New ways to discover and advance students’ and the wider public’s reasoning about science and religion

Overview: A conference exploring links between education, science and religion, organised by the LASAR (Learning about Science and Religion) project at the University of Reading with the Department of Education, University of Oxford

Date: Friday 28th October 9.30 am – 5.30 pm

Location: Oxford University, Department of Education

Deadline for abstract submission: June 20th 2016

Some people believe that science and religion are necessarily opposed and compete for the same territory. The pervasiveness of the conflict thesis – in schools and among the wider public – is underpinned by a myriad of complex factors. This conference will discuss why the conflict thesis is so prevalent in people’s thinking, and will showcase research and activities designed to discover and/or improve students’ and the wider public’s understanding of the ways that science and religion relate.

In any multidisciplinary field, people are knowledgeable in a particular field but not necessarily expert in others. This conference is an opportunity for participants to share their findings and expertise and at the same time discover new ideas and new perspectives. We believe that the conference will be beneficial for the following groups:

  • Researchers in education (particularly science and religious education)
  • Academics including philosophers, scientists, theologians and historians interested in the relationships between science and religion;
  • Science teachers and science teacher educators;
  • RE teachers and RE teacher educators;
  • Postgraduate and undergraduate students on teacher education courses;
  • Postgraduate and undergraduate students studying philosophy, theology, natural sciences, religious studies and related subjects.

There will be three short paper sessions (described below) for which all attendees are encouraged to submit proposals. Each speaker will have a maximum of 15 minutes presentation time, followed by questions and discussion. Acceptance of papers will be based on quality, originality, relevance to the conference theme and plausibility of presentation within 15 minutes. We may run parallel sessions or share papers in advance for discussion on the day in order to include more presentations.

Short Paper session 1: Beyond Barbour: 

Ian Barbour proposed four major models to convey how science might relate to religion: Conflict, Independence, Dialogue, and Integration. Are these ideal for teaching or are there more effective and participatory ways to involve learners in the discovery of how science and religion might relate? Papers are invited that address for example:

  • What is a novel way to explain the relationship between science and religion?
  • What are effective models for helping children to conceptualise the relationship between science and religion?
  • Can visual models help early learners understand the sort of claims science and religion make?

Short Paper session 2:  Beyond Bare Statistics

Research over many decades shows that school students tend to see science and religion as opposed. Understanding why this is can be better understood via research that looks at who children are, what they believe, how they think and what they learn and access.  Papers are invited that address for example:

  • What do young people think about the relationships between science and religion – and why?
  • Alongside surveys and interviews, what other methods can reveal children’s thinking?
  • What are the questions and topics that most readily engage young people and those who work with them?

Short Paper session 3: Beyond Chalk and Talk

Papers in this session will present and discuss resources and interventions relating to science and religion. It will look both at how gaps and misconceptions can be effectively addressed and also at how activities and resources can be strategically delivered. Papers are invited that address for example:

  • What is the impact of particular approaches on students’ or teachers’ perceptions of how science and religion relate?
  • What courses, tools and activities are available for learners of different ages?
  • What are the most effective methods to reach a given audience?

Please email abstracts (300-500 words) for 15 minute papers as a Word document to Dr Berry Billingsley, Abstracts will be considered on receipt.

Conference proceedings

Conference presenters will be invited to submit a chapter or chapter section for an academic audience including researchers, teacher educators, curriculum planners and policy makers. LASAR also commissions writers to produce articles and resources for its project related websites – including

Please visit for more information.

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