Details of Thesis

Title Reimagining the Catholic School: an exploration of principals’ responses to changing contexts of the contemporary catholic school
Author Mellor, Graeme J
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2005
Abstract The focus of this research project was the changing perception amongst practising Catholic school principals of the nature and purpose of the contemporary Catholic school. This examination was set within the changing social, ecclesial and educational contexts within which the Catholic school has operated in the decades following the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). The research which was conducted amongst principals in the Archdiocese of Brisbane, Australia, was focused by two research questions. These were:How do principals currently perceive the purpose of Catholic schools? How do they perceive Catholic schools changing? The review of the literature examined elements of the changing environment of the contemporary Catholic school. It also surveyed the ways in which that literature described the effects of changing social, ecclesial and educational contexts upon the sense of purpose amongst principals of Catholic schools. The demise of “inherited meanings” and the reconstruction or reimagining of a new meaning structure provided the conceptual template for the study. Since the study explores the perceptions of leaders concerning their schools in times of extensive and foundational contextual change, it involved an interpretive research design. An epistemological stance of constructionism was adopted because it acknowledges the impact which engagement with the research exerts upon participants’ construction of meaning. An interpretivist theoretical perspective served to structure the research in a manner that was congruent with the philosophical foundations of the research questions. The employment of the research orientation of symbolic interactionism was appropriate because it holds that meaning and interpretation of phenomena are to be understood by listening to the voices and perspectives of the participants within a given context. A case study approach was utilised in the execution of the research design which allowed for flexible, systematic and continuing data collection, analysis and participant feedback. Data were collected through the use of personal, open-ended questionnaire, semistructured interviews, critical review interviews, focus groups and independent review and were analysed using constant comparative method. The research led to the conclusion that in the contemporary Catholic school, a high priority is given to the offering of a holistic educational experience to students. This, in turn, is predicated upon an anthropology which adopts a more unitive rather than dualistic view of the human person. This represents a significant conceptual movement within the period under study. A greater emphasis is also placed upon the evangelising role the Catholic school, which, in turn, acknowledges the increasingly secular environment within which it operates. At the same time, there is a strong, expressed belief amongst its leaders that the contemporary Catholic school offers an experience of a redemptive community in which its members can find acceptance, inclusion and a sense of the spiritual dimension of life which transcends the status of affiliation with the institutional Church.
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