2018 Conference Workshops


Exploring Science and Belief – Mark Case (Oxley College, NSW)

What is the difference between ‘believing’ and ‘knowing’? What is ‘proof’? Is it possible to hold a scientific worldview and a religious worldview? This workshop will feature a unit of work that can be adapted to suit students in Years 8-10, exploring the relationship between the Christian tradition and the development of science in western culture. It will include teaching strategies, sample activities and assessment tools. The approach is student-centred and inquiry based, with a focus on developing critical and creative thinking skills. Topics will include approaches to Genesis 1-3, Darwinism and Creationism as well as key events and individuals in the history of the relationship between science and Christianity.


Inter-religious Learning in RaVE: Pedagogy and Practice – Helen Crain-Welsby (St Mark’s National Theological Centre, Canberra)

How can we present content and concepts about “world” religions to promote inter-religious learning in ways that will engage students so that they can both learn about and learn from religion and religions? How can we teach in ways that move beyond straightforward descriptions and accumulation of religious knowledge to promote empathy and “edification” – the application of ideas in pupils’ own lives (Warwick Project, U.K., 1995-1997). Importantly, how can our teaching and learning activities about religious diversity help to break down stereotypes and build bridges of understanding? To this end, we will look at effective pedagogies and classroom strategies for religious educators. The workshop will have a secondary school teaching practice focus but upper primary school teachers may also benefit and are welcome.


Human Nature: Why does it matter? – Dylan Bartlett (Newington College, NSW)

Are we to be seen as hairless bipeds? Created in the image of God? Savages who need taming? A little lower than the angels? Does it matter what your view of human nature is?

Taking a theme and an inquiry question in Philosophy and Religious Studies, such as human nature, and exploring it from several perspectives, including interdisciplinary approaches, can be a refreshing way to promote engagement and learning in the subject.

This workshop will explore connections and implications of your view of human nature for:

  • Ethics: Are humans essentially self-interested? What follows if so?
  • Philosophy: The free will & determinism debate. What is at stake?
  • Religion: Religion and the search for meaning – with a focus on the teaching of Christianity.


Taking the Next Step:
Teaching University Philosophy in Secondary Schools – Dr Matthew Flannagan (St Peter’s College, Auckland)

In 2018, Matthew Flannagan piloted a St Peter’s College course which involved students doing University study in moral philosophy by distance as part of their Year 13 Theology and Philosophy programme, as an alternative to Cambridge and NCEA. In this workshop Matthew discusses the logistics and challenges of teaching University Philosophy at Secondary level.


Fostering the Enquiring Mind – Luke Giles (Newington College, NSW)

This workshop will explore and discuss ways of fostering inquiry in the classroom, utilising a number of practical, scaffolded tasks that have been employed in the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department at Newington College.

Participants will both experience and evaluate these activities in conjunction with observations of in-class situations where they have been employed. The PRS lessons at Newington will provide this, focusing on both lower school and senior study classes where different inquiry techniques have been utilised.

The aim of the session is to foster collegiality and this is encouraged throughout the workshop, in the hope that practitioners leave the experience with resources and ideas that drive creative and critical classroom practice that reflects the nature and reality of Philosophy and Religious Studies.


The Wallet, The Trolley Problem and The Good Place: Teaching Ethics to Teenagers – John Layton (De La Salle Catholic College, Cronulla, NSW)

Thought experiments are a great way of engaging students in discussion of ethical issues. This workshop will look at some classic thought experiments – and some examples from popular culture – exploring ways of motivating ethical discussion. From hypothetical case studies, the workshop will look at some challenging real-life examples, showing the importance of teaching Ethics in the secondary school.


Ethics in Sport – James Perrin (Guildford Grammar School, WA)

Sport is a uniquely human endeavour and sets us apart from other animals. This course seeks to serve as an introduction to a range of ethical frameworks and then encourages students to apply these frameworks to ethical questions and issues raised by sport. The vast majority of the assessment for this course is built upon the use of Community of Inquiry. This aims to develop the students’ critical, creative and collaborative thinking.

In this workshop, we will be taking a look at the structure of the course and we will take some time to practise using Community of Inquiry as an assessment tool.

You will walk away with the resources (and hopefully the know-how) to be able to run this course at your own school.


Brick by brick: Laying foundations for a thoughtful engagement with the world
Sam Sterrett and Brendan Zani (Scotch College, WA)

Sam and Brendan lay out a blueprint for systematically building student capacity to engage thoughtfully with the world around them, to explore others’ perspectives in their best light, and to understand how it is that we build knowledge about ourselves and the world around us. Sharing their experience of building a broad-based programme in critical thinking, they share a pedagogy focused on creatively immersing students in real-world knowledge situations where they can exercise and develop their skills in constructing knowledge, cultivate the dispositions that foster ongoing critical reflection, and understand how it is they come to know, and the limitations of that knowledge. They chart a course drawing in inductive and deductive reasoning, individual and group thinking biases, the construction of effective arguments, and an exploration of ethical models. They offer scenarios from biology, psychology, history, public policy and international affairs, and feature thinkers from Kant through to Rawls in a whistle-stop tour of their work.


Human all too human:
Education as a Struggle for Meaning through Metaphor – Nikolai Blaskow (Gippsland Grammar School, Victoria)

“Rather than appealing to universal truth or morality based on the power of reason, Nietzsche’s impassioned plea for resuscitating the embodied self as a source of ethics provides a new perspective on educational philosophy.”

So writes Peter Fitzsimons in his Nietzsche’s Übermensch as a Metaphor for Education. What he means by ‘the embodied self’ and the claims he makes for the kind of ‘new perspectives’ this might throw on ‘educational philosophy’, are contestable. It is the contention of this paper and the focus of the workshop to explore both the exact nature of what is meant by Friedrich Nietzsche’s ‘embodied self as a source of ethics’ and what his ‘new perspective on educational philosophy’ might actually be. For there is an abstraction in Fitzsimon’s explanation which fundamentally overlooks the visceral and colourful immediacy of Nietzsche’s provocations regarding teaching and learning. But I go much further than this. I want to suggest not only that Nietzsche follows Jesus’ method of teaching by employing parable and aphorism, but that he himself becomes ‘a living hermeneutical principle’ that, strangely, parallels the Christ in St Luke’s Emmaus account in as much as he holds up to us, like a mirror, the heritage of violence which lies at the base of all cultures—which constantly sets out to obscure our common humanity and to stifle our understanding: the base line of all true knowledge and education.

In this workshop, I will:

  1. elucidate how Nietzsche apprentices the thinkers of the future (for us the philosophers of the 21st century) through parables and aphorisms much the same as Jesus did;
  2. deconstruct Nietzsche’s metaphor of the tuning fork as a hermeneutical device for exposing the idols of false assumptions;
  3. explain Nietzsche’s personalized methodology focused on ‘self-criticality’.
    Additionally, I will provide a lesson plan for the classroom to test Nietzsche’s overall teaching methodology in the context of the current SOLO pedagogy focusing on his notion of ‘undergoing’, ‘overcoming’ and ‘becoming’.