International Perspectives and Practices for Religious Education in Early Childhood

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2023) | Viewed by 23364

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
School of Education, The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle, Austrlia
Interests: early years pedagogy; spirituality; religious education in early childhood; teacher formation

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to invite your contribution to a Special Edition of the Religions journal, titled “International Perspectives and Practices for Religious Education in Early Childhood”. Religions is ranked as a Q1 journal, and as you are renowned for your research in this area, I would love to have your involvement in this issue.

Internationally, the way in which the term ‘religious education’ is understood and practiced is widely varied. When religious education is considered in the early childhood years, it can become even more complex. This Special Issue seeks to address a gap in current literature on the ways in which religious education is both understood and practiced in the context of early childhood around the world. Although often context-specific, there is much to be learned from understanding religious education globally. Religious education is best understood as a process of interpreting the nature of religion and its beliefs and practices (Cullen, 2019; Sullivan, 2017). The educative nature of religious education is mostly agreed upon (Gellel, 2019). However, there is also the formative aspect of religious education, which for some is a necessity and for others is described as a ’hope’ (Groome, 2019). The nexus between formation and education is made more explicit in the early years of development as children learn holistically (Robinson et al. 2018); they experience their learning and do not necessarily separate learning ‘about’ something with ‘experiencing’ it and ‘living’ it. This issue seeks to explore research such as that in the area of young children’s religious understandings, early years religious education, perspectives of teachers and children around religious education, models and theories of religious education that relate to the early years, research on the intersection between faith and knowledge in early-childhood religious education, and research on pedagogies for religious education in the early years. These are some examples, and I welcome you to share your ideas for a paper with me if you think your work may be a fit for this issue.

If you are able to contribute to the issue, which I hope you can, I request that, prior to submitting a manuscript, you initially submit a proposed title and an abstract of 400–600 words summarizing your intended contribution. Please send it to my email (Christine.robinson@nd.edu.au). If you do this, I can ensure a good fit within the scope of the Special Issue. Full manuscripts will undergo double-blind peer-review.

I am excited about this opportunity and hope you will consider submitting your work as a contribution.

References

Cullen, S. (2019). The religious education of the religious teacher in Catholic schools In Global Perspectives on Catholic Religious Education in Schools Volume II: Learning and Leading in a Pluralist World (1st ed. 2019.). (2019). Springer Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-6127-2

Gellel(2019). Rethinking Catholic religious education in the light of Devine pedagogy In Global Perspectives on Catholic Religious Education in Schools Volume II: Learning and Leading in a Pluralist World (1st ed. 2019.). (2019). Springer Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-6127-2

Groome, T. H. (2000). Educating for life: A spiritual vision for every teacher and parent. Crossroads.

Robinson, Treasure, T., O’Connor, D., Neylon, G., Harrison, C., & Wynne, S. (2018). Learning through play : creating a play-based approach within early childhood contexts. Oxford University Press.

Sullivan, J. (2017). A space like no other. In M. Shanahan (Ed), Does religious education matter, 7-24. Routledge.

Dr. Christine Robinson
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • early years religious education
  • early childhood religious education
  • religious education pedagogies
  • religious education theories and practices in early childhood
  • teacher perspectives of religious education in early childhood

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

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15 pages, 473 KiB  
Article
Discursive Norms and Incentives for Equipping Students with Religion and Worldview Literacy in Swedish Preschool Teacher Education Policy
by Magdalena Raivio, Ellinor Skaremyr and Arniika Kuusisto
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1194; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091194 - 19 Sep 2023
Viewed by 1934
Abstract
The increasing societal diversity of religions and worldviews (R&W) in Swedish preschools affects what competencies today’s preschool teachers need and what needs to be taught in Swedish Preschool Teacher Education (PTE). The study aims to investigate the content and discursive norms regarding religion [...] Read more.
The increasing societal diversity of religions and worldviews (R&W) in Swedish preschools affects what competencies today’s preschool teachers need and what needs to be taught in Swedish Preschool Teacher Education (PTE). The study aims to investigate the content and discursive norms regarding religion and worldviews in Swedish PTEs on a national policy level and contribute to knowledge in the research field of Religious Studies and Higher Education. The PTE curricula of all the twenty Higher Education institutions offering PTE in Sweden in 2022 are investigated using text-centred discourse analysis, together with a theoretical and analytical tool for analyzing different dimensions of the PTEs and the potential for them to function as socially sustainable communities of care. The results show that even though there might be implicit incentives for teaching about R&W, all but one of the educational curricula of the twenty PTEs in Sweden lack explicit mention of ‘religion’. Based on the results, we can see that at a national policy level, the content of the educational curricula reproduces liberal secular and humanist worldviews as norms for the PTEs. There is also a lack of explicit policy-related incentives for the PTEs to promote social sustainability regarding equipping students with proper knowledge and skills for developing care-centered and norm-critical R&W literacy. Full article
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12 pages, 233 KiB  
Article
Cultural and Religious Diversity in Early Childhood Education Implications of Socialization and Education for the Geographies of Childhood
by Christoph Knoblauch
Religions 2023, 14(4), 555; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040555 - 20 Apr 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 4404
Abstract
Cultural and Religious Diversity in ECE is discussed from multiple perspectives and influenced by different parameters. In this context, culturally and religiously sensitive education faces various dynamic and conflictual challenges, such as different comprehensions of the concepts of culture and religion or current [...] Read more.
Cultural and Religious Diversity in ECE is discussed from multiple perspectives and influenced by different parameters. In this context, culturally and religiously sensitive education faces various dynamic and conflictual challenges, such as different comprehensions of the concepts of culture and religion or current transformations in society. Social spaces such as kindergartens play a major role in offering the potential for diversity to be experienced and reflected in the context of socialization and education. Focusing on the manifold relations between cultural and religious diversity in education, this paper discusses evaluation findings from a qualitative study in the German Early Education sector. Perspectives from children, parents, and educators on the implications of socialization and education for the geographies of childhood are presented with a special focus on options for culturally and religiously sensitive education. The empirical findings, therefore, focus on experiences and assessments from different participants in the field of ECE, offering a multiperspective view on the topic. The study uses semi-structured qualitative interviews and content-based evaluation, interviewing over 200 children, educators, and parents in group interviews. The results are discussed in categories such as socialization of children, competencies of educators, underlying pedagogical concepts, experiential learning, and others. In this context, the paper offers an in depth discussion of the potential of a culturally and religiously sensitive education and the role of communities and religious institutions. Against this backdrop, the question discussed is how these results can be constructively implemented to improve the constructive perception and the usage of educational spaces in ECE. Full article
19 pages, 300 KiB  
Article
Give Them Time to Ponder
by Anne-Marie T Irwin
Religions 2023, 14(4), 513; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040513 - 07 Apr 2023
Viewed by 1146
Abstract
The current educational climate poses challenges for both the educator and learner when it comes to deep learning. A significant part of the solution lies in providing both time and space wherein a deep learning can occur, despite the challenges. After situating the [...] Read more.
The current educational climate poses challenges for both the educator and learner when it comes to deep learning. A significant part of the solution lies in providing both time and space wherein a deep learning can occur, despite the challenges. After situating the SALT Approach (acronym for Scripture and Liturgy Teaching Approach), progressing from its doctoral study roots, the paper unpacks ways that the SALT approach harnesses time to facilitate deep thinking. The pedagogical ways discussed can also be adapted for use across the curriculum, as the ‘toolbox’ of ideas in the final section of the paper summarizes elements that can facilitate a classroom climate and setting leading to peace and productivity in the learning space. Full article
14 pages, 286 KiB  
Article
Standards Setting in Religious Education: Addressing the Quality of Teaching and Assessment Practices
by Antonella Poncini
Religions 2023, 14(3), 315; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14030315 - 27 Feb 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1557
Abstract
This paper describes a set of educational initiatives in Religious Education (RE). The paper addresses RE as an academic learning area and reserved for Kindergarten to Year 10 classrooms in Catholic schools. The initiatives described in the paper are evidence-based; they are guided [...] Read more.
This paper describes a set of educational initiatives in Religious Education (RE). The paper addresses RE as an academic learning area and reserved for Kindergarten to Year 10 classrooms in Catholic schools. The initiatives described in the paper are evidence-based; they are guided by research and student achievement data addressing contemporary assessment reforms within the Australian educational context and considering the implications that the reforms have on the quality of student learning in RE. The reforms include quality assurance measures such as large-scale, standardised assessments (LSAs) and social moderation tools. The purpose of the measures is to establish standards that support the alignment of teaching and assessment practices. Such an alignment in the RE learning area has the potential to strengthen and improve student, as well as teacher, knowledge and understanding of the Catholic Faith Tradition. The paper draws from the Catholic RE school curriculum in Western Australia (WA), assessment principles outlined for schools in WA, an Australian Research Council Linkage project and local research about teacher perceptions of an LSA in RE. The paper supports local and national policy expectations recommending a review of the quality of RE as a learning area. Furthermore, given the prominence of the Catholic Church’s mission of evangelisation and the nature and role of RE in Catholic schools as part of that mission, the paper endorses the Church’s current stance on thoughtful dialogue and renewed efforts to bring a better understanding about Catholic culture and education to the world. Full article
10 pages, 238 KiB  
Article
But First, Spirituality: Spirituality and Religious Education in Western Australian Catholic Early Learning Contexts
by Christine Robinson
Religions 2023, 14(2), 269; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020269 - 16 Feb 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2766
Abstract
In Western Australia (WA), Religious Education (RE) is a mandated learning area within the compulsory years of the Catholic school sector. RE is advocated as a curriculum subject, timetabled for and assessed alongside other subjects and focussed on developing religious knowledge and understanding. [...] Read more.
In Western Australia (WA), Religious Education (RE) is a mandated learning area within the compulsory years of the Catholic school sector. RE is advocated as a curriculum subject, timetabled for and assessed alongside other subjects and focussed on developing religious knowledge and understanding. In addition to the RE lesson, faith development, or catechesis occurs through the intersection of RE and other faith-based activities in the Catholic school. In the early learning centre that caters for children prior to compulsory schooling, there is no formalised RE curriculum and educators are tasked with raising the religious awareness of children as opportunities arise. This paper presents findings from research that explored educators’ understandings of, and practices in, promoting children’s spirituality specifically in connection to RE. As a result, the paper advocates for spirituality as the starting point for developing young children’s religious beliefs. In addition, it become evident through this investigation that understandings of spirituality, religiosity and RE continue to be complex and educators require assistance to disentangle these if they are to intentionally promote children’s spirituality, and subsequently, their religious beliefs. Full article
19 pages, 2547 KiB  
Article
Curiosity of Preschool Children (4–6 Years of Age) about Religious and Moral Issues
by Ahmet Koç
Religions 2023, 14(2), 260; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020260 - 15 Feb 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1868
Abstract
The child is a trust from Allah and the ornament of the worldly life. In the early childhood period, which includes the preschool period, the child asks many questions, wants to understand everything around them, and shows an inexhaustible desire to learn. This [...] Read more.
The child is a trust from Allah and the ornament of the worldly life. In the early childhood period, which includes the preschool period, the child asks many questions, wants to understand everything around them, and shows an inexhaustible desire to learn. This research was carried out to examine the opinions of Qur’an course teachers about the religious and moral curiosity of preschool children. A qualitative method was used to ascertain the opinions of 40 participants in 2022. Six themes and 42 codes were determined from the answers provided by the participants to the questions in the semi-structured interview form. A content analysis method with a phenomenology design was used to analyze the data obtained in this study. It was found that children were intensely curious about the religious and moral issues of Allah, the Prophet, angels, death, heaven, hell and prayer; they can ask questions comfortably to satisfy their curiosity, and it was determined that they are excited when asking questions. It was found that teachers reacted positively to satisfy and expand children’s curiosity. In addition, we concluded that family and environmental learning are important factors that increase children’s curiosity, and activities such as drama, games and experiments conducted by teachers increase children’s curiosity. Full article
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13 pages, 301 KiB  
Article
Paying Attention to the Spiritual Flourishing of Young Children in Church Toddler Groups: A Scoping Study Evaluating the Feasibility of a Research Study in This Context
by Ann Casson, Mary Woolley, Ann Pittaway, Tansy Watts, Nicola Kemp, Robert A. Bowie, Katie Clemmey and Rosanne Aantjes
Religions 2023, 14(2), 236; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020236 - 09 Feb 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2684
Abstract
Attention to the spiritual flourishing of young children contributes to their well-being, both their being and their becoming, but much-needed research in this area poses many challenges. The National Institute for Christian Education Research is undertaking a funded research project investigating the spiritual [...] Read more.
Attention to the spiritual flourishing of young children contributes to their well-being, both their being and their becoming, but much-needed research in this area poses many challenges. The National Institute for Christian Education Research is undertaking a funded research project investigating the spiritual flourishing of young children in church toddler groups in England. This article reports on a scoping study which investigated the feasibility of a major research study in this area. The study was multifaceted, it involved clarifying terminology, evaluating previous research studies and early years research methods, and led to the development of a potential research framework. The article defines spiritual flourishing as a dynamic state of being, revealed in nurturing the right relationship with self, others, creation, and the transcendent. The findings propose an understanding of children’s spirituality as relational, based in the here and now, and shaped by the environment. Secondly, an exploration of midweek church toddler groups, a common feature across the denominations, through the lens of belonging, behaving, and believing reveals a potential critical contribution to young children’s spiritual flourishing or faith development. Thirdly, following an evaluation of potential effective research methods, the discussion highlights the value of an interdisciplinary study, the potential challenges and proposes a research framework. The article draws attention to the urgent need for more research to understand what contributes to young children’s spiritual flourishing within a Christian context. Full article
13 pages, 233 KiB  
Article
Early Childhood Teachers’ Confidence to Teach Religious Education and the Influences Which Impact Their Teaching of Religious Education in Catholic Primary Schools
by Sharon Law-Davis
Religions 2023, 14(2), 198; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020198 - 02 Feb 2023
Viewed by 1735
Abstract
This article reports findings from a study that examines the factors which influence early childhood and care (ECEC) early career teachers’ confidence in teaching Religious Education (RE) and how it impacts their teaching of RE in Catholic primary schools in Western Australia. Teachers’ [...] Read more.
This article reports findings from a study that examines the factors which influence early childhood and care (ECEC) early career teachers’ confidence in teaching Religious Education (RE) and how it impacts their teaching of RE in Catholic primary schools in Western Australia. Teachers’ confidence is a teacher’s belief in their ability to accomplish a goal and refers to strength of belief. Research in this area has shown that confidence is correlated with the sense of teaching efficacy and responsibility for student learning. Whilst there has been some research into teacher confidence, there has been insufficient research into early childhood teachers’ confidence to teach RE in Catholic schools in an Australian context. Literature supports the notion that if early childhood teachers have a strong teacher confidence for a subject, they are more motivated to teach the subject and this has a positive correlation with positive student outcomes. The epistemological approach underpinning the research is constructivist in nature; therefore, it is based on understanding the constructed realities of what humans know of the world and themselves as produced by communications and systems of meaning. Three case studies follow teachers from their early career to second-year experience in Catholic schools. This study investigates support structures and aspects that contribute to teacher confidence in the teaching of RE. The main themes identified by the data that contributed to confidence or lack of confidence included training, family and religious backgrounds, teaching and learning, mentoring and support in the first year of teaching. The implications of the results for pre-service teacher training and support for graduate teachers are discussed and some suggestions are offered about the courses provided by universities and what schools and education systems can do to support early career teachers to teach RE effectively in Catholic schools. Full article
13 pages, 268 KiB  
Article
Action Possibilities Enhancing the Spiritual Wellbeing of Young Children: Applying Affordance Theory to the Godly Play Room
by Brendan Hyde
Religions 2022, 13(12), 1202; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13121202 - 10 Dec 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1494
Abstract
Godly Play is an approach to religious education for young children between the ages of three and eight. The Godly Play room, modelled on Montessori’s prepared environment, provides opportunities for young children to respond to Sacred stories, Parables and Liturgical actions presented by [...] Read more.
Godly Play is an approach to religious education for young children between the ages of three and eight. The Godly Play room, modelled on Montessori’s prepared environment, provides opportunities for young children to respond to Sacred stories, Parables and Liturgical actions presented by the Storyteller through art using any of the materials available to them. However, there is a paucity of research into how different spatial affordances may enhance opportunities for spiritual development in the Godly Play room. This article examines the Godly Play room through the lens of affordance theory. It applies elements of the notion of affordances to three documented anecdotes of Godly Play storytellers to show how particular action possibilities enhance opportunities for spiritual development and wellbeing. The analysis highlights the importance of the Storyteller’s guidance, the readily accessible materials, and the dedicated space in which Godly Play is undertaken. Full article

Review

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10 pages, 264 KiB  
Review
Religious Education in the Early Years: An Irish Perspective
by Cora O’Farrell
Religions 2023, 14(4), 459; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040459 - 29 Mar 2023
Viewed by 2121
Abstract
Ireland’s education system at primary level is renowned for its lack of diversity, with most schools falling under the patronage of the Catholic Church. This homogeneity of school type is problematic from a number of perspectives, not least the changed demographics in terms [...] Read more.
Ireland’s education system at primary level is renowned for its lack of diversity, with most schools falling under the patronage of the Catholic Church. This homogeneity of school type is problematic from a number of perspectives, not least the changed demographics in terms of religious affiliation in Ireland. There is a desire for change by all; however, the pace of change is slow. Whilst the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) determines the curriculum for all subject areas in primary schools, this body has no remit over the subject of religious education (RE). The responsibility for the provision of RE has rested with the patrons of schools since the inception of the national school system. This review focuses on the provision of early years’ Catholic RE in schools and pre-schools in the Republic of Ireland. In recent years, the importance afforded to the subject of RE and its status in schools has been eroded. The impact on early childhood religious education of this diminution is outlined. The review also addresses the training and support of teachers to work in the Catholic school sector and concurs with other writers in the field that current programmes of preparation require reform. Full article
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