The Art of Narrative Theology in Religious Education
(Bible Society / Westhill Endowment Trust)
This project aims to develop curriculum resources for use with Key Stage 3 pupils using the contemporary biblical paintings of Brian J. Turner (www.bibleproject.co.uk) which show biblical scenes in a quirky, contemporary style that is both engaging and thought-provoking. The project seeks to develop a pedagogy of Religious Education (RE) based upon a narrative framework informed by both narrative theory and narrative theology.
Working from the narrative assumption that individuals and communities are formed by reading, sharing and living within stories, the project team suggest that such a narrative pedagogy of RE might encourage pupils to think about how the lives of Christians are shaped by their interpretations of biblical narratives, to offer their own interpretations of biblical and other texts, and to consider the stories – religious, non-religious or both – which shape their own lives. In so doing, the project seeks to move away from a ‘proof-texting‘ approach to the Bible towards one in which pupils are enabled to think about the significance of biblical narratives for both Christians and themselves.
The resultant pedagogy comprises four phases of learning:
- encountering narrative;
- interpreting narrative;
- understanding narrative in community contexts;
- and reflecting on narratives of self and others.
This pedagogy has been implemented in practice to form a set of commercially-published curriculum materials for use with KS3 students (Freathy, R., Reed, E. D., Davis, A., and Cornwall, S. (2014). The Art of Bible Reading. Buxhall: Kevin Mayhew Ltd).
The second main phase to ‘The Art of Narrative Theology in RE’ project is currently underway (jointly funded by Bible Society England and Wales and the Westhill Endowment Trust). The primary outcome will be a new textbook provisionally entitled ‘Who Am I? Theological explorations of the figure of Jesus’. Each chapter seeks to answer Jesus’ question – ‘Who Do You Say That I Am?’ – from different theological and theoretical perspectives. Some of the lessons will be accompanied by a selection of Brian J. Turner’s paintings for illustrative and/or analytical purposes. Alongside the preparation of that textbook, we are also preparing an academic journal article examining existing ideas about the place of theology and theological inquiry within RE, identifying and discussing key issues arising from these ideas, and arguing for a re-conceptualisation of the nature and purpose of theology as part of multi-faith RE in schools without a religious affiliation.
If you would be willing to act as a critical reviewer of our textbook prior to submission to the publisher, then please get in touch. If you would be interested in trialling the resources and then collaborating in writing up the strengths and weaknesses of the approach, then we would also be delighted to hear from you. Please contact Rob Freathy