Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

There has been a surge of research in the past decade into religious and spiritual development and the religious and spiritual dimension remains central to a range of Education settings. Within a religious context, such as a Catholic or Christian school or Child Care Centre, young children’s spiritual development is integral to their religious development. This unit examines religious and spiritual education in early childhood settings as distinctive and advocates that religious education both within and beyond the early years religion program requires an approach and pedagogy that reflect such a distinction. This approach and pedagogy are informed and underpinned by Church documents, key religious education theoretical understandings and frameworks, and contemporary early childhood theory and practice. Students will learn how to source and evaluate documents relevant to their profession. They will critically examine Church documents and their relevance for early childhood religious education, the nature and purpose of religious education in early childhood, spiritual and religious developmental theories of young children, early childhood theory and practice and appropriate pedagogy for the teaching and learning of the classroom religion program in early childhood. Students will develop an understanding of the nature and purpose of religious education beyond the religion program, that is, how to plan and celebrate relevant liturgical celebrations with young children consistent with the diocesan expectations.

The aim of this unit is to develop student skills in understanding, nurturing and critiquing young children’s spiritual and religious development. This raises significant implications for the design, development and implementation of religious education programs in those centres.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Evaluate the various ways young children can be positioned and constructed in religious education and generate appropriate responsive practice that respects and advocates a contemporary image of child (GA1; APST Lead 1.3)

LO2 - Demonstrate specialised knowledge and critical understanding of the various theoretical underpinnings and frameworks of religious and spiritual education and their relevance to contemporary early childhood practice (GA5, GA7; APST HA 1.1)

LO3 - Demonstrate the application of knowledge and skills of contemporary early childhood theory and practice to initiate and implement innovative curriculum responses in the religion program (GA5; APST HA 2.2)

LO4 - Analyse critically, reflect on, and synthesise relevant Church, global and local documents (such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and Being Belonging & Becoming: The Early Years Framework for Australia) in terms of how and to what extent, such documents inform and shape policy and practice in early childhood religious education (GA10; APST HA 7.2)

LO5 - Evaluate the various contexts for religious education (family, school and parish) and their implications for contemporary professional and ethical practice as well as for the religious life of the early childhood prior to school settings and early years of schooling in the church related school (GA5; APST Lead 7.4)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - Demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA5 - Demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession

GA7 - Work both autonomously and collaboratively

GA10 - Utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively

Australian Professional Standards for Teachers - Highly Accomplished

On successful completion of this unit, students should have gained evidence towards the following standards:

1.1 Select from a flexible and effective repertoire of teaching strategies to suit the physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students.

2.2 Exhibit innovative practice in the selection and organisation of content and delivery of learning and teaching programs.

7.2 Support colleagues to review and interpret legislative, administrative, and organisational requirements, policies and processes.

Australian Professional Standards for Teachers - Lead

On successful completion of this unit, students should have gained evidence towards the following standards:

1.3 Evaluate and revise school learning and teaching programs, using expert and community knowledge and experience, to meet the needs of students with diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.

7.4 Take a leadership role in professional and community networks and support the involvement of colleagues in external learning opportunities.


Topics will include:

  • An exploration of the contemporary image of child and construction of childhood and their implications for religious education in prior to school as well as school early years settings
  • The relationship between young children’s spiritual and religious development and curriculum development for the early years religion program;
  • Theoretical perspectives that inform religious education in the context of the church related school specifically in the early years and their relevance for teaching practices;
  • The relationship between contemporary early childhood theory and practice and theory and practice of the early years classroom religion curriculum;
  • The nature and purpose of religious education in a variety of contexts beyond the classroom including family, prior to school and school settings and parish, with emphasis on the place of prayer and liturgy in early childhood religious education.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is taught in face-to-face classes and online mediums that feature active learning. Active learning strategies will be used to assist students to:

1. build an understanding of the content covered in the unit.

Students will participate in active learning activities such as class discussion and class group activities whose goals are to encourage understanding of class content and materials. Active learning activities like reading, writing, discussion and problem-solving to promote analysis, synthesis and evaluation of class content will promote a practice-led exploration.

2. develop the knowledge and skills that will provide a foundation to identify several key characteristics or attributes of young children’s spirituality, as well as build their spiritual and religious developments.

All lectures, tutorials, workshops are designed to provide students with a range of opportunities to develop expert knowledge and skills that are necessary to demonstrate the learning outcomes.

Assessment tasks will allow students to apply these newly acquired skills.


150 hours in total with a normal expectation of 24 hours of directed study and the total contact hours should not exceed 24 hours. Directed study might include lectures, tutorials, webinars, podcasts etc. The balance of the hours then become private study.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment tasks for this unit have been designed to contribute to high quality student learning by both helping students learn (assessment for learning), and by measuring explicit evidence of their learning (assessment of learning). Assessments have been developed to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. These have been designed so that they use a variety of tasks to measure the different learning outcomes of the unit. In order to pass this unit, students are required to achieve an overall score of 50% or more. The schedule provides scaffolded learning with opportunities for students to monitor their own progress, practice their skills and receive feedback.

The assessment will relate directly to the achievement of the learning outcomes. A variety of assessment procedures will be used to ascertain the extent to which the students achieve the outcomes. These will include seminar presentations, research papers, audiovisual presentations, electronic multi-media presentations, discussion papers and a range of other options.

The total assessment tasks will be the equivalent of 5,500 words.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

A scholarly critique using digital media of a religious education in early childhood contemporary journal article through particular lenses including:

  1. theoretical lens of early childhood
  2. young children’s religious & spiritual theoretical lens
  3. image of child theoretical lens
  4. ecclesial theoretical lens.

This assessment piece includes a group component worth 30%.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA5, GA7, GA10

A written paper that outlines how young children’s spiritual and religious development can be nurtured beyond the religion program.


LO1, LO3, LO4, LO5

GA1, GA5, GA10

Representative texts and references

Adams, K., R. Bull, and M.-L. Maynes. 2016. “Early Childhood Spirituality in Education: Towards an Understanding of the Distinctive Features of Young Children’s Spirituality.” European Early Childhood Education Research Journal 24 (5): 760–774.

Adams, K. (2017) (ed.) Spirituality and the whole child: interdisciplinary approaches. Special issue, International Journal of Children's Spirituality.

Berryman, J. (2002). The complete guide to Godly play: An imaginative method for presenting scripture stories to children. Denver, CO.: Living the Good News.

Cavalletti, S. (2002). The religious potential of the child 6 to 12 years old: A description of an experience. (R. Rojcewicz & A.R. Perry, Trans.). Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications.

Congregation for Catholic Education. (1988). The religious dimension of education in a Catholic school. Homebush, NSW: St Paul’s Publications.

De Souza, M. (2016). Spirituality in education in a global, pluralised world. New York: Routledge Research in Education.

Fic, J., & Robinson, C. (2020). Early childhood teachers’ spiritual and faith formation experiences: initial findings from The T.I.T.U.S. Project. Journal of Religious Education, 68(1), 91–106.

Grajczonek, J. & Ryan, M. (Eds.). (2007). Religious education in early childhood: A reader. Brisbane: Lumino Press.

Grajczonek, J. in collaboration with Queensland Catholic Education Commission PrePrep Taskforce. (2010). Framework for early years’ spiritual development in the Catholic tradition. Retrieved from amework%20for%20Early%20Years%20Spiritual%20Development%20in%20th e%20Catholic%20Tradition.pdf

Hyde, B. (Ed.). (2013). The search for a theology of childhood: Essays by Jerome W. Berryman, 1978-2009. Ballarat, Vic: Modotti Press (an imprint of Connor Court Publishing).

Hyde, B. (2017). Nurturing the spiritual child: recognising, addressing and nurturing spirituality in early years’ classrooms through a dispositional framework. In M. de Souza and A. Halafoff (Eds.), Re-Enchanting education and spiritual wellbeing: Fostering belonging and meaning-making for global citizens. London: Routledge.

Rossiter, G. (2020). Addressing the problem of ‘ecclesiastical drift’ in Catholic religious education, International Studies in Catholic Education, 12(2), 191-205, DOI: 10.1080/19422539.2020.1810998

Walton, C. (2015) Childhood awaits every person, International Journal of Children's Spirituality, 20(1), 4-14, DOI: 10.1080/1364436X.2014.999228.

Wills, R., de Souza, M., Bakkar, M. A., McMahon, J. M., Roux, C. (Ed.). (2021). The Bloomsbury Handbook of Culture and Identity from Early Childhood to Early Adulthood. London, UK: Bloomsbury.

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