David Ashton has already blogged on the use of media in GCSE religious studies but I’ve been thinking more about how DVDs* are used in general in RE.
RE has its own challenges in that we are teaching beliefs and teachings that in some parts of the country seem as though students are in a different country. Their experience and perspective of their country, let alone the world is mainly if not totally white, Christian/atheist. As an RE teacher I have to somehow ‘bring to life’ something they may never experience in their entire lives;things that stretch their knowledge and understanding of how people live.
So it is little wonder that we resort to DVDs to help us out. They provide an insight into the complex world of faith that they would otherwise not see. Students can see real life believers discussing their faith and showing us how their faith impacts their lives. But there are also issues with using these.
Issues with using DVDs in RE
1.My concern is that DVDs become the ‘go to’ lesson resource. Teachers relying on them to some how make learning about religions fun, or in some cases being deliberately controversial or to shock the students. There is a belief that DVDs are more engaging than books or discussion or teacher led knowledge. In a worse case scenario DVDs are used as a behaviour management tool; ‘Put a DVD on, that’ll keep them quiet’.
I personally find this dangerous and gives students the wrong perspective of a religion. Planning along the lines of ‘I need to teach forgiveness’ with the response ‘I have a good DVD to teach that’ becomes a common way to plan lessons.
2. These DVDs usually represent the faith in its ‘purest’ form. The reality is that many believers do not fully practice the beliefs and teachings that are presented in them. Conversely, when you show clips with some reality in the students end up with a skewed view of those believers. How can we use DVDs and still give the correct perspective?
An example is in a programme on Jewish matchmaking one of the men had been into prison. The students couldn’t separate this out from why some Hasidic Jews might find it difficult to match make in the UK. Their ‘go to’ reason was ‘because they might have a criminal record’.
3. DVDs date. Some of the best ones I use are really old;at least 15-20 years old. But they are the best version of something that I can find. They present the issue/belief well. Demand for uptodate resources outweighs the commercial value for any provider to produce new material.
4. Finally, linking to David’s blog there is a temptation to use DVDs to shoehorn religious teaching; Linking to point 1. Instead of starting with what we want them to learn and using the best possible strategy to do so, we desperately try to find a DVD that will do it for us. Or in the case of GCSE we HAVE to use a DVD to teach part of it to fulfil the requirements of the specification. Many forum posts have been seen saying ‘can anyone recommend a good clip for teaching…?’.
This blog isn’t intended to stop teachers using DVDs;I will continue to use them. But rather to highlight the traps and issues overusing DVDs in RE may have. The ideal scenario is that all schools have a personal link with several members of each religion so students can meet, experience and ask all the questions they want. Maybe SACREs should be a key partner here. Schools need free, child friendly, volunteers from each religion to work closely with the RE department/coordinator.
However until that time, whilst the cost of travel to visit a religious place of worship or for a visitor to have a meaningful interaction with every child is reduced, the £10 DVD will always take precedent.
* I will refer to DVDs but am referring all types of media including videos, YouTube, web clips etc