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Durham e-Theses
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Religious education and the unconscious: an investigation of children from seven to eleven years

Ashton, Elizabeth (1989) Religious education and the unconscious: an investigation of children from seven to eleven years. Masters thesis, Durham University.



This thesis examines recent research into the validity of Piaget's theories as to how children assimilate, think, and learn, and analyses in detail the research of Br. Ronald Goldman, who based his theories concerning Religious Education upon the psychology of Piaget. The thesis shows how, although having exerted influence over religious education in Britain for over twenty years, the theories of Dr. Goldman are unhelpful for effective teaching in the field of religious, education, as they fail to give recognition to the significance of environment and experience for a child's receptivity of teaching, concentrating as they do too* much upon chronological age. By the use of various enquiries, the current level of understanding of religion among children of Junior School age is investigated, and found to be lacking in any conceptual development from the Infant Stage. The problem, apparently, is that the children are not introduced to any other concepts of God than "Father", with the result that unhelpful anthropomorphic concepts form and receive reinforcement. The problem posed is how to make use of children's experiences in order to develop deeper thought concerning religious interpretations of life. Two basic types of experience are identified and examined, and related to the psychology of Dr. C. G. Jung: the personal experience and the collective experience. By practical classroom work, which is illustrated throughout, specific religious topics are investigated, drawing upon these two basic types of experience. It is shown that, contrary to Goldman's theory, junior children are capable of analysing quite sophisticated Biblical material, and further, show themselves capable of considerable thought about religious matters and symbolism: in general. The thesis concludes by listing various implications for the Primary School Curriculum. For religious education to be effective, it needs to have its foundations within both personal and collective experience. Thought needs to be drawn out from the children by the use of carefully planned schemes of work, and where possible the children should be given the opportunity of extending and deepening their thought by problem; solving activities related to the theme being followed. In contrast to Dr. Goldman's recommendations, the high potential of junior children for abstract thought and reasoning is illuminated throughout and illustrated, and the use of Biblical, and other religious writings and material is recommended for use in the classroom.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1989
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Feb 2013 13:46

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