In the Religious Education Curriculum Framework, the learning structure has three integrated components:
- three strands of learning: Knowledge and Understanding; Reasoning and Responding; Personal and Communal Engagement
- five content areas: Jesus and Scripture; Church and Community; God, Religion and Life; Prayer, Liturgy and Sacrament; Morality and Justice. These each have content descriptors
- achievement standards.
The Three Strands
The three strands of learning in religious education grow out of an understanding of dialogue that engages each learner as a seeker of truth, a maker of meaning and one who lives out their story in, and with, community. The three strands emphasise that learning in religious education is more than a cognitive approach to gaining Knowledge and Understanding; it also develops learners’ Reasoning and Responding, and deepens their Personal and Communal Engagement through the learning.
The three strands reflect an approach to learning in relationship where learners come to know themselves and are valued and understood through dialogue. While the three strands are articulated as discrete aspects of learning highlighting particular modes of learning, they are interconnected and often apply simultaneously. The three strands are the basis of the learning structure. They provide the organising schema for the content descriptors and achievement standards. Each strand names a key action of dialogue: explanation, interpretation and reflection integrated into life. These actions draw you back to what students are doing in the process of dialogue at the heart of a pedagogy of encounter. The three strands are central when designing for student engagement and learning / assessment and / or moderating their learning.
Knowledge and Understanding: seeking truth
A Catholic understanding that illuminates this strand is that God may be encountered in the search for truth. Truth is the horizon for which we strive, the questions in each of us creating the impulse for learning. In this strand, learners are challenged to consider their intentions, since the true and the good can only be found by the heart of love. This strand develops knowledge and understanding of the key practices and beliefs of Christian communities, both past and present, in ways that connect to, and challenge, the contemporary cultural context. It builds on student questions and wonderings to create new paths to God. It intentionally pursues truth, as revealed in and through the loving action of God and in dialogue with the other.
Learning in this strand is evident when students explain their understanding of the complexity and wisdom of the Catholic faith and its elements in dialogue with multiple perspectives within, and beyond, the Catholic Tradition. It asks students to articulate a considered point of view. The modes of learning in this strand include: exploring, identifying, puzzling, thinking critically, analysing, finding out and seeking multiple perspectives.
Reasoning and Responding: making meaning
In this strand, we are invited to discover that life has purpose and meaning, even beyond self-fulfilment. It grows from the Catholic belief that Christ is the way, the truth and the life. This strand focuses on the development of particular ways of thinking and acting that arise out of grappling with what it means to be a follower of Christ. In this strand, students are challenged to consider issues and deep questions within their world and are invited to respond to the Catholic Tradition and its call to live with love, integrity and virtue. Students are empowered to be agents of their own learning, making meaning through dialogue with the other.
Learning in this strand is evident when students interpret and make meaning of their life, the world and their social context, as well as their religious tradition, responding with openness to transformation and with empathy for others. The modes of learning in this strand include: listening with compassion, sifting and sorting out, questioning, wondering, responding, prioritising, making judgements, considering and empathising.
Personal and Communal Engagement: living story
Every person holds their story, which encompasses their past and looks towards the future. People are embedded in a community and make connections to other stories and the world through ‘who they are’ and ‘who they are becoming’ within that community’s search for truth and meaning. This strand draws on a Catholic understanding of the sacramental life, where the sacred is encountered in the ordinary. Learners grow into a sense of self as loved and loving, reflecting on ‘who I am’ and ‘how I am’ in relationship with others. This strand emphasises the full flourishing of the human person. It seeks to stir a sense of awe and wonder, imagination and hopefulness. It invites a sense of belonging to a faith community and commitment to the common good.
Learning in this strand is evident when students reflect on their story, deepening awareness of their feelings, questions, beliefs and worldviews in relation to others’ stories. It also asks students to apply their insights to new directions of hope for relationships and the broader world. The modes of learning in this strand include: making connections, discerning, evaluating, appreciating, deepening awareness, reflecting, imagining and applying.
Discussion questions What might each strand reveal about our learners? How might I support all learners to grow through the three strands?
The Five Content Areas
Religious education in a Catholic school takes seriously the mission of the Church to engage with the message of the Gospel and Catholic Tradition in all its wisdom, complexity and challenge.
The content of the learning in the framework is organised through five areas:
- Scripture and Jesus
- Church and Community
- God, Religion and Life
- Prayer, Liturgy and Sacrament
- Morality and Justice.
A statement for each content area encapsulates the Catholic theological understandings to be explored and developed with students throughout their years of Catholic education. The content areas are interconnected and the statements note these connections. Each content area deserves equal attention across the scope of the year’s learning.
Scripture and Jesus
God freely and lovingly communicates with humanity through the natural world, the tradition of the people of Israel, the early Christian Church, and most particularly, through Jesus Christ. The Scriptures of the Bible are texts of faith, mediating this interaction. Christians have a particular relationship with the Bible. They study it as Word of God in human words, use it in liturgy and ritual and pray with it as a means of encounter with Jesus Christ (link to Prayer, Liturgy and Sacrament). Texts of other traditions are appreciated in the light of the relationship that Christians have with the Bible (link to God, Religion and Life). Teachers facilitate dialogue at the intersection of student experiences of, and questions about, their stories and encounter with the Word. This content area grapples with the questions, ‘How can I know God? What does God ask of me?’
How do we know God in this community? Who is Jesus Christ for me? What does Jesus Christ tell us about God? What does God ask of us as a school community? What does this mean for students? What does this ask of me?
Church and Community
Church is the community of Jesus’ disciples, united in and through the Word of God (link to Scripture and Jesus). The Word of God continues to be encountered and lived out in the Church through communicating beliefs, ritual celebration and ministries of service both within and outside of Church community (link to Prayer, Liturgy and Sacrament). This is the mission of the Church: to build up the common life of believers and to reach out in dialogue and shared action for the common good and the unity of the human race (link to God, Religion and Life). Each generation of the Church discerns the message of the Word of God for the current context (link to Morality and Justice). Teachers facilitate dialogue at the intersection of student experiences of, and questions about, belonging, and the Church’s call to participate in the Body of Christ. This content area grapples with the questions, ‘Where do I belong? How can I make a difference?’.
Why is it important for me to belong? How do we invite all to belong in this community and the community of the Church? What empowers me to make a difference? What motivates me to make a difference? How do we ensure students are empowered and motivated to make a difference in this community? What does this mean for students? What does this ask of me?
God, Religion and Life
Human beings seek meaning, value, and happiness in life, both individually and in relationships with others. Many religious traditions propose that this search is met and responded to by a transcendent power. From this encounter with the transcendent come worldviews, rituals and ethical norms that characterise a religious tradition (link to Prayer, Liturgy and Sacrament). Christians recognise this transcendent other in the relational Trinitarian God (link to Scripture and Jesus) who is both the source and fulfilment of the human quest for unity, truth, beauty and goodness (link to Morality and Justice). Teachers facilitate dialogue at the intersection of student experiences of, and questions about, human flourishing, and the Church’s call to find meaning and purpose in God. This content area grapples with the questions, ‘What is life? How do I find meaning?’
How do I find meaning / purpose in life? How might I encounter God in this search? How is this community a place of encounter? What does this mean for students? What does this ask of me?
Prayer, Liturgy and Sacrament
Public rituals and personal prayer practices are central to many religious traditions, which serve to express the human quest for spiritual union (link to God, Religion and Life). Catholics understand sacraments as the mediation of the extraordinary through the ordinary, of the supernatural through the natural, where the sacred is encountered in the everyday. Prayer, liturgy and sacraments are vital ways that the Church community meets, interacts with and responds to the Word of God. As the source and summit of the seven sacraments, participating in the Eucharist leads members more deeply into the communal life of the Church and the mystery of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, providing nourishment for Christian living (link to Scripture and Jesus). Prayer and sacraments promote an inner personal response and a commitment to the Church’s mission to the world (link to Church and Community). Teachers facilitate dialogue at the intersection of student experiences of, and questions about, trust and mystery, and the Church’s call to nurture a trusting relationship with God through prayer. This content area grapples with the questions, ‘Where is God? In whom do I trust?’.
How do I express or experience connection to God? What or who do I trust and why? How does this community build trusting relationships with each other and with God? What does this mean for students? What does this ask of me?
Morality and Justice
In the light of the Scriptures, the human person is understood to be created ‘in the image and likeness of God’ (Gen 1: 26) and called into a new existence through Christ (link to Jesus and Scripture). This call gives rise to the unique freedom, dignity, and responsibility of humans. It requires a process of moral discernment that holds together our nature as humans and the Christian vision of freedom and dignity in all areas of life: personal and relational integrity, economic and political participation, technological and ecological responsibility. Christians cooperate with all people to foster human flourishing, right relationship and the common good (link to God, Religion and Life). They propose to all people the vision of life in the Kingdom of God described in the gospels (link to Church and Community). Teachers facilitate dialogue at the intersection of student experiences of, and questions about, responsibility, and the Church’s call to be Christ for the other. This content area grapples with the questions, ‘Who calls me? How must I respond?’.
What call do I hear? How do I discern my response? How does this community foster right relationship with others and with creation? What does this mean for students? What does this ask of me?
The learning progression describes student learning in the five content areas in levels from pre-Foundation to post Level 12. The learning progression is organised in two Scope and Sequence charts (F–6 and 7–12], which include achievement standards and content descriptors to support teachers to see the progression and assist in designing learning to meet the diverse needs of students. The achievement standards are structured as a learning continuum, reflecting levels of achievement attained rather than years of schooling. This enables the development of learning programs that meet the actual learning needs of all students rather than an assumed age-based level. Both the content descriptors and achievement standards are described through the three strands, which are the basis for learning in religious education and provide the organising schema for the content descriptors and achievement standards. Each strand names a key action of dialogue: explanation, interpretation, and reflection integrated into life. These actions draw you back to what students are doing in the process of dialogue at the heart of a Pedagogy of Encounter. Whether you are engaging students in learning or whether your intention is assessment, whether you are collegially designing for learning, or moderating student learning, the three strands are central. It is advised that the Scope and Sequence charts are read in conjunction with the document as a whole.
Content Descriptors in the Scope and Sequence Charts
Content descriptors that summarise student learning have been written for each level in the five content areas, through the three strands. They have been organised in a Scope and Sequence to ensure learning is appropriately ordered and that unnecessary repetition is avoided. However, learning content introduced at one level is often revisited, strengthened and extended at later levels. When planning student learning experiences, teachers seek ways to connect the learning described across content areas using student questions, issues and key concepts. The following statements provide an overview of learning in the junior, middle / upper primary years, and lower / middle and upper secondary years.
Overview of Foundation to Level 2
Students bring to the school a wide range of faith and spiritual experiences. These experiences are built upon in the curriculum as rich sources for further learning about God, religion and life.
Parents have a particularly important part to play in the educating community, since it is to them that the primary and natural responsibility for their children’s education belongs… The constant aim of the school therefore, should be contact and dialogue with the pupils’ families… in order to clarify with their indispensable collaboration that personalised approach which is needed for an educational project to be efficacious (The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, 1997, n.20).
From Foundation to Level 2, students engage with the stories about Jesus and some of the teachings of Jesus, and learn about historical figures in the history of the family of God. They explore biblical texts as story and as sources of prayer and inspiration. They reflect on and develop relationship with God and self-understanding. They engage in personal and communal prayer and liturgical experiences and develop reflective skills and dispositions of respect for the sacred. They develop heightened awareness of awe, wonder and delight in creation. They grow in appreciation of the other, understanding their impact on others and such concepts as fairness and justice.
Overview of Levels 3–6
Students extend their learning about the background and person of Jesus and his relationships with the Father, his disciples and the people he came to serve. They explore Old and New Testament text, learning skills of interpretation by drawing on growing knowledge of context and genre. They learn about the structures of the Church, its foundations in community and its mission of service in the world. They consider the actions of God in the world and begin to explore ways other religious traditions celebrate this. They learn about and may receive the sacraments of Penance, Eucharist and Confirmation, as well as learning about the seven sacraments and their significance for today. They engage with the liturgical celebrations of the church year and the life of the faith community, past and present, exploring ways they can participate in and contribute to the church. They continue to develop their personal prayer life, spirituality and appreciation for the sacred. Students develop an understanding of Catholic teaching on the dignity of the human person and its implications for their choices personally and in community, learning to build just and compassionate relationships based on love and respect for self and others.
Overview of Levels 7–10
Students develop their interpretative skills, considering literary structures of Scripture passages and the impact of settings, styles and viewpoints of authors and audience in both old and new testaments. They develop appreciation of the Word as means of encounter with Jesus Christ. They explore the history of the Church and the development of its distinctive ideas, teachings and practices, as well as the charisms of the saints. They extend their knowledge of religious diversity, identifying the particularity of the Catholic Tradition in the Australian context. They expand their experiences of personal and communal prayer and the variety of spiritual devotions in both the Catholic and other traditions, including appreciation of religious art and music throughout history. They focus on deepening understanding of Eucharist and its centrality to the Catholic Tradition. They deepen understanding of Catholic social teaching and its application to both personal and global issues, including sexuality, equity and ecology, developing skills of discernment, which reflect self-respect and respect for the other.
Overview of Levels 11–12
Students consider the person of Jesus and his impact on the world and on their lives. They identify the influence of the Bible and other sacred texts on the lives of believers and continue to appreciate the relationship Christians have with the Bible. They reflect on their own role in, and commitment to, the local and global Church or other faith traditions. They consider the diversity of religious traditions and their impact on Australian society. They explore their spirituality and the role of various forms of prayer and contemplation in their life. They continue to develop moral maturity and the skills of dealing with complexity and ambiguity in both personal and political decisions, such as sexuality, equity and ecology.