Assessing Religious Education and the Implementation of Sustainable Development Education

Lynne Grant-McMahon, Yonah Matemba

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


In recent decades—in the light of 9/11 events in America and its impact on religion and politics in the world—Religious (RE) has become a curriculum area of interest particularly in Western societies where it seen as a subject well placed to inform and inculcate in children about merits of common citizenship (Conroy and Davis 2008; Jackson 2007). However, while in this endeavor many aspects of RE have been subject to critical examination including in major funded projects (see Weisse 2007), the issue of assessment in RE remains a subject that has received little attention in the discourse (Blaylock 2000; Fancourt 2005). As a school subject, RE is difficult to assess not least due to disagreements over what to assess, how this should be done (Hargreaves 1995) and even whether it is possible or even desirable to assess the subject (Hand 2006).
Problems of assessment in RE are directly related to the contested aims of RE: (a) teaching cognitive facts about religions (Smart 1984), (b) teaching for religious commitment (Baker 2001) and (c) teaching about religious knowledge as much as about religious commitment (von Brömssen and Olgaç 2010). In Scotland, this debate is polarised between the way RE is offered in the two sectors of public education, namely, denominational (largely Catholic) and non-denominational. While in both sectors pedagogy is based on a (Christian) neo-confessional framework, the major difference lies in what each of the sectors emphasises. In Catholic denominational schools RE emphasizes faith development while in non-denominational schools RE (known by the nomenclature ‘Religious and Moral Education’ (hereinafter RME)) adopts a phenomenological approach (Rodger 2003).
This paper is concerned with assessment issues in non-denominational RE (i.e. RME) in Scotland in the light of the new 3-18 ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ (CfE) programme which was introduced in 2009. The moderation project focused on during this paper, had three specific aims: (a) to capture and record best practices in RME, (b) to assess the extent to which teaching, learning and assessment in RME has improved in the light of curriculum improvements in the subject from the previous curricular guidelines to the current CfE and (c) using CfE framework, to examine effective assessment strategies in RME.
This work is of interest and value not only to Scotland but to other countries as well due to the fact that the analysis of the data reveals a number of issues that impact adversely on good assessment practices in RME. While the findings are specific to Scotland, they may also inform the wider debate on similar challenges schools in other national contexts face in assessing RME, and crucially what measures can be undertaken to address the shortcomings.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2012
EventEuropean Educational Research Association Conference 2012 - Cadiz, Spain
Duration: 18 Oct 201221 Oct 2012


ConferenceEuropean Educational Research Association Conference 2012


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