This page gives a brief description of Dr Tony Eaude’s D. Phil. thesis ‘Beyond Awe and Wonder: how teachers of young children understand spiritual development.’ This was completed at the Department of Educational Studies, University of Oxford in 2003.
The abstract is as follows:
In this thesis I examine, and evaluate critically, how teachers of four- and five- year old children understand spiritual development and use this to suggest the outlines of a new understanding of young children’s spiritual experience and development, enriched by the practitioner perspective.
I explore philosophically issues of definition, arguing that this area is better approached through description than precise definition. I highlight problems with the metaphor of development. I argue that a view of spiritual development as dependent on engagement with a religious tradition excludes most children and is too narrow. I consider a range of traditions of spirituality, and of research, especially in psychoanalysis and cognitive psychology, to raise key questions to be addressed in formulating a wider, more inclusive description.
I examine in depth the understanding of fourteen teachers of four- and five-year olds in ‘early-years units’ in Oxfordshire, both in their practice and in discussion. I examine their, often latent, understanding, especially in relation to the key questions. I provide interpretations based both on narrative and thematic frameworks in discussing the coherence and consistency of their understanding.
I bring together the philosophical and empirical aspects of the study to present the framework of an inclusive understanding describing spiritual experience and how teachers may enable, or enhance, it. I present spiritual development as enhancing, or enabling, personal integration and the search for meaning and identity. I highlight the importance of relationships and value rather than ‘internal’, emotional experience. I argue that schools have an important role and that much that is implicit in teachers’ practice enhances spiritual development. Recognising the limitations of the metaphor of spiritual development, I conclude that it should not be abandoned but that a range of metaphors should also be adopted. I conclude by discussing the implications for research, a revised view of spirituality, classroom practice, the curriculum and policy and training.
The appendices have not yet been put on to the website, but are available by contacting the author.