What Difference does A-Level Religious Studies Make?

What is the impact of A-Level Religious Studies on students’ beliefs, values and worldviews? Involving research with a wide range of schools, this project is led by Prof. Leslie Francis (University of Warwick) and Prof. Stephen Parker (University of Worcester).

Among those studying A-level RS are students with a religious faith and students with no particular faith commitment, making a study of attitudinal change fascinating. Who are these students? What do they currently believe about the transcendent? What is their moral outlook and attitude to faith (their own and others)? Does doing A-level alter any of this? Does it enable students to acquire ‘an enquiring, critical and empathetic approach to the study of religion’ (Edexcel RS GCE ‘A’ level Specification 2007), and to ‘reflect on and develop their own values, opinions and attitudes in the light of their learning.’ (AQA, Religious Studies A-level specification, 2008)? Do students find studying their own faith, and the critical questions required by study at this level, challenging, and how do they respond? Is the experience of doing A-level RS a stormy one in terms of the challenge it presents to students’ worldviews? Does students’ faith or their attitude to faith change as a result of study? In what ways does students’ attitude to their faith or their values change (if at all)? Does the study of A-level RS impact upon students of faith differently to those of no faith commitment? Little comparative research has been carried across faith perspectives (and non-faith groups) to explore the relative attitudinal and values changes across groups resulting from the A-level RS experience.

This study, being directed by Prof Leslie Francis of the University of Warwick and Prof Stephen Parker of the University of Worcester, involved a large-scale questionnaire survey of A-Level RS students at an early stage in their first year of study, with a repeat survey the following year for those proceeding to A2. Alongside this, Trust director Ian Jones undertook classroom observation and one to one interviews with A-Level classes in two different schools. The project was jointly-funded by the St Gabriel’s Trust (now part of Culham St Gabriel’s) and St Peter’s Saltley Trust. It is hoped to make the results available shortly.

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