The ‘essential’ guide to Big Ideas for RE

Oct 24, 2022 | Big Ideas for RE, Curriculum, Disciplinary knowledge, Substantive knowledge, Syllabus Designers, Teachers

How to navigate the Big Ideas for RE website as an RE Curriculum Developer.

The main purpose of the website is to provide a guide for those developing the RE curriculum. Many teachers head straight over to the Exemplars to access the detailed learning plans and linked resources. But, for curriculum developers, it’s best to get an idea of the Big Ideas rationale first, so that the shift in approach to the subject can be fully appreciated.

Here’s a five-point guide to the ‘essential’ elements of the programme that would provide a good basis for making progress with the development of your own scheme of learning based on Big Ideas.

  1. Big Ideas and types of knowledge.

BI theory is closely allied to the theory that distinguishes between two types of knowledge; SUBSTANTIVE knowledge and DISCIPLINARY knowledge.

Substantive knowledge is what we’re used to – it’s about the ‘substance’ or ‘content’ of the subject – the religions, festivals, worship, sacred texts etc. There is a huge amount of it…  

Disciplinary knowledge comes from the disciplines that are applied to the study of religions / worldviews. There is far less of it. Substantive knowledge comes from within religions / worldviews, while disciplinary knowledge is developed in universities. In the case of RE, Study of Religions and Theology are the primary disciplines. Both draw upon other disciplines such as philosophy, sociology, anthropology, psychology, history, literature and literary criticism, creative arts, media studies and even at times, sciences.

Big Ideas are based on disciplinary knowledge.

This is one of the most important things to grasp. (You may be interested to know that one of the few people In RE who understood where we were coming from with this three years ago was Richard Kueh, now HMI with responsibility for RE. He has been writing about the importance of disciplinary knowledge for some time, which may be useful to know if you find yourself on his visiting list!)

Reading: Book 2 Chapter 1. Download Book 2 here >>

  • The nature of Big Ideas

‘Big Ideas’ is a technical term. It does NOT mean big/important/central ideas in the teaching of religions. If it did, that would make BIs draw on substantive knowledge.

Reading: Book 1 Chapter 4. Download Book 1 here >>

  • Why are Big Ideas important?

BIs provide a way of resolving some of the most longstanding problems in RE.

Reading: Why do we need Big Ideas?

  • Six Big Ideas for RE

How we arrived at the Big Ideas for RE: ‘few ideas and generally agreed’

Reading: Book 1 Chapter 5 and see the Six Ideas with descriptions here >>

The most up to date edition of the BIs: Programmes of study for different age groups. Click on the icons in each age group to see medium-term plans.

  • All you need to develop your own ‘Big Ideas for RE’ curriculum