What distinctive contribution does Religious Education make to the development of epistemic literacy in relation to Big Questions in religion and science?
Religious education (RE) is by nature interdisciplinary, a trait that sets it apart from other fields of study. This project posits that RE has a distinctive contribution to make to the development of epistemic literacy in students.
Epistemic literacy refers to capabilities that allow people to appreciate the distinct frameworks and systems of knowledge, methods, language, and data that pertain to particular disciplines. If students and teachers are to avoid misconceptions about how knowledge works and develop insights into specific knowledge forms present in RE, they must be able to develop epistemic literacy. Opportunities to do so help them navigate challenging and epistemologically complex questions that exist in the intersections of subject disciplines.
Little research exists to support the epistemic literacy of RE teachers as they tackle the questions of meaning that lie between scientific and religious knowledge. Indeed, these questions are often dealt with in a superficial way. Based on their previous research, Joanne Pearce’s team holds that RE is the ideal subject to promote epistemic literacy as a valid educational aim. Subject knowledge in religious education includes a breadth of perspectives: scientific, sociological, historical, psychological, cultural, philosophical, and theological. Because of its interdisciplinary, RE can help rectify this.
The project will conduct mixed-methods research to access approximately 230 teachers and 300 students to learn from existing expertise and perceptions of epistemological understanding in the RE curriculum and classroom. It will identify where, how, and why good practice in epistemic literacy development occurs. Ultimately, the team hopes to use epistemic literacy to strengthen the case for the importance of RE in a rigorous, meaningful education.