Education and Arts

2012 Abstracts

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Abstracts from Journal of Religious Education, Volume 60(1) 2012

Learning stories and dispositional frameworks in early years’ religious education
by Brendan Hyde

This paper presents an initial report on a longitudinal project in which 30 teachers are tracking their students’ learning in religious education in the early years’ utilizing a dispositional framework (as opposed to a learning and teaching framework) in two Victorian dioceses. Dispositional frameworks place emphasis on the processes by which students learn rather than on the achievement of learning outcomes, and reflects approaches to curriculum which are being used in early childhood contexts. The notion of learning dispositions in religious education are detailed, as is the notion of a learning story – the tool that teachers are using in this project to track their students’ learning. The voice-centred relational method used to analysis the transcribed interviews with early years’ classroom teachers in this project is also detailed. Four steps typically comprise this form of analysis, and each is detailed by considering the transcripts of two particular interviewees in this project. The analysis of these transcripts reveals the complexity of the participants’ experience in utilizing the learning story – a combination of frustration, struggle, and excitement.

Engaging the secondary school student in religious education classes: The four essentials
by Kerry Ang

This conceptual article explores how the secondary school Religious Education teacher can successfully engage students so that effective learning can take place. For this to occur, it is argued that teachers firstly need a broad understanding of the nature of today’s secondary school students in terms of the prevailing youth culture. In terms of how young people think and learn, it needs to be remembered that most secondary students are going through the particular stage of human development called adolescence. This is a critical time in the lives of students when patterns of thinking and behaviour are established. Finally, four essentials needed to engage secondary school students in Religious Education classes are proposed and discussed. These are: knowledge; authenticity; relevance; and relationships. If these four essentials can be achieved in the classroom, students will be engaged in their learning, which in turn will lead to higher quality intellectual work and a more enjoyable and productive educational experience for both the teacher and the student.

What has faith got to do with classroom religious education?
by Michael Buchanan

Curriculum framework documents in religious education from various Catholic dioceses throughout Australia have in recent times sought parity with state and territory curriculum frameworks (National Catholic Education Commission, 2008). This has been done even though religious education is not part of the learning domain of state and territory education systems or curricula. This quest for parity has resulted in greater emphasis on the “educational” focus of classroom religious education and a downplaying of the attention given (if at all) to the faith dimension in Catholic schools. This paper proposes a rethink of the emphasis attributed to faith in classroom religious education by drawing on perspectives of faith in religious and secular contexts.

Perspective on children's spirituality and catholic primary school religious education: A key starting point for reviewing issues in content and pedagogy
by Graham Rossiter

Much has been written in the academic literature in recent years about the place of wonder, awe, the experiential, imagination, playful learning etc. in children’s spiritual development. This makes a valuable contribution to understanding the natural ‘human’ dimension to children’s spirituality at both pre-school and primary school age levels. But what seems to be neglected, and which warrants more attention, is the primal socialisation into the spiritual that young children absorb from their parents/guardians. In other words, a key to interpreting children’s spirituality is the sort of spirituality exhibited by their parents. And for many Catholic children entering Australian Catholic primary schools, their parents have a relatively secular, individualistic, subjective and self-reliant spirituality – which is not particularly religious. Their children’s starting, pre-school spiritual baseline does not include any reference to God and religion. From this point of view, an attempt will be made to interpret the apparent discontinuity between children’s and adolescents’ spirituality as part of a continuum. The perspective developed will be used in follow up articles to evaluate a number of issues identified in the literature related to children’s spirituality and content/pedagogy in primary school religious education.

Transformative learning theory: Implications for the adult religious education of women
by Leona English

The author reviews the literature on transformative learning from both religious and adult education sources. Drawing on this literature, she highlights the issues for women, discusses implications for their learning, and notes that some religious educators have already integrated these insights into their teaching. The author concludes with specific suggestions for further research.
Brookfield (2000) tells us that “learning can be called transformative only if it involves a fundamental questioning and reordering of how one thinks or acts. If something is transformed, it is different from what it was before at a very basic level” (p. 139); the process of being transformed demands nothing less than awareness of the fundamental premises of life and living. This is what many of us aim for in our work as religious educators: fundamental change in the learners and in ourselves as educators. Seemingly, religious educators, in general, have avoided intense engagement with this immensely helpful educational theory, and those with an interest in the religious education of women have not shown any degree of interest in it. This is surprising given transformative learning’s (TL) obvious linkages to the religious education of women; that is, the concern for change, embodiment, creativity, and imagination, which are integral dimensions of learning. In response to this lacuna, the author examines transformative learning implications for women. This essay starts by describing the critical literature selection and review strategy, then outlines the main themes from the review, and ends with implications for the transformative religious education of women. Critical areas for future research and exploration are identified. The focus here is on women since they are more strongly represented in religion or spiritualty than men are.

The author attempted to determine a) the degree to which transformative learning theorists have been interested in women as a particular subject group, or in religious or spirituality education, implicitly and explicitly, and b) the degree to which religious educators have been interested in transformative learning theory (or its cognates conversion, transformation, adult development) or women’s learning in particular. Religious education is understood as intentional learning opportunities for adult women in places such as churches, synagogues and mosques (Regan, 2000), as well as spiritualty centers and workshops.
The author reviewed the major publications in adult education and in religious education. The religious education journals included Teaching Theology and Religion, Religious Education and Journal of Adult Theological Education (JATE); in reviewing these the author tried to establish links among these seemingly disparate areas—women’s learning, transformative learning, and religion. The author also reviewed major publications in adult education and transformative learning (Proceedings of the Transformative Learning Conference, the Journal of Transformative Education, and the ERIC database), in order to establish links and connections among these seemingly disparate areas—women’s learning, transformative learning, and religion.

Newman and interconnectedness: Integration and university education
by John Sullivan

Prompted by Newman’s advocacy of interconnectedness as a goal for Catholic university education, this article links integration as a major life-task with integration as a priority for university education. First, I explain what I mean by integration as a task for each of us before commenting on what Newman has to say about integration in university learning. Then I present five types of challenge that must be taken into account if integration is to be pursued seriously as a priority in university. Finally I indicate some of the ways that faculty might set about addressing these challenges.

Teaching the faith: Case studies from Indonesia and Australia
by Ahmad Muhammad Diponegoro and Peter Waterworth 

The teaching of a religion in schools not only epitomises but also denotes the beliefs and values of proponents of the religion being taught. The teaching of religion in state schools must be considered within the context of the social and cultural location of religion within society. The cultural contexts for the teaching of the Muslim faith in Indonesia and the Christian faith in Australia are vastly different. This study considered the experiences and perceptions that teachers of religion (in state primary schools) had in Indonesia and Australia. We collected data from four case study teachers from each country about their faith experiences and their experiences as teachers of religious education in lengthy elaborated interviews. We found that the expression of religious understanding and knowledge in educational settings was profoundly influenced by the teachers’ own spiritual development. The teachers from both countries had surprisingly similar spiritual journeys through childhood, adolescence and adulthood with a strong involvement with the mosque or church or their peripatetic organisations. However, the Indonesian teachers were teaching faith in a context which, outwardly and proverbially (at least) was overwhelmingly supportive of their role. The Australian teachers were teaching within a secularised cultural context that was ostensibly critical or at least sceptical of the faith base they represented. The Australian teachers saw themselves as counter cultural, minority believers attempting to re-establish a diminishing faith base of reducing relevance. Yet both groups articulated a similar motivation to teach the faith: to honour Allah or God, to reaffirm the Word and to clearly proclaim their belief in the faith basis of national life.

The place of Christian ethics in Ukrainian education
by Spencer Meredith

The last twenty years have witnessed significant changes in the relationship between sacred and secular approaches to politics, and education policy has been part of that reconceptualization. Much of the debate surrounding normative instruction centers on definitions of goodness, and the kinds of situations that require commendable behavior. While many practitioners teach morality and ethics through explicitly religious content, a growing spectrum of applied ethics has emerged as well. This paper briefly compares political structures that allow for such instruction, and the problems it seeks to overcome in different socio-economic contexts in order to understand the curious case of Christian Ethics education in Ukraine. Ukraine is neither a mature democracy, nor has it experienced the horrors of AIDS or civil war, yet the government has endorsed and allocated scarce resources to overcome societal ills in part through moral education. This paper examines the evidence to show correlation between normative instruction and positive social change. Determining causality should be the next step in the literature.