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Cartoon Superheroes Herald a New Approach to RE

23 January 2014

Dr Rob Freathy (Graduate School of Education) has received a grant from the Culham St Gabriel's Trust for a project entitled 'RE-searchers: A critical dialogic approach to Religious Education in primary schools'. It promotes an enquiry-based method of teaching RE, which he has developed in collaboration with Giles Freathy, his "little brother", who is a Specialist Leader in Education based at Sir Robert Geffery's Primary School in Cornwall.

"Together, we have developed a simple technique utilising four cartoon character 'superheroes' (with illustrations and accompanying profiles) each representing a different way of studying religions", explains Dr Freathy. "Together they are known as the 'RE-searchers', but individually they are called Know-it-all Nicky, Debate-it-all Derek, Ask-it-all Ava and Have-a-go Hugo. Pupils use these 'RE-searchers' to explore how effective different research methods are. In this way, we are able to introduce some quite young pupils to some very abstract issues.

"This innovative approach to RE, which we believe has the potential to offer the highest quality of learning experience, seeks to enable pupils to enter into the kind of informed, critical and sensitive dialogues which are at the heart of the academic study of religions. It has already been trialled very successfully with pupils working alongside their teachers as joint researchers to investigate the effectiveness of different methods of enquiry."

The benefits of the approach are illustrated by the comment of one Year 3 pupil, quoted in a recently published article, who said: "I prefer using the superheroes. When we didn’t have them, people were disappointed to know they had RE in the afternoon. Now I am excited about RE!"

The nearly £10,000 grant will enable the project team to develop the approach further in consultation with a wider range of schools and teachers. This in turn is intended to pave the way for a longer-term and larger-scale research and development project.

The research team will lead a workshop for teachers at the 2014 Learn, Teach, Lead RE conference, and they welcome expressions of interest from other teachers and researchers.

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