A worldview is a person’s way of understanding, experiencing and responding to the world. It can be described as a philosophy of life or an approach to life. This includes how a person understands the nature of reality and their own place in the world. A person’s worldview is likely to influence and be influenced by their beliefs, values, behaviours, experiences, identities and commitments (Commission on Religious Education, 2018, p.3).
The Commission on Religious Education (2018, p.4) describes worldview in terms of the ‘institutional’ and the ‘personal'. There are sets of propositional beliefs that can be referred to as ‘institutional systems of making meaning’. These include what can be described as religions as well as non-religious worldviews such as Humanism, Secularism or Atheism. A personal worldview describes the individual emotional, belonging and behavioural dimensions (Commission on Religious Education, 2018, p.72) that Pierre Bourdieu calls ‘habitus’. Habitus is more of ‘an orientation and understanding of the world that is absorbed and shaped at the level of practice’ (Smith & Smith, 2011, in Cooling, 2019, p.8). A personal worldview may or may not be drawn from one or many institutional worldviews. This personal worldview or habitus is often unexamined and inherited but it is what shapes thinking and behaviour (Commission on Religious Education, 2018, p.4).
All worldviews, whether religious or non-religious, grapple with the same existential questions including: the nature of reality, the meaning and purpose of human life, what constitutes a good life, and questions of identity, belonging, commitment, behaviour and practice.
All worldviews, whether religious or non-religious, grapple with the same existential questions including: the nature of reality, the meaning and purpose of human life, what constitutes a good life, and questions of identity, belonging, commitment, behaviour and practice (Commission on Religious Education, 2018, p.34). They are highly influential on the lives of individuals, groups and societies. Core knowledge both of the content of religious and non-religious worldviews and the conceptual structure of how worldviews operate, unlocks knowledge and understanding of important aspects of cultural and intellectual life. Understanding worldviews enables young people to understand a wide range of human experience, from everyday behaviour to the arts, science, technology, literature, history, and local and global social and political issues. Young people also need to understand the worldview’s of others in order to relate well to them and be able to reflect on their own (Pett & Cooling, 2018, p.25-27).
Although everyone has a worldview – their way of seeing, making sense of, and giving coherence and meaning to the world and to their own experience and behaviour – an individual’s worldview may be more or less systematic, and more or less consciously held, and it may or may not refer to institutional or communal religious or non-religious perspectives (Commission on Religious Education, 2018, p.24).
Education also always offers a worldview; it is never neutral. It is based on a vision of what it means to be a flourishing human being and of the significance of acquiring and interpreting knowledge.
Education also always offers a worldview; it is never neutral. It is based on a vision of what it means to be a flourishing human being and of the significance of acquiring and interpreting knowledge (Commission on Religious Education, 2018, p.1). So it is important for students to develop skills to recognise, interpret and critique the hidden presuppositions in any body of knowledge or belief. They should be encouraged to reflect on their own worldview and its development, and to recognise the complexity of the relationship between the personal and the institutional in worldview development (Commission on Religious Education, 2018, p.3). This is a part of educational formation that prepares students for Worldview encounters with differences, whether beliefs, ideas or behaviours, which they will meet in the classroom and in the wider world.
A Christian worldview accepts that human knowing is worldview-framed and so is always an interpretation of that reality. Importantly it affirms the notion of a truth to which all humans are accountable and acknowledges that a process of critical debate and judgement-making is characteristic of the human condition. It makes the public search for truth not just possible but also necessary (Cooling, 2019, pp.5–6).
Commission on Religious Education. Final Report. Religion and worldviews: The way forward. A national plan for RE. September 2018. London: Religious Education Council of England & Wales.
Cooling, T. (2019). 'The Return to Worldview: Reflections from the UK'. In International Journal of Christianity and Education. 2019, Vol.23 (1) pp. 3-9.
Cooling, T. (2019). 'Everyone has a worldview?' For publication in RE Today, May 2019.
Pett, S. & Cooling, T. (2018). 'Understanding Christianity: exploring a hermeneutical pedagogy for teaching Christianity'. British Journal of Religious Education. 17 Jul 2018. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/01416200.2018.1493268
Online Professional Learning Courses
This article provides an insight into some of the content of EdComm's online Professional Learning course: Spiritual Development for All Pupils: The contribution of worldview education.
Spiritual Development for All Pupils: The contribution of worldview education is a five or ten-hour, online course. It gives five hours of NESA-accredited learning at the Proficient level or ten hours at the Lead level.
Upcoming Course Dates & Registration
Click on the link to be directed to further information about the appropriate course.