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Farmington Research

Farmington Research

Each year one or two teachers of Religious Education carry out supervised research at Stranmillis University College during a period of study leave from their full-time posts. This work is funded by the Farmington Institute (Oxford) and supervised by Religious Studies staff at Stranmillis University College.


Access to recent Farmington research carried out at Stranmillis University College is now available. Clicking on the titles below will provide you with a summary of each piece of work. You may then follow the relevant link to download the reports in pdf format.

Any existing RE teachers in the UK are welcome to apply for Farmington funding. You can find out more by going to the Farmington Institute website.


RE - Religious Excercise or Relevant Experience?

Ruth Herron

Following the recent diversion of Education away from a mechanistic and materialist approach to the curriculum, there has been a greater awareness of the need to educate the whole person beyond the narrowly cognitive. While it is true that RE can develop a pupil's intellectual ability, more importantly it can make a big contribution to a child's emotions, spirituality and interpersonal skills. RE enables children to take another person's perspective, gain in understanding and tolerance and celebrate diversity.

This report reflects on the overlap between the subject areas of Personal Development and Religious Education in Northern Ireland. It focuses on the importance of enabling our pupils to become emotionally intelligent. It also examines the use of stories with issues in RE and offers lesson plans and activities around the topics of Respect for ourselves, others and God. A snapshot of teachers' opinions on the links between the two subjects is provided through responses to questionnaires and some guidance is included on various relevant resources. In planning the lesson plans and activities I tried to incorporate a range of different approaches, employ a variety of teaching aids and include elements of best practice using cross-curricular links.

To read the full report and view teaching materials in Pdf format click on the title below.

RE - Religious Exercise or Relevant Experience?

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Schemes and Resources for year 8

Linda Colson

When I applied to the Farmington Institute for a School Based Fellowship I was aware that I wanted the work I produced to have an immediate and practical effect on my teaching. I was concerned that having taught for ten years I was becoming “set in my ways” and that I was not engaging all pupils, especially SEN pupils. Due to recent constraints on the curriculum Year 8 pupils had a time reduction in R.E. from three 40 minute periods to two 35 minute periods. I felt that this was the ideal opportunity to review the units of work in this year group and devise material suitable for SEN pupils.

To read the full report and view the schemes and ready to use resources in Pdf format, click on the title below. This is a large document (21Mb) and may take several minutes to download.

Schemes and Resources for Year 8 

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The Role of the Clergy in the Provision of Religious Education in Northern Ireland 

Sally Cotter


This report outlines the history of the involvement of the Clergy in the provision of Religious Education in Northern Ireland and examines the role played today.  It includes research findings from Principals, Clergy and Primary 7 pupils.

To read the full report in pdf format click on the title below.

The Role of the Clergy in the Provision of RE in Controlled Schools

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An evaluation of the Schools' Community Relations Programme

Frances Flood


In an attempt to bring schools of contrasting and conflicting cultures together, the Government in 1987, introduced voluntary cross community contact schemes (now referred to as Schools' Community Relations Programme). To further improve community understanding and tolerance within our segregated schools, the mandatory educational themes of Education for Mutual Understanding (EMU) and Cultural Heritage (CH) were introduced in the Education Reform Order in 1989.

It is my intention to examine how principals and teachers view their current contact and if they believe cross community contact is still necessary in the present political climate, where the Good Friday Agreement was accepted by 71.12% of the population on 22 May 1998. I will also evaluate the impact contact schemes have on pupils and examine the viability of children engaging in contact in their early years of schooling. Finally, I will examine activities and resources used to foster relationships between linked schools and outline possible materials for development in areas where gaps are identified.

It must be acknowledged that this research has taken place over a ten week period and findings and recommendations should be treated as suggestive rather than definitive.

Confidentiality was assured to all teachers who assisted this research by completing questionnaires and giving interviews.

To read the full report in Pdf format click on the title below.

An Evaluation of the Schools Community Relations Programme in Northern Ireland

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Teaching Tolerance and Promoting Peace

Alison Cook


Main Aims of my Study


1. To develop my own understanding and skills in teaching Religious and Moral Education and especially in facilitating children’s understanding and skills in Personal Search: Relationships and Moral Values (Scottish 5-14 curriculum for R.M.E.)

2. To consider the work of various projects in the field of “Education for Mutual Understanding” in Northern Ireland and apply knowledge gained from this to Personal Search.

3. To review and compile recommendations of resources for this area of the curriculum appropriate for use in school in Glasgow.

To read the full report in Pdf format click on the title below.

Teaching Tolerance and Promoting Peace

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Christian marriage

Joan Wilson

I am an experienced teacher of Religious Education in an Integrated College in Northern Ireland. Like all integrated schools it is co-educational, embraces all faiths and cultures and is mixed ability. As a supporter of mixed ability education, I do find it quite alarming that there is a lack of materials for children with learning difficulties, especially for Key Stage 4. Resources seem to focus on the more able or average child for which exam results are a priority. For the pupil who is unable to achieve GCSE standard, resources are too difficult, often complex and highly demanding. I have decided therefore to develop resources for this target group on the topic of Christian Marriage.

To read the full report and view teaching materials in Pdf format click on the title below.

Christian Marriage

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The Ministry of Jesus

Fiona Templeton

So what exactly had I planned to do during my time as a Farmington Fellow? In its simplest terms, I planned to prepare a pupil booklet and teacher handbook for the unit ‘The Ministry Of Jesus’ as outlined in the CCEA Entry Level Option 1 Syllabus. The Entry Level Certificate in Religious Studies is aimed at lower ability pupils. It provides an opportunity for lower ability pupils to achieve recognition for their work in RE. My work developed into three main areas:

1. Research educational techniques that help to develop thinking skills.

2. Adapt these techniques to suit Entry Level pupils.

3. Research the Parables.

I have included the teacher handbook as an appendix to this document.

To read the full report and view teaching materials in Pdf format click on the title below.

The Ministry of Jesus

The pupil workbook resulting from this Fellowship has since been published by Colourpoint and is one of a series of four workbooks which cover Option 1 of the CCEA Religious Studies Entry Level syllabus. For more information see colourpoint.co.uk
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The Acts of the Apostles

Derek Irvine

In a climate of constant educational change it can sometimes be difficult, as a teacher, to take time for research and consequently to develop appropriate resources that will enhance the learning and teaching which goes on in the classroom. I have found that, due to the multiplicity of tasks which have to be done in school and the marking which inevitably has to be completed at home etc, I have not had sufficient time to evaluate my teaching notes / pupils notes; to reflect on how to improve them and make them more relevant; and to develop new material.

Since the introduction of the Advanced Subsidiary Examination time seems to be even more difficult to acquire. Pupils are now being prepared for external examinations in January as well as June, not to mention those who repeat various modules at varying times. The implications for classroom practice are enormous. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a Farmington Scholarship. This meant that I could take the time to, not only refresh my love for my subject, but to spend time doing some research and ultimately produce a resource which would greatly benefit both teachers and pupils of Religious Studies.

I decided to concentrate on the Religious Studies Advanced Subsidiary Specification, in particular that specified by C.C.E.A. (Northern Ireland’s Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment.) I hope that the material that follows proves to fulfil my aim, that is, to be a valuable resource for the effective learning and teaching specifically with regard to the A.S.R.2 Module entitled, “An Introduction to the Acts of the Apostles”.

To read the full report and view teaching materials in Pdf format click on the title below.

The Acts of the Apostles


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Thinking Skills

Francine Magill

Following the introduction of the new curriculum in 2007, Thinking Skills will be on the lips of every teacher in Northern Ireland. Therefore I decided that this would be the best area to research for my Farmington Fellowship. I am continuously trying to make my classroom more interactive, and to do this have introduced many tasks, games and use various teaching strategies. In 2004 I decided to begin to implement the new curriculum within Year 10 and looked for resources that would be interesting, stimulating and relevant to pupils. As part of this process three innovative units of work were developed and implemented in September 2004. Two units of work remained to be completed at that stage, on Sectarianism and Buddhism respectively.

As I wanted to link my Farmington term with what I was trying to achieve in the classroom, I decided to begin my term by spending six weeks researching thinking skills and how these could be adopted within the classroom. The remaining period was spent creating a scheme of work on Sectarianism which incorporated thinking skills. This comprised a pupil’s workbook and homework book. Finally, in the few days that remained before my Farmington term came to an end, I commenced work on the Buddhism module.

As I have already stated I want to make my classroom more interactive, thought provoking, and inspirational, allowing pupils to explore and question their faith in a safe and secure environment. Pupils need to become responsible for their own learning through discussion with their peers and their teacher. It is important for pupils to examine their beliefs, to know why they believe something and think through what is important to them in their spiritual life and why! Thinking skills is one methodology that will allow me to achieve this goal.

The concept of thinking skills is nothing new. Teaching people how to think has been advocated from the time of Socrates. However in recent times through the work of people such as De Bono, Lipman, McGuiness and Fisher, it has returned to the fore front of educational debate and practice. There have been two major influences on the development of thinking skills in education. Psychology, focusing on how individuals think and learn, and philosophy, which encourages critical and logical thinking. Vivienne Baumfield (2002) states that a debt is owed to Dewey and Vygotsky in the development of modern day thinking skills programmes. The creators of two highly regarded thinking skills programmes, Philosophy for Children (Lipman) and Instrumental Enrichment (Feuerstein) both state that they were influenced by the work of Vygotsky.

Through researching the work of Lipman, Fisher, De Bono, McGuiness, Feuerstein and others I have come to the conclusion that there are three key elements to the promotion of thinking skills within the classroom that encapsulate what they are. These are Cognitive Conflict and Challenge, Metacognition and finally Bridging & Transfer.

To read the full report and view teaching materials in Pdf format click on the title below.

Thinking Skills


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Learning To Celebrate diversity

Marlene finlayson

The focus of my study was threefold –

Citizenship Education: Familiarising myself with the Education for Citizenship in Scotland document, and especially with its aims and purposes; Looking at the wider European context, and at attitudes to diversity in some European countries, contrasting in particular the attitudes and policies of the Danish and Scottish governments; Linking Citizenship and RME aims and targets.

Islam: Developing my own understanding of the religion by meeting members of the local Muslim community in Belfast; Looking at the distribution of the Muslim population in Scotland; Making initial contact with some interfaith groups in Scotland, and discovering what efforts are being made to promote interfaith understanding in our country.

RME: Devising a framework for teaching about Islam in a way which will promote understanding of our Muslim neighbours and which will contribute to the children’s own personal search/development; Discovering resources to facilitate the above.

Some of the conclusions reached were:

  • A trend towards preference for more homogenous societies seems to be growing in several countries throughout Europe, with Islam in particular being seen as a threat to the traditional value systems.
  • Citizenship Education has its roots in Human Rights Legislation, and RME is a good vehicle for the promotion of understanding of minority ethnic groups.
  • Considering other people's views, beliefs and lifestyles can help children develop a stronger sense of their own identity.
  • Education for understanding minority ethnic groups needs to start as early as three years of age.
  • Children who have little contact with people of different ethnicities, may be more, rather than less prejudiced.
  • Values are best transmitted through a dialogical or conversational approach to teaching, with the teacher modeling the role of active learner who is open to new ideas.


To read the full report in Pdf format click on the title below;

Learning to Celebrate Diversity


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The Celtic Church

Janice Vennard

CCEA, the Northern Ireland examining board, launched its new Specification for Religious Studies in September 08. The Farmington Fellowship has afforded me the opportunity to collate resources I have built up over the last four years and produce material relevant to the new specification.

The AS 5 course explores the origins of the Celtic Church in Ireland from pagan roots, the arrival of Christianity and pre-Patrician Ireland, to the mission and writings of Patrick. It also includes the introduction of monasticism. This resource has been written specifically to assist teachers and students to meet the requirements of CCEA’s GCE Religious studies AS course. It is intended to provide students with an outline of relevant course material which helps students focus and understand their prescribed topics in greater detail. The format of the material is determined by the structure and content of the new specification.


The key areas involved within this module are:-

· Background to the mission of Patrick
· The work of Patrick
· The beginnings of monasticism in Ireland
· The Penitential
· Missionary outreach in Britain

To read the first two chapters of the report in Pdf format click on the title below.

The Celtic Church ch 1-2

The full report is available from ZigZag Education publishers.

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Web 2.0 in Education

Darren Walker

Web 2.0 in Education Farmington Report 'How many penguins does it take to sink an iceberg? The challenges and opportunities of Web 2.0 in education.'

Chances are tha if you're over 25 the title of this paper will have left you feeling either confused or dismayed, perhaps even a little both. Confused because you are wondering what possible connection could be made between penguins, the Internet and education? Dismayed because you're still coming to terms with Web 1 and here is someone talking about Web 2.0. Thereore some further explanation of the title is likely to be helpful.... Read on

Web 2.0 in Education Website

Darren Walker's Farmington presentation

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