachers to map their local religion and worldview context; consider relevant school policies and implications for teaching; clarify personal and institutional values, and how these translate into religion and worldviews teaching.
We would be delighted to hear from colleagues who are using or who are interested in using the Signposts Teacher Training Module. Contact can be made with Kevin O’Grady, firstname.lastname@example.org or Kevin@cstg.org.uk
Ana Perona-Fjelstad, Executive Director, The European Wergeland Centre, Oslo
Angelos Vallianatos, Team Leader for Signposts Teacher Training Module
Kevin O’Grady, Author / Consultant, Signposts Teacher Training Module
[i] Jon Harald Bondevik, Astrit Dautaj, Kevin O’Grady and Angelos Vallianatos, “Signposts Teacher Training Module: Teaching about religions and non-religious world views in intercultural education,” online material available at https://theewc.org/resources/signposts-teacher-training-module-teaching-about-religions-and-non-religious-world-views-in-intercultural-education/ downloaded on 13 December 2020.
[ii] Robert Jackson, Signposts: policy and practice for teaching about religions and non-religious world views in intercultural education (Strasbourg: Council of Europe Publishing, 2014).
[iii] Adam Dinham with Alp Arat and Martha Shaw, Religion and Belief Literacy: Reconnecting a chain of learning (Bristol: Policy Press, 2021).
[iv] Bondevik, Dautaj, O’Grady and Vallianatos, “Signposts Teacher Training Module: Teaching about religions and non-religious world views in intercultural education,” 10-12.
[v] Ibid., 13.