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Jun 26, 2023

Education After Silos: Science & Religion with Dr. Sibel Erduran (podcast)

Because we live in complex societies, learning how to explore big questions through an interdisciplinary lens is increasingly important.

By Templeton Staff

In the United Kingdom, in public state schools, science and religious education (RE) are part of the national curriculum. Students may study the same subject from the angle of both science and religion, yet historically there's been little interaction between each subject's teachers. Dr. Sibel Erduran, a professor of Science Education at the University of Oxford, is working to address this gap by examining the role that argumentation can play across subject areas. Argumentation is the ability to coordinate knowledge and values in reaching justified conclusions. With backing from Templeton World Charity Foundation, she leads a team exploring how argumentation can help students in secondary schools achieve deeper understanding of what they're studying and bridge disciplinary divides.

Contemporary life and issues "require complex problem solving, and we're not really doing justice to students if we just teach the subjects in silos, and they don't know how to connect these subjects in a real-world situation," says Erduran. "We need to be more mindful of presenting more complex problem solving to students in lessons, and that requires more cross-subject collaboration and interaction."

Listen to the episode with the above player.

Key takeaways:

  • The project recruited 30 educators: 15 science teachers and 15 RE teachers to participate in workshops and worked together in their schools, facilitated by a study researcher. It was up to the educators to determine how they would collaborate and what they would collaborate on. Some of the teachers would pair up and plan lessons together, splitting the content in a way that would make sense in a science context versus an RE context. Sometimes they taught the lessons separately, sometimes together. Pictured above in a photo courtesy of Dr. Sibel Erduran.
  • One of the significant findings is the different emphases in argumentation between science and religious education teachers. Science teachers tended to prioritize factual information and accuracy, while religious education teachers focused more on the relative nature of evidence and multiple perspectives.
  • "Ultimately, the big goal is to enthuse students, enthuse future generations, and to get them to have a sense of awe and wonder in what they're experiencing in schools, so that schools are not irrelevant in the age of the internet," shares Dr. Erduran. Her work advocates for creating spaces in education where students can raise big questions and explore them, fostering enthusiasm and passion for learning.

Learn about the research project related to this episode.

Read the transcript from the interview conducted by journalist Richard Sergay, presented by podcast producer, host, and writer, Tavia Gilbert. 

Built upon the award-winning video series of the same name, Templeton World Charity Foundation’s “Stories of Impact” podcast features stories of new scientific research on human flourishing that translate discoveries into practical tools. Bringing a mix of curiosity, compassion, and creativity, journalist Richard Sergay and producer Tavia Gilbert shine a spotlight on the human impact at the heart of cutting-edge social and scientific research projects supported by TWCF.