F04 Guidance: Curriculum models: Collaborative Learning in RE


There are many ways in which successful religious education can be included in the curriculum. Some are listed below. But take care! Creative approaches to the curriculum can easily obscure children’s progress in the subject disciplines. Whichever method of ‘delivery’ is chosen, teachers will need to ask themselves, ‘Can I identify the specific RE activities?’ And ‘Will I be able to give the pupils feedback on how well they have progressed in their RE learning?’

Teachers need to ensure that any work they do in RE contributes to the RE learning outcomes so that they can identify progress that is made in RE by the end of a learning sequence::

Here are five examples of how RE might contribute to different models of ‘creative curricula’:

  1. RE-led whole days:
    Using a key question from the agreed syllabus, e.g., ‘How should we live and who can inspire us?’ Or topics such as: Faith in the local community; A faith trail; Religion, stewardship and the environment; Being an “x” in Britain today; Variety and diversity within a tradition; Science and Religion.
  2. RE contribution to ‘crashed timetable’ days:
    Using RE-friendly themes such as, ‘Who Are We?’; ‘The Journey of Life’; ‘Planet Earth’; ‘Diversity and Difference’.
  3. RE-led Research & Presentation Weeks:
    For example, a Focus Week on BELIEF, PEACE, or DIVERSITY within and across traditions of religion and belief.

To enable various approaches of doing research in RE that leads to different outcomes, Primary teachers might consider using the method produced by Dr Rob Freathy at Exeter University on the RE-searchers  Approach.

It can be found at https://ltlre.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/The-RE-searchers-A-New-Approach-to-RE-in-Primary-Schools.pdf

  1. Skills or competencies-led:
    Lead pupils’ learning, e.g., by focusing first on Personal, Emotional, Learning and Thinking Skills (PELTS) or by other school-based competencies. Set the skills development in an RE context by making use of the key and subsidiary questions in the AMV programmes of study.

    1. Personal and Emotional Skills
      Focus: Pupils take responsibility for their own learning and show initiative, perseverance and a commitment to self-improvement. They recognise that achievement builds self-confidence and resilience, enabling them to deal positively with praise and constructive criticism.
      Pupils learn how to:

      1. identify their strengths and areas for development, reflecting on the significance of their learning;
      2. manage their feelings using appropriate strategies, becoming increasingly aware of their own and others’ feelings;
  • reflect on past achievements and experiences to manage future learning and behaviour;
  1. set goals for their personal development and learning, and work towards them;
  2. work independently, knowing when to seek help, dealing with pressures and deadlines;
  3. develop control over their physical skills and movements in a range of contexts with dexterity and confidence.
  1. Learning and Thinking Skills
    Focus: Pupils have the skills to learn effectively. They can plan, research and critically evaluate, using reasoned arguments to support conclusions. They think creatively, making original connections and generating ideas. They consider alternative solutions to problems.Together with the essential literacy, numeracy and ICT skills, pupils learn how to:

    1. investigate, asking relevant questions, identifying problems, analysing and judging the value of information and ideas, questioning assumptions. They plan systematically using time and resources effectively, anticipating, taking and managing risks;
    2. create and develop, using their imagination to explore possibilities and generate ideas. They try out innovative alternatives, looking for patterns, recognising differences and making generalisations, predicting outcomes and making reasoned decisions;
  • communicate, interacting with different audiences in a variety of ways using a range of media;
  1. evaluate, developing criteria for judging work and suggesting refinements and improvements.


  1. RE contribution to termly topics:
    Ensure that topics are suitable for RE input – see tables below – and maintain a focus on TWO of the six Areas of Enquiry.


Sample Topics Focus Areas Key RE Question
Ourselves / Who Are We? A&D Who are we?
Toys / Gifts / Celebrations B&E Why are some times special?
Stories C&F Why are some stories special?
Our Neighbourhood / Diversity B&D Where do we belong?
Yesterdays / The Journey of Life/ Adventure C&E How do we celebrate our journey through life?
Materials / Material and Spiritual /
How Green Can You Grow?
A&F How should we live our lives?
The Seaside / Special Places / Our Town C&D Why are some places special?
Creatures / Mini-Beasts / Planet Earth / All Creatures Great & Small A&E Why is our world special?
Light / Superheroes / Light & Enlightenment B&F Why is Jesus important?

Linking ‘Topics’ to Key RE Questions: Foundation Stage & Key Stage 1



Sample Topics Focus Areas Key RE Question
Ourselves / Golden Oldies A&D What is important to me?
Celebrations / The Olympics / Happiness & Success / ‘Veni Vidi Vici’ B&E  What can we learn from the life and teaching of Jesus?
Transport / Technology / Communications / ‘www.’ C&F Why do religious books and teachings matter?
Victorians / Vikings / Romans / Invaders & Settlers / Yesterdays / Local Studies / Peoples Past and Present B&D What does it mean to belong to a religion? Christianity
Growth / Power / Forces for Change/ Adventure C&E Why are some journeys and places special?
Fair Trade / Shop Till You Drop / Choices A&F How do we make moral choices?
Express Yourself / A Material World /
‘Power to the People’
C&D How do people express their beliefs and identity?
Water / The Circle of Life / Planet Earth A&E What do people believe about life?
Exploration / Around the World / Inspirations B&F How should we live and who can inspire us?
Local Studies / Homes / India / That’s Life /
(Ancient) Civilizations / Communities
B,D&E What does it mean to belong to a religion? Hinduism
Local Studies / Homes / Africa / Egyptians / Civilizations/ Communities B,D&E What does it mean to belong to a religion?
Local Studies / Homes / Egyptians /
Civilizations/ Communities
B,D&E What does it mean to belong to a religion? Judaism

Linking ‘Topics’ to Key RE Questions: Key Stage 2



Linking ‘Topics’ to Key RE Questions: Key Stage 3

Sample Topics Focus Areas Key RE Question
Ourselves / Being Human A&D What experiences and beliefs are important to me and to others?
Planet Earth / Living Beings B&E Does our planet have a future?
Material and spiritual C&F Where are the answers to life’s big questions?
Local Studies / Communities /

Our Neighbourhood

B&D What can we learn from religions, beliefs and communities living today?
Journeys / Time / Pilgrimage / Change C&E How are religions and beliefs portrayed in the media?
Local Studies / Communities / Our Neighbourhood A&F How might beliefs affect my thoughts, ideas and actions?
Diversity and difference C&D How do people best express their beliefs and identities?
Planet Earth / Origins A&E What do people believe about life and the place of religions and beliefs within it?
The Olympics / Healthy Living B&F What’s to be done? What really matters in religion and beliefs?




Collaborative Learning

In all RE planning, but especially where you feel it is a good idea to join the learning with other curriculum subjects, it will be important to address three questions, namely:

  1. What are you trying to achieve?
  2. How will you organise learning to achieve your aims?
  3. How well have you achieved your aims?


Question 1. What are you trying to achieve?

At the start of any worthwhile innovation is the vision of what might be achieved. In RE, certainly, your vision must deal with life’s qualities, much more than its quantities. The fundamental question is: What differences do you want to see in your learners?

In other words, what do you hope they will be able to do and what will they know and understand, when they have undertaken the programme of study you have organised for them? There may be many obstacles in the way, of course, but without that vision you may not have the drive to reach towards it.

The Minimum Learning Outcomes can help to set some goals here, but these are not the totality of RE. You may also hope to see changes in pupils’ attitudes and behaviour. In particular, you may want them to develop their willingness to learn from others, even when others’ views might be different from their own. You may want them to become increasingly sensitive to the impact of their ideas and behaviour on other people. Ultimately, you may hope to notice examples of this increased sensitivity in their interactions both in and out of the classroom.


Question 2. How will you organise learning to achieve your aims?

In order to engage and motivate pupils many schools have set up ‘pupil-voice’ groups to enable them to develop their own questions for investigation. It is good, when planning any collaborative sequence of learning, to take pupils’ views into account. This may include making use of preferred learning styles but sometimes it is useful to challenge pupils to make progress in other ways too.

It will be necessary to consider what changes to the timetable may be required, in order for proposed changes to take place. For example, where cross-curricular projects are concerned, whether it would be best to provide blocks of time for extended project work, or for teachers to provide specialist input at certain points.

All staff involved in teaching or leading the collaborative learning sequence need to be involved in the planning process, ensuring aims are clear and that all will be able to provide the right focus for the pupils’ learning. From an RE point of view, when collaborating with other subject areas, maintain a distinct RE contribution by focusing on TWO of the six Areas of Enquiry.

Pupils should be involved at all points of the development of the project. They can then express their views on what the goals of a project might be, how they might best go about finding the information they need and how they will work out their own questions for the investigation.

Once you have decided what you are trying to achieve, one way of managing collaborative learning that has proved effective, is to work out a key questions that fits the contributing subject areas and to build the planning around one of the cross-curricular dimensions. These are:

  • Identity and cultural diversity
  • Healthy lifestyles
  • Community participation
  • Enterprise
  • Global dimension and sustainable development
  • Technology and the media
  • Creativity and critical thinking


The following diagram illustrates the planning process:



In RE, the ‘key concepts’ could be the selected Areas of Enquiry.

As a crucial part of the planning, it will be important to consider a variety of possible means by which pupils can express their ideas and findings. You might like to give pupils a choice from the following lists:
Means of communication

Oral Written Visual
Presentation Academic article PowerPoint – picture/photo selection
Lecture Report Documentary film: Movie-maker
Debate Letter/email Web pages
‘Panel’ discussion Review Exhibition gallery
Interview Short biography Museum / gallery / site guide
Tour guide / audio presentation Fictional story Souvenir
Radio documentary Web debate Model
Podcast Text book spread Film/stage set
Movie-maker commentary Poem/song/rap Board game
Peer work reviews Blog Interactive display
Exhibition commentary Web site text Multi-media storyboard
Speech to virtual character or audience Trailers for movies /
TV religion series
Graphic novel



Question 3. How well have you achieved your aims?

Using the Six Areas of Enquiry for planning sequences means that assessment of learning outcomes can be focused effectively.

Teachers and pupils can together reflect upon and evaluate the impact of the learning on pupils’ attitudes and behaviour. Have pupils, for example, been willing to learn from others, even when others’ views might be different from their own? Have they become more sensitive to the impact of their ideas and behaviour on other people? Observations of such changes can be recorded through peer and teacher records.


Further links and resources

The Big Picture for RE: Different approaches to teaching and learning: https://www.mmiweb.org.uk/bigpictureforre/kq1/pedagogy.html

Personal Emotional and Thinking Skills (PELTS): https://www.gatewayqualifications.org.uk/resources/for_providers/schools/personal_learning_and_thinking_skills

Learning: Creative Approaches that Raise Standards (Ofsted 2010): https://www.readyunlimited.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Learning-creative-approaches-that-raise-standards-Ofsted.pdf

The Guardian Video on Anti and Non Racism: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/video/2016/jan/13/marlon-james-are-you-racist-video

The Guardian: Why climate is your issue narrated by Melanie Klein: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/08/its-up-to-us-to-create-a-better-future-for-the-planet

Marked by teachers – an essay on Hinduism and peace (Secondary): https://www.markedbyteachers.com/gcse/religious-studies-philosophy-and-ethics/hinduism-and-peace-1.html

Pilgrimage: BBC Bitesize has videos on pilgrimage for Hinduism at KS2: https://www.bbc.co.uk/education/clips/z9bd7hv

Christian: Lourdes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=571OEwxUe4Q

Many examples on RE Quest: https://request.org.uk/life/spirituality/pilgrim-diaries-the-two-saints-way/

Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca: BBC Bitesize KS2: https://www.bbc.co.uk/education/clips/z8jpycw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=571OEwxUe4Q  (American: useful for secondary)

Five lessons learned from Superhero Movies: https://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/christian-movie-reviews/5-lessons-learned-from-superhero-movies.html

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