Religious Education is a term which joins the religious dimensions of life (religion) with appropriate pedagogy (education). Religion is about a way of life, a system of beliefs and actions by which people make meaning in life. Education is a process where the student and teacher are engaged in inquiry, deep learning, evaluation and response to the mysteries of life.
Religious Education Curriculum Framework In the primary years of schooling (Preparatory year – Year 6) students are exposed to the three dimensions of religious learning at every year level. Five content strands that explore the key beliefs and practices of the Catholic tradition are integrated into each dimension. There is a need to ensure that there is a development of each student’s understandings and competencies across all three dimensions at each year level.
Dimensions of Religious Education
The domain of religious education is situated within the discipline-based learning strands. The domain contains three dimensions of religious learning:
(i) Religious knowledge and understanding (TO KNOW)
This dimension develops the knowledge and understanding of the key practices and beliefs of Christian communities, both past and present.
(ii) Reasoning and responding (WORSHIP)
This dimension focuses on the development of particular ways of thinking and acting that arise out of Christian knowledge and understanding. The combination of knowledge and reasoning will enable students to respond to Catholic tradition and its call to contribute to the building of the reign of God.
(iii) Personal and communal engagement (LOVE)
This dimension focuses on the nurturing of the spiritual life, the importance of belonging to the faith community and engagement in community service. It is within this dimension that the religious education curriculum may extend beyond the classroom to include class and whole
school prayer and liturgy, retreats, the sacramental life of the Church, community service, leadership formation and contribution to civic and faith communities.
Each dimension of religious learning is integrated into the learning and teaching processes of The Good Shepherd Experience and the Years 3–6 inquiry approach.
Five Content Strands in Religious Education
In the discipline of religious education students form religious knowledge and understandings and ways of thinking and responding through the exploration of five specific areas of church life, teaching and practice. Named as content strands, these five areas emerge from an understanding of the Church and its life where the person of Jesus is central. These content strands are drawn from the goals. They are:
- Scripture and Jesus
- Church and Community
- God, Religion and Life
- Prayer, Liturgy and Sacraments
- Morality and Justice
In order for students to form deep understandings of key church beliefs and practices in the context of everyday life it is necessary to integrate the content strands in one unit or topic. Inquiry topics, questions, understandings and key concepts in the classroom religious education program will integrate two or more of these content strands. In this way students make links between these$ significant areas of church life and teaching and use these to construct meaning around their relationship to God, self, others and their world.
Each level has a learning focus which broadly outlines the learning through which students progress in religious education to achieve the standards in the framework. With the exception of level 1 (prep) each level covers two years of schooling. The learning focus also specifies the key practices and beliefs of the Catholic tradition that students need to engage with at each level. The learning focus does not provide a comprehensive summary of what students are to learn, but rather outlines what is essential for students in the Archdiocese to learn.
Standards for assessing and reporting on student achievement integrate the dimensions of religious education. Each topic or unit of work in the classroom program will provide learning opportunities that develop specific elements of each standard. Progress towards achieving the whole standard is continually assessed throughout the level and reported to students and parents/carers. The standards define performances of understanding that are expected of students at each level of the domain of Religious Education. Standards for assessing and reporting on student achievement in Religious Education are introduced at Level 1 and focus on key aspects of the learning focus. Each standard integrates the dimensions of Religious Education. The standards are closely related to the different stages of student development and reflect the pedagogy of each level. They provide valuable information about student growth which can form the basis of further learning and teaching.
Pedagogy of Religious Education Curriculum Framework
The religious education curriculum framework is designed to assist schools in the further implementation of the series of religious education texts To Know, Worship & Love.
Prep to Year Two:- The Good Shepherd Experience
Religious Education Curriculum Prep–2 has been developed with a focus on the particular ways young children learn. The curriculum draws on the research and work of Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi
The Religious Education Curriculum Prep–2 lays the foundations for later learning and for life-long engagement with the mystery of God. A key part of laying the foundations is telling the stories of the Catholic Church: stories from Sacred Scripture and stories about how the Catholic community celebrates, prays and lives the Christian life.
Story is a key part of our faith tradition. The activity of God in the lives of people and in all creation as recorded in the scriptures has been handed on to us, firstly through the oral tradition and then in the written Word. In every age people have engaged with these stories and sought to relate their own story to the larger story of faith. In this way people are helped to know God in their lives.
Young children particularly are able to learn and make meaning through story and symbol. Stories carry deep insights which young children are often unable to verbalise. However, these insights help them to relate to the mystery of God and so make sense of their experience of the world.
In the Good Shepherd Experience young children come to know Jesus Christ personally through stories in the Gospels. The style of biblical stories is particularly suited to young children because it uses only actions and descriptions essential to the story. This engages the imagination and provides opportunity to experience the wonder, mystery and power of these stories.
Key Elements of Storytelling
The key elements of storytelling adopted in this curriculum are:
- Telling the Story
- Praying the Word
These key elements assist students to engage with the story and with each other. In using the stories Of the Word of God in Scripture and the Tradition, including the signs, symbols and rituals of liturgy,$ teachers help children bring together faith and life experience.
1. TELLING THE STORY
There are many ways and styles of telling stories. In this curriculum the main style utilised for initially telling the story is reflective, using concrete or visual material. This style addresses the learning needs of young children and is suited to biblical stories, which tell only essential actions and descriptions.
The ‘I wonder’ statements engage children with the story, invite reflection and elicit the children’s ideas and thoughts. Wondering together teaches the art of dialogue, of listening to others, accepting and learning from others’ ideas and contributions. It lays the foundation for relating to others in community. Wondering together allows for learning which comes from within each person. It is importantto trust the presence of the Holy Spirit in this process. Open wondering statements signal to the children the on-going and life-long process of engaging with the mystery of God.
This element provides the opportunity for individual/small group exploration of the story. It gives children the time to focus on and explore aspects which have significance for them. Children should choose the story or part of the story on which to focus. Young children often find it easier to explore and express their feelings and ideas through art and drama. The creative arts provide ‘tools’ through which children can explore, imagine and express ideas. The concrete materials for the story should be available for children to use later. Working with the story is a means of entering it more deeply. Children will incorporate their own experience and imagination while engaging with the story. A child’s retelling of a story will reflect their experience and understanding.
4. PRAYING THE WORD
Young children learn to pray through the experience of prayer. Teachers help the children to pray by praying with them and providing regular opportunities for prayer. Routine times for prayer are important. Regular times of prayer need to be established, e.g. morning prayer, prayer before and after lunch, prayer at the end of the day. Within religious education teaching there are opportunities to invite children to pray. These prayers offer children the opportunity to pray the prayers of their hearts and to experience silence, stillness, movement, ritual and symbol.
Teachers can establish simple rituals for bringing children together, perhaps sitting in a circle, lighting a candle and/or singing a familiar hymn or refrain. Introducing the prayer time with words from the liturgy, e.g., ‘Let us pray’ or ‘Let us give thanks to the Lord our God’ will help children’s familiarity with these words when they hear them in church.
The religious education curriculum introduces children to scripture stories and psalms and to liturgical ritual, symbol and action. ‘Telling the story’ is one way of proclaiming the Word of God. It provides a language for prayer. The form and words from scripture and the liturgy can be used in prayer, e.g., lines from psalms, such as ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’. Suggestions for prayer are provided in the units.
Concrete materials such as figures and visuals, support the telling and retelling of the biblical stories and children’s exploration work. Objects, symbols, gestures, movements and words of the liturgy support the telling of stories about the liturgy. Concrete and visual materials help children to picture the story in their minds.
Years Three To Six:- Faith Seeking Understanding
The Inquiry Approach and Religious Education
The learning and teaching approach in years 3–6 is inquiry based. In this approach students form understandings about God, themselves and their world through the ongoing exploration of religious truths and through the development of processes and skills that enable thinking, reflecting and acting as a result of this knowledge. In religious education inquiry learning is concerned with engaging with different perspectives of the Catholic tradition to form deep religious understandings. It is concerned with exploring how we can come to know the mystery of God in our lives, and how others in the past have come to know and express this mystery. It begins with a question around which students offer their own experiences and thinking, and then gather and explore new stories and information from Catholic teaching and practice. This knowledge is processed in a way that ideally enhances or develops new ways of thinking and responding to the question. This may lead students to plan and take action in their own context as a result of their new learning.
The learning process in Coming to Know, Worship and Love involves providing students with opportunities to name and build upon the personal experience and knowledge they bring to a topic question. They are also given opportunities to wonder about, and name, some of their own questions. Students then gather insights and information from a variety of sources that describe key practices, teachings and stories of the Church. They learn about, and use, processes and tools that enable them to organise, internalise and reflect on this knowledge and to evaluate their prior thinking and understanding. Some of these processes and tools may include those being developed in the Interdisciplinary strand in the VELS, as well as practices concerned with inner reflection and awareness, such as journals, the creative arts, and preferred ways of praying and reflecting. These skills enable students to form new concepts and understandings about the relationship between God, themselves and the world. The final part of the learning process invites students to take action as a result of their new learning and refined understandings. Integral to this phase is the development of skills and behaviours in order to take that action.