Date of Award

1-1-2010

Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Department

Educational Leadership and Policies

Sub-Department

Early Childhood Education

First Advisor

Kevin Swick

Abstract

The impact of the work of James W. Fowler in Faith Development particularly his Faith Development Theory has been tremendous and should not be understated. However, criticisms have emerged through the years particularly in regards to his reliance on the Moral Development Theory of Lawrence Kohlberg. In considering the faith development of young children, strong adherence to a moral theory that is deeply grounded in cognitive development is insufficient and incapable of giving a complete picture of young children's faith conceptions. It does not allow young children to be taken seriously as persons of faith. A faith development theory that informs a new millennium needs to include voices that extend previous thinking to incorporate larger world-views and multiple voices. The work of Carol Gilligan, Nel Noddings, and other feminists who advocate an ethic of care in moral theory are just some contributions that can be included. An ethic of care that promotes listening and attentiveness to multiple voices encourages the hearing of the children's voices and builds upon the abilities and experiences with care that young children already have.

This study explored children's views about God in a manner that aligned with a feminist ethic of care by bringing the children to the table. Using qualitative methods, this study describes and analyzes individual interviews and adult guided peer discourse with young children engaged in God-talk. Children were asked in individual interviews to describe God and the expectations they think God has for them and others. During the individual interviews, the children were engaged in a discussion of the book Old Turtle and asked questions during and after the story to help further illuminate young children's conceptions about God. During the adult guided group discussions the children were guided through the same interview format as the individual interviews. A concluding interview was conducted to clarify any follow-up questions that arose from the data and to verify each child's individual list of descriptors making any changes the child indicated. The data was coded for descriptors of care or justice as well as any other themes that were constructed naturally from the data.

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