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Promoting positive community relations: what can RE learn from social psychology and the shared space project?

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In this article we considered the relevance of specific claims that ‘multi-faith’ approaches to Religious Education (RE) play a role in promoting good community relations. In doing so, we adopted a social-psychological perspective where engaging in positive and meaningful interactions with diverse others reduces prejudice. Survey responses from 92 RE teachers across the UK were examined to determine the extent to which strategies for promoting positive community relations were embedded within classroom practice. We next examined whether teachers intuitively used social psychological theory – namely the contact hypothesis – to promote positive communities in their classrooms. Results demonstrated that the majority of surveyed RE practitioners perceived community relations to be a core aim of RE and that contact theory was applicable to their practice. Teachers reported examples of how they embed both contact theory and RE in their classrooms but not all of these aligned with social psychological theory. Findings suggest that successful practice in RE may be further developed by integrating theoretical principles of the contact hypothesis. Implications and future directions will be discussed.
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Keywords: community relations; intergroup contact theory; religious education(RE)

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Education, University of Bristol, Bristol 2: Diocesan House, Norwich

Publication date: April 3, 2019

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