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ERIC Number: ED513805
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 258
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1096-0900-4
How Are the Students?: How Teachers' Spirituality and Religion Influence Their Work as Educators
Blanusa, Joan M.
ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, Harvard University
This interpretive qualitative study explores the role of religion and/or spirituality in the work of secular educators. The experience of 18 K-12 and university educators--none of whom teach religion or work in religious institutions, all of whom claim their religion and/or spirituality influence their work--forms the data base for this study. My research questions were: (1) How does the educator define "spirituality" or "religion"? In particular, what religious or spiritual phenomena do they identify as important to them? (2) What does this connection between a person's spirituality/religion, and his or her teaching look like? In particular, what roles do these spiritual or religious phenomena play in one's work as an educator? I analyzed the data by first looking at how the participants conceptualized their sense of religion and spirituality, and then examined how they incorporated those concepts central to them into their teaching. I looked for common themes and foci, as well as differences, in terms of what a person emphasized, and the language each person used. My goal was to understand how each person made meaning of these phenomena and this interconnection. The research subjects come from a wide variety of faith traditions and approaches to spirituality. Some identify with institutionalized, organized religion; some do not. While they all claim their religion/spirituality is foundational to their teaching, they all make clear they do not see it as their role to preach, proselytize, or even make known to their students the sources they draw on in their work. My research yielded these findings. These educators experience their religion or spirituality as: (1) Providing "the" very base, foundation, source, and guide for all they do (it is not one among a number of equally important sources they drawn upon); (2) Informing their sense of self and other; leading them to regard each student, e.g., as having: (a) divinely endowed dignity and sanctity, and b) divinely endowed agency and omnipresent potential; (3) Informing their conceptualization of knowledge, knowing and learning: (a) knowledge is complex, paradoxical and impermanent, (b) knowing requires noticing, being present and questioning, and (c) knowing integrates "logos" and "mythos"; (4) Informing their overall purposes and responsibilities. These include seeking to: (a) nurture the dignity, agency and potential of each student, (b) develop skills to construct knowledge and the commensurate knowing and learning capacities, (c) incorporate into their own work this concept of knowledge and knowing processes, (d) honor everyone's (not just the students') dignity and agency, including their own, (e) consistently model these values, and (f) extend them beyond school; (5) Providing the source of their stamina and resilience. With these findings, and their discussion, my aim is to provide a broader and deeper understanding of the influence a secular educator's spirituality or religion "can" have on his or her work. My study makes no effort to assess how rare or widespread is the phenomenon of secular educators identifying that their religion/spirituality is important to their teaching. However, it was notable that, in seeking subjects for this study by word-of-mouth, I was inundated with many more volunteers than I could accommodate. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A