Religious Education: The ‘Doss’ Subject

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This blog is aimed at helping the RE teacher tackle the idea that non-exam RE is a ‘doss’ subject. Before tackling this problem we need to highlight the reasons why RE is seen as a ‘doss’ subject. This attitude towards RE can be cause by a number of reasons including the following:

  1. Teachers do not take it seriously – allow students to continuously watch DVDs, study for other subjects or come to class completely unprepared.
  2. Some schools use the period of RE for extra classes such as maths, Irish or English for example. This gives students the impression that religion is less important than other subjects.
  3. Some RE classes are filled with discussion, meditation and chatting. While these things are important and an essential part of RE there must be a balance between this type of content and focused content such as information, textbooks and research. Students need to see that RE has the same amount if not more content than other subjects.
  4. Because Religion is not a part of the junior or leaving cert in some schools they do not have summer or Christmas exams. This is another way of diminishing the value of the subject.
  5. Other teachers often view Religion as an ‘easy’ or less important subject. Students pick up on this and their opinions can mirror those teachers.

Teachers should be aware that these barriers exist and be ready to tackle them head on. In order to change a classes opinion of RE and to get them out of ‘Doss’ mode I think it is important to show the value RE has as a subject even if you do not see yourself as religious. For a lesson plan on the importance of RE see my previous blog post here.

RE needs to be approached in an active and engaging way. Students can do project work, group work, presentations etc. Teachers should try to bring in different religions and traditions of no religion. Religion should be brought alive in the classroom – bring in artefacts, symbols, speakers and documentaries. Religion class is an opportunity for students to broaden their horizons. They have the change to learn about and engage with other traditions and ways of live they may never have encountered before. If students are able to see that religion is not only in the past that it is all around us in all shapes and forms they will find it more engaging. One of the most important factors is the passion and interest of the teacher. If you engage with the topic and put time into preparing it lessons will go smoother and students will want to become involved. Some classes may take longer than others to change their view on RE but have patience and help them see the value. It is worth it.

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JCSP Workbooks 

The Junior Certificate School Programme is a national programme sponsored by the Department of Education and Skills and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. It originated in the early school leavers programme initiated by the curriculum development unit. The emphasis is put on active teaching and development of basic skills. Students are profiled and records are kept on progress, skills and achievements. Students follow the same curriculum and are assessed the same way but also recieve their student profile at the end of three years. This helps show students how far they have come since beginning secondary school.

The Professional Development Service for Teachers have an excellent collection of workbooks deigned for JCSP which focus on the numeracy and literacy development of students. While these books are designed for the English and maths teacher I have found ways to incorporate them into my history lessons. The English books which are called Exploring student workbook and Letter writing for students give templates for letter writing and diaries. These can be used for the people in history questions or key events in history. There are also research sections which help students with their investigation and critical thinking skills.

The books are an extra resource in any classroom and can be adapted to suit a wide range of lessons. They would also be a handy addition to any substitute teachers bag of tricks. A list of other resources for the student teacher can be found Here.

I will be incorporating these into my classroom in future.