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Teacher Professionalism in Religious Education

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The article gives an overview of selected research results of the project, "Teacher professionalism and professionalisation in religious education". 1 It deals with the question of how teachers in classroom interaction in religious education (RE) lessons reason about the underlying meaning of students' expressions and what professional competencies are related to these processes. An inference-based theory of teacher professionalism helps to overcome a pressing problem in practical theology and theory of professions: as the centre of professional action the modes of inference show typologically how individual practical cases (individual religious meanings) relate to a professional repertoire (professional religious meaning). In so doing teacher professionalism in religious education is linked to other professions that also deal with non-standardised practice and those theories are put in concrete terms (Schön 2000; Oevermann 1996).

The article is subdivided into three sections. The first describes the starting point: the context of discovery. Changes in religious praxis on the macro-, meso- and micro-levels in a pluralised society present challenges for teachers of religious education. It raises the question of how teachers should handle expressions of students' individual religiosity and correlate these with religious meaning in terms of their professional repertoire so as to make religious communication possible. From this follows the main research question: how do teachers of religious education reason about the meaning of students' religious expressions? Second, the paper develops an empirically 'grounded theory', following Strauss and Corbin, as the context of justification. The theory provides a qualitative typology of modes of inference and explores their qualities and dimensions in teacher action. Third, as the context of application the theory of teacher professionalism in religious education offers a guideline for university sector teacher professionalisation, especially in regard to abductive reasoning. Following the Bologna process, the paper indicates professional modules which are already in use.


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