Theses Doctoral

Learning the Meets Life: The Lived Experience of Teaching with Secular Spiritual Pedagogy

Owen, Renee Lee

Spirituality is an elusive, hard-to-define quality that is impossible to measure. Spirituality is often conflated with religion, even though the two have different definitions and purposes. For these reasons and more, spirituality is regularly an overlooked or taboo topic in K-12 education. Likewise, spiritual pedagogy, which considers spirituality a central aspect of education, is often ignored. Yet empirical research is revealing that humans, at our core, are spiritual beings. Studies indicate that when education affirms the animating life force of humans and focuses on the development of people’s inner lives, humans thrive. Thus, the phenomenon of teaching with secular spiritual pedagogy is well worth investigating. First, however, the phenomenon needs to be understood. Therefore, this study explored the following research question: What is the lived experience of teaching with secular spiritual pedagogy?
The research employed a hermeneutic phenomenological methodology to illuminate the essence of the lived experience of teaching with secular spiritual pedagogy. I conducted two in-depth interviews with each of seven K-12 teachers who employ secular spiritual pedagogical practices. Interviews were conducted as open-ended guided conversations, asking teachers to describe what spirituality looks and feels like in their classrooms and to reflect on how they make meaning of their experience. In addition, four of the teachers participated in a focus group to reflect on the early findings.
The findings indicated that teaching with spiritual pedagogy is an extra-ordinary spiritual learning opportunity that some teachers consider to be a spiritual path. Findings are organized into The Path of Spiritual Learning, a conceptual map with six essential themes. The Path is framed by the theme of Meaning and Purpose, has Connection as a foundation, and moves toward Authenticity. The themes on The Path are synthesized with transformative learning theory, Heron’s theory of personhood, whole person learning, and the developing theoretical understanding of authenticity within the field of adult learning. Recommendations for K-12 and adult education are to evolve toward a participatory, or relational, epistemology, where the interconnectedness of life is the guiding ontological framework – one that values the flourishing of all human life as the central goal of education.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Yorks, Lyle
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 6, 2019