Details of Thesis

Title An Exploration of a Contemporary Youth Spirituality Among Senior Students in Three Catholic Schools
Author Maroney, Michael
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2008
Abstract The theory and practice of Catholic schooling, particularly with respect to religious education, have the purpose of promoting the spiritual and moral development of young people. This includes a special emphasis on acquainting them with the religious traditions and spirituality of the Catholic Church. Because Catholic schooling has always endeavoured to meet the religious and personal needs of students, there has been an ongoing interest in monitoring the spirituality of youth to inform the development and planning of a relevant and effective religious education. Hence, there has long been an interest within the Catholic education sector in research on youth spirituality. A significant volume of research has been conducted on the spirituality of contemporary youth within the last decade. This has included a number of major studies in Australia (Crawford and Rossiter, 2006; Flynn and Mok, 2002; Hughes, 2007; Mason et. al. 2005, 2007) and in North America, Smith & Denton (2004). This project reports on an empirical investigation of the views of senior school students in three metropolitan Catholic schools in Australia. The first part of the study, a literature review, provided an opportunity to review research on the spirituality of young people to give a broad perspective on developments and issues, particularly for young people in westernised cultures. The first section of the review considered the way in which structural development theories have been used to interpret young people’s spirituality. The second section explored research related to the components and development of youth spirituality. The third section examined a number of cultural influences on young people’s spiritual and moral development. The second part of the project canvassed the views of all 207 Year 12 students in three metropolitan Catholic high schools about their understanding of spirituality and about the links between their spirituality and the experience of Catholic schooling. Each school has its own gender, charism, and multicultural dynamic. A systematic questionnaire provided quantitative data, a summary of which was then discussed in focus groups of students in each of the three schools. In this way, students were invited to interpret the empirical data and to attempt to explain why young people thought and felt as they did – yielding qualitative data. The focus groups also responded to an innovative use of cartoon caricatures of God which prompted participants to talk about the ways in which they and other teenagers imagined God and God’s role in the world and in their own lives. The study contributed to the current body of research information on youth spirituality, especially in a sample group of senior school students in Catholic schools. The key findings were: Evidence that youth spirituality is both eclectic and diverse; Evidence of some non-religious elements to spirituality; it is not linked exclusively with religion; Young people are conscious of their roles in ‘choosing’ and ‘constructing’ a spirituality, rather than just accepting a ‘traditional’ pattern of spirituality; Acknowledged a strong parental influence; also the importance of friends; While a number of students identified their spirituality as ‘religious’, the trend was a spirituality that was not as strongly rooted in religious traditions as was the case for previous generations; The most prominent image of God for this sample of young people was a God of unconditional love and forgiveness. There was less emphasis on a ‘checking’ and ‘punishing’ God that seemed more prominent for earlier generations of Catholics. In discussing the meaning and significance of the empirical data, a comparison was made between the results of this study and those of five recent major studies of youth spirituality examined in the literature review. In conclusion, the project explored a number of issues and implications for educators interested in the spiritual and moral education of young people, especially in the Catholic education sector. These included: In the light of a significant and continuing increase in both ‘individualism’ and ‘moral selfreliance’ in children and adolescents, there is a need for refinement in the ways developmental theories (such as those of Kohlberg and Fowler in particular) are used for interpreting the spiritual and moral development of young people; There is a need for further understanding of how cultural factors like ‘postmodernity’, ‘individualism’ and ‘relativism’ affect young people’s spirituality, particularly as regards linkage with religious traditions; Young people’s images of God and their ideas about how God might ‘work’ within the world are key transcendent elements to youth spirituality; Planning for a ‘relevant’ religious education – which helps young people negotiate contemporary spiritual/moral issues, as well as provide access to spiritual heritage – needs to take into account the findings of research on youth spirituality.
Thesis 01front.pdf  107KB
02chapters1-2.pdf 409KB
03chapters3-4.pdf 2,727KB
04chapters5-6.pdf 4,146KB
05bibliography&appendices.pdf 258KB

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