The key issue in the study and review of the spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development of learners, is that traditions determine the knowledge to be preserved. This knowledge is maintained by religious and cultural hegemony. Ideology governs access and information. Its transmission can be indoctrination.
Peter’s ‘Ethics and Education’ argues for a model where pupils can develop depth and breadth of knowledge for their understanding and perception. It implies openness towards others so that we may learn. Erricker, C. and Erricker, J. (2000) provide a child-centred perspective and make a powerful case for the reconstruction of religious, spiritual and moral education. Their work “, …argues for a more radical alternative, putting the spiritual education of the learner, from a ‘heretical’ point of view, at the centre of what we seek to achieve”. This provides a strong foundation to build upon the worldviews of children to develop a new educational vision that addresses their needs.
Cox 1983:135-6 argues for the need to address the ‘motives that prompt (religious) behaviour’ and that RE needs to situate itself within a larger frame of reference involving values education. Cox suggests the secular as well as the religious. The main purpose should be to enable pupils to come to terms with their own life problems using a coherent and conscious set of beliefs. (Jackson 1997:11)
However, there are major philosophical implications involved in knowing or understanding. Is the Husserlian understanding of phenomenology achievable? The hermeneutical inadequacies of the eidetic vision and empathetic awareness, in ‘bracketing out’ to identify with the understandings or others worldviews, may expose naiveties offered as objective or accurate representations.
Hay identifies religion as limiting the spiritual to the expression of doctrine and failing to address the real areas of personal spirituality. ‘Negative theology’ claims Wright serves orthodoxy, while the ‘heartland of faith’ for Hay, (1985:142) is prayer, meditation and contemplation. Through understanding a believer’s experience, Hay considers that we can over come the ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’. Religious education should attend to the individual experiences rather than institutional religious practice or religious truth claims.
Epistemological complexities have to be overcome if the post-modern or relativist contributions are to be used. A relativist position affects presupposition, method and manner. It is not engaged in epistemological enquiry. This is not an issue. The world that we construct and the making of practical and moral judgements are the focus. It is based upon a social process where we construct our criteria for judging as we go along.
In educational terms, the aim is to enable pupils to produce informed practical moral judgements. Learners are the key players in this process, and the process is the key factor. Educators must understand their learners. Diversity and difference are key factors of this process. Judgements are made in regards to the needs, concerns and issues involving others, not religious orthodoxies. In schools and secular society, our spiritual, moral, cultural and social environment are passed on and socially constructed in this context.
School Assembly Videos
This position and view is only the surface of a range of complex philosophical issues. Baumen’s ‘linguistic net’ is crucial for educators trying to reconfigure the content of RE and its relationship with spirituality. For Wittgenstein's language is part of the process of action. It is not about epistemologies that confer doctrinal status. Vygotsky (1987:250) illustrates the basis for this new pedagogy approach:
The relationship of thought to word is not a thing but a process, a movement from thought to word and from word to thought…Thought is not expressed but completed in the word. We can, therefore, speak of the establishment… of thought in the word. Any thoughts strive to unify, to establish a relationship between one thing and another. Any thought has movement. It unfolds.
The educator’s task is to be aware of the learner’s utterance and use it as a point of understanding. It is a communication to be responded to and has only limited and provisional application.
This post-modern understanding, frees us from the prison-house of concepts (Foucaullt, 1971), by asking relational questions such as how we can put the learner's response to serve our own needs. This is a transient process. As the learner or we map our perspectives and orientations, it is recognised that throughout thoughts, through the use of language and our concept formation that the process allows change and are not a fixed position.
How does this relate to an ‘Agreed Syllabus’ aimed at promoting SMSC? Typically these include two AT: ‘Exploring and responding to the human experience,’ and, ‘Investigating the religious traditions.’ Both encompass moral education with statements such as, ‘The ability of pupils to engage with, and respond imaginatively to, evocative, inspirational or thought-provoking aspects of human experience and expression,’ and ‘ explore the more profound questions raised human life and develop their capacity for, and understanding or, reflection. This second target is aimed at the pupils’ ability to understand the central beliefs and values of those religions.
The syllabus includes aspects of moral education:
- A desire to seek meaning in life.
- A wish to seek truth and explore ultimate questions.
- Listening to other people’s views.
- Avoiding bias and prejudice in discussion.
- Developing a mature sense of self-worth and personal value. Respect.
- Recognising the human rights of people to hold and practice their beliefs.
- Respecting those with different opinions from one’s own.
- Discerning what is worthy of respect.
- Appreciating similarities and differences.
Concept mapping was originally used in concrete learning situations but have been adapted for use in SMC education. Concept mapping tools enable learners to reflect on and interpret their own experiences. They enable learners to construct their own narrative and determine its meaning. Novak and Gowin present concept mapping as ‘intended to represent meaningful relationships between concepts in the form of propositions.’ A new concept may be placed into a web of other concepts, based upon the learners understanding of the concept in relationship to others.
- Reflections on one’s own emotions
- Self-knowledge (understanding why one does something)
- Understanding of consequence
- Reflection on the emotions of others
- Understanding why others do things
- Recognition of relationships
- Recognition of differences
- Recognition of the complexity of social discourse
- Generalisation of the principles of behaviour
Reading Pictures and telling stories:
Understanding religion means empathy. It means perceiving things from another perspective. This involves a sense of appreciation by stepping into the shoes of other people and seeing, feeling in a new way. According to the Durham Report, the role of educators' is “to initiate learners into knowledge which encourages them to explore and appreciate …. to search for meaning, purpose and value.”
Schools can achieve this through experiential learning where the curriculum and learning use learning resources, materials, and pedagogy are matched to the learner’s age and stage of development. Art, drama, music, the humanities, technology, real objects, books, dolls, artefacts, posters, and photographs from may contrasting cultures can lead to fresh insights and new learning.
School Assembly Videos
The aims of experiential learning for Waddup 1992:28, and in developing learners spirituality are:
- To exchange activities and experiences that show how religion has developed cultural traditions through art, music, literature and landscape.
- For learners to consider issues about religion in people’s lives.
- To help children understand themselves about the natural world and their social lives.
- To encourage caring and responsible relationships with the family, friends and the community.
- To care for the environment and other living things.
A skills model enables a useful frame for educators considering the learning process for the lesson:
- Observation: interpretation of signs, symbols, rituals and artefacts.
- Questioning: of attitudes, behaviour, stereotypes and differences to create understanding.
- Manipulating: manual skills of drawing, modelling, designing and printing.
- Experiencing through the body: dance, drama, rituals, singing, chanting.
Planning in schools should provide activities and experience to develop the growth of the learner’s spiritual understanding and experience. They need to be aware of key concepts related to their spiritual understanding. It is important that learners can share their work and understanding with wider audiences.
In circle time and assemblies, learners talents and achievements can be celebrated. Themes from across the subjects, topics and curriculum may be shared with the whole school. As can issues from the community or explicit religious traditions.
Assemblies can incorporate a range of structures and routines to suit the group and activity being presented. These may be related to festivals and celebrations. The main concern is with the quality of spiritual growth of the learner.
The development of these themes take account of learners individual needs:
Stage 1 Begins with a child’s personal experience.
Stage 2 Extends the pupils experience and understanding
Stage 3 Gives an opportunity for exploring the topic in a wider context, and
Stage 4 The learners begin to question meaning and purpose
The general aims for circle time and assemblies are to provide a structured range of activities and experiences for learners to:
- Develop an awareness of significant events for people and the community.
- To experience and reflect on their own celebrations in school, from home and the wider world.
- To share understanding with others.
- Nurture attitudes of respect and tolerance.
- develop awareness of the diversity of peoples’ responses to life.
- To gain insights of religious beliefs.
- To help understanding and concept formation through active involvement.
While considering the content and the planning of the spiritual curriculum, Musty 1992:83 uses fundamental questions that are matched to the learner's cognitive development to assist teachers:
- What educational ethos does the school want to achieve?
- What educational experiences can be planned and delivered to achieve this?
- How can these be effectively organised?
- How can learners, teachers and the school determine if this has been successful?
In a topic based approach, Bates 1992:114 identifies a list of skills and attitudes that are important:
Empathy Critical mind
The spiritual curriculum should:
- Be part of a whole school approach to curriculum planning and not left to individual teachers.
- There needs to be a balance between curriculum themes and topics and learning form religious traditions.
- The pattern and coherence should reflect the school’s curriculum and its policies. This may involve:
stories or readings sacred/secular readings
dance and drama artefacts
prayer/meditations natural materials
creative silence children’s contributions
songs/hymns/music visual arts
Themes may include:
Togetherness commitment forgiveness
attitudes consideration peace
Caring honesty celebration
sharing self-awareness religious traditions
conviction self-sacrifice humility
tolerance trust mercy
self-reliance forgiveness perseverance
cooperation respect consideration
integrity concern moral education
The school assembly and circle time helps create an understanding and an awareness of the values that the school’s ethos encourages and develops.
These events should reflect enjoyable educational experiences. They can be closely integrated into the life and work of the school. An awareness of some elements of religion can then be integrated in the broad sense to the assembly by:
- Encouraging reflection
- Fosters a sense of unity and of the whole school
- Increases learners sensitivity and awareness
- Encourages children to express their responses by dance, drama, art, music and prose.
- Brings learners to the threshold of worship
The school assembly and circle time must be a pleasurable experience, something to which all can enjoy and look forward to. It is an important social occasion, a ‘family’ gathering and a happy, shared experience that reflects the ethos and activity of the whole school. It must have educational value.
The aim should be:
- To widen the learner's repertoire of appropriate emotional responses.
- To encourage a reflective response
- To demonstrate family, the schools and community values.
- To provide experience and understanding for the learner
Religious orthodoxy moulds perceptions of reality, the understanding of believers and helps guide their lives. Educators in secular schools in collective worship and the development of children’s spirituality have the fundamental task of promoting and developing understanding. The starting point must start with the child’s response to their immediate environment. In the curriculum, in their lessons, and the subject/topic content, the outcomes must help develop awareness, curiosity, new perceptions and thoughtful awareness to their planned experiences.
A rich, creative pedagogy based upon active, structured sensory, kinaesthetic and cognitive challenges pitched at the appropriate level, supported by learning technology integrated into resources, is essential in the promotion of the child’s and school’s spirituality. This approach is linked to the school ethos and teaching expertise.
The challenge for educators is to help develop young people their full potential in all areas. To help create a supportive learning environment where children can positively contribute and participate. The key is for the school to positively promote a strong SMC curriculum to help learners in developing their personalities, values, beliefs and attitudes to life issues and problems.
Educational dance and drama involve the discovery of feelings, emotions, and experiences. It is about communication, self-awareness
Bruner divides learning into three modes. The ‘enactive’ involves the learner in physical involvement, engagement and learning by doing. ‘Iconic’ modes are highly effective and use diagrams, charts, graphs, illustrations, drawings, paintings, technology and models to help make representations. In regards to SMC, the iconic also includes rituals and ceremonies. The use of words and communications are ‘symbolic’. These are abstract and sophisticated. Words and symbolic mode alone are not an efficient method of learning.
Essential skills involved in SMC are identifying, planning, exploring, expressing and evaluating. This process allows the learner to take ownership of their work and to use a strong learning process. It is more than learning or remembering facts. Effective skills allow the learner to take control and direct their own learning. This is the opposite of indoctrination.
The Spiritual Moral Social and
Cultural Development Of Learners
A SMSC Learning Process
Empathy and insights to spiritual, moral and cultural features. Reviewing and considering a life issue to explore
Using rich, active learning styles, find out more about the learner's life question. Compare/contrast with other communities.
Sensitively discuss and communicate research based on findings.
Reviewing and consider how it can be made better. How can it be applied for the learner’s own use?
Based on Lynne Broadbent. 1993:10
A Student – Centred Approach To SMSC
- The learner is the first consideration.
- Exploring their values and starting with their point of view.
- Emphasizes thinking
- Is a process of learning
- Life sets the agenda for the SMSC curriculum. Learner finds relevance easy to see.
- Accepts and uses the students inherited views of the world
- Enables movement and consideration of other views.
- Individual and group work going on
- Encourages democracy in the classroom
- Learners develop freedom and responsibility
- The teacher becomes facilitator and organiser of resources
- Approach and learning style can be used for the whole school
Definition of Spirituality
Describes a person's understanding of their origin, identify, purpose and destiny. It has implications for their outlook on life and the way they conduct themselves. In education, spiritual development must be broad enough to apply to all pupils, regardless of cultural or religious background. No part of the curriculum should be ‘designed to convert pupils or to urge a particular religion or religious belief onto them.’
What is involved in spiritual development?
Awareness of one’s own identity, of having an inner life in terms of personal thoughts, feelings, temperament, character and needs.
A search for understanding what is involved in being human.
An awareness of one’s significance and insignificance. New insights begin with doubt and questioning. A recognition that all knowledge is often partial and limited.
A search for meaning both at the personal level and in the natural world.
The inclination to reflect and question existence. “What does it mean?” “Is it true?”
The search for and consideration of the values by which we live.
The need to express one’s innermost thoughts and feelings through various media. The use of imagination and originality
Reality is what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is what we believe.
What we believe is based on our perceptions.
What we perceive depends upon what we look for.
What we look for depends upon what we think.
What we think depends upon what we perceive.
What we perceive determines what we believe.
What we take to be true is our reality.
(Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu-Lei Masters)
Our spirit relates to our values or the things that we may consider important. We can talk of a loving spirit, a generous spirit and so on:
“Our spirit ….relates to the basic orientation or disposition of
our life: the way we are in the world, in terms of those things
that we are sensitive; of which we are aware; by which we are
attracted; which we value, by which we can be moved to act;
which shape and guide our lives.”
Alex Rodger (1996:48)
Spiritual people are characterised by:
Breadth of outlook
A holistic outlook
Spirituality is about becoming a thoughtful person, with the capacity of going beyond oneself to consider and reflect. It makes possible self-consciousness, self-criticism, understanding, responsibility, the pursuit of knowledge, the sense of beauty, the quest for good, the formation of community, and the display of love.
Spirituality is rooted in awareness about human nature; it can take many forms; it can be conscious or not, explicit or implicit in people’s loves; it has some impact upon us:
- It can/should be happening in every classroom/every subject/activity/relationship.
- It is a different way of knowing. It is a different way of doing. It is a different way of being.
- It entails a new quality of attention to experience – to seek to understand.
- To raise our perceptions, awareness, and recognition.
- I am learning to know through involvement.
- By being part of the process.
- An awakening of experience.
- has insights into human experiences and needs
Bibliography + References
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Lynne Broadbent. (1993) ‘World Religions in Primary Schools.’ In C.Erricker (ed), Teaching World Religions, Oxford:Heinemann
Alan Brown and Dilip Kadodwala, (1993) ‘Spiritual Development and the school curriculum’ ’ In C.Erricker (ed), Teaching World Religions, Oxford:Heinemann
Bauman, Z. (1998) ‘Postmodern Religion’ in P.Heelas (ed), Religion, Modernity and Postmodernity. Oxford:Blackwell
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Hay, D. (1985) Suspicion of the Spiritual: Teaching Religion in a World of Secular Experience’, British Journal of Religious Education, 7(3), pp 140-7.
Hoffman, R.J. + Larue, G.A. (1988) Biblical v Secular Ethics- The Conflict. Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY.
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Macquarrie, J. (1967) A Dictionary of Christian Ethics. SCM Press. London
Musty, E. (1992) Making RE Special in the Primary School. In D.Bastide (ed), Good Practice in Primary Religious Education 4-11, London and Philadelphia: RoutledgeFalmer
Novak, J. and Gowin, B. (1984) Learning How to Learn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Pattison, G. (1998) The End of Theology- and the Task of Thinking about God. SCM Press London.
Alex Rodger, (1996) ‘Human Spirituality: towards and educational rationale. In R.Best (ed) Education, Spirituality and the Whole Child. London and NY: Cassell
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