First Advisor

Karen Noordhoff

Date of Publication

Spring 6-4-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Curriculum and Instruction


Curriculum & Instruction




Middle school education -- Research -- United States, Moral education (Middle school) -- Study and teaching -- United States, Spiritual formation -- Study and teaching (Middle school) -- United States, Constructivism (Education) -- United States



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 356 pages)


Advocates of middle grades reform in the United States argue that curriculum and instruction, as well as leadership, organization, and community relationships, should be informed by knowledge of the developmental characteristics of 10 to 15 year-olds within physical, social, emotional, psychological, cognitive, and moral domains. Noticeably absent from their conception of human development are spiritual developmental characteristics of young adolescents.

This interdisciplinary research was a critical constructivist (Kincheloe, 2008) inquiry of the following question: What is the educational relevance of spiritual development in middle grades education? To study this question, critical historiographical research methods (Villaverde, Kincheloe, & Helyar, 2006) were used to interrogate the academic discourses of three fields related to the research question: (a) the middle grades concept; (b) spirituality as a developmental domain; and (c) holistic education. Foundational texts from these fields served as sources of data. I present the result of the data analyses as narratives on the paradigms that influenced the (hi)stories of these three academic fields. These narratives were analyzed for common epistemological and ontological perspectives.

Amongst the paradigms of the three fields, three meta-paradigms are shared: Ecological Epistemology, Holistic Ontology, and Positivist Ontology. In addition, a discursive interrelationship within each field, a dynamic of paradox, was found between the three meta-paradigms. These results offer encouragement for the relevance of spiritual development as part of the middle grades concept, as they suggest that integration of knowledge of adolescent spiritual development is theoretically supported by commitments to caring relationships in schools and constructivist learning theory. The results also suggest a paradigm revolution (Kuhn, 1996) that might allow for a new discourse of possibility (Giroux, 1981) for spirituality in education. This dissertation research could serve as a basis for further research that focuses on how to integrate knowledge of adolescent spiritual development in public schools in the United States.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Persistent Identifier