Critique in RE

Standard

These are my opinions of what I call critique in RE. I haven’t read any pedagogical stuff on this. It’s just from my experience and own ideas, much of which has come from teaching Critical Thinking A Level.

Critique vs criticism

There is a subtle difference between these. Criticism is about directly commenting on a religion and it’s beliefs and teachings and saying if it is ‘good’ or ‘bad’; whether you agree with the actual teaching.

For example, Christianity isn’t true because it’s impossible for any human to be resurrected after 3 days.

Critique doesn’t require a student to evaluate if a a religion is ‘true’ or ‘right’ but to consider key issues in religions and the wide range of opinions there are on them.

If you want to see criticism of religion follow Richard Dawkins on Twitter.

Critique however is about looking at the beliefs and teachings and considering what questions need to be asked in order to understand them and if the response to these are ‘valid’.

Critique

The questions that inform critique come under several areas:

  • Reliability
  • Credibility
  • Logic of reasoning

these can be broken down into further detail to help students understand and try out simple critique.

Examples

  • Reliability – Is the source reliable? why?
  • Credibility – Is the source credible? Are they biased? Why? Do they have expertise in this area? Do they have a vested interest? It is affiliated to a religion? Does any of this impact the reliability?
  • Logic of reasoning – Does it logically make sense? Does it make assumptions? Does it attack the arguer instead of the argument itself? (Ad Hominem), Is the argument flawed?

A teacher can simplify these when questioning students in class, for example “Why might he/she say that?”. The more a teacher gets student developing their critical thinking skills through questioning and answers the more they should be able to get this embedded into their written work.

More questioning

Developing students’ questioning skills is and important aspect of developing good critique. I’m thinking of using and maybe developing this questioning grid to ensure students can ask a wide range of questions.

John has also developed one here that allows students to track which they can use well.

Pre-published critique

This is also where students can engage with what has already been said about the particular topic they are thinking about. This may be of philosophers, theologians, historians, religious leaders etc The quantity and complexity of the views will depend on the student; I differentiate these.

How I also encourage a use of anything published, usually online. A particularly useful resource for this is news articles which have a comment facility at the bottom. There are generally a wide rang of opinions and views and there are several activities that students can do to utilise them in their work.

I’m also trying to develop a culture of research with the students. It’s early days but putting the responsibility on them to find differing views is great study skills particularly needed at A level. I’m happy to share how I’m doing this as well.

So critique can be three-fold in students’ development; being able to ask the right questions, being able to respond to the questions with the correct use of language, being able to research, understand, use and critique pre-published critique.

The language of critique

It is essential for the language of critique to be taught; it’s the language that can make it criticism instead of critique.

Giving students a bank of phrases and vocabulary to use when critiquing helps them to focus on the correct aspect.

Who can critique?

I teach secondary but believe that critique an easily be taught to primary students. The earlier we start the better.

Putting it all together

I am getting students to pull this all together in written arguments. The plan is to get at least 3 of these in the year, with in between assessment focussing on a specific aspect, which could be critique.

I’ve decided to pull this down into key stage 3 as I think these are essential skills for GCSE and A Level (see red below where I think critique comes into play)

GCSE draft assessment objectives

AO1

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of religion, including:
  • similarities and differences between and within religions and beliefs;
  • the nature of religious beliefs and teachings and their impact on individuals, communities and societies.

AO2

  • Analyse and evaluate questions and issues related to religious beliefs, values and teachings:
  • using and applying knowledge and understanding of religions;
  • constructing well-informed and balanced arguments.
A level draft assessment objectives

AO1

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of religion, including:
  • religious belief, thought and relevant issues;
  • explaining the nature of religious beliefs and teachings and their impact on individuals, communities and societies;
  • making connections across different aspects of the study of religion and belief.

AO2

  • Analyse and critically evaluate questions and issues related to religious beliefs, values and teachings:

  • applying knowledge and understanding of religion;

  • using evidence and reasoning;

  • constructing well informed and balanced arguments

And of course, this highlights the importance of knowledge and understanding. You cannot critique effectively without initially understanding the issue. I really encourage students to prove they fully know and understand an issue before they offer critique otherwise it becomes ignorant critique which can be dangerous. Critique without knowledge of religions is simply critical thinking or maybe sociology/history. It is essential that the religious knowledge is equally important. Knowledge and understanding are also key aspects of the assessment system I’m developing.

If you’d like any specific examples of how I’ve used critique then let me know and I’m happy to share.

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2 thoughts on “Critique in RE

  1. Pingback: Teaching students to be sceptical  | missdcoxblog

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