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1.10.3 Pragmatism - Dewey and Experiential Learning - Scenario

You are the Religious Education delivering a GCSE course which require students to study two religions - you have chosen Christianity and Hinduism.

The choice to study Hinduism has been made in view of the fact that it is a world faith which is outside of the experience of the vast majority of the children in the school. This necessitates practitioners having a thorough grounding in an understanding of this faith, as well as that of Christianity. In addition, it is important that the students are able to engage in a process of active learning which will help them to gather a deeper understanding and appreciation of this faith. How would you do this from a Pragmatist viewpoint?

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Initially, it is important to provide all those teaching the course with the information that they require to teach its contents successfully. As a part of the training programme, the Head of Department should arrange a visit to a Hindu place of worship and/or arrange for Hindu leaders spend a training day at the school.

A good way of children gathering and appreciation of any religion is through visiting a place of worship. This can be achieved through visiting the Swaminarayan Mandir in London. This centre is well versed in providing educational visits which give a first-hand experience of the Hindu faith in practice.

As a preparation for a visit of this nature, it is important that the children are aware of appropriate behaviour in terms of attitudes and forms of dress. In addition, it is critical that they are aware of aspects of the faith about which they can ask questions. For GCSE students, it would seem that the most apposite time for such a visit would be just prior to the beginning of their revision for their mock examinations or at the very start of Year 11. By that stage, the students should have a firm grasp of the Hindu faith, as well as the potential for a number of questions which could be answered by guide to practice the faith on a daily basis.

During the course of the day, each group of students will experience different aspects of the Hindu faith along with guides provided by the Mandir. In addition, lunch will be provided, in order that the children may experience the culture in terms of food. Clearly, it will be important to ensure that all dietary requirements are respected. It is anticipated that children of a similar age will visit with the group at this time from the local school, so that they are able to talk with individuals of their own age with regard to their beliefs and practices, as well as enjoying a social time with them. Both the school and the Mandir are aware of children's ability to display things in an accessible way for their peers, in order that they are able to have an enhanced experience and develop a better understanding through their visit.

By arrangement with the Mandir, the children will spend their time in three different sessions. One session will concentrate upon the different gods and belief systems which are an inherent part of the faith, which will provide an opportunity for children to ask about the stories, characteristics and events associated with different gods, and the way in which Hindus conduct themselves on a day-to-day basis whilst following their faith.

Another session will involve touring the 'Understanding Hinduism' exhibition along with a guide where the origins, beliefs and values of Hinduism are explored. Ample opportunity will be provided for individuals to ask questions of the guide stop Part of this exhibition explores how this Mandir was constructed and its significance.

One session will be spent in a gathering for the daily Arti Ceremony, in which the children will be able to experience, and subsequently asked questions about, worship and offerings. During this ceremony, lighted wicks are waived before the sacred images of the gods with the accompaniment of a musical prayer. Time will also be given over for the students to pause and reflect upon the feeling that is generated by being in an active place of worship and have opportunities to ask questions of their hosts, particularly with regard to important questions such as Hindu beliefs about reincarnation, karma, the place of idols in worship, food laws and Hindu views about vegetarianism, sacred books, religious practices, the role of women and the caste system.

Clearly, there are many opportunities for cross-curricular links from this visit, particularly in the areas of home economics (how meals are prepared, spices used, differing dishes), art (the use of marble in the construction of the Mandir, the fine carving which can be seen around the building), history (the history of the Hindu faith), geography (the origins of the Hindu faith) and citizenship (how living a faith impacts upon the way in which people conduct their lives and act as responsible citizens within British society).

The students will be aware that this is an ideal opportunity to interact with individuals who live this faith as an integral part of their everyday lives, in order that they are able to gain a better insight into how it impacts upon the way in which they live and their reasons for following this particular belief system.


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