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Discovering Muslims in Britain - course delivered to 18 RE teachers

The Islam-UK Centre has developed an online course for Religious Education (RE) teachers, responding to the need to develop accessible, flexible and research-led teaching and learning resources about Islam.

This course was developed to promote contemporary forms of Islam and the social realities of Muslims living in Britain, to improve the teaching and learning of Islam and Muslims in RE, which have been criticised historically for misrepresentations and stereotypical views.

The project involved a university-wide collaboration between the Islam-UK Centre (Dr Matthew Vince, Mark Bryant, Professor Sophie Gilliat-Ray), Centre for Education Support and Innovation (Dewi Parry) and the Professional Development team.

Background

The Centre for the Study of Islam developed the online CPD course in response to recommendations within the 2018 Commission on Religious Education which suggested that RE teaching should include the ‘lived experience of individuals and communities’. There have been longstanding criticisms of the way RE teaching represent religions in the classroom, with portrayals too often focusing on theology and beliefs, at the expense of plural and everyday expressions of religion in society.

The course built on the Islam-UK Centre’s hugely successful Muslims in Britain Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), and is designed to be an accompanying CPD resource for RE teachers to increase their knowledge and understanding of Islam and enable them to meet the Commission’s recommendations. The Muslims in Britain programme aims to embed sociological perspectives of religion in the RE classroom by using cutting-edge sociological research and academic scholarship in teaching resources.

This pilot course has been created in partnership with experts in other fields of Islamic studies as part of a fully-resourced Key Stage 3 scheme of work looking at Muslims in Britain.  The project is sponsored by the Jameel Scholarship fund which has allowed classroom resources to be developed and distributed free of charge to RE teachers.

Programme overview

The primary aim of the online course is to improve the teaching and learning of Islam and Muslims, by providing a free resource to help teachers develop a contemporary and meaningful scheme of work for their RE curriculum.

It achieves this by identifying the current successes, challenges, and requirements of RE teachers, and developing materials that can be used in the classroom, incorporating current sociological approaches and scholarship to the study of religion.

The structure and content of the course encourages reflective practice on how to transfer and implement learning into RE teaching. The course is delivered entirely online in order to make it as widely available and accessible as possible. Participants also have the opportunity to network and share ideas with other RE teachers across the UK.

The course is designed as an ‘active curriculum’ that can be continually updated in response to cutting-edge research and new data about British Muslims. It is accompanied by a fully-resourced scheme of work that includes teaching PowerPoints, lesson plans, pupil worksheets and other associated resources.

The launch of this exciting online course for RE teachers reflects the established reputation of the Islam-UK Centre, and our 15 years of outreach and engagement with Muslim communities across Britain. The course reflects the input of world-class researchers, the expertise of those in learning technology, the Muslim communities with which we have such strong relationships, and the endorsement of RE Today as a leading professional association for RE teachers in Britain.

Professor Sophie Gilliat-Ray Professor in Religious and Theological Studies, Director for the Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK (Islam-UK)

Course content

Throughout the course, teachers are asked to consider the question of what it means to be a Muslim in Britain. The course explores Islam both as a “religious tradition” and something that is understood and lived by Muslims. It examines how Muslims in Britain turn to various religious and non-religious sources of wisdom and authority for guidance about contemporary issues, follow the five pillars of Islam in a British context, and how beliefs and practices shape, and are shaped by, people’s identities.

Other topics covered in the course include:

  • Histories and communities of Muslims in Britain
  • Central social function of mosques
  • “British Muslim” identity, as expressed in the arts and in experiences of Islamophobia

Impact

RE Today has endorsed the course, saying it is ‘set to make a significant impact on teaching and learning about Islam and Muslims in RE across the UK’.

The new teaching and learning resources from Cardiff University’s Islam UK Centre offer an excellent CPD course for RE teachers with linked classroom plans and materials for KS3. Discovering Muslims in Britain takes a sociological approach to the study of Muslims in Britain, incorporating current data and scholarship curated by the Islam UK Centre. As a renowned centre for study of Islam, Islam-UK’s expertise brings a unique offering to RE teachers, addressing some pressing concerns in RE curricula.

Instead of essentialised, abstract presentations of key beliefs of Islam, for example, the focus is on contemporary forms of Islam and the social realities of Muslim living in Britain. Teachers and pupils encounter Muslim voices through video clips and articles, enabling them to adopt a sociological approach in RE. This resource supports teachers in developing their own and their students’ substantive knowledge about Islam and Muslims, as well as introducing them to disciplinary knowledge – such as how sociology uses quantitative and qualitative methods to create and evaluate knowledge.

Islam is among the most popular topics at KS3 and GCSE-level teaching, and this resource offers thoughtful, detailed CPD for teachers and interesting ways of examining Muslim living. It roots study of Islam within recognisable contexts, providing meaningful and engaging opportunities for learning.

Teachers will find a wealth of associated resources, including recent, cutting edge research, to extend and deepen their own subject knowledge. It is great news that these resources are freely accessible and have been made available digitally. This helps to ensure that everyone can engage fully with the course.

Having reviewed the course and discussed it with the Discovering Muslims in Britain project team, we are pleased to recommend the course and its associated resources.

The pilot course was successful and will be rolled out as an online CPD resource for RE teachers in the UK.

Student feedback

The pilot CPD course was delivered to a cohort of 18 RE teachers in the UK whose valuable feedback will inform further development and future delivery of the online course. Feedback includes:

This will be the first time I have taught from a sociology of religion perspective and using the lesson resources will be a massive improvement to current provision on Islam. I just don't have the time or expertise to produce lesson resources of this quality. The time saved in planning a unit of work will mean more time to focus on the pupils!

Delegate, Muslims in Britain programme

Thank you very much for putting this together, I can really see how the course materials will help me develop my professional knowledge but mainly I can't wait to teach the scheme of work! It will be a massive improvement to current provision on Islam and I love the prospect of bringing a sociological approach to the study of religion into the classroom!

Delegate, Muslims in Britain programme

The “ask a scholar” feature I think is a really great way to support discussion and reflection happening outside of the course.

Delegate, Muslims in Britain programme

Contact us

If you would like to speak to the Islam-UK Centre team about the course, please contact:

Islam-UK Centre

If you would like to discuss how we could create a bespoke course for your organisation or business, please contact the CPD Unit for an informal chat:

Continuing Professional Development Unit