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Worldview in Christian higher education : a multi-dimensional investigation into experience, narrative and conceptions or worldview.

posted on 14.02.2017, 00:23 by Belcher, Elizabeth Christina (Reid)
This thesis explores the nature of worldview in one institution of Christian Higher Education (CHE) and the role of narrative in articulating, promoting and or understanding worldview. Currently, even though the term worldview has been highly apparent in branding and mission statements in Institutions of CHE, little research has been undertaken into the ways in which a worldview operates at different levels of an institution over time, how it is sustained or changed, and how a worldview speaks to or for members of an institutional community over time. It is implied in the branding of Christian educational institutions that 'worldviews' embody a particular stance, and exhibit a way of being 'particular' in the world. But what drives this worldview? And how is it experienced by students and professors? In what ways do the worldviews of the professors and students who make up an institution of Christian Higher Education mediate its institutional worldview? In responding to these key questions, this research seeks to provide a nuanced and critical perspective on the highly contested term, worldview, at a time when there is great interest across the world in spiritual values in education (see e.g., Cooling, 2010; Palmer, 2010; Wong & Canagarajah, 2004). The study takes the view that critically engaging with narratives inhering in one particular institution at one point in time and over time is crucial for understanding worldview as it is experienced by professors and students in the institution, and it can provide valuable insights into the social, academic, educational and institutional identities of this institution. Central to my inquiry is a reflexive, institutional ethnographic study (Smith, 2005, 2006) into one institution of Christian Higher Education, exploring narratives of 32 participants over a 35 year time span. This research adds to the broader research on Christian Institutions of Higher Education in North America with a focus on worldview. Dialogic inquiry (Wells, 1999) assists in exploring the need for narrative as a component of worldview awareness. Overall, this leads to a multifaceted exploration involving language, relationships, culture, community and institutional identity. This approach contrasts sharply with so-called scientific paradigms of eVidence-based research that are prepared to overlook nuances of language and cultural specificity in order to present quantitative certainty and what is problematically claimed as 'clarity' (cf. MacLure, 2005). The study emphasises the significance of understanding an institution's systemworld and lifeworld in light of that institution's mission or mission statement. It investigates the role of disequilibrium (Wolterstorff, 1987, 2002) -such as between a mission statement and a student or professor's experience of life in that institution -as perhaps an indicator of a problematic institutional worldview but also potentially a significant contributor to institutional growth. In representing examples of disequilibrium and dialogic encounters between text and experience in one institution of Christian Higher Education, I propose a framework by which to identify and understand the nature of an embodied institutional worldview. The research draws attention to the function and role of narrative in engaging with worldviews. Indeed, narrative (including my own autobiographical narrative) is a crucial methodological tool in examining and understanding worldview as a concept and worldview in this institution. The research suggests that this provides a valuable medium through which institutions of CHE can better reflect on, understand and promote their worldview in ways that can still appreciate diverse intellectual positions within that institution and not compromise robust academic debate.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Graham Parr

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Education