Two recent publications from the AREFD project
The Adult Religious Education and Faith Development project (AREFD) in now in its third year at the MDCCE. Recently, Dr. Bernadette Sweetman published two articles in peer-reviewed journals.
Firstly, in the Journal of Religious Education she discussed some areas in which the AREFD project can contribute to the initial teacher education of religious educators. The article is available via open access at this link. The abstract is provided below to give a flavour of its contents.
Secondly, in a special issue of Religions, she outlines how adult religious education and faith development can be reimagined in a detraditionalised Ireland. The article is also available via open access at this link and the abstract is provided below.
For more updates on the AREFD project, please see the dedicated AREFD page on the MDCCE website.
'Learnings from the AREFD project for the initial teacher education of Learnings from the AREFD project for the Initial Teacher Education of Religious Educators, Journal of Religious Education. DOI 10.1007/s40839-021-00152-8
Since October 2018, researchers at the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education (MDCCE) at Dublin City University have been engaged in the Adult Religious Education and Faith Development (AREFD) project. The overarching aim of the project was to facilitate a re-energising of adult religious education and faith development in Ireland. Working amongst local faith communities with an academic research focus, an area of interest that has emerged is how the insights gained from AREFD project can contribute to initial teacher education, particularly involving students preparing for employment as post-primary religious educators.
This paper will outline some of the key themes that emerged from the data gathered in phase two of the AREFD project as it pertains to the initial teacher education (ITE) of religious educators.
In phase 2, a total of fourteen semi-structured interviews / focus groups were conducted between December 2019 and April 2021, featuring twenty-two people from across the Republic of Ireland who have a wealth of experience in AREFD across diverse contexts. The purpose of these interviews was to gather together the rich insights from the rich experience of the interviewees on practicalities and possibilities central to adult religious education. The contexts in which they have worked are all pertinent to both the post-primary Religious Education curriculum in the Republic of Ireland and wider related learning experiences, in Ireland and beyond.
Four key findings from this phase of the AREFD project are reported upon in this paper: the specific realm of AREFD as distinct from school-based religious education and catechesis; need for intentional investment in AREFD; physicality of religion; collaboration, communication and connection. These findings may contribute to the reflections of and course development by initial teacher education providers as they seek to offer the highest quality opportunities to their students, in the understanding that their students are adults themselves and that education is a lifelong endeavour.
"Reimagining Adult Religious Education and Faith Development in a Detraditionalised Ireland" Religions 12, no. 11: 963. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110963
The culture of provision of adult religious education and faith development, whereby talks or courses are made available at parish level and/or in formal educational settings, has undoubtedly dominated the Irish scene for many years. The low level of uptake of such opportunities or long-term engagement, however, coupled with the recognised decrease in regular church attendance would suggest that this culture of provision does not meet the needs of the adult population. This mismatch was a key driving force behind the inception of the Adult Religious Education and Faith Development (AREFD) project. Cognisant of cultural and societal changes, a core aim of the project was to assess this traditional culture of provision within a detraditionalised context. The present study is based on data gathered in phase two of the AREFD project consisting of fourteen semi-structured interviews and focus groups conducted between December 2019 and April 2021. The participants were involved for a number of years in adult religious education and faith development in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and across a variety of settings. The purpose of these interviews was to gather together the rich insights from the wealth of experience of the interviewees on the practicalities and possibilities central to adult religious education. The findings affirm dissatisfaction amongst participants with the current state of AREFD in Ireland, but indicate that there is hope for the future. Fresh and innovative engagement with adults is called for. This paper outlines key themes emerging from the data which contribute to the conversation of how innovative engagement with adults can revitalise church culture in Ireland.