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Religion and Culture in the Classroom and the Curriculum Developing an Inclusive Curriculum Friday 7 September 2007 Dr Emma Tomalin, Subject Centre for.

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Presentation on theme: "Religion and Culture in the Classroom and the Curriculum Developing an Inclusive Curriculum Friday 7 September 2007 Dr Emma Tomalin, Subject Centre for."— Presentation transcript:

1 Religion and Culture in the Classroom and the Curriculum Developing an Inclusive Curriculum Friday 7 September 2007 Dr Emma Tomalin, Subject Centre for Philosophical and Religious Studies and Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Leeds

2 Supporting Cultural and Religious Diversity in Higher Education The PRS Subject Centre has been working with other subject centres to explore the implications of cultural and religious diversity in higher education. For example, how does cultural and religious diversity impact upon teaching style, content, assessment and student support? The project was set up in response to interest from the academic community as they find themselves working with an increasingly diverse student population.

3 Changing Dynamics in Higher Education and Wider Society Internationalisation Widening participation Debates about multiculturalism New legislation: The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 were introduced in response to the EUs Employment Directive. Outlaws discrimination on grounds of religion or belief in employment and vocational training. Associated legislation, but outside of the immediate remit of this project, includes anti-racism legislation and the proposed anti-religious hatred laws.

4 The project so far…. Design and dissemination of questionnaire to individuals working in higher education; On-line resources to assist individuals in answering specific questions relating to cultural and religious diversity in their work environments; Faith Guides; Collection of good practice case studies.

5 Main focus of questionnaire Asked respondents: 1.to tell us about situations when they felt it was necessary to make adjustments to accommodate students cultural and religious needs. 2.what hindered and what helped them. 3.for suggestions about how Higher Education Academy subject centres could support staff in the future in similar situations.

6 My own lack of cultural awareness certainly hindered me at first. It is still something that I am learning on the job. There are also some issues relating to an institutional lack of cultural awareness within the NHS (healthcare). I feel ignorant about religious beliefs and what the rules and customs are – e.g. drinking behaviour, making jokes about the typical student lifestyle that might offend (psychology). I would very much like some sort of general advice guide as to the branches of Muslim belief and other religions and an outline of the practices of these religions. For example, knowing that fasting may cause students to go to sleep in class! (law).

7 A typical situation was finding or using relevant examples to illustrate the course content - management studies related to social services and care homes, in this example. Many of these students worked only within racial minorities and language, custom and practice differed from those of white colleagues. The situation is not unique to ethnic minorities of course - some parts of the UK are very different to others (business management and health). I am pretty unaware of the potential needs a Muslim female might have for residential fieldwork arrangements…so a check list of things to consider, perhaps as a constructive way of having that conversation during making arrangements, might be useful (physical geography).

8 Main findings and their relationship to the curriculum In terms of situations that respondents had faced, four main categories: 1.Religious festivals and holy days 2.Course content 3.Teaching styles 4.Student participation

9 Course content 1.reflecting worldviews, cultural background of students (e.g. teaching of psychology reflecting 'western' values) 2.avoiding 'sensitive' issues? Sex(uality), politics (e.g. Islam and terrorism), evolutionary theory etc... BUT, At what level is it appropriate to challenge views of students?

10 Teaching styles: Being aware of teaching styles students are familiar with Avoiding imposing stereotypes Student participation: In social events (e.g. food and alcohol restrictions, gender issues) In the classroom (e.g. mixed groups, anti-vivisection, clothing - health and safety regulations) In work placements (e.g. clothing, restrictions facing women, cultural constraints concerning certain occupations)

11 Forthcoming paper: Tomalin, E., Pedagogy and Beyond: Supporting Cultural and Religious Diversity in Higher Education. Teaching in Higher Education, 2007, 12(5-6) (special edition on Diversity and Commonality in Higher Education). Web details for resource on religious and cultural diversity:

12 Workshop activity: In groups/pairs discuss 1)An example from your own teaching experience or broader subject area where religious and cultural diversity has had or could have an impact upon the curriculum; 2)How you did or could deal with this; 3)What hindered and what helped; 4)What support could be offered to academics to deal with religious and cultural diversity in the classroom; 5)Whether and/or to what extent the curriculum should be broadened to accommodate religious and cultural perspectives


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