Incorporating the ‘Dynamite of Diversity’ into the complex web of ‘Memory and Recall’

Having written 21 pages of notes during the month of Strictly RE , it was difficult to know where to begin with tweaking and developing my curriculum. I have been teaching 5 years and have attended Strictly RE annually since beginning my career and the inspiration and ideas never seem to run short. Each year, I am inspired and I go away from the weekend wondering how much of my curriculum I can adapt, to accommodate new ideas that have left me feeling a real buzz.

Strictly 2023 did not disappoint. I could discuss the excellence of every session I attended, but instead I will focus on two that I felt would complement each other allowing me to weave elements of each together to further support my GCSE students.

During the weeknight sessions I attended ‘The Dynamite of Diversity in Christianity’ led by the wonderful Lat Blaylock. In this session we considered diversity within the Christian faith, looking at how our own context – background, culture, race – influences our understanding, and how we might encourage discussions about less known denominations of Christianity in lessons. Sparking my interest particularly was the use of artwork from globally diverse Christian communities to decolonise Jesus. As I already use a great deal of artwork with my students, as part of discussion activities, this session led me to think beyond this. I questioned how I might be able to incorporate different and specific images in lessons to support knowledge retention through retrieval.

This brings me onto the other seminar I would like to discuss. As part of the main weekend, I attended ‘Recall and Memory’ with the ever-engaging Rachael Jackson-Royal. Whilst many of us now regularly use retrieval practice in lessons, and we understand that students simply forget things, Rachael discussed how we might better use our knowledge rich specifications, and precious, small amount of time, to better equip our students to remember. What resonated with me was this idea of low stakes retrieval, including higher order thinking, rather than just basic recall and considering what prior learning is relevant to the lesson content. This brought me to entwining the two sessions together.

In order to further support my GCSE groups, I wanted to take away the simplicity of basic recall at the start of a lesson and weave in high order thinking, that was not only challenging, but low stakes and engaging. I began to utilise images (some from Picturing Christianity from RE Today) and open questioning as a method of knowledge recall, with the images enabling students to be creative in their responses, as an image allows for differing interpretations. Within the task, I asked them to consider what they believed the image was showing, which Christian story they felt the image best linked to and why, which Christian teachings they might associate with the image and why, and finally (in some cases) how might the image begin to decolonise Jesus. I began to use this technique intermittently in my GCSE lessons and it gave the students a level of freedom of interpretation, whilst also assessing their prior knowledge and ability to recall. It also enabled me to discuss with students interesting ideas that reached beyond the requirements of the GCSE specification.

In conclusion, the inspiring sessions of those in the RE world yet again allowed me to create something new, appropriate for my setting, which inspires the young people in front of me. I am able to challenge my students whilst also supporting them in exam preparation and memory and recall – a number of key ingredients leading to student success.

This post was written by Jenni Rawlinson, follow her Twitter here!