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 - Classify the various ways young children can be positioned and constructed in religious education contexts including home and school (GA1; APST Lead 1.3)

LO2 - Interpret 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) with a particular focus on how and to what extent, such documents inform and shape policy and practice in early childhood religious education (GA5, GA7; APST HA 1.1)

LO3 - Critique a variety of theoretical underpinnings and frameworks for religious and spiritual education with a focus on their relevance to contemporary early childhood practice (GA5; APST HA 2.2)

LO4 - 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 (GA10; APST HA 7.2)

LO5 - Generate innovative curriculum responses in the religious education program in prior to school as well as school early years’ settings (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.

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 contemporary journal article on early childhood religious education.

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

Australian Government. (2015). Being, Belonging and Becoming – The Early Years Framework for Australia. Downloaded from:

Goodliff, G. (2016). Spirituality and early childhood education and care.. In M. de Souza, J. Bone, & J. Watson (Eds.), Spirituality across disciplines: research and practice (pp. 67-80). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Grajczonek, J. (2015). "To Thine Own Self Be True": Respecting both religious diversity and religious integrity in contemporary Australian early childhood Religious Education. In M. T. Buchanan & A-M. Gellel (Ed.), Global perspectives on Catholic religious education in schools (pp. 103 - 113). Springer International Publishing.

Huth, Brown, R., & Usher, W. (2021). The use of story to teach religious education in the early years of primary school: a systematic review of the literature. Journal of Religious Education69(2), 253–272.

Hyde, B. (2014). Jerome W. Berryman: The spiritual guidance of children: Montessori, godly play, and the future. Journal of Religious Education, 62(2), 87-88.

Larkins. (2021). Children doing theologyJournal of Religious Education69(2), 193–208.

Lynch, S., Pike, D., Beckett, C. (Eds.). (2017). Multidisciplinary perspectives on play from birth and beyond. Singapore: Springer.

Pang. (2021). Whose child is this?: uncovering a Lasallian anthropology of relational belonging and its implications for educating toward the human flourishing of children in faith. Journal of Religious Education69(1), 91–106.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. (1996). downloaded from:

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