Robert Kargbo Subject: RE

'Debating skills in RE- A project to enhance critical thinking and discussion in RE.'

AIM: A project to enhance critical thinking and discussion in RE': aimed to build stages of learning that will develop analytical and evaluative thinking skills – leading to debate speeches demonstrating critical engagement with RE topics, and improved written answers.

OUTCOME: varied teaching strategies that develop thinking and learning in RE and enhance the status of the subject.

Rationale

The project targeted top set 10 h1. My concern was pupils were not able to back up or give reasons as to why they have said something in class. Pupils were not able to work independently, and did not fully appreciate the difference between a fact and an opinion, or a belief and an argument. What I wanted them to do was to think in a logical manner, and know the difference between a fact and an opinion when doing independent research for a debate, as well as in actual debating.


Teaching Plan – How did you carry out the project

I planned a series of lessons as to:
(A) Why some people do not believe in God. I gave them some information and resources as to the reasons why some people believe and others don’t
(B) I asked them to do independent research into the reasons why some people do, and others do not believe in God. And to know the difference between a fact and an opinion
(C) I showed them a video of the Prime Minister during the election campaign, modelling debate techniques and argument. The aim was for them to identify the strategies and learn more about how to debate effectively
(D) A clas debate was then held on Euthanasia - should it be made legal or not. (KS4 Syllabus topic - Matters of Life and Death)

Evidence

I was not expecting much from the boys, but it turned out to be really good and stimulating. For example, in answering the pupil questionnaire which asked them to reflect on the experience of debating in RE, they came up with answers like “the project was very good, because it helped me to think a lot harder” , and, “it was a different method of learning”, and, “ for me the subject came alive”.

The debate itself was very impressive and their research skills improved immensely. For example, I gave them a topic on Euthanasia and asked them to research the topic and prepare for a debate. With the few guidelines I gave them they were able to do the work on their own.

Their debating skills also improved immensely when I tried it for a second time. For example a shy boy in class was able for the first time in my lesson to stand up and speak for five minutes and he made some extremely good points. Another boy came up to me after the debate and said to me, ” Sir this is the first time I have seen ‘pupil A’ say something in class.”

Essay writing also improved. For example a quarter of the class moved from C to B grades and five boys achieved A grades having achieved a C or a D before hand.

Outcomes -

What went well was the fact that they were able to do their own research independently, present an argument in a coherent and logical manner, expressed themselves and finally gave reasons to back up their statements. This was something they were not able to do properly initially. What could have been even better was to have started it with year 7. The group I worked with was year 10.

Outcomes - Pupil Learning

Pupils enjoyed the fact that they were able to exercise their intellect, express their opinions, and learn from their friends who were better orators. Finally they enjoyed the lessons because they did less writing. For example seeing pupils in my lesson actually speaking boldly and putting across an opinion in a coherent and logical manner was very
impressive because some of these pupils have never spoken in lessons before.

Outcomes - Adult Learning

A vast improvement in my teaching skills for example, the tasks need to be structured for the pupils to be able a to complete the final outcome (debate).
Don’t do a lot of talking, let them do the talking for example I was on the hot seat and I asked the to ask me questions on matters of “life and death” and I showed them by my answers, and my own experience in life, that sometimes people have to make critical decisions just to survive. This gave them the chance to know me a lot better, and they were also able to find out the reasons why I left my country of birth to come to Britain.

Next Steps:

I need to share this learning experience with members of my Department, and introduce debate in year 7 so as to get better at it as they move higher in school.

In Conclusion – a personal response to the whole project -

Personally I think the project was very good, because I learnt that , for pupils to perform to their utmost, they need to be stimulated. They should be given the chance to explore and do their research independently.

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