Higher-degree research being undertaken by Ruby Holland




Professor Robyn Ewing AM and Rev Dr Michael Jensen

Thesis title:

Curriculum and the religious identity of middle school students.



Project description

This study explores the development of student identity as a powerful psycho-social construct in 21st Century education, providing answers to two essential questions: ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What is my purpose?’ The development of a healthy identity in the religious/ideological domain, as defined by Erikson, is a special focus of independent schools. It relates significantly to student motivation and well-being in a pluralist democracy in which religious belief is highly contestable. To explore the interaction of educational practice and student identity, this project involved a case study in each of two single-sex faith-based schools. It was expected that the religious/ideological domain of identity would be evident in subjects such as English or History, in school policy, general school culture, class teachers’ values and students’ own meaning-making interpretive framework. These appear to provide answers to the identity questions based on their presuppositions about the ideal or flourishing life.

Four Year 10 students were selected as sub-case studies in each school through a validated questionnaire following Marcia’s status framework of identity. Classes were observed. Teachers, Chaplains and Heads were interviewed. Observations and field notes were taken of the school environs to further understand school ethos and hidden curriculum. Student voice, however, remains the central focus of the study, as students give form to their identity in the experiences they narrate in interview. This narrative understanding of identity complements the more paradigmatic status approach and provides the conceptual framework. In their final form, the Case Studies seek to explore intersecting narratives of the flourishing life: that of the students’ religious identity, the religious tradition of the faith-based school and the story told by the enacted curriculum.

Ruby Holland has been a teacher in government and independent schools for over forty years. She was formerly the Principal, and later the Assistant Principal: Curriculum at St Paul’s Grammar. She has presented at IB conferences in Vietnam, South Korea and Sydney on the implementation of the International Baccalaureate in independent schools. She has been a consultant to faith-based schools on belief and values in schooling and co-ordinated the development of the Master of Teaching for Excelsia College. She is currently involved in professional development at Lead level for aspiring and practising principals in Anglican schools and is hoping to submit her thesis in Semester 2, 2019.