Contact in the classroom
: Exploring relationships between interfaith encounters and peaceful relations through a case study of The Faith and Belief Forum’s School Linking Programme

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

This research provides an original analysis of the relationship between interfaith encounters and peaceful relations among young people in schools, through use of a case study of the Faith and Belief Forum’s School Linking programme. The School Linking programme is an informal education programme which trains teachers in interfaith dialogue facilitation skills and brings students from different schools together to engage creatively with questions around religious and non-religious belief. In order to explore how School Linking fosters peaceful relations between students, the research asks: a) what impact can be captured by the Faith and Belief Forum’s existing evaluation data, b) how the School Linking process informs or inhibits peaceful relations at the interpersonal and institutional levels, and c) how academic understandings of ‘peaceful relations’ can be reassessed in light of the research’s findings. The research’s original contribution to knowledge is fourfold. First, it contributes to a number of discussions in religious and intercultural education literature (including religious literacy, ‘safe space’ and the role of community schools as sites of religious diversity) and addresses the lack of research-driven evaluations of interfaith initiatives with young people and/or in schools. Second, its mixed methods-driven, reflective approach to evaluation is implicitly critical of the assumption-based ‘theory of change’ model. Third, the research has generated the first dataset of its kind to capture teacher and student perceptions of interfaith encounters across 75 schools in London and Birmingham. Lastly, contact theory is reassessed to develop the first of its kind, context-specific, theoretical framework for how interfaith contact supports and inhibits ‘peaceful relations’ in schools. A further, practical, outcome of the research is to inform the design and evaluation of School Linking through consultation with the Faith and Belief Forum during Autumn 2020.The PhD takes a unique approach to an under-researched topic. It combines interdisciplinary research into religion and education, the sociology of religion and social psychology with impact evaluation to provide an original account of the role and effectiveness of interfaith approaches as a tool for fostering peaceful relations among young people in primary and secondary schools.
Date of AwardSep 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorKristin Aune (Supervisor), Chris Shannahan (Supervisor) & Patricia Sellick (Supervisor)

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