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Case Study

Promoting humanities education in the training of primary school teachers
19 March 2019

Cross-curricular approaches at the University of Roehampton

Andrew Williams, Senior Lecturer in Religious Education, School of Education at the University of Roehampton

Children at Ashley School in Walton upon Thames with a student teacher from the University of Roehampton. This was part of the curriculum day for the Connecting Worlds module where pupils explored the links between Art, Maths and RE. (Photo: Robert Watts)

The initial teacher education programmes at the University of Roehampton make a significant contribution to the academic life of the institution, with around 20% of all enrolled students following one of the undergraduate or postgraduate courses provided by the School or Education. The School prides itself on offering a rich, creative and stimulating learning environment for student teachers and has always valued, and given substantial space within its training pathways to, the so-called wider curriculum subjects. The humanities subjects – Geography, History and Religious Education – are particularly prominent within the BA and PGCE programmes in Primary Education and students benefit from a large number of specialist tutors with expertise in these disciplines.

Student teachers on both the PGCE and BA courses in Primary Education receive a minimum of 12 hours of tuition in the three core humanities subjects. On each course, the subjects form strands within modules that address the wider curriculum subjects. These modules examine the key contemporary issues, pedagogical principles, learning and teaching strategies, approaches to planning and assessment processes associated with each of the humanities subjects. Furthermore, student teachers are encouraged to explore the connections between the humanities subjects. The study of the Holocaust in history education, for example, necessarily involves consideration of the spatial and religious dimensions of this event. Similarly, in geographical education, attention is given to a wide range of issues shaping our environment and human society, which will include developments over time and the religious characteristics of the population. In Religious Education, studies of faith-based practices, such as pilgrimage, integrate geographical concepts, whilst the exploration of how religions have changed over time introduces a historical dimension.

Visits are an important element of our teacher education courses and being situated in an inner London borough within a campus university, gives the best of both worlds. The green spaces of Richmond Park and Barnes Common are on our doorstep, while some of the world’s best museums and places of worship are a short bus or train ride away. A second year undergraduate module encourages students to enhance their learning by spending time outdoors and in other educational settings so that they can learn from aspects of human experience, exploration and thought in spaces beyond the classroom.

Cross-curricular links are further developed within additional subject training that is undertaken by specialists in Geography, History and Religious Education, forming an element in the two further modules completed by our undergraduate students and an extra week of subject studies for students on the PGCE course. Additionally, students in the third year of the BA in Primary Education currently take a module dedicated to exploring the interactions between subjects in the primary curriculum. Called Connecting Worlds, this module places a strong emphasis on the design of learning experiences. This is a very creative and highly practical module, involving students preparing a curriculum day to be taught in a linked primary school. A series of options are available for students to choose from, each of which brings together different combinations of subjects. The humanities feature strongly within the themes on offer, with one option on peace, bringing History and RE together along with English.

Throughout the training of all our students, who we are preparing to teach within the primary sector, we repeatedly stress the role, purpose and enormous potential of the humanities. For this reason, we are confident than young teachers emerging from the University of Roehampton have an excellent insight into both the benefits of these subjects for children and the fruitful outcomes that emerge when they are brought into conversation with each other.

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