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Motivation in secondary religious education

By Kevin O'Grady


I show how my previous MA research indicated useful data regarding motivation in secondary school Religious Education (RE) but needed augmented theoretical and empirical substance to inform a general pedagogy (chapter 1): to this end I address issues of adolescent agency and identity (chapter 2) and creativity (chapter 3). Draft recommendations for an active, creative, existential and hermeneutical RE pedagogy result from these augmentations (chapter 2, revised in chapter 3). The heart of this thesis is a classroom-based empirical study designed to apply and assess my recommendations for RE practice. I argue action research and ethnographic strategies fit for my field study purposes (chapter 4). I then present and analyse my field study data, identifying categories of student motivation in RE, namely dialogue with difference, existential or ethical interest and personal significance. These categories are seen to be highly compatible with my earlier draft recommendations for RE practice (chapters 5, 6, 7 and 8). Next, I integrate my data into a critique of Andrew Wright’s religious literacy pedagogy, arguing that Wright’s oppositions of language to experience and intrinsic to pragmatic value are misleading, but conceding that his fundmental principles are sound and that his recent theory overcomes some earlier difficulties. This includes consideration of Ninian Smart’s phenomenological Religious Studies and John Dewey’s educational philosophy. I go on to re-affirm that dialogue with difference, existential or ethical interest and personal significance are basic to what motivates RE pupils. Therefore, effective RE requires hermeneutical learning, including attention to the development of pupils’ own ideas and values over time; action research indicates ways for teachers to handle this requirement (chapter 9)

Topics: BV1460, LB1603
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