"It makes me think about." Children's understanding of religious language
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RU Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, 31 mei 2005
Promotores : Janssen, J.A.P.J., Hermans, C.A.M.
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SW OZ BSI SCP
SubjectBehaviour Change and Well-being
The best known, but also criticised, research into understanding of religious language (RURL) was done by Goldman. Here we propose a research design to overcome problems faced, but never rectified, by previous studies. First criticism was the lack of an explicit theoretical framework describing the nature of religious discourse and processes involved in its understanding. Based on theological and philosophical literature, we state that religious discourse is metaphorical, and therefore any discussion about its understanding must refer to theories about how metaphors are understood. Main metaphor theories are reviewed to see what contribution they can make to RURL. A multi-dimensional framework is proposed to operationalise understanding of religious language. Second point was the neglectance of cultural factors. We explore possible contributions of the sociocultural approach when applied to psychological RURL. Five core themes are relevant here: the development of higher mental functions in a social setting, the mediating character of language, interactions in the Zone of Proximal Development, the mediated character of language and the possibility of creating new meanings. Two of these themes are illustrated by results derived from RURL, conducted among Dutch Catholic and Protestant children. Third point was that previous research overlooks the role of subject's emotive structure. Here we used the framework provided by the neoformalist theory on comprehension of literary stories. The theory involves three psychological processes: defamiliarisation of interpretative schemata, evocation of feelings that guide comprehension and refamiliarisation of the narrative under the guidance of the feelings. The results of empirical study suggest that teachers who wish their pupils to achieve a deeper understanding of religious narratives should encourage them to develop ideas about what a narrative means through the surprising effects of defamiliarisation while at the same time providing them with material consistent with the teachings of their religious community.
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