This Religious Education Curriculum Framework describes learning and teaching in Religious Education for Catholic primary and secondary schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne. The framework sits within the context of the Education Framework for the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Horizons of Hope. The ecclesial mission of the Catholic school is the foundation for Religious Education and the core work of Catholic educators:
Catholic schools were founded to proclaim Jesus’ message of God’s love for all. Our Catholic faith calls us to embrace the contemporary world with a Catholic imagination, and a particular hope-filled view of the human person and all of creation. Catholic educators invite students to make sense of their world and their lives within a faith community that is faithful to the mission of Jesus (Horizons of Hope: Context 2016, p. 9).
This Religious Education Curriculum Framework draws from and incorporates the teachings and principles espoused in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, along with the teachings of Vatican II and post-conciliar documents. In particular the many rich developments in Religious Education over recent years are represented and encompassed. The framework seeks to address the recommendations from the findings of the Enhancing Catholic School Identity Project (Pollefeyt & Bouwens 2014). The findings identify three critical challenges for schools to address through Religious Education:
- opening up a more explicit dialogue between Catholic faith and the diverse cultures and lives of students
- finding new ways to express the Gospel as alive and authentic
- engaging in rich and meaningful experiences of prayer.
In the language of the Enhancing Catholic School Identity Project, these challenges are named as a need to shift from relativism to post-critical belief; from a colourful school to a dialogue school; from Christian values education to recontextualisation.
The framework introduces pedagogy of encounter, which addresses these challenges. The pedagogy is based on the principles of the hermeneutic communicative model of Pollefeyt and Lombaerts (2011). The pedagogy of encounter places students’ lives and questions at the centre of the learning, with dialogue as both the process and the valued outcome of Religious Education. In authentic dialogue, learners are taken into new understandings and are joined more closely with their dialogue partners – they are ‘transformed into a communion in which we do not remain what we were’ (Gadamer 1989, p. 379).
The framework has been developed in consultation and collaboration with schools. It is for you, as leaders and teachers, as you design learning that brings the richness of Catholic tradition into dialogue with the world of the students and contemporary culture. It is designed to be interactive and practical and to promote your ongoing professional learning and faith formation. Throughout, discussion questions invite you into professional dialogue and offer opportunities for discernment, prayer and further learning about the nature and challenges of faith, the role of Religious Education and your own aspirations and responsibilities in a Catholic school. The framework will also be of interest to parents and to those in parishes involved in the Religious Education of young children and adolescents.
The framework supports the full flourishing of all learners as spiritual and religious, physical and cognitive, social and emotional beings through Religious Education. It proposes a learning structure comprised of: three strands of learning; five content areas; and the learning progression including achievement standards. The three strands are:
- Knowledge and Understanding, i.e. seeking truth
- Reasoning and Responding, i.e. making meaning
- Personal and Communal Engagement, i.e. living story.
These three strands offer lenses through which the learning descriptors and achievement standards are presented.
The five content areas work together to build a network of understanding of the Catholic Church and its traditions and have their origins in the To Know, Worship and Love student texts:
- Scripture and Jesus
- Church and Community
- God, Religion and Life
- Sacrament, Prayer and Liturgy
- Morality and Justice
The achievement standards describe the quality of learning in the three strands through the elements of dialogue: the nuance of explanation, the openness of interpretation and the depth of self-reflection leading to transformation. These elements, enacted in a pedagogy of encounter, draw the focus constantly back to dialogue. The Religious Education Curriculum Framework highlights assessment as a means of uncovering the learner’s story through dialogue, mapping their continuous growth through the achievement standards.
Catholic Education Melbourne offers this document as an important resource and guide in designing authentic dialogical Religious Education that promotes the full flourishing of all learners. Each school and each parish in the Archdiocese of Melbourne is responsible for ensuring that the principles and approaches of Religious Education recommended in this framework are reflected in their curriculum.