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Faith, Spirituality, and Religion In Higher Education. Steven P. Scherger. What Exactly Do We Mean?. Faith —how one makes meaning of oneself, others, the world, and “god” Faith Development —Structural aspects of how one makes meaning

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what exactly do we mean
What Exactly Do We Mean?
  • Faith—how one makes meaning of oneself, others, the world, and “god”
  • Faith Development—Structural aspects of how one makes meaning
  • Religion—Doctrines, practices, and beliefs that compose the content of how one makes meaning
  • Spirituality—Process of searching for meaning, wholeness, and purpose
historical perspective
Historical Perspective
  • Before the Civil War most of American colleges had a religious affiliation; even many “public” institutions were controlled by particular denominations
  • Period between Civil War and WWI witnessed transition in the academe with the rise of research universities
  • Between the two World Wars, spirituality remained a concern for the emerging Student Personnel Profession; but was narrowly defined as mainline Protestant morality
  • The last 50 years of the 20th Century marked a time when both academic and student affairs focused very little on the spiritual aspects of students
  • Last decade has witnessed a renewed interest in student spirituality for numerous reasons (e.g. globalization, multiculturalism, demand by Millennials)
james fowler stages of faith 1981
James FowlerStages of Faith (1981)
  • Graduate of Harvard Divinity; Retired Professor from Emory; Methodist Minister
  • Became interested in the psychological aspects of faith during graduate studies
  • Greatly influenced by Erikson, Piaget, and Kohlberg
james fowler stages of faith 19811
James FowlerStages of Faith (1981)
  • Fowler defines Faith as how one makes meaning of life (ethos)
  • Focused on the structure of meaning making rather than the content of it
  • Fowler argues that the structure of faith is more likely to be universal; therefore his theory can be applied to all individuals including the non-religious or atheistic
james fowler stages of faith 19812
James FowlerStages of Faith (1981)


(Center of Power and/or Values)




james fowler stages of faith 19813
James FowlerStages of Faith (1981)
  • Stage 1: Intuitive-Projective Faith
    • Typical of Children Ages 3-7
    • Dominate Traits: Imagination
    • Forms of Knowing: Perception
    • Transition: Need to Distinguish Between Reality and Imagination
  • Stage 2: Mythical-Literal Faith
    • Typical of Older Children/Young Teens Ages 7-14
    • Dominate Traits: Literalism and Reciprocity
    • Form of Knowing: Story Telling and Symbols
    • Transition: Discovery of Clash Between Different Stories/Symbols
james fowler stages of faith 19814
James FowlerStages of Faith (1981)
  • Stage 3: Synthetic-Conventional Faith
    • Typical of Teenagers and Some Adults
    • Dominate Traits: Formation of Identity with Group
    • Forms of Knowing: Authorities in Community
    • Transition: Conflict with Authorities or Critical Reflection of One’s Own Beliefs
  • Stage 4: Individuative-Reflective Faith
    • Adulthood, but not all Adults Reach this Stage
    • Dominate Traits: Self-Created Identity
    • Form of Knowing: Self-Reflection
    • Transition: Need to Reconcile Conflicting Inner-Voices
james fowler stages of faith 19815
James FowlerStages of Faith (1981)
  • Fowler has Questioned These Last Two Stages
  • Critics Claim they Reflect Fowler’s Own Religious Ideals Rather than Observable Structural Differences
  • Stage 5: Conjunctive Faith
    • Must Navigate the Paradoxes of the Multiple Narratives that Compose One’s Identity; Awakening of Social Unconsciousness
  • Stage 6: Universalizing Faith
    • Paradoxes in Stage Five are Resolved by Transcending One’s own Self Interests and Working toward Universal Love and Justice
sharon daloz parks big questions worthy dreams 2000
Sharon Daloz ParksBig Questions, Worthy Dreams (2000)
  • Graduate and Former Faculty Member of Harvard Divinity; Current Faculty Member of Seattle University
  • Has Taken a Great Interest in College Student Development for the past Three Decades
  • Influenced by Fowler, Kegan, Perry, and Gilligan
sharon daloz parks big questions worthy dreams 20001
Sharon Daloz ParksBig Questions, Worthy Dreams (2000)
  • Adulthood is a construction determined by society as to when an individual is seen as a responsible individual with a “legitimate” voice
  • Parks argues that the lengthening of the lifespan and the increasing complexity of postmodern society has created a new developmental stage, which she calls YOUNG ADULTHOOD
  • Young Adulthood is a time where individuals can test self-authored understandings of self, other, world, and “god” without making long-term commitments
sharon daloz parks big questions worthy dreams 20002
Sharon Daloz ParksBig Questions, Worthy Dreams (2000)
  • Park’s conception of the Young Adulthood Stage lead her to identify a stage between Fowler’s Conventional and Individuative Stages (i.e. Stages 3 &4)
  • Whereas Fowler sees the development of self-authorship of one’s faith as a transition; Parks argues it is a much more involved process that deserves the distinction of being a separate stage
  • Regardless of whether Young Adulthood is merely a transition or a distinct stage of development, Park’s recognition of its importance should be paramount to all higher education practitioners.
  • Mentorship becomes the key component to helping students through this period
recent developments
Recent Developments
  • Elizabeth Tisdell
    • Exploring Spirituality and Culture in Adult and Higher Education (2003)
    • Focuses on the relationship between spirituality and culture (as often expressed through organized and personal religions) in the identity development process
    • Stresses need for respect of spiritual/religious diversity
  • Chickering, Dalton, and Stramm
    • Encouraging Authenticity and Spirituality in Higher Education (2006)
    • First major work to discuss the practical concerns of how student spirituality can be addressed in Higher Education—including public universities and colleges
  • Robert Nash and “Moral Conversations”
    • We are at the same point of discussing religious and spiritual differences as we were in the 1950s in discussing racial differences (2006 ACPA Sponsored Conference on Spirituality)
practical considerations
Practical Considerations
  • Legal Aspects
    • As we are educating adults, the distinct line that is often made in K-12 education between church and state is not as distinct in higher education
    • There is no Constitutional prohibition against teaching about diverse religions
    • While Bishop v. Aronov held that an institution can limit a faculty member’s ability to discuss personal religious beliefs as it relates to teaching practices; it did not preclude discussion of personal beliefs in the classroom or varied student affairs programs
    • Colleges have the right to fund student organizations that explore spiritual issues from a nondenominational perspective

- From Chickering, Dalton, & Stamm (2006)

practical considerations1
Practical Considerations
  • Do you see an interest from students to explore their spirituality/faith/religious identity?
  • What role does spirituality/faith/religion play in your current position when working with students? Is it outside of your position’s responsibilities or should it play a greater role?
  • What are the primary obstacles you see to working with students regarding their spiritual/faith development?
  • Do you find Fowler’s and Park’s psychological approaches to faith helpful? Does Love’s description of spirituality as a cognitive process make it a more accessible topic to raise with students? Does it create any limitations?