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RE-searchers: A critical dialogic approach to RE in primary schools

1 January 2014 - 30 April 2014

PI/s in Exeter: Professor Rob Freathy

CI/s in Exeter: Dr Karen Walshe

Funding awarded: £ 9,903

Sponsor(s): Culham St Gabriel's Trust

About the research

Downloadable resources

The RE-searchers: A New Approach to Religious Education in Primary Schools

The RE-searchers Approach: A quick start guide with examplar units of work and activities

Project description

This project has developed a new approach to Religious Education (RE), through 'close-to-practice' theorisation and conceptualisation, undertaken (i) in collaboration with Giles Freathy (see photograph), a Specialist Leader in Education in a primary school in South West England, and (ii) within the policy and legal frameworks that define RE in maintained schools without a religious affiliation in England. The approach, called the RE-searchers, aims to initiate pupils into the communities of academic enquiry concerned with theological and religious studies. It takes as its starting point the following key assumptions: (i) religions are complex, diverse, multi-faceted, evolving and multi-dimensional phenomena; (ii) there are multiple methodologies and methods for generating knowledge about religion(s); and (iii) a multi-methodological pedagogy is necessary to avoid favouring one particular approach over others. The approach, prioritising methodological considerations, seeks to provide opportunities for pupils to learn about, implement and evaluate multiple methodologies and methods as they co-construct knowledge in collaboration with the teacher and their peers. In practice, students are presented with a series of characters - collectively known as the RE-searchers - each personifying a research methodology. Each character holds different assumptions about the nature of religion(s); has a preferred way of approaching the study of religion(s); and employs particular methods of enquiry. Using the RE-searchers approach can help with learning about religion(s) and learning how to learn about religion(s) by creating a balance between: (i) subject content and issues of representation; (ii) learning processes and research methods; and (iii) personal evaluation and self-reflection.


The following articles describe the principles and processes associated with this new pedagogy, and articulate the theories and concepts which provide its critical, dialogic and enquiry-based foundations:

Freathy R, Doney J, Freathy G, Walshe K, Teece G (2017). Pedagogical bricoleurs and bricolage researchers: the case of Religious Education. British Journal of Educational Studies65(4), 425-443.

Reader J, Freathy R (2016). Technology and education: theoretical reflections exemplified in Religious Education. Journal of Beliefs and Values37(3), 320-333.

Freathy R, Freathy G (2014). Initiating children into hermeneutical discourses in Religious Education: a response to Rachel Cope and Julian Stern. Journal for the Study of Spirituality, 3(2), 156-167. Full text

Freathy G, Freathy R (2014). The RE-searchers: promoting methodologically orientated RE in primary schools. Retoday, 31(3), 50-51.  Full text

Freathy R, Freathy G (2013). RE-searchers: a dialogic approach to RE in primary schools. Resource, 36(1), 4-7.  Full text

Watch a short-film of Rob Freathy introducing the RE-searchers approach here.

Giles Freathy and Rob Freathy (Co-creators of the RE-searchers approach)