Cooperative Learning and the 21c British Muslim

Seminar follow-up

Thank you to participants – external and internal – at Harrow Primary School; a very engaged crowd of teachers, fresh from the holidays and eager to start a new year.

“…allows children to learn from and respect each other’s views.”

 -Noor, Harrow Primary

This 3 hour Interactive Seminar introduced units from our new course “21c British Muslim: The Solution?” This new 6 hour CPD course is tailored to meet unique requirements Muslim students in the UK have in relation to Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural education. As such it serves private Muslim schools and state schools with a substantial amount of Muslim pupils. Units presented yesterday included:


According to Lesson Objectives, students doing this unit in class will:

  1. …define a range of values and activities through negotiation (What does “wearing a cap mean? What’s a cap? Who wears caps? What’s the signal it sends?”).
  2. …define which values and activities are “Islamic,” “English” or both.
  3. …negotiate the meaning of these terms in each case
  4. …through negotiation precisely define which aspects of values and activities that are “Islamic” or not.

The Unit includes multiple variations such as what is British vs. Christian, Ethnic vs Islamic.

“We could play around (this) and use it for every subject…”

Zainab, Harrow Primary


According to Lesson Objectives, students doing this unit in class will:

  1. discover which areas of Islam are focused on by non-Muslims
  2. discover which are seen as positive and negative by non-Muslims
  3. reflect on reasons for these opinions

- and bring to bear a number of “hard” skills:

  1. use skimming and scanning techniques
  2. identify key points in a text
  3. effective note taking
  4. Prepare an oral summary by recapping and restructuring information to promote understanding and memorization.



In teams: What is this?




According to Lesson Objectives, students doing this unit in class will:

  1. …reflect on the practical relation of Muslim inventions to today’s technology (connected to various subjects).
  2. …discover the greatness of Muslim intellectual heritage and civilizational contributions.
  3. …feel pride and a sense of worth and self-respect.
  4. …perceive that Islam historically has promoted scientific and technological discovery and enquiry.
  5. …relate the above to the current situation of Muslims in the UK.
  6. …reflect on what this means to their own future lives as Muslims in Britain.
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21c British Muslim: The solution?

- a 3 hour Interactive Seminar, London, August 29, 2014 *

This seminar for teachers working with Muslim pupils in Primary and Secondary is a unique chance to assess key elements of Werdelin Education’s new flagship course, 21c British Muslim: The solution? to be rolled out nationally over the coming academic year. This upcoming full day CPD course is a logical extension of our successful Islam in RE: Religious Literacy & Controversy through Enquiry CPD course, first trialed at the University of East Anglia and presented by Dr Mike Diboll of the Institute of Education.

The August seminar presents Cooperative Learning as the tool to effectively facilitate authentic identity and community bridge building for Muslims in 21st Century  Britain through enquiry-based learning.  Participants will discover best practice rationales and be provided with CPD materials that will only be made available to the rest of the country from October.

“…scalable, encourages team building and mastery of knowledge easily.”

- Ehsan Choudhury, English History and Computing/ICT teacher, Manara Academy, Leicester CL Primer, 17 July 2014

In fact, 21c British Muslim: The solution? is nothing short of a manifestation of the ideas presented in my talk “The Student/Centred Classroom & the Self-Centred Student” at the British Association for Islamic Studies at Edinburgh University in April. Attendees at my previous seminar at June’s Islamic Education Conference in London will also recognize the red thread: that, as members of the biggest and most visual religious/ethnic group in this country, Muslim educators need to pick up the gauntlet and take part in addressing cohesion issues of multicultural society.

The full 21c British Muslim: The Solution?  is to be taught in 3 modules.


Primary objectives of Module A (Cross-cultural literacy):

  1. provide teachers with tools to achieve historical/cultural/social literacy through enquiry
  2. present relevant high level materials on contributions to British and Western society of the Islamic World
  3. demonstrate a series of fully transferable and scalable enquiry exercises into the above and of British and Western contributions to the lives of modern Muslims.


Primary objectives of Module B (Current and future British Muslim identity):

  1. demonstrate a series of fully transferable and scalable enquiry exercises into Muslim identity in 21st century Britain based on acquired historical and cultural literacy
  2. manage safe enquiry into controversial areas of  negative Muslim stereotyping, such as gender issues, jihad, sharia law  and the effects of  Eastern Cultural differences.


Primary Objectives of Module C (21c Skills & Cooperative Learning):

  1. What are  21st century skills?
  2. How are 21st century skills implemented in social, business and academic arenas?
  3. How and when should these skills be taught; managing enquiry through Cooperative Learning.


“…a brilliant opportunity to showcase the amazing philosophy of education and bring it into the present.”

- Ms. Fozia Reddy, Headteacher, Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation, London

Healing Fractures, Islamic Awareness Week, Norwich, March 17, 2014

Secondary objectives

As the seminar progresses participants share reflections on method and content; on the role and impact of citizenship and SMSC in schools and society at large; the role of Muslims in historical and contemporary society; and the role of the teacher in enquiry-based learning.

Please contact Sasha Walters by mailing to book your place.

* The seminar takes place at:
Harrow Primary School, 80/82 Gayton Road, Harrow HA1 2LS
October 29, 2014 9.00-12.30
Price: £40
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“ In terms of globalisation there is a lot one can learn from this seminar.”

- Conleth  Buckley, teacher & trainer, British Council

Healing Fractures, Islamic Awareness Week, Norwich, March 17, 2014

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Islam in RE; follow-up

This post is specifically of interest to participants of the two pilots of “Islam in RE; Religious literacy and Controversy through Enquiry” in the University of East Anglia and the Institute of Education. Please find a list of the CLIPs available for download here (a password has been provided to you by mail). In the public eCL newsletter library, you will also find a  detailed  description of Catch-1-Partner and the many variations on this CLIP. Being a bit of a visual learner myself, I’ve conjured up a mindmap that shows the variations graphically. All as PDF. For more on the method, search for the key words “NHSG” and all posts filed under “workshop.” Team 1 IoE During the IoE course, I focused a great deal on using Cooperative Learning as a tool to provide a safe environment for enquiry. Mostly in relation to the students, but as teachers, we potentially put our jobs on the line by approaching poisinous topics; it only takes one pupil’s comment out of context to his parents and the school head gets a call about bigotry or liberal indoctrination, as the case may be. Therefore, the afternoon module included a section on using Cooperative Learning as shield  between the teacher and controversial content being discussed. You will find a great deal of reflections on this in posts mentioned below. Also, the concept is discussed, albeit in the context of ESL, in the newletter eCL#2: The Teacher is a Ghost.

“There are many CLIPs I intend to incorporate into my teaching … a fully engaging approach.”

Hannah Hunter, RE teacher, Queensmead School, London

“Islam in RE,” IoE, 22 July 2014

That brings me to our  plenum discussion on our own fears of being manipulators rather than guides; the concern of one participant that we may not in fact be facilitating independent thinking and personal integrity, but rather using a staged free thinking process to arrive at specific goals, as outlined by government. The dangers of top-down identity management has been thoroughly discussed in several posts, notablyDeradicalisation; it’s not about what you do, it’s about who you are and Deradicalisation#2; “Salvation in this life” based on Mohammad Elshimi’s brilliant presentation at Edinburgh University.  Also see Christian-centred, atheism-centred… or just Student-Centred? Making RE relevant at allas well as a host of other topics. But also, I think any teacher sees sheer treason inherent in  giving the children a false impression of what free thinking is – aside from the dishonesty, the uncertain high-speed future needs real critical thinking, not a tick-box mock-up. I pointed out some of this at the recent IEC conference seminar – more on this later, as I find time.

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Great event; lousy afterparty

Some reflections on Cooperative Learning in the UK

Thanks to the engagement of a very heterogenous group of participants, we had a successful event at the IoE and very positive feedback from RE teachers who were out to make a difference.

However, my joy at the awareness that “Islam in RE” is now ready for national roll-out in September was somewhat dampened in a certain large and well-renowned bookstore just down the road from the IoE main entrance.

Confident that I could saunter into this literary (and stylish) equivalent of a Virgin Megastore and browse a wealth of books on the top floor devoted exclusively  to education, I asked to be pointed to the shelf dedicated to the didactic method called Cooperative Learning. “What? What did you call it Didactic…?” After a bit of waffling about, we got the spelling right. “No, we don’t have anything on that topic.”

I gazed hopefully  down the series of linked rooms with 100.000+ books on education and proposed looking up “collaborative” learning. More typing. “Ah – here it is!” I got ready to follow the lady to the relevant section of shelves and prepare to sit down in one of those comfy leather chairs scattered about flanked by a large handpicked stack , skimming and scanning as if picking out so much candy. Maybe even an original copy of Slavins 1990 classic “Cooperative Learning: Theory, Research, and Practice“…?

No such luck – “Here it is” was literally “Here it is” - It being this book,  whipped out from a pile stashed under the counter:


Whether this 366 page tome of statistical evidence and reflections on various schools of thought is a good book is not the issue here.*

My point is that if I can’t find a single book on Cooperative Learning as a distinct didactic method  a stone’s throw from an institution whose main entrance flies banners boasting its new status as the world’s leading university for education… well, it was a bit of a rude awakening, actually.

But, looking at the bright side: This is a splendidly isolated virgin island; with some really excellent teachers looking for tools to reboot the system. Maybe things are not so bad.

More on the course later, lesson plans to participants en route later in the week. is the business end of

Collaborative Learning in Mathematics: A Challenge to Our Beliefs and Practices is definitely on my reading list; worth commenting more on this in a later post.  Stay updated on twitter.



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“Islam in RE…”; UKIP in RE? Dealing with non-PC views

From “Islam in RE: Religious Literacy and Controversy through Enquiry”

Discussing terrorism, jihad and Islamist “supremacy doctrines” in RE, you confidently explain:

“… it is just a small fringe minority of extremist…”

However, Bobby, one of your more astute students, comes back with:

“The Muslim Brotherhood is the largest Islamic organization of any kind in the world. That makes it mainstream. Not fringe. The Brotherhood’s goal is to make the whole world submit to Islamic law. (…) They have a long-range plan and they’ve been putting it into effect for over twenty years. This is not guesswork. Their documents have been seized in FBI raids. One such raid recently led to the prosecution of members of the Holy Land Foundation…”*

Bobby even directs you and all his classmates to an exiting website from which he has taken this text and a host of other information which don’t sit well with REs role of contributing to well-being and community cohesion by “promoting mutual respect and tolerance in a diverse society” (Religious education in English schools: Non‑statutory guidance 2010, p. 7).

Soon, every pupil with a mobile (i.e. every pupil in the school) has had a look at the website, and the two Muslims students in your class are getting pressured for answers. You are getting calls from your local UKIP representative congratulating you on your courage. Head’s not too happy though. Etc.

face to face UKIP

Oi! Where’s UKIP in RE??

In the upcoming London course “Islam in RE: Religious Literacy & Enquiry through Controversy” we are going to work with critical statements from Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Ibn Warraq (Author od Why I am not a Muslim) on Islam and misogynism, as well as some valid criticism from the ultra-right in relation to immigration.

We are going to discover how Cooperative Learning allows working with these “non-PC” viewpoints and how these can in fact contribute to developing pupils’ “reflection on and response to their own and others’ experiences in the light of their learning about religion and develops pupils’ skills of application, interpretation and evaluation of what they learn about religion.”

Especially we are going to look at how the social contructivism inherent in Cooperative Learning helps pupils develop and communicate their own ideas, particularly in relation to questions of identity and belonging, meaning, purpose and truth, and values and commitments, as outlined in Religious education – The non-statutory national framework (p.11).


“Cooperative Learning has been a valuable learning experience, which I will use in working with teachers. …encourages participants to actively listen to each other … provided a way to engage in controversy within a safe social environment.”

Kevin Blogg, Norfolk County Council, Norfolk SACRE,
“Islam in RE: Religious Litteracy and Controversy through Enquiry” 
University of East Anglia, June 26, 2014.

“Islam in RE: Religious Literacy and Controversy through Enquiry” takes place at the Institute of Education, London, 22 July, 2014, full day CPD course. Read more. Book at

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* Bobby got this from

Image from cover of “Face to Face and Side by Side – A framework for partnership in our
multi faith society”

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Institute of Education, London: “Islam in RE: Religious Literacy and Controversy through Enquiry”

Missed the Norwich Pilot? Our new course is now available at the Institute of Education, London: full day, 22 July, 2014, Institute of Education, London.

Book now on



“Islam in RE: Religious Litteracy and Controversy through Enquiry” is a teaching program for all educators and researchers interested in Islam and in the future role of Religious Education in relation to SMSC (Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural Education) at Primary and Secondary level as well as tertiary practitioners in RE and related Humanities subject areas.


Open the PDF invitation in your browser

lille pdf

As always, the Cooperative Learning techniques demonstrated can be utilised immediately with no change to materials or lesson plans and are transferable to other religions and topics.

“…thanks for next year’s lesson plan.”

- D. Clark, Wayland Academy, Norfolk,  
“Islam in RE: Religious Litteracy and Controversy through Enquiry” 
University of East Anglia, June 26, 2014.

Islam in RE: Religious Literacy & Controversy through Enquiry facilitates the best practice outlined in Ofsted’s RE report Realising the Potential and gives each teacher the confidence to teach the Islamic component of the Religious Education in English schools: Non‑statutory Guidance 2010 in depth.

Due to the nature of the content this course is open to the tertiary sector for networking, research and collaborative purposes; members of Ofsted, SACREs, exam boards and Department of Education shall also be represented. Anyone from the above group must secure their place immediately by mailing me directly at

See related post “Islam in RE…”; UKIP in RE? Dealing with non-PC views is the business end of


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