Date of Graduation

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Department/Program

Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Stephen Katsouros, S.J

Second Advisor

Gini Shimabukuro

Third Advisor

Shabnam Koirala-Azad

Abstract

In 2007, the Catholic bishops of the United States unanimously approved a document entitledDoctrinal Elements of a Curriculum Framework for the Development of Catechetical Materials for Young People of High School Age(United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, 2008; hereafter,Framework). The promulgation of theFrameworkconstituted the first time that the bishops sought to establish a uniform Religious Studies curriculum for all U.S. Catholic secondary schools. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the perspectives of six Religious Studies teachers regarding their experience of teaching courses based on the USCCBFramework; specifically, these teachers' experiences of theFramework's impact on the theological content they teach and on their pedagogy. The researcher conducted two semi-structured, in-depth interviews with each of six participants. She also incorporated elements of Participatory Action Research (PAR) into the research design, attempting to engage the participants in a collaborative process of generating knowledge and considering potential avenues of action rooted in that knowledge.

This study demonstrated that theFrameworksubstantially alters the theological content that students learn in their Religious Studies courses. These shifts in curricular content place new demands on teachers, requiring them to navigate a Christocentric, apologetic curriculum that emphasizes advanced, detailed theological and doctrinal content. The study also revealed that theFrameworkhas prompted some teachers to utilize more teacher-centered methodologies and more traditional assessment strategies and to curtail their use of certain pre-Frameworkactivities and projects that they had found to be effective. Additionally, teachers routinely supplement theFramework's content, most notably its material on Scripture.

The findings of this study led the researcher to conclude that the U. S. bishops lack awareness of various aspects of the present reality of U.S. Catholic secondary schools and possess only a limited ability to control the Religious Studies curriculum of such schools. Additionally, the many pedagogical challenges presented by theFramework's content manifest the potential to diminish students' interest in Religious Studies, particularly if a teacher possesses limited abilities to meet these challenges. These conclusions carry important implications regarding the future direction of Religious Studies in U.S. Catholic secondary schools.

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