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Religious Development and the Praxis of Religious Education1

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Psychological theories of religious development are considered to be an important foundation for religious education. In Germany this is especially true for E.H.Erikson's model of the life cycle with its religious implications (Wright 1982). In the last two decades J.W. Fowler's theory of faith development (Fowler 1981) and F. Oser's theory of religious judgment (Oser & Gmünder 1984) have been given similar attention. Many attempts have been made to include such theories within the understanding of religious education. At this point two questions may be raised: First, it may be observed that psychological theories do not coincide with educational needs, at least not automatically. Questions of classroom interaction, of teaching methods or of contents to be taught have not been addressed by the psychological theories of religious development while educational theories are not able to avoid these questions. Second, there is the question of theory and praxis. According to our understanding, the relationship between theory and praxis has to work in both directions. Theory and praxis have to go hand in hand if educational theories are to be effective and true to their own praxis intentions. Most naturally, a praxis-theory-praxis relationship is not realized when education is considered the application of psychological theories. Given these asymmetries between developmental psychology and religious education, our aim is not to again look at students' development by itself. Rather we are interested in if and how the praxis of religious education is related to the development of the students or, respectively, how it should be related to in this praxis. Our research is focussed on classroom interaction and on the teachers' perception of, and attention to, the developmental status of their students.


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