Enquiry & Immersion; new mosque field trips in 2015

I am very pleased to –  following the success of Acle Acedemy’s trail run of Enquiry & Immersion  – be formally commissioned by the Ihsan Mosque of Norwich to handle all school visits from December 1, 2014. 

It is a great honour to serve the Ihsan Mosque and the wider school community of Norfolk and surrounding counties by providing not only an outstanding experience to students, but to promote community cohesion; given the ongoing events related to Islam and education in London, it is more important than ever for Muslims to show that they are effective part of the solution, not the problem.

Students will be presented with an enquiry exercise expanding their understanding of Islam, and will then have the opportunity to informally engage with Muslim community members over lunch, see the prayer, and tour the mosque grounds.

“As a first experiment this was very positive. Learning from religion was very high… but then learning about religion was also very high.”

- Ian Burns, RE coordinator, Acle Academy, after first trail of Enquiry & Immersion, 13 November 2014.


At the moment, the full-day “Enquiry & Immersion” field trip is available only to Secondary schools, but we are working tirelessly with a number of Norfolk RE coordinators  to make this event available to Primary and to present improved GCSE tailored materials to Secondary in early 2015.

MON1 spider diagram

For my own professional development, there is an added bonus; creating a Primary course by changing only materials, rather than the lesson plan as such, will vindicate my claims about the transferable nature of Cooperative Learning lessons. I aim to comment on this as it rolls out. (IoE teachers especially, follow this on twitter)

There are a limited amount of slots available. Interested schools should contact me by mailing jakobwerdelin@werdelin.co.uk. More about CL on the other site, and about the Ihsan Mosque on muslimsofnorwich.org.uk.


  • 10-12 Islam in RE: Religious Literacy through Enquiry at community operated Wellbeing Centre
  • 12.00-13.00 Lunch, on floor, gender segregated, informally hosted by members of mosque community. Price includes lunch for each student provided by Jamoroc Catering.
  • 13-13.15 Students watch the noon prayer in Mosque
  • 13.15-14+ Mosque tour and Q&A

Mindmap MON

 Original spider diagram by Acle Academy students

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Stalham Academy Head on: Cooperative Learning & the Sutton Trust on Pupil Premium #2

More from Mr Andrew Howard, acting head of Stalham Academy, on his decision to engage with Cooperative Learning to meet the target of the Rightforsuccess Trust of “Improving the Ofsted rating of underperforming schools to at least good in the short term and outstanding thereafter” after the recent conversion of Stalham Junior School to academy status.

This is an especially important point, as the recent publication of Robert Peal’s “Progressively Worse” has drawn attention to the failure of what is – for reasons not entirely clear – called “Child-Centred Learning” in UK education. From what I can gather, it sounds more “draining, disorganised, directionless group work”, which allows no guiding, no individual assessment, and does not achieve learning objectives.

However, given the book is endorsed by Gove and the foreword is written by Andrew Old of super-blog “Scenes from the Battleground,” I found it worthwhile to take time out at Friday’s PGCE session at the IoE to add some colouring to the slightly black&white universe necessarily found in works by self-proclaimed rebels against the establishment.

One of Mr Peal’s points is the heavy workload of planning effective student-centred lessons, compared to traditional Talk&Chalk: “Done well, child-centred teaching requires superhuman reserves of energy and time…” (p. 194). On the contrary, Mr Howard comments on one of his reasons for picking Cooperative Learning precisely being:

“…very, very little planning that the teachers had to do…. [yet] enabled maximum participation of all pupils for them to make most progress.”


The next installment of Skills & Mastery is to take place next week. See original post: Skills and Mastery at Norfolk Academy: Attainment with CL. By the end of the full 6 hour Skills & Mastery CL course participating teachers will be able to supplement their teaching with a number of fully scalable, engaging group and pair work interaction patterns.

More on the Sutton Trust report here.

“…enhancing learning outcomes of all pupils  from deprived backgrounds along with all other pupils in the cohort.”

More to follow on the IoE and “Progressively Worse”. (In separate posts, so they don’t get into a fight). Get notifications of related posts on twitter.

werdelin.co.uk is the business end of cooperativelearning.works.

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Enquiring & Immersed; a follow-up to yesterday’s field trip

Good learning, good food and the meaning of secular materialism

A brief summary of our first run of Enquiry & Immersion Field Trip to Ihsan Mosque, November 13, 2014.

Morning session – “not like a classroom at all”

Undaunted by materials more suited for Phds, mostly Gifted&Talented Year 10 and a couple of year 9s set to it with a vengeance.

MON1 spider diagram


As always, watching children work is a learning curve for the teacher, too. I have to admit that as I was observing and scaffolding individual teams, I knew I had set the bar too high.

It says very little about my savvy as a teacher and a lot about the the students and Cooperative Learning as a method that the feedback was so positive all round. It was interesting to hear their subjective learning experiences afterwards over lunch; especially they pointed out the focus created by not wanting to let the team down, and getting allocated both space to focus and the space to discuss and get help as key factors.


“…needed to apply yourself, but materials not too hard”

- Max, Year 10, Acle Academy


When reading the above comment, one should bear in mind one of the Year 9s got an extract from Craig’s presentation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument and felt “it was alright.” The ability to legally “get what you get” gives every student a chance, even if it is just a few key points, or a single new concept. “Secular materialism” springs to mind; a special thank you to the “sects” team!

That being said, I am looking to create a wider scope in relation to levels for the next session of Enquiry & Immersion. I am also considering having RE teachers “bring their own,” as it would facilitate the exact teaching they would need in relation to lesson plans, yet the learning would fuse directly with the very open personal meeting in the mosque, where questions could be asked directly. (RE teachers interested in this model should contact me directly on jakobwerdelin@werdelin.co.uk).

Some other very interesting comments include that the session felt “a lot more relaxed than in normal school” in spite of the rigorous timing on interaction, yet expressing a feeling of “not being in a classroom” and that one “didn’t feel pressured to not misbehave.”  There is simply too much engagement and subtle peer  pressure for real off-task behavior. I’ll try to find time to get in more on this later. Get notifications of related posts on twitter.

Note that the Enquiry & Immersion Field Trip incorporates key elements of Islam in RE: Religious Literacy and Controversy through Enquiry, being presented at the Institute of Education in London Friday 21 November.

An afternoon at the mosque

After my session, Hajj Tariq Amin of the Ihsan Mosque took over, and we all sat down for lunch. The ladies siphoned off upstairs and had a long chat on gender roles in Islam and whatnot, out of earshot of any present males, while the boys stayed down, talking to the rest of us as people dropped by, sitting to eat a bite or even just see what was going on.

Paraphrasing our chef, Hajj Rashid of Jamoroc catering, “Eating is meeting”. With both noon and afternoon prayers close together, the students got to see both live and ask questions, integrated with some personal stories and the mosque tour by Hajj Tariq Amin.


“Enjoyed everyone eating from just one plate.”

-Billy, Year 9, Acle Academy



Hajj Tariq narrates how he was stood up by his mate the day he was to become Muslim. “And I thought ‘What’s this?!’ If it had been a church, they would have been all over me”


For me personally, the best thing was the comment that there was a real sense of community in the mosque, as people came and went between prayers, chatting, shaking hands, or just sitting quietly reciting Qur’an in the other end of the room. Space for everyone.

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More on Cooperative Learning and Religious Education and P4C at werdelin.co.uk.

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Potential realised? Celebrating Ofsted Report’s 1st Birthday…

October’s Norwich presentation of Islam in RE took place almost exactly a year after the publication of Realising the Potential

As I pointed out from the onset of the course, Islam in RE: Religious Literacy & Controversy Through Enquiry was created to systematically tackle the problems outlined in Ofsted’s Realising the Potential report. In that sense, Islam is used as an example religion; a placeholder for the content-void nature of the Cooperative Learning RE classroom.

In this post, I would like to walk through the course and connect some of the highlights outlined by Mr Alan Brine of the HMI, who gave the keynote speech at April’s University of East Anglia conference Realising the Potential. Headings below are taken from Mr Brine’s original slides.

There is no doubt the report sees enquiry as the key to effective RE and Mr Brine pointed out that more agreed syllabus focus on enquiry and more teachers are using the language of enquiry. However, this was “Rarely embedded in practice in schools and not embedded in subject rationale.” 

A number of transferable and scalable enquiry exercises were given: the experience of participating in these exercises was very effective.
Laura Gabell, RE teacher, Notre Dame High School
Islam in RE, Norwich CPD, October 23, 2014 


Speaking to teachers present at the conference, one of the concerns that cropped up was the issue of nomenclature: What does enquiry mean? Which school of thought are we talking about when it comes to the nuts and bolts in the classroom?

And assuming enquiry means student-centred learning in one form or another, it is hard to get in there: There is enough work to do as it is, given the huge burden on RE outlined by both Mr Brine himself and Mr Ashton’s recent posts at RE Online – but add to this that in all too many cases non-specialists are doing the teaching (p. 18) . So they don’t know the subject and will not be very likely to loose more control of the learning by trying to run a student-centred enquiry where all kinds of questions may come up.

The report actually pointed out that “teachers using such approaches were not always aware of their purpose” (p. 10), which is why I was quite keen on providing a meta-awareness about the specific aims and purpose of the various Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns, rather than having the course end up as a one-size-fits-all lesson plan.

So these are some of the meta-aspects that should be kept in mind while reading the following.

Pupils rarely develop their skills of enquiry into religion

Using the structural approach to Cooperative Learning in RE, students learn enquiry at every turn on muliple levels, without winding up in “too much unstructured discussion and group work” alluded to in the report (p.12).

Islam in RE CPD course starts with what looks like a classic ice-breaker, where attendees mill around the room and ask each other questions.

C1P slide

The discretely guiding format is made possible by Catch1Partner with teacher-made question cards subtly aiming pupils’ attention at the LOs; the entertainment and excitement of getting out of the chairs and introducing oneself  to a number of people is in fact designed to subtly direct the student’s mind towards the lesson objectives, what the Cambridge CELTA folk call “Activating Schemata.” i.e. activating prior knowledge, and here re-contextualising it to suit LOs.

C1P demo video

See demonstration video.

The questions on the cards are open, fat questions with lots of space to reflect on one’s own opinion and pre-cognizance. Depending on the situation, the teacher may choose to insert a step where the interviewer asks some follow-up questions, to further direct attention to specific areas, but in general we see there is always some form of follow-up comment.


Shortly thereafter, students are made to formulate and define what they wish to learn in a very open format of the 3-Way-Interview (“What do you personally want to learn about [named religion]?”) where students need to create and formulate their own aims as peers interview them for later presentation to the whole team. We talked a bit about high level of individual accountability involved for both interviewer and interviewee and the subtle social pressure afforded by CL which needs to be balanced by social skills and team building.

In this, a meta-awareness of learning is taking place. Even in CPD, I am always tempted to pose the question “What is your responsibility, if you want to achieve these aims?” afterwards.

More so as they actually process “religion” materials, where they not only enquire into materials and need to re-formulate what they are reading, but enquire into the minds of peers working from other materials, or who have other interpretations of the same material. The full format is outlined in previous posts, so there is no need to go into it here at length.

Skills of enquiry… In the following, I am proposing that we may take this as transferable skills in the widest possible sense, which will students to know how to approach any religion they wish to learn from.

I have already posited the idea that as time progressed, the meta-learning of the students, the “learning how to learn”, is achieved by constantly making students aware in an appropriate manner of why and how the Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns are chosen, until the point where the students in Year 12 should be able to be assigned a task, look over the materials and one team member says “Ok, should we do a think-pair-share on this one first, or do you want to do it in a 3-Way-Interview?” and the other team member says, “Hmm, my material is too factual for deep thinking from the start, let’s just Word-Round key issues first to get everything on the table, and then choose how to proceed…”

Here, CL is a tool for teaching information processing collaboration as a skill, and this must be modeled in the same way as everything else. But here, modeling takes place in every subject and in every lesson, remembering the content void nature of CL allows it to fit in anywhere.

I recently attended an expo on Lord Nelson’s victory in the battle of the Nile.  The presenter posited Nelson’s success to a large extent to his trust in his commanders. Rather than micromanaging them through signal flags, as was prevailing tactical orthodoxy at the time, he gave a general objective and allowed them to sieze the initiative as the situation developed.

Understanding was fragmented 

One of Mr Brine’s crucial points was that understanding was fragmented and students made few connections between different aspects of learning in RE. One of the simplest and most effective ways to facilitate connections is the Mind Mapping exercise where students in quite a hands-on fashion, but still fully enquiry based, map out the connections between a host of issues.

As aim of “Islam in RE…” is proper religious literacy through enquiry, students must be made to focus on specific things and spot their interrelation as seen through the eyes of the adherents of the religion, rather than their own.

To achieve this for Islam in RE…, I first presented the Hadith of Gabriel which breaks down Islam into the three distinct areas of action, belief and spiritual awareness of the Divine.  Thus forearmed with this triad of action (Islam), belief (Iman) and spiritual awareness (Ihsan), the aims of the reading exercise were presented:

  1. Discover the relationship between the three areas of Islam, Iman andIhsan.
  2. Discover which of the traditional Islamic sciences were related to these three areas.
  3. Discover subtleties and historical divisions in Muslims’ understanding related to these three areas, and the impact of modern reform movements, especially Wahhabism.

Each team was responsible for a number of texts (see detailed post). Every student was tasked to take one text at a time from a communal pile. They had 20 minutes to read through as many texts as possible and decide how each text relates to Islam, Iman and/or Ihsan  and, crucially, to prepare a concise oral summary of ALL texts.

After the full exercise, which involved also negotiating, mind mapping on A3s and comparing resultant products with other teams in the informal knowledge-sharing exercise 3-for-Tea students were presented with model mind map (thanks to free xmind software) on the IWB, against which they could check their results.


A couple of benefit of allowing students to discover things you could just “tell them for yourself”  at the onset:

  1. it evokes curiosity, which means that they actually pay attention when you finally presents the correct solution on the board – so the apparently wasted time  is well-spent.
  2. it creates a personal reference framework prior information presented in which students can “land” the information, aiding understanding as well as retention.
  3. it provides excellent evidence of learning, as your unobtrusive monitoring and the both the stages and the final product give vital insight into the learning process.

In the next posts we’ll take a look at negating students limited ability to make meaningful links between “learning from” and “learning about” religion, as well as the issue of phobias and an example of mutually exclusive government aims of SMSC which are now keeling over independent faith schools.

As Mr Ashton pointed outRE takes out the trash which we will also have a look at.  Get notifications of related posts on twitter.

I hope in the above outline to have presented at least a few examples of how enquiry may be fused with hard learning, and also to allow students a scaffolded discovery and negotiation of religious “facts” as confusing and irreconcilable as they may seem. As I pointed out in my reflections on Mr Ashton’s article, who is going to believe that upcoming DfE textbook telling us that Islam is Peace & Love and that Muslims adore having Jews and Christians leading their assemblies. It’s the sure way to radicalise a lot of Muslims AND non-Muslims. (See Deradicalisation; it’s not about what you do, it’s about who you are and related post for some research on this).

“…the subject leader recognised that the newly qualified

teachers (NQTs) and other new staff often arrived at the school

expressing low levels of confidence about teaching RE. In response, she

targeted the CPD opportunities on these staff, building a strong RE

component into their induction programme and, as a result, strengthening

subject expertise across the school.”

Realising the Potential (p.29), on CPD

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Filed under Cooperative Learning, CPD, Discovery, Enquiry, get started with CL, Islam, Ofsted, P4C, Philosophy for Children, RE, Religious Education

Bad Arguments in RE; Arming our children’s minds

I have long wanted to introduce the online resource Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments

We have already discussed in numerous posts the the importance of logic and critical thinking, and how these tie to rhetoric. An email from a Birmingham RE teacher seeking advice finally got me to do something about it.

I originally came across this little gem while scoping out materials for what has now become the identity and community building course for Muslim private schools 21c British Muslim; the Solution?

The aim of bookofbadarguments.com is, according to the author, to “help one realize the tools and paradigms that afford good reasoning and hence lead to more constructive debates: Since persuasion is a function of not only logic, but other things as well, it is helpful to be cognizant of those things. Rhetoric likely tops the list, and precepts such as the principle of parsimony come to mind, as do concepts such as the “burden of proof” and where it lies.”



“Hasty generalisations” p. 24.

Not only do the illustrations make Book of Bad Arguments suited even for Primary, but each argument comes with short explanation outlining key points to the teacher (What exactly is Equivocation? - in case you can’t quite remember).

Good CL for bad arguments

However, my point is of course that brilliant materials related to thinking are not very useful when taught from the board – they must necessarily be discovered through thinking, or there will never be ownership. This is where the careful classroom management afforded by Cooperative Learning comes into play – simple, shake-and-bake student-centred learning in small manageable blocks.

A full outline of my ideas connected to this material warrants a full newsletter. However, here is a very simple pointer using that most classic of all Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns called Think-Pair-Share:

First, break up your class into four-man teams and hand out a printed copy* of your favourite bad argument to each student, see example above. (Note that any necessary preparation in relation to context, vocabulary and so forth, as well as the duration of each step, depends on your best judgement as a teacher).

Then pose the question in a Think-Pair-Share, which is composed of four steps:

  1. The teacher presents a task with several possible answers (in this case “What’s wrong with this argument?”)
  2. Working alone, each team member muses over the picture and text, reflects on possible solutions for a given duration, taking notes. (Which will form evidence of learning later).
  3. Teams divide into two pairs of shoulder partners who discuss their solutions, arguing their point, possibly creating a synthesis. (Again decide if you want to support this process with a written element).
  4. Students share their best ideas within the pair in front to deepen their thinking and better prepare a final statement to present to class.

Do not forget the importance of unobtrusive monitoring during steps 3 and 4  as the candid verbalization of opinions during the debate gives teachers a unique insight into the knowledge and thought processes of each individual student.

If you want to present more than one argument simultaneously, try the Jigsaw Puzzle we have outlined. Simply choose your four best ones. More than four. Give one Argument to each team, let them Think-Pair-Share their way to a communal written statement and send out three students to explore other teams’ arguments, bringing them safely home to be discussed and shared in a Word-Round (Thursday’s course attendees should search for the Learning Process Domain “Thinking Skills” in their handouts).

The wider context: Bad Arguments outside RE

For anyone unsure about the relevance of getting the subject of rhetoric into schools should consider this example from the Daily Telegraph:

“Teachers and governors involved in the alleged ‘Trojan Horse’ Islamic takeover plot face life-long bans from all schools in Britain under new powers being taken by Michael Gove.”

Mr Gove, the Education Secretary, wants to use the new powers to ensure that anyone found to have been involved in the plot – allegedly designed to Islamise secular state education in Birmingham – is prevented from working in schools elsewhere in the country.”

This text would be ideal for use in an introduction to thinking skills lesson, for two reasons. Firstly, the content itself exemplifies the kind of sloppy use of language and reasoning: How can someone be involved in an alleged plot? To be involved in something, it has to exist; if it only allegedly exists then you can only be allegedly involved, surely? But of course, the allegation by itself is enough for the hard of thinking, for whom evidence and argument are merely confusing.

The second paragraph builds on the license established by the first – notice that “the alleged ‘Trojan Horse’ Islamic takeover plot” has become simply ‘the plot – allegedly designed to Islamise secular state school education’. One is reminded of a book on the richly fertile imaginary life of young children entitled, ‘Let’s Pretend this is a Snake – By the Way it is a Snake’. Now we have graduated to, ‘Let’s Allege there is a Plot – By the Way, There is a Plot’.**

By observing some of this discourse, one gets the feeling that a noticeable amount of it suffers from the absence of good reasoning. So is this Telegraph article using Equivocation? 

Thinking skills, it would seem, are not just for children these days.

I want to use more cooperative learning in school – want to start it – en masse – with lower school at the beginning of a year so it feeds upwards. …this has reminded me of the importance of structure being properly in place for them to work effectively

Sarah Cobbold, RE teacher, Sct Benedict’s Catholic High School
Islam in RE, Norwich, October 23, 2014 


For a an example of using Think-Pair-Share in relation to religious literacy, see Islam in RE#2 & Norwich High School for Girls#4

See these articles for more on Philosophy for Children and how it relates to the Trivium, which used to provide a anti-nihilistic safety-net against Mr Robinson’s Destructive Why.

For an example of winning a debate in the classroom, see Lefty child-centred teaching, indeed! It’s as odd as Sir Michael’s original comments.

For more on RE courses see other site.

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werdelin.co.uk is the business end of cooperativelearning.works.

* Note Book of Bad Arguments is shared under a Creative Commons BY-NC license, which means that you can freely share and adapt it for non-commercial use with attribution.

** This section is an extract from the co-authored article For Whom the Bell Tolls – The Trojan Horse Autopsy Toolkit to which I contributed on the Cooperative Learning importance of Higher Level Thinking skills.

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No way back to Kansas: The wider context of Thursday’s course

Mr Werdelin has developed a propitious educational project whose significance is as far reaching as its necessity in today’s big education debates…

- Mujadad Zaman, MPhil Educational Research Methods , PhD student candidate at the Faculty of Education, Cambridge University.


For the benefit of attendees of Islam in RE: Religious Literacy & Controversy Through Enquiry this coming Thursday, I would like to put the session into a wider context, hinted at by presenter Mr Mujadad Zaman at June’s pilot the University of East Anglia.

Mr Zaman is currently a PhD student candidate at the Cambridge University Faculty of Education exploring the growing socio-philosophical importance of the University within the Knowledge Society.*

Mr Zaman started by pointing out that our most basic intuitions about reality are being called into questions by the merging of discourses in fields such as consciousness and quantum mechanics.

Therefore a number of high level academics have started to to re-think some traditional assumptions about the relationship between religion and and education.


Zaman & Diboll

Tertiary negotiations; Dr Mike Diboll & Mujadad Zaman

Islam in RE, University of East Anglia, School of Education and Lifelong Learning, June 26, 2014 


The creation of a new paradigm related to epistemology and ontology is one of extreme urgency in view of the deteriorating global situation – economic, political and environmental – which can only be identified as the last stage of post-religious western metaphysics, enframing, as discussed by Lawson at Edinburgh University.

Eager to move into a bright new secular future, scholars of the Enlightenment threw the baby out with the bath water, in the process loosing us the tools for non-nihilist higher level thinking, which were key aspects of traditional religious learning in this country.

RE-tinkering pupils’ minds – yet another “personal development” detour?

As a side note to this, I do see how this could be taken as advocating another detour from the hard presentation of subject matter of religion; and I am aware that there is a strong drive in some circles against “deepening pupils’ understanding of religious ideas” (whether or not these may contribute to personal development) as “a tangible or consistently achievable purpose for a subject.” (quoted from How RE lost its soul by David Ashton).

But as followers of this blog will be aware, I am all for hard, factual learning: Opinions without any foundation are simply whims, and I agree absolutely with this camp about the importance of religious literacy – which incidentally forms the first module of Thursday’s course. (For more on Cooperative Learning and attainment, see previous post on Stalham Academy)

However, religious literacy in a world where we can argue that not even physical objects actually exist, let alone essential religion, building one’s opinions on foundations that are made of (quantum mechanic) sand is not sound.

This goes back to Mr Martin Robinson’s “Research the question before you tell us what the answer is…” we have mentioned in a previous post, where I also in passing discuss the relationship of this issue to Mr Brine’s talk on “Realising the Potential” at the UEA.

It is precisely Mr Zaman’s point that there is a very real and valid reason why Mr Robinson and secular, humanist scholars at Oxbridge are now having a good look at the Trivium, the backbone of European religious education once more.** (Once again I want to promote his book 21c Trivium).

No way back to Kansas

Indeed, any and all attempts to retain a sense of normalcy or ‘business as usual’ or to propose solutions which rest within the failing paradigm of teaching ‘knowledge’ without understanding what knowledge is and how it is acquired must be exposed as irrelevant at best, if not irresponsibly complicit in locking coming generations into repeating our mistakes.

It is my argument that, firmly grounded in social constructivism, the structural approach to Cooperative Learning offers a unique tool to help learners cope and de-construct these paradigms while providing a simultaneous and real integration of hard learning.

On a philosophical level, CL exercises help learners reflect, at their individual levels, on issues of epistemology (“How do you know something?”) and ontology (“What is reality”) in the very practical zone of personal beliefs in the classroom as well as the impact of religion on the lives of people. Here is an exemplary question: “Organisations such as ISIS claim Islam advocates the “Islamic State”. Organisations such as Imaan says Islam advocates “Islamic homosexuality”. But if anyone can reconstruct Islam as they want, does Islam even exist?” How do you know? What does it mean to exist?

Bear in mind this is just glimpsing the tip of the iceberg. Once we start to look at real logic and rhetoric in classic theology and it’s grasp on ontology and epistemology, it’s a different kettle of fish – but necessary, as today’s schoolchildren could very well find themselves – indeed are already, perhaps? – living in a consensual hallucination of the internet, downloaded real-time directly into their nervous system. Is this a game … or reality? Not a moot point for the drone operator.

At the moment, I cannot see which subject apart from RE would be able to launch into this (I am open to suggestions, by all means). But standing on a firm intellectual foundation – for starters being able to distinguish between the necessary, impossible and possible nature of given statements – is necessary as given all 20th century paradigms are collapsing under their own weight.

As I mentioned, the above reflections only serve to form a context to the course Islam in RE, and not a reason to unduly worry your Head: participants will still benefit from the LO’s outlined in the course description. And while not as conspicuously challenging as the above, teaching religious literacy and controversy via Cooperative Learning might give an indication of what is possible, and where I hope to eventually take it in the context of UK education.

Mr Werdelin has developed a propitious educational project whose significance is as far reaching as its necessity in today’s big education debates.

Melding fluency of subject matter with an interactive pedagogy, his sensitivity to faith traditions and the challenges faced by teachers ensures its continued relevancy.

- Mujadad Zaman, MPhil Educational Research Methods , PhD student candidate at the Faculty of Education, Cambridge University.
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* ) Mujadad Zaman has had extensive teaching experience, involved in teaching and supervising for the Undergraduate Educational Tripos. Since starting the PhD, he has presented at numerous international conferences including at the universities of Cambridge, Stanford, LSE and Lancaster. Apart from his interests in education he has presented on a wide range of subjects including comparative education, philosophy of the social sciences, aesthetics, religious studies and Victorian social thought.

Recently he has been Curriculum Coordinator for a new theological college (Cambridge Muslim College) as well as being an educational consultant and researcher for a number of national projects dealing with curriculum development. He has created, taught and evaluated an intensive international summer school, Heritage Summers (Girton College, University of Cambridge) entitled ‘Sliver Spices and Scholarship: An Introduction to Western Intellectual History’ and is currently in the process of setting up an educational support programme for students in Cambridge community.


**) More on the the relation of the Trivium to higher level thinking, identity formation and related community building, see my  Edinburgh University presentation Student-Centred Classroom & the Self-Centred Student.”  Audio recording of the talk now available.


Filed under 21c, Cooperative Learning, CPD, Education policy, P4C, Philosophy for Children, RE, Research

Stalham Academy Head on: Cooperative Learning & the Sutton Trust on Pupil Premium

The acting headteacher, Mr Andrew Howard, discusses his rationale for introducing the structural approach to Cooperative Learning at Stalham Academy after becoming aware of the research of the Sutton Trust on the effective use of pupil premium published in this year’s EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit

The EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit compares collaborative learning with a host of other approaches, including everything from after school programs over behavioral interventions to digital technology. According to the report, collaborative learning is the most cost/efficient approach, based on “extensive evidence.” (See comparison table on page 2).

This is especially true when noting that the only two approaches classified as “high impact for low cost” are Feedback, Peer tutoring and Meta-cognition and self-regulation which are seamlessly integrated into Cooperative Learning as we have discussed in numerous posts.

As the Sutton Trust’s 2014 publication EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit states:

“The impact of collaborative approaches on learning is consistently positive, but it does vary so it is important to get the detail right. Effective collaborative learning requires much more than just sitting pupils together and asking them to work together; structured approaches, with well-designed tasks lead to the greatest learning gains. (…) Approaches which promote talk and interaction between learners tend to promote the best gains” (p. 11).

Getting “the details right” with “structured approaches” and  “well-designed tasks” to “promote talk and interaction between learners” is the very description of Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns (CLIPs) which Mr Howard refers to in this interview.

More posts will follow with reflections from Mr Howard on pupil premium and the response of teachers and pupils at Stalham Academy to Cooperative Learning.

For more information, go to full post on on Werdelin Education’s engagement with Stalham Academy:

Skills and Mastery at Norfolk Academy: Attainment with CL

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werdelin.co.uk is the business end of cooperativelearning.works.

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