Religion, Spirituality and Moral Education: informal and formal contexts in dialogue


Welcoming unexpected conversations between these different areas, at a time when the religious communities are in or turmoil, and the place of religious education in schools consistently question, the Society for Educational Studies invites abstracts for its 2024 Annual Colloquium to be held at Oriel College, Oxford, September 5th-6th. In line with the Colloquium’s theme – Religion, Spirituality and Moral Education: informal and formal contexts in dialogue.

The place of religion, spirituality and moral formation and education (RSME) in the lives of children and young are perennially vexed, their form and legitimacy continually the subject of heated debate. Seemingly never resolved, is it possible to define and delineate a form of religious, spiritual and moral education apt for the cultural conditions of the present that is at one and the same time pleasing to all faith communities, as well as to those for whom religion is no longer meaningful or relevant? Does the place of RSME in schools, churches, madrasa and so on, have equal standing and legitimacy? Moreover, even though RSME occurs in formal school contexts of various kinds, and in informal ones, e.g. churches, madrasa, homes etc, rarely do these settings, and the questions surrounding their work, come into dialogue with one another. This symposium invites such conversations between practice and research across these contexts and domains, and that common issues and questions around their respective work be addressed. 

Papers are invited that examine critically how educational studies can illuminate issues in RSME in the UK today in a way that:

  1. Expressed how the disciplines of educational studies can be brought to bear upon debate and illuminate the issues;
  2. Bridges the divide between formal and informal educational contexts and shows how educational studies can illuminate both;
  3. Fosters debate between research on informal and formal contexts of learning and education; 
  4. Provides the opportunity to foster new visions for RSME based upon rigorous research and historical perspective and social and culture analysis. 

Core questions that papers might seek to respond to include:

  • The differences between formation and education in the religious, spiritual and moral sphere;
  • The legitimacy of RSME, in formal and informal contexts;
  • The form and appropriateness of RSME in such context, e.g. textbooks, prayer or scriptural guides;
  • Pedagogies in each domain and their appropriateness;
  • Appropriation of pedagogies across domains and their legitimacy;
  • The history of RSME across domains, formal and informal;
  • The changing styles of RSME and their appropriateness today;
  • The relationship between religious, spiritual and moral education, if any;
  • Questions concerning whether religious, spiritual and moral formation and education belong to different domains;
  • The agency of children and the rights of parents in religious, spiritual and moral education and formation;
  • Questions of indoctrination;
  • Forms of religious, spiritual and moral education;
  • The media and religious, spiritual and moral education;
  • RSME in differing national contexts, and in comparative perspective.

Abstracts of up to 500 words (max.) should be sent to Prof Stephen Parker ([email protected]), Prof. Lynn Revell ([email protected])and Aidan Thompson ([email protected]) no later than 17.00 on 30th June 2024.

Registration for the Colloquium is free for all members of the Society for Educational Studies, and will include the conference meal, other meals, and one night’s accommodation (Thursday 5th September). Places are limited and priority will be given to members that are presenting a paper. There is a fee of £150 for non-members, or membership can be purchased for 2024 via the membership pages here (£30 [£20 student]).

To register as a non-speaking delegate, please email Aidan Thompson ([email protected]).

A Special Issue of the British Journal of Educational Studies based on the 2024 Colloquium will be proposed. If accepted for publication, papers would be published in 2025. Details of how to submit to the Special Issue will be shared at the Colloquium.

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