Date of Submission

7-2016

Abstract

The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the spirituality of a small sample of teachers in Catholic schools through the expressions of their own personal understanding of spirituality. The study was conducted in a biographical, narrative way which allowed the voices of the participating teachers to be heard.

This research inquiry addressed the contemporary problem of the ambiguous relationship between religion and spirituality within a culture that is predominantly secular. The cultural religious overlay (in this case, Catholicism) which once served to identify and define spirituality and its practices for many Catholics, no longer provides a meaningful reference point for a significant number of those baptised in the Catholic faith. This problem presents a substantial challenge for church schools grounded in the Catholic tradition, which set out to educate young people religiously and to help induct them into the Catholic Church. Identifying and interpreting how the personal spirituality of teachers was expressed makes a helpful contribution to clarifying some of the issues within this problem. It could shed some light on the ways in which the spirituality of teachers related to the Catholic school’s intended role in educating young Catholics and promoting an integration of faith, life and culture.

The study was located in the context of four aspects of spirituality identified in the literature. The first two considered spirituality in a broad way, regarding it as an intrinsic human capacity and then traced the ways this had been expressed over the centuries in the Christian tradition. The second two aspects centred on an exploration of more specific contemporary expressions of spirituality. The first of these was concerned with exploring the normative Catholic Church documents and the current religious education theory of Shared Christian Praxis. The fourth aspect was the literature which focussed specifically on the spirituality of teachers. As the study explored the perceptions of teachers regarding their personal spirituality, the research design was situated within the interpretivist model. The investigation occurred inside the interpretive tradition of phenomenology which provided access to many facets of the human experience. Constructionism through the lens of symbolic interactionism and intersubjectivity provided the epistemological framework. This allowed for meaning to be created personally and for participants to express different perceptions of similar experiences.

The key data gathering strategy was three interviews with each of the 5 participants. While it was recognised that this was a relatively small sample, it allowed for prolonged time with each participant to explore spirituality across a range of experiences. Spirituality was therefore iii identified within a broad spectrum inclusive of the religious and secular. The NVivo qualitative research program was used to assist with the analysis of the interview data and ensured that the analytical categories remained close to the words used by the participants Conclusions from the study highlighted the interpersonal ways in which spirituality was understood and expressed in the themes of relationality, connectedness and belonging. The capacity for presence, combined with attitudes of listening and empathy were seen as important pathways to experience transcendence, described by the participants as “something other,” “something beyond” or “mystery.” The study acknowledged that although spirituality may be regarded as an innate human potential, it needed to be awakened and nurtured for this capacity to be realised. Therefore recommendations were proposed for informing programmes that intended to promote ongoing spiritual development for educators in Catholic schools.

Document Type

Thesis

Access Rights

Open Access

Extent

336 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

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