Save £125 on Islam Awareness Week CPD in Norwich

I am very pleased to announce  that private sponsors of the Islam Awareness Week 2015 programme at Ihsan Mosque has made it possible to make “Islam in RE: Religious Literacy & Controversy Through Enquiry” available to teachers at only £75.

As this full day course to RE/Humanities teachers is normally £200 per head, this means school saves £125 by booking for this Islam Awareness Week event.

This reduced price still includes a light lunch at the adjacent Ihsan Mosque, in-session refreshments and a 26+ page set of handouts. Please mail to book your place.


UEA Islam in RE 2

Catch1Partner at the UEA pilot



See invitation in pdf in your browser:

lille pdf

“Thanks for next year’s lesson plan”

 – D. Clarke, RE coordinator at Wayland Academy, Thetford
Islam in RE, University of East Anglia, School of Education and Lifelong Learning, Norwich, June 26 2014 

Note that this replaces all previous offers for this event. The course will include a live demonstration of Charlie Hebdo lesson plan outlined in previous posts.


All events, please see: Islam Awareness Week 2015 programme in Norwich


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. Use some examples already, but 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 CPD, October 23, 2014

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooperative Learning, CPD, events, Islam, Religious Education, Religious studies, RS

Learning Wisely – Living Virtuously: From the mountain to the valley

High-level cohesion, pulling values from the vacuum, or simply “Why Tertiary should pick up on child-centred learning”.

Yesterday Mona Siddiqui, professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies at Edinburgh University, presented her talk Learning Wisely, Living Virtuously: the challenge of Modern Education at the Thomas Paine Study Center, University of East Anglia. A big thank you to the Keswick trust for making this event available at no cost.

Those familiar with Professor Siddiqui’s BBC4 programmes will recognise many of the themes. It thrilled me that she opened with the issue of teaching values in a society without authoritative meta-narratives. This lead to a critique of the atomisation of education, its focus on the quantifiable over qualitative, as well as the narcissistic self-feeding-frenzy of contemporary consumer culture, which never stops to ask the question “Why?”

Treading carefully, Professor Siddiqui even managed to subtly juxtapose this lack of critical questioning with modernity’s all-pervading question-everything anti-authoritarian ethos, which today makes any discussion of solutions from a religious perspective difficult, if not impossible.

But distrust of authority, however, goes far beyond religion; She described a session where the question “What are your values?” had drawn blank stares from a lecture hall of university students. After coping with this novel concept, it finally transpired that they got their values not from their parents or teachers, but from their peers.

All in all, the Professor echoed my own reflections on this blog, tying together cultivation of values, engagement in deep and meaningful relationships, and the support this would offer community building and cohesion.

Given the title of the talk and the Professor’s engagement, intelligence and scholarship, I was genuinely interested in her ideas about how to translate this into a classroom experience – getting the sage down into the valley, so to speak. Therefore, in the following Q&A, I asked how such demanding human skills (including “humility, respect for hard work, thankfulness”) were to be taught in this context of narcissism, void of narrative and common reference points beyond the latest viral fad.

Alas, the answer here stayed on high ground, circling around the importance of adult role models, balancing the individual vs. community and semantics of values and morals when positioned to children. All highly intelligent and insightful, but nebulous nonetheless. After a few tries, I let it go.

This is in no way a critique of Professor Siddiqui, rather a realisation that she is as much a victim of the atomisation of the education system as the students. It is just not embedded day-to-day practice for researchers and philosophers to sit down with teachers and heads to operationalise ideal education, in spite of  teachers actually having a lot of quite amazing solutions, but no theoretical framework with which to describe them and develop them.

Caught in the revolving doors?

In reality, the most enlightening part of the evening took place later: Before I had even  risen from my seat, I was whirled up in conversation with a 22-year-old MA student at the UEA and a local Primary teacher in her 50s. Between myself and these two women, one in the spring and one at in autumn of life, choice, consequence, internalisation of learning, caring control versus freedom to fail, experience, art, expressiveness, identity; it all ignited.

On the way out, outlining my own work in relation to these  topics, I had only to say the word Cooperative Learning, and the MA student burst out with “Oh, I’d love to have some of that. That’s exactly what we need at university!”

It just so happened that a gatekeeping member of UEA staff stood only eight feet away, and I jokingly suggested she present her ideas to someone who actually had the power to do something, which I suppose is frightfully Scandinavian of me. Unfortunately, said academic needed to escort Professor Siddiqui from the centre, so this opportunity to cross-fertilize between a live student, a decision-maker, two practitioners and a government level philosopher was lost in a revolving door.

With staff and guests gone, the three of us continued the chat in the empty hall of the Thomas Paine Centre, doing what in Danish is referred to as “redde verden”; i.e. “saving the world” – vernacular for solving universal problems over a cuppa.

The hip bone’s connected to …

I realised in all this the underlying importance of  the educators’ workshop Healing Fractures II: Aside from hopefully inspiring and enlightening all participants on the subject, I wish to find a model in which stakeholders in any area may meet in something that is at once a chit-chat cafe and a ground-breaking, result-oriented down-to-business meeting – both of the highest caliber.

I was very generously offered a proper panel speech by one of the participants, Dr Lee Jarvis, who could easily have filled the Thomas Paine Center by himself. It was very tempting for a host of reasons, but in the end, I feel the format of panel-question/answer is not the answer here, even by a Senior Lecturer in International Security or a Professor in Islamic and Interreligious Studies:

Healing Fractures II is first and foremost about looking at information and information processing in another way and harnessing the power of didactic strategies to let a wide variation of stakeholders construct and funnel knowledge through highly complex networks – and secondly to capture that processing as clear, effective, next-action steps. The atomised take on knowledge is not an option in the 21st century.

And it is about equality, it is about exploring with genuine interest (facilitated by the format of Cooperative Learning) other people’s reflections, negotiating meanings and reality-checking ideas. And, in that, perhaps discovering that while we may think ourselves mountains of knowledge, we may be someone else’s valley floor. Whether this is wisdom is hard to say, but I remember when I was taught the Islamic sciences at the hand of a traditional Moroccan teacher: “Knowledge always flows downwards.” 

Professor Siddiqui’s most important statement came as an afterthought, reflecting on our questions at the very end of the Q&A:

“…I don’t know how we can get out of this,

except to re-analyse the purpose of education.”

First thing to do on a Monday morning, 16 March 2015, in the beautiful rooms of the Norwich Wellbeing Centre.

Lucy's man

“OK – Wow, I really am lost.”

This small clay figure is the handy-work of said primary school teacher,

scanned from her business card.




Related posts:

P4C? No, P4U! – Mr Lawson on enframing.
What comes out of the Birmingham “Trojan Horse”? - Critical thinking to go.
Empowering communities through Student-Centred Learning - The Palestinians seem to get it…
Transcript of “The Student- Centred Classroom & The Self-Centred Student…” – Paper presented at the BRAIS  inaugural conference, Edinburgh University, 11 April 2014.
Get notifications of related posts on twitter. is the business end of

Disclaimer: This material represents my own focus and understanding and may not accurately reflect the intentions of the speaker.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooperative Learning, Didactic methodologies, Discovery, events, Multiculturalism, P4C, Philosophy for Children, Research, social skills

A note on the attacks on Ihsan Mosque in Norwich

In the early morning hours, persons unknown broke the windows of Ihsan Mosque in Chapel Field and fled.

Thank God, no-one was hurt in the attack, as the only person present was in the kitchen in the back of the building. And what was he doing? He was preparing food for visiting children from an East Anglian secondary, who arrived Monday morning to find the shattered front windows boarded up.

ihsan mosque note

“So saddened by this mindless act…” a note of support, taped to the Mosque door.

The attack vindicates my previous claims that Muslims do need to provide more than standard mosque tours. In fact, with the very ambitious new school field-trip programme Enquiry & Immersion, we hope to establish the Muslims of Norwich as a valuable resource for subject knowledge on Islam and to moderate negative stereotyping by facilitating religious literacy through independent enquiry and personal encounters.

It is unlikely that the timing of the attack is directly related to this new educational initiative. However, I do wish to clarify to any concerned parties, parents and teachers, that students are not being sat down in Ihsan Mosque and indoctrinated. On the contrary, the new enquiry element allows pupils to explore, discuss and decide what they actually think about Islam, including Jihad, gender issues, etc. I also would like to note that all materials are carefully picked in association with RE coordinators from Norfolk schools.

MON1 spider diagram

Mind now full – rather than mindless – and primed with questions, pupils then have the opportunity to informally sit and chat with community members over lunch, ask questions in a personalised setting, before seeing the prayer and touring the mosque.

I have noted before that drilling children, Muslims or not, with high-flying claims about Islam which are disproved by daily news is not a solution to community cohesion issues. A successful 21st century Britain requires investigative and critical thinking skills above all else.

In presenting Enquiry & Immersion, we hope to establish the Muslims of Norwich as a valuable resource for education and to moderate negative stereotyping by facilitating religious literacy through independent enquiry and personal encounters.

Ihsan mosque front door

The community wishes to thank, Ruth Phelps, Jan McLachlan of ‘We Are Norwich – against racism and fascism’ and the many others who showed up or voiced their support.

Leave a comment

Filed under community building, Islam, Multiculturalism, Religious Education, Religious studies, RS

Burning issues in the RE classroom; morals & the murder Moaz al-Kasasbeh

The sadistic murder of the captured Jordanian fighter pilot is an example of a more general, symptomatic issue related to ISIS, which should be pointed out in classrooms and is useful for staging further enquiry into moral dilemmas.

First of all, specifically related to subject matter of Islam, ISIS claims to be fighting to establish the Sharia (Islamic law). However, killing people by fire is forbidden by the Sharia because of a clear narration (hadith) from the Prophet explicitly forbidding this practice.


Use the following evidence if needed: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) sent us in a mission (i.e. am army-unit) and said, “If you find so-and-so and so-and-so, burn both of them with fire.” When we intended to depart, Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “I have ordered you to burn so-and-so and so-and-so, and it is none but Allah Who punishes with fire, so, if you find them, kill them.” (Source – )

Note to students that Sahih al-Bukhari is one of the so-called “Sacred Six” collections of narrations which, along with the Qur’an, is universally recognised by Sunni Muslims to constitute the textual canon of Islam; a fact which even ISIS would find it impossible to openly deny).

A benefit of showing this hadith in its entirety is that it does not negate the martial aspect of the Prophetic mission, but shows that there are rules to it. The connection here to Europe’s attempts at dealing with the reality of warfare through the Geneva Conventions should be obvious, and exploring the similarities and differences of the two systems would be an interesting way of ‘learning from religion’ while retaining a clear footing in  – and very likely discovering – one’s own intellectual heritage and history.

In relation to the actual event, the first question worth asking in class is how one may reconcile ISIS calling to religious law, while wantonly and publicly breaking it?

I’d choose either Think-Pair-Share or Word-Round for this, depending on the level of the class. With gifted students, Word-Round a 2 minute presentation per student with a 2 minute preparation (and notes to provide written evidence) is preferable.

For the Word-Round, teams should no bigger than four, and make sure listeners take notes. This means 10 minutes in total for four-member teams, i.e. 2 minutes preparation plus 4 students x 2 minutes. A benefit of the timed Word-Round is that 2 minutes mean 2 minutes, not 1 or one-and-a-half. The students need to be on, and on-target, in front of two or three peers taking notes: weak students don’t get away with a single sentence, strong students need to focus all that thinking into a few key points.

Aside from “because they are insane and violent religious fanatics”, it may surface that they are, in a sense, quite rational: The violation of the Sharia serves the purpose of making their enemy desist through terror. And having said this, we have said they have a higher purpose than the Sharia, i.e. their own all too human aims.

This begs the wider question of the classic moral dilemma: “Is evil ok if it serves a higher aim?”, which may then be used as a lead-in to relevant SMSC; use relevant  non-religious parallels, such as rendition and torture to prevent domestic terrorism, the fire-bombing of 25.000 civilians in Dresden to stop Hitler, etc.

Or directly related to the recent incident, discuss white phosphorous ordnance used extensively in Afghanistan and Iraq: “If it’s not ok to burn a single individual to death in a cage to achieve one’s goal, why is it all right to burn 20 to death in their own house?”

Then, moving up a level:

If both religious and non-religious people have their moral compass governed by expediency, what is the difference?”  and/or “Shouldn’t we expect a higher standard from religious people who fear an all-seeing God, than a man who only fears a war crimes trail in the Hague? Why, why not?”

This is where the real meta-level question of the role of religion comes in, which involves both ontology and epistemology, discussed in previous posts on the new role of RE and P4C. See links below.

And finally, more on the level of personal decision and individual responsibility, using an example of western violence against civilians most students should be familiar with: “Do you think that the pilots dropping the atomic bomb that burned 45.000 people to death in Hiroshima  did so with a good intention? What might it have been?” – “Do you think that the ISIS soldiers burning Moaz al-Kasasbeh did so with a good intention? What might it have been?”

Use the 3-way-Interview to draw out reflections among students themselves before discussing in open class and use your monitoring to pick out the best, most toxic or interesting topics for further enquiry. The interview format has the benefit of supporting weaker students through question gambits, allows interactive pursuit of topics, and mirroring of one’s own opinions.

This Cooperative Learning Interaction Pattern is outlined on page 7 of the lesson plan Charlie’s Angels or Sympathy for the Devils… RE Lesson Plan on Paris attacks. Full post and materials here.

For further investigation into Islam, this could also be tied to more general hadith such as “The merciful are shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Have mercy to those on earth, and the Lord of the Heavens will have mercy upon you.” (source link).

Some related links:

ISIS for Secondary RE teachers: A deeper look at Islamist/modernist reform

P4C? No, P4U!

What comes out of the Birmingham “Trojan Horse”? - Critical thinking to go

Get notifications of related posts on twitter. is the business end of

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooperative Learning, Enquiry, Islam, P4C, Philosophy for Children, PSHE, RE, Religious Education, Religious studies, RS

21st Century British Muslim – solved?

I want to thank attendees at yesterdays presentation of 21st Century British Muslim – the solution? and the staff at Date Valley School, London, for providing a venue for the first run of this event for the Association of Muslim Schools.

This course is designed for faith schools looking to meet latest requirements related to SMSC, safeguarding and British values provided by outstanding student-centred teaching, without compromising unique faith school ethos, and is nothing less than an operationalisation of the reflections outlined in What comes out of the Birmingham “Trojan Horse”?


lock the door

Islamic, British, or both? Clash of the icons – an exit door at Date Valley School

We are therefore especially pleased that all participants classified Presenter’s Preparation & Methodology, Course Materials and Course in relation to expectations  as either good or outstanding.

The following headings are course units, with their LOs and relevant highlights. Paragraph heading reflect course outline and function as a summary for participants and an introduction to interested parties, including Christian and other schools serving faith communities. RE teachers looking for free, online resources on Islamic civilisational contributions will find links in relevant chapters.

The units followed ice-breaker exercise and personal introductions. (For instructions of the first CLIP used, Catch1Partner, please see Potential realised? Celebrating Ofsted Report’s 1st Birthday…)


Cooperative Learning does not require you to:
  1. make changes to your lesson plans
  2. buy or create special materials
  3. use this method through-out a lesson
  4. use this method in every lesson.
However, it  does allow you to:
  1. monitor pupils’ learning in real time
  2. integrate social skills at every turn
  3. facilitate subject learning and higher level thinking through student-centred learning
  4. secure written evidence of learning
  5. drive up attainment, progress and close achievement gaps. (see posts on the Sutton Trust)
Throughout the day, participants’ attention was drawn to practical examples of how  Cooperative Learning makes this possible.
Whats a CLIP?  The building blocks of any shake-n-bake student-centred lesson are the “Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns” which:

  1. define step-by-step which how students interact with materials and each other
  2. are void of content

This means the same CLIP may be used again and again, using different content across all subjects. For instructions of the first CLIP used, Catch1Partner, please see Potential realised? Celebrating Ofsted Report’s 1st Birthday…

  1. First decide your lesson aims and the content (materials, questions, tasks)
  2. then choose the appropriate CLIP to meet your needs.
“CL does not run your lesson. You lead you donkey, not the other way around.”
- course leader, in-session



This is the wider context of the course objectives, especially vital given the extreme focus of immigrant communities of career relevance discussed in the previous post on the course.

  1. Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
  2. Creativity & Innovation
  3. Communication & Collaboration
  4. Flexibility & Adaptability
  5. Initiative & Self-Direction
  6. Social Cross-Cultural Skills
  7. Productivity
  8. Accountability
  9. Leadership & Responsibility
The above from 2008 OECD: 21st Century Skills: How can you prepare students for the new  Global Economy? More on the other site.
I really enjoyed the CLIP where we had to move around and  find a partner. I am usually quite shy when meeting new people, so this forced me to actually get up and initiate a conversation with a person that I hadn’t met before.” 

- Participant, 21st Century British Muslim, Date Valley School, 2015



During the course of this unit, students 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,” “British” or both.
  3. …negotiate the meaning of these terms in each case

…through negotiation precisely define which aspects of values and activities that are “Islamic” or not, by using a tailored Think-Pair-Share to place them appropriately in Venn Diagrams.

We underlined the necessity of pupils to routinely take notes at every turn before, during and after interaction with other students. We exemplified tailoring assessment to on-the-fly issues using variations of Catch1Partner. Also see resources found on this blog, such as Monitoring and real-time feedback in the Cooperative Learning classroom
During the course of this unit, students 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

integrating vital cross-curricular 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; understanding and memorization

See Norwich High School for Girls; A tailored workshop lesson plan and following posts, for a detailed lesson plan, including the spider diagramming.

During the course of this unit, students will…

  1. …discover the greatness of Muslim intellectual heritage and civilizational contributions.
  2. …feel pride and a sense of worth and self-respect.
  3. …perceive that Islam historically has promoted scientific and technological discovery and enquiry.

…relate the above to the current situation of Muslims in the UK….reflect on what this means to their own future lives as Muslims in Britain.

For this Unit I used the Discover the Muslim Heritage in our World. Science Activities for 11-16 year olds… from the 1001 Inventions Abu Dhabi Teachers’ Pack We simply staged the lesson on page 71-79 with a series of CLIPs . This material is freely available to download courtesy of, and is a useful resource for RE teachers looking to provide another angle on Islamic history. The 1001 Inventions Teacher’s Pack is available to download free of charge here. (Click here to download the supplements for Scotland).
1001 teacher pack
This unit provided a participants with an opportunity to reflect on staging a lesson using CLIPs, and provided conclusive evidence that Cooperative Learning does deliver what it promises:
  • materials were not changed.
  • all questions in the plan were answered
  • pupils’ learning monitored in real time
  • social skills integrated at every turn
  • subject learning and higher level thinking & communication facilitated
  • written evidence of learning secured
  • Individual Accountability, Positive Interdependence, Equal Participation, Simultaneous Interaction at every stage ensured
“Looking forward to using some of the clips in Islamic Studies to incorporate SMSC Higher Level Thinking Skills and critical engagement.”
21st Century British Muslim, Date Valley School, 2015


Here we presented how to use a science lesson to promote these aims. Distillation, the means of separating liquids through differences in their boiling points, was invented around the year 800 by Islam’s foremost scientist, Jabir ibn Hayyan, who transformed alchemy into chemistry, inventing many of the basic processes and apparatus still in use today – liquefaction, crystallisation, distillation, purification, oxidation, evaporation and filtration.


As well as discovering sulphuric and nitric acid, he invented the alembic still, giving the world intense rosewater and other perfumes and alcoholic spirits. Ibn Hayyan emphasised systematic experimentation and was the founder of modern chemistry.

The same basic methods are used in fractional distillation plants at oil refineries to convert crude oil into gas and petroleum. The following questions were then posed to the class:
  1. “If the Muslims invented the distillery- why not the the oil refinery?
  2. “Think about your answers and look at the Muslims in the UK;which skills are needed right now?”
  3. “What can we, as Muslims, do to acquire these skills?”
Using the Catch1Partner below, these questions were posited in an engaging open class setting to ensure maximum simultaneous interaction and equal participation, giving everyone room to discuss freely with a variety of partners. At this point, participant were so used to the Catch1Partner format that they were able to change partners in under ten seconds, a vital class skill. 
Dropped between each question was the ever-useful: “In turns, summarize what you discussed with your previous partner!”
 C1P slide
I will definitely use the CLIPs where pupils have to think about their own argument and counter-argument to an issue that they don’t personally agree with. I teach Citizenship, and students always have to think about the opposite point of view.” 

- Participant

21st Century British Muslim, Date Valley School, 2015
During the course of this unit, students will…

  • have made a safe enquiry into potential conflict areas between Islamic and British Values
  • be able to describe, correlate, criticise, and synthesise some of the viewpoints and arguments about freedom of expression, religious tolerance, the role of media, Islamic vs. secular (British) values, and consequences of terrorism, specifically related to the attacks on Charlie Hebdo.
 This unit modeled the full “Sympathy for the devils” lesson plan, using original materials. Especially for Muslim children, with very set viewpoints, stepping into the role of their opponent and actually arguing against their own opinion is a taxing experience, but vital for understanding and integrating the intellectual, cultural and historical context from which perceived anti-Islamic statements arise. Sympathy for the Devils, indeed…
Final steps were feedback and session assessment using Simultaneous Write-Round. See video of Ms Rebecca Lamb, an NQT in Year 6 at Stalham Academy, describing some of her experiences adopting CLIPs from the Skills & Mastery course, including Write-Rounds and Think-Pair-Share.
Educationalist intersted in the overarching aims of this course are invited to attend Healing Fractures II,  16 March 2015.

The workshop will enquire into various themes, including:

  • systemic issues and the purpose of ‘modern’ education in secular post-modernity
  • community building boundaries; Birmingham, et al.
  • the new role of religion and Religious Education:  SMSC, PHSE, Citizenship & British values
  • student-centred paradigms; renegotiated power relationships or egotism?
  • social constructivism as a democratic skill set; British values as an example
  • beyond now; P4C, the Trivium and the Islamic connection in English educational history
  • Islam and Muslim alternative education; problem for whom or solution to what?

Please contact me on for more information.

I shall attempt to answer a few of the feedback questions in ensuing posts. Get notifications of related posts on twitter. is the business end of
For reflections on adopting Cooperative Lesson as a whole school ethos by Ms Gillespie, Deputy Head at Stalham Acacemy, see this video.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooperative Learning, CPD, get started with CL, integration, Islam, Lesson plans, Multiculturalism, PSHE, social skills

NQT on adopting Cooperative Learning … as an NQT.

How CLIPs accentuate PGCE training and allows tailoring to individual classrooms.

Ms Rebecca Lamb, an NQT in Year 6 at Stalham Academy, describing some of her experiences adopting CLIPs (Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns) from the Skills & Mastery course.

Cooperative Learning is especially well-suited for new teachers struggling to land the ideals of university during their first couple of years, because  integrates best-practice theory of PGCE courses with the tight control needed to manage classes, drive learning and secure evidence in a live scenario.

I refer you here to chalkboardandchat‘s honest memories of those early days, that some classes will find group work really difficult and it will take time to build up the skills they need to work well in group situations. Cooperative Learning, as pointed out by Ms Gillespie in a previous interview“They’ve learned how to learn through those CLIPs.”

From the same post, some really sound advice: Create a memory bank of quick no-prep activities. Here, I would refer to those classroom flashcard libraries referred to earlier which can be dropped into a Catch1Partner at the drop of a hat.


Rebecca Lamb

Open video in browser

“I had already been using a few techniques that I had learnt from my training, but this really accentuated the training,

You *can* make it personal to your children, you *can* adapt it to however it suits you (…) We’ve just completed a series of tests that show a massive increase since September, where they weren’t using these strategies, to now, when they have.


More videos from Stalham Academy’s head and deputy head on Ofsted, attainment, whole school approach …

video icons


Get notifications of related posts on twitter.
. is the business end of


Leave a comment

Filed under Cooperative Learning, get started with CL, Tips & tricks, videos

21st century British Muslim in London; a message from the course leader

I have been asked by Association of Muslim Schools management to provide some more detail on the event Cooperative Learning: “21st century British Muslim – the Solution?” to take place on 3rd February in London. The recent events in Paris have only underlined the importance of this course, and the course unit Negotiating conflicting values & viewpoints has been fully committed to dealing with the attacks.
For this reason, we wish to make RE and Humanities teachers, and others responsible for PSHE, SMSC and Citizenship in state schools and non-Muslim faith schools aware of this event. We do so in the hope of presenting Muslim faith schools as a resource rather than being seen as a part of the problem. The Cooperative Learning techniques presented are content void, have instant positive impact, and will fuse with the needs of your specific school.

“Cooperative Learning has had an immediate quantifiable impact on learning at our school”
- Andrew Howard, acting Head, Stalham Academy
In summary, Muslim faith schools today are focused on four key areas: The first two are the main reasons parents  send their children, the third is more a priority among Muslim educationalists, as made abundantly clear at last year’s Islamic Education Conference.
They are:
1. Outstanding attainment, to ensure social mobility, and to meet DfE requirements.
2. Preservation of cultural and religious identity, however this is defined.

3. And that both have the broader aim of benefiting wider society, i.e. make Islam and Muslims widely recognised as a valuable, effective force for good in Britain, as was traditionally the case wherever the religion took root. See Islamic Education Conference #1; The Holy Trinity of Muslim Education for more information.


And finally,

4. That schools survive the next two years, as controversies over British values, safeguarding, SMSC etc. multiply and intensify.


What’s wrong with this picture?


To Muslim faith schools with often  limited resources, these four seem to be almost mutually exclusive requirements; the upcoming AMS UK course, 21st century British Muslim – the Solution? is a tentative first step at effectively unraveling this conundrum.

The solution – ?

The past 20 years have seen the development overseas of a structural approach to Cooperative Learning to create an effective version of the student-centred learning environment demanded by businesses and governments. (For full details on this issue and its connection to Muslim communities, see transcript of Edinburgh Seminar “The Student- Centred Classroom & The Self-Centred Student…”).

Cooperative Learning ensures tight classroom management and reliable assessment, is transferable across all subjects and levels, and fuses seamlessly with existing lesson plans and materials.

Though based on a comprehensive theoretical framework, it is a practical classroom tool, easily mastered even by NQTs and unqualified teachers, and may be deployed with immediate effect. Note that any lesson that integrates Cooperative Learning will comply with Ofsted student-centred ideals and the collaborative learning facilitated has been described by the Sutton Trust’s EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit as the best use of Pupil Premium.

Values – deconstruction, reconstruction

More importantly, Cooperative Learning integrates subject matter with social skills, higher level thinking and advanced language needed for the fast, fluid and unpredictable nature of 21st century education requirements, job markets – and even constructed cultural conflicts such as “Islamic vs. British values.” We refer you to the recently published lesson plan dealing with the Paris attacks, which may be equally deployed in Muslim faith schools. We aim to present this lesson plan in the course as a seperate unit entitled Negotiating conflicting values & viewpoints: political, cultural and religious.

“I find the Think-Pair-Share and rotating reading are effective. They are scalable, encourage teambuilding and mastery of knowledge easily”
- Ehsan, English History and Computing/ICT teacher, Manara Academy

This instability means there is no conclusive answer; hence the question mark in the course title. Rather, the solution is precisely the open-ended, yet subtly guided, social constructivism of Cooperative Learning which may potentially facilitate both outstanding attainment and tools for empowered students to formulate authentic British Muslim identity ahead of media and politicians.

To quote Winston Churchill: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

For this reason, it is my intention that ideas and feedback from this course should be used to organically adapt and develop these strategies over time through a nationwide network of interested educationalists.


J. Werdelin

Course leader


Further engagement

Educationalists outside the Muslim community looking to engage,  consider attending this year’s Healing Fractures Educators’ Workshop, a full-day follow-up to last year’s success.


More information on
NQT video interview on Cooperative Learning, PSHE, peer support, social skills.
Deputy head video interview on Ofsted compliance.
Head Teacher video interview on Sutton Trust and Pupil Premium.
“In terms of Cooperative Learning (…) very, very good and worthwhile taking away and trying to implement (…) the discursive element was fantastic.”
 - Usman Qureshi, Head of Al-Khair Primary & Secondary School
Healing Fractures, Islamic Awareness Week, Norwich, March 17, 2014
. is the business end of

1 Comment

Filed under 21c, Cooperative Learning, CPD, events, integration, Islam, Multiculturalism