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Conference | Seminar and Expert Meeting

The Study of Religion and Good Teaching Materials

Wednesday 31 October 2018 - Thursday 1 November 2018
Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 3
2311 BZ Leiden
104 (Het Verbarium)

The Working Group on Religion Education of the Dutch Association for the Study of Religion (NGG), the Netherlands School for Advanced Studies in Theology and Religion (NOSTER), and the Leiden University Centre for the Study of Religion (LUCSoR) are pleased to announce the theme meeting “The Study of Religion and Good Teaching Materials”, to be held on 31 October – 1 November 2018 at Leiden University.

The theme meeting is intended to give Dutch scholars of religion, high school religion teachers, and teacher trainers the opportunity to reflect with each other and with leading members of the Working Group Religion in Public Education of the European Association for the Study of Religion on how knowledge and methods from the Study of Religion can best be implemented in teaching materials and teaching practices in secondary education. We have chosen to focus on the development of teaching materials because the Dutch Working Group on Religion Education will be developing teaching material over the coming years in cooperation with high school teachers and scholars from the research project Religious Matters. The theme meeting consists of two parts: a panel on ‘Good Quality Teaching Materials for Religious Education’ on Wednesday 31 October and an expert meeting on ‘The Study of Religion and Religion Education’ on Thursday 1 November.

Please also see the description of this previous conference and the news item that was published afterwards.

SEMINAR | 31 October 2018, 14.00-15.30: Good Quality Teaching Materials for Religion Education

  • Dr. Markus Altena Davidsen (Leiden University): The NGG Working Group on Religion Education: Plans and Goals
  • Prof.dr. Wanda Alberts (University of Hannover): School Education about Religion Beyond the World Religions Paradigm?
  • Dr. Sissel Undheim (University of Bergen): The Study of Religion and the New Core Curriculum in the Norwegian School Subject Religion
  • Joël Valk, MA (Corderius College Amersfoort): Image Use in Religion Text Books: The Case of the Dutch Perspectief Series
  • Chair and convener: dr. Markus Altena Davidsen, Leiden University

This seminar is part of the NGG/LUCSoR conference Interpreting Rituals: Historiographical Perspectives and Pluralistic Contexts that takes place at Leiden University 29-31 October, 2018.

Room: KOG, Room B. 035

Address: Kamerlingh Onnes Gebouw, Steenschuur 25 2311 ES Leiden

Registration: Participation in this seminar is free, but registration is required. If you intend to participate in the seminar, please inform Markus Altena Davidsen no later than 25 October 2018.



Wanda Alberts: School Education about Religion Beyond the World Religions Paradigm?

In the academic Study of Religions, the so-called world religions paradigm, i.e. the hegemonic conceptualisation of religion as world religion/s, has been discussed controversially. For example, it has been pointed out that this conceptualisation often leads to an essentialisation of individual religions (and, frequently, also of religion as such) and, furthermore, to modelling “non-Christian religions” according to a Western Protestant Christian norm. In school-related contexts, this is often accompanied with a rhetoric that contrasts “Christianity” with “the other world religions”, reflecting a process of “othering” already in the basic category formation. With the help of the world religions paradigm, simplified “basics” or “basic facts” of individual religions are identified (and compared). Frequently, learning and comparing these facts is established as the body of knowledge and competences that pupils are expected to acquire.

Due to these and other problematic presuppositions and implications of the world religions paradigm, ways of reconstructing BA- and MA programmes in the Study of Religion in a manner that avoids this paradigm are currently being discussed (see Cotter and Robertson 2016). The world religions paradigm, is, however, even more influential in school education about religion/s than at the university level. In my presentation I would like to introduce key arguments against the world religions paradigm and demonstrate why this discussion is relevant for teaching about religion/s at the school level and what we may gain from challenging this paradigm in different school-related contexts. There are certainly no easy and quick solutions in what I hope will be some transformatory process, given the hegemonic status that the world religions paradigm has in almost all educational discourse about religion/s. In the end of my presentation, I will try to show how a discursive approach to religion may help to take the first steps on this path.

Christopher R. Cotter and David G. Robertson (ed.) 2016, After World Religions. Reconstructing Religious Studies, London/New York: Routledge.


Sissel Undheim: The Study of Religion and the New Core Curriculum in the Norwegian School Subject Religion

Since 1997, the non-confessional, integrative school subject Religion has been taught to all pupils in Norwegian secondary schools. Contrary to the Netherlands, the aims and content of this school subject are determined by the Ministry of Education, in the same way as the curricula for all other school subjects. However, agreeing on a curriculum for Religion has not been easy, and the curriculum is now being revised for the 5th time since 1997.

This presentation examines the historical developments and challenges the school subject Religion has met over the years, and analyses how the curriculum panel appointed by the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training has identified what is called the “core elements” of the subject during the current revision. In particular I pose the question to what extent perspectives from the Study of Religion have influenced how “religion” is defined and represented in these “core elements”, and what have been and still are the main challenges in the process towards a Norwegian school subject based on the Study of Religion. This discussion touches upon all the didactic aspects of a Study-of-Religion-based RE-subject: What should we teach? How should we teach it? and Why is it relevant?


Joël Valk, MA (Corderius College Amersfoort): Image Use in RE Text Books: The Case of the Dutch Perspectief Series

Discussions of RE textbooks tend to focus on the content of the text; relatively little effort has been made to analyse the function of supporting images. This is a problem, for the use of images in RE textbooks present us with a range of didactical challenges that need to be tackled in order to produce good quality teaching materials. Central questions are: What kind of images do actually enhance the pupils’ understanding of the text? How can images be integrated well with the text? And how are images used in RE textbooks currently on the market?

This presentation looks at a specific case, the popular full colour multimedia RE textbook series Perspectief which is used in secondary schools in the Netherlands. Based on an analysis of 59 photos of artworks used in the Perspectief series, as well as of the texts they support, the presentation evaluates the educational value of the art reproductions in Perspectief. Based on this case, some tentative ideas are presented for how image use in RE textbooks can be improved.

Valk, Joël (2018), “Voorbij het plaatje bij het praatje: Over hoe je als docent betekenisvolle afbeeldingen verantwoord kunt gebruiken”, Narthex: Tijdschrift voor levensbeschouwing en educatie 18(1), 65-72.


EXPERT MEETING | 1 November 2018, 9.00-13.00: The Study of Religion and Religion Education

Programme (preliminary)

09:00 – 09:15

Arrival and coffee

09:15 - 09:30

Welcome and presentation round

09:30 - 10:45

Session 1: What Should We Teach in Religion Education? Or: Where Do We Want to Go? (Chair: Ammeke Kateman)

Group discussions of the following questions: What needs to change in the high school curriculum? Upon which didactical principles should religion be taught in high school?

Plenary discussion: Inventorying of ideas and good/bad practices for implementing change.



10:45 – 11:15

Coffee break

11:15 – 12:30

Session 2: How Can We Achieve Our Goals? (Chair: Markus Davidsen)

Plenary discussion on good/bad practices relating to the organization of study days, creating of teaching material, mobilization of high school teachers, and international cooperation.


12:15 – 13:00


Room: 104 (Het Verbarium)

Address: Matthias de Vrieshof 3, 2311 BZ Leiden

Participation: Participation in the expert meeting is open to scholars of religion, high school teachers, teacher trainers, and everyone interested in anchoring high school teaching in religion more in the academic discipline of the study of religion.

Registration: Participation is free, but the number of participants is limited to 20. If you wish to participate in the expert meeting, please contact Markus Altena Davidsen as soon as possible and no later than 25 October 2018.

The seminar and expert meeting aim to further develop and implement the agenda for a more study-of-religion-based religion education that was formulated during the 2016 conference on The Study of Religion and Religion Education.

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