Guidelines for teachers' understanding and operationalization of interreligious dialogue in multi-religious classrooms
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Research Problem What pedagogically justifiable guidelines can be designed and developed for improving teachers' understanding and subsequent operationalization of interreligious dialogue in multi-religious classrooms? Research aims To determine theoretically (from the body of scholarship): (1) the nature of dialogue in general and of interreligious dialogue, in particular, (2) the enablement of interreligious dialogue, and (3) classroom-level role-players' and stakeholders' influence on teachers' understanding of interreligious dialogue in multi-religious classroom contexts (Chapters 2-4). To determine empirically how and to what extent interreligious dialogue is taking place in multi-religious classrooms, from a teacher's perspective in order to answer the research problem. Research methodology Working within the interpretivist paradigm, a qualitative research approach and concomitant hermeneutic-phenomenological methodology was employed to generate and subsequently analyse data from a document analysis, as well as in-depth semi-structured interviews with AROS-alumni. The method of data analysis included segmenting, coding, textual descriptions, constructs and a general description of the phenomenon at hand. Primary findings Teachers might experience uncertainty, anxiety and tension about how they should accompany their learners to drift and migrate their 'I-positions' towards the pedagogically safe 'realm of authentic interreligious dialogue' and away from the opposite direction of 'end vocabulary' and 'acting-out'. Learners' lifeworlds provide for numerous opportunities to ask existential questions. Teachers can skilfully develop these existential questions of their learners to initiate spontaneous interreligious dialogue. Classroom-level role-players' and stakeholders' legal expectations and teachers' commitment to their own religious beliefs might also cause teachers to experience additional anxiety and tension. A pedagogically justifiable approach (such as the teacher as referee and role-model of interreligious dialogue approach) can help relieve teachers' anxiety and tension and, in turn, prepare learners with an essential life skill for the multi-religious postmodern society in which they are expected to be functioning in future. A classroom atmosphere of mutual trust will not only permit learners to talk about religion and related topics, but will also provide the ontic balance of trust, honesty and respect that is needed to unlock authentic interreligious dialogic flow. The guidelines which I have designed and developed could support teachers to be more confident and, as a result, experience less uncertainty, anxiety and tension with regard to interreligious dialogue. Guidelines for improving teachers' understanding and operationalization of interreligious dialogue in multi-religious classrooms. Teachers should: • Model the essential life skill of authentic interreligious dialogue to their learners. • Consider keeping journals of their thoughts and emotions which might result from their interreligious dialogic classroom encounters. • Come to realise the significance of self-understanding, the desire to engage the religious other willingly, and the recognition of humanity's universal interdependence. • Assist their learners in their attempts at asking existential questions spontaneously. • Enable (and maintain) regular communication with the parents and/or legal caregivers concerning religion and related topics that the school might be planning to teach. • Approach authentic interreligious dialogue as a vital life skill by being the 'referee and role-model' of interreligious dialogue. • Create pedagogically safe classroom spaces where their learners can experience mutual trust. Recommendations Not only teachers as classroom managers, but also as classroom-level role-players and stakeholders, should make an effort to (a) provide teachers with pedagogical guidelines to operationalise interreligious dialogue, (b) ensure that learners are adequately equipped with the essential life skills of interreligious dialogue, (c) prepare learners for interreligious dialogue in their relevant communities, and (d) provide innovative teaching-learning methods as far as interreligious dialogue is concerned.
- Education