Evans et al’s Chapter 11 discusses the Development of Faith and Spirituality. I found interest in this topic because I fairly recently became a Christian myself and think my spiritual development in college was extremely lacking. According to Evans et al (2010, pp 195) from Speck (2005) and my own personal experiences, spirituality is avoided because of three main reasons:
- the erroneous belief that the constitutional requirement of separation of church and state precludes any mention of matters that could be constructed as religious,
- the emphasis in higher education on objectivity and rationality,
- the lack of preparation that most educations have to address spirituality.
Chapter 11 presents two main theories of Faith Development — one by James Fowler and another by Sharon Daloz Parks.
I found Fowler’s Theory to be fairly accessible. It is a stage-based theory that’s open to the regular criticisms of stage-based theories. It’s interesting Fowler tried to set his theory up so it applied to multiple faiths by separating the content (beliefs) and the processes used to create those beliefs. Though together, his critics suggest his theory only applies to theistic, Protestant, Western males.
Fowler’s stages of Faith Development start with a pre-stage where the individual’s faith is based on his relationship with his caretakers. The stages of Faith according to Fowler are: Intuitive-projective, Mythical-literal, Synthetic-conventional, Individuative-reflective, Conjunctive, and Universalizing. Like many developmental theories the stages range from authoritative to self-discovered and self-centered to interdependence.
Most individuals, including older college students, would be in Stage 4: Individuative-reflective faith. In this stage, faith is defined by the individual who his committed to his faith. The individual can then use his faith to create meaning and values. Older adults may be in Stage 5: Conjunctive faith, where they accept other individuals’ faiths while being more firm (and comfortable?) with their own faith. According to Fowler (Evans et al, 2010), individuals rarely reach Stage 6.
The other theory discussed as Park’s Theory of Faith Development. I found Park’s Theory a bit more complex — for one, it’s based on the work of Perry and others. Park’s Theory or model consists of development in four areas: cognition, dependence, and community. Development in each area consists of four or five stages and four time periods. Like Perry’s Theory of Intellectual and Ethical Development, the stages go from dualistic and authoritative to relativistic.
Like Fowler’s Theory, Park’s Theory has its criticisms. For example, both theories are based on Western culture. One criticism that stood out to me was by Watt (2003). Watt (2003) says Park’s theory is cognitive in nature and as a result it may not apply to individuals whose faith is affective in nature. The example Watt provided as African-American Women.
The take home message for me about his chapter was the fact that spirituality is important and people that work in higher education better be prepared to address it. One key thing Evans et al (2010) pointed out was, according to a lot of the research out there, if we are to help students understand their spirituality, we need to understand ours first.