Instructional Design in Religious Education

The common emphasis on lower-level objectives is certainly a common fact within religious education contexts. From my professional experiences within this field, I often see the “sage on the stage” mentality permeate instructional contexts, as the typical “Sunday school” approach has remained stagnant in regards to instructional change over the past several decades.

The religious education field has been built upon a very traditional approach to instruction and is based strongly on a strong cognitive view of learning. Authorities would support the description of the cognitive domain of learning proposed by Reigeluth and Moore (Reigeluth & Moore, 1999) that states, “Cognitive education is composed of the set of instructional methods that assist students in learning knowledge to be recalled or recognized” (p.52). Teachers see their duty to teach God’s word to children from the Bible in a manner that children can grasp and apply to their lives. Because these teachers often times are teaching a theological concept as opposed to a skill, they may tend to only incorporate learning activities at the lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy (Reigeluth & Moore, 1999). Most of the laity that teach weekly religious education courses do not have immense amounts of preparatory time nor do they have much extra time in the weekly class to engage in many desirable constructivist activities.

I do agree with the position stated that instructional designers should seek to develop higher-order objectives for their instructional projects. No matter the topic that is being taught, I believe it is advantageous to help learners evaluate, apply, and synthesize their learning into applicable contexts. In the religious education setting, I believe it is far more important to help a child discover why God’s principles are true and how they can be applied to his or her life rather than simple teaching that “thus saith the Lord.” The struggle within the religious education context is that there is a measure of faith that must be incorporated into the learning environment. I’m working at slowly changing the instructional mindset of the volunteer teachers in my church and helping them to see the value of incorporating constructivist learning opportunities into their classes.


Reigeluth, C. M., & Moore, J. (1999). Cognitive education and the cognitive domain. In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional-design theories and models: a new paradigm of instructional theory (Vol. II). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.