Date of Graduation

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

College/School

School of Education

Department/Program

Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Gini Shimabukuro

Second Advisor

Dan McPherson

Third Advisor

Peter Williamson

Abstract

Research literature has demonstrated that Catholic high school religion teachers face a number of possible challenges or tensions as they go about the preparation and practice of teaching religion. One challenge that emanates from the literature is that religious studies teachers are expected to be as professional as their counterparts in other disciplines, yet they lack the structural resources for developing that teaching professionalism (Cook, 2001; Cook & Hudson, 2006; Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, SCCE, 1988; United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, 2005). A second challenge is the expectation that religious studies teachers must meet the needs of students who desire religious instruction, students who are indifferent to religious instruction, and students who may lack knowledge of Catholicism, who may be non-Catholic, or who even may be cynical about religion altogether (Donlevy, 2007; McDonough, 2011; Rossiter, 1982; SCCE, 1988; USCCB, 2005). Religious studies teachers may also experience a third challenge in their approach to instruction: to teach in a constructivist or student-centered manner or to follow the expectations of the U.S. Catholic bishops to teach orthodox content and to correct faulty student knowledge (Groome, 1980, 2011; Manning, 2012; Ostasiewski, 2010; Rossiter, 1982; SCCE, 1988; USCCB, 1972, 2008).

A review of the literature on Catholic high school religious studies teachers revealed that there is a lack of research in the area of religious studies teachers' perceptions of their role and in the area of the "what" and "how" of teachers' praxis as they navigate the challenges they experience. This study sought to explore these areas in a small group of religious studies teachers in order to add to the limited research that exists. The researcher conducted two semi-structured, in-depth interviews with four participants.

The study revealed that the participants view themselves as being and representing Church for their students and that they may be the only Church the students encounter. The participants did not experience tensions, so much as challenges. They did not experience the bishops' Framework as a tension as it had not yet been implemented in their dioceses. It also revealed that they face a variety of common challenges such as meeting the needs of both Catholic and non-Catholic students, making the classes relevant for their students, and including academic rigor without academic oppression. They have adapted their pedagogy to meet those challenges.

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