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REsilience: Teaching Controversial Topics

Aims of REsilience

The aims of REsilience are to:

  • increase confidence in addressing contentious issues, particularly those sometimes linked with violent extremism
  • provide continuous professional development opportunities for all teachers of RE
  • encourage reflective practice
Beyond the Ordinary teacher recruitment campaign

Belief-based extremism raises contentious and highly sensitive issues and is a topical area of public interest. Most young people are aware that throughout history some extremists have used belief-based arguments to justify violence against people with whom they disagree. Whether young people are equally well-informed about the motivation for such attacks, or about the attitude of mainstream believers, is less certain.

Reasons for lack of confidence in tackling contentious issues in RE lessons vary from teacher to teacher, and circumstances vary from school to school. The issues arising from religious and other belief-based extremism require specific teaching and learning methods. REsilience aims to help teachers foster debate, dialogue and the development of respect and understanding.

In RE, young people explore the faiths, beliefs and values of our communities; but raising or responding to questions about extremism poses challenges for even the most experienced teachers. An important aspect of this subject is the dispelling of ignorance and misconceptions that create suspicion and barriers between communities. Hence the need for REsilience.

This page offers:

  • a portfolio of resources including lesson ideas, reviews and Gateways specially developed for use by teachers to boost their own knowledge and confidence. The Gateways are not intended for classroom use but, rather, to give quick pointers and information to teachers who have little time to spare. They all include ‘signposts’ to further information and other resources (including classroom resources in some cases) for teachers who want to pursue the topic further.
  • self-evaluation and action planning tools

These resources relate to REsilience in English schools. For further information, please contact us

REsilience Gateway documents

The REsilience programme developed a series of Gateways – a range of materials to support teachers in tackling controversial issues which may arise in RE lessons.

Each Gateway document responds to key questions:

  • Why is this a contentious topic?
  • Why is RE relevant to this topic?
  • What classroom challenges might arise in RE?
  • How can teachers address such challenges?

There are four sections – each responding to a section of the Self Evaluation Questionnaire. Each Gateway also gives suggestions for further reading and resources.

You can download the Gateways individually from this page, depending on the topic you are interested in.

  • Gateways Section 1: Key questions at the heart of religious controversy
  • Gateways Section 2: Teaching and learning about contentious issues
  • Gateways Section 3: Management Issues
  • Gateways Section 4: Curriculum Issues

Index of Gateway Documents

Gateways Section 1: Key questions at the heart of religious controversy

1.1: Controversial and contentious issues – terms at the heart of REsilience. View PDF

1.2: Key terms. View PDF

1.3: Terminology related to religious education View PDF

1.4, 1.5 and 1.6: Why do people have different beliefs? Why do people have different interpretations of the same religion? Why are the consequences of faith not the same for all people who profess the same religion or tradition? View PDF

1.7: How do different traditions find answers to ultimate questions and ethical issues? View PDF

1.8: Shared values View PDF

Gateways Section 2: Teaching and learning about contentious issues

2.1 and 2.4: Demonstrating respect for cultures and religions; Adopting an impartial stance while teaching View PDF

2.2: Displaying sensitivity to the home backgrounds and the beliefs of pupils View PDF

2.3: Using display to reflect Britain’s diverse society View PDF

2.5: Advantages and challenges of diversity within communities View PDF

2.6 and 2.9: Developing the skills necessary for discussion and balanced decision making; Managing discussion effectively View PDF

2.7 and 2.8: Encourage pupils to express their own ideas and beliefs in a sensitive and respectful way, even when those ideas and beliefs are negative or controversial; Challenging prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping View PDF

2.10: Effective learning outside the classroom (LOtC) in RE View PDF

2.11: Equality, diversity and building resilience to extremism View PDF

2.12: Engaging appropriate speakers with different beliefs and religious perspectives View PDF

2.13: Internet sites which promote hatred or violence View PDF

2.14: Student Voice View PDF

Gateways Section 3: Management Issues3.1: Effective strategies for teaching contentious issues View PDF

3.2: Basing RE provision on a sound knowledge of religions and beliefs View PDF

3.3: Ensuring that RE provision is effective in promoting equality and social integration View PDF

3.4: Effective collaboration with parents/carers over the ethos of RE and the issues it raises View PDF

3.5: Handling complaints arising from RE lessons fairly and effectively View PDF

3.6: Linking with expert colleagues in the field of RE View PDF

Gateways Section 4: Curriculum Issues4.1: Religious extremism View PDF

4.2: Terrorism claiming religious justification View PDF

4.3a: Religion and conflict: Israel/Palestine View PDF

4.3b: Religion and conflict: Northern Ireland View PDF

4.3c: Religion and conflict: Partition and its aftermath View PDF

4.4: Hatred based on religion, ethnicity or ‘race’, especially when given religious justification View PDF

4.5: Jihad View PDF

4.6: Religions and same-sex relationships View PDF

4.7: Identity, tradition and belonging View PDF

4.8: Understanding social, cultural and political aspects of religion View PDF

4.9: Violence towards women, especially when given a religious justification View PDF

4.10: Islamism View PDF

Index of Gateway Documents
Index of Resilience Gateway Documents View PDF

Evaluation and Action Planning tools

The primary or secondary Self Evaluation Questionnaire (SEQ) will assist a school in reviewing and analysing how confident teachers feel in tackling controversial issues.

Download Word doc – Primary SEQ
Download Word doc – Secondary SEQ

Once the SEQ has been completed and analysed, the action planning tool can assist a school in clarifying the issues raised and help to develop a clear, targetted action plan to achieve desired outcomes.

Download Word doc – Framework for Action Planning

Exemplar lessons

This unit overview for Identity, tradition and belonging exemplifies some possible teaching activities for two lessons within the unit:

  • Lesson 2: Stereotyping and fears: why do people fear difference and how does this fear manifest itself?
  • Lesson 3: Marital traditions and beliefs: are all traditions and beliefs acceptable?

Each lesson is accompanied by a series of resources.

Lesson 2:

Stereotyping and fears: why do people fear difference and how does this fear manifest itself?

Download PDF

Resource 1: Genesis 11, The Tower of Babel View PDF
Resource 2: Quotes View PDF
Resource 3: Albania and Besa View PDF
Resource 4: Account from brothers Hamid and Xhemal Vesel View PDF
Resource 5: Story of Nuro Hoxha, told by son Sazan Hoxha View PDF
Resource 6: Story of Besim and Aishe Kadiu, told by daughter Merushe Kadiu View PDF
Resource 7: Story of Destan and Lime Balla, told by Lime Balla View PDF
Resource 8: Story of Ali Sheqer Pashkaj, told by son Enver Alia Sheqer View PDF

Lesson 3:

Marital traditions and beliefs: are all traditions and beliefs acceptable?

Download PDF

Resource 1: Forced marriages report from Birmingham View video
Resource 2: What religions have to say about marriage View PDF
Resource 3: Generational Differences of beliefs and practices about the purpose and value of marriage. View PDF
Resource 4: Role play View PDF
Resource 5: Activity – Conscience Alley View PDF
Resource 6: Information sheet View PDF

Reviews of resources

As part of the REsilience programme, a series of book, website and other reviews were written by REsilience mentors in 2011. All of these resources are referred to in one or more of the Gateway documents. The reviews have been collated into the following downloadable PDFs, which you may like to consult as you are using the Gateways:

Reviews of books
Reviews of online resources
Reviews of videos
Reviews of articles and reports

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