The Ignatian renewal : a case study of a long-term, multi-phase process of educational change

Sharkey, P 1999, The Ignatian renewal : a case study of a long-term, multi-phase process of educational change, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Faculty of Education, Language and Community Services, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title The Ignatian renewal : a case study of a long-term, multi-phase process of educational change
Author(s) Sharkey, P
Year 1999
Abstract This thesis drew upon the resources of philosophical hermeneutics to construct a conceptual framework for understanding the process of educational change. The experience of a particular case of change was then analysed from the perspective of the hermeneutic change agency framework.

The conceptual framework for the thesis was developed from the writings of Hans-Georg Gadamer and also from writers who engaged with Gadamer, most notably, Paul Ricoeur and Jurgen Habermas. The retrieval orientation in Gadamer's hermeneutics was balanced by the critical analyses of Ricoeur and Habermas. Gadamer's notion of the 'fusion of horizons' was presented as the culmination of the change process: a fusion between the horizon of the change text, and the horizons of the change process participants. The thesis explored the potential of hermeneutic strategies such as play and conversation as a means to animate a hermeneutic form of change agentry.

The case investigated in this thesis was a change process comprised of four strategies conducted over the years 1980 to 1996 at a Jesuit school located on the east coast of Australia. The change strategies aimed to promote the Jesuit ethos of the school and hence have been described in this thesis as 'ethos strategies'. The purpose of the thesis was not to evaluate the success of the ethos strategies, it was to explore how insights derived from philosophical hermeneutics could illuminate an analysis of the lived experience of a particular case of change. The subject matter of this thesis is timely because many Catholic schools are currently in a period of transition from a leadership exercised by Religious (nuns, brothers or priests) to a leadership exercised by lay people. The thesis situated the ethos programs in their theological and demographic contexts by presenting relevant theological developments from the Second Vatican

Council and by describing the sharp decrease in the numbers of Religious personnel available to work in the schools. The teacher response to the ethos programs was considered in the context of the many practical difficulties associated with the scheduling of teacher development programs in fast-moving and busy schools.

Although this thesis was particularly focused on change strategies that were conducted in the context of Jesuit education, the thesis is more generally situated in the research literature on educational change. The hermeneutic orientation of this thesis highlighted the elements of understanding, interpretation and meaning, and these elements are given some prominence in the more recent research literature on the change process. The complexity of change and the cultural dimension of the change process has been emphasised in the most recent educational change research literature and these themes have also found expression in this thesis.

Participant observation, document analysis and qualitative interviews were used as data collection strategies for the case study in this thesis. The researcher was actively involved in the events investigated in the case study, and a case narrative was developed from the researcher's experience as a change agent responsible for implementing one of the change strategies at the case site. The case narrative was written in the first person and from the perspective of the researcher as a change manager. The methodology of the research was grounded in the hermeneutic insight that understanding and tact lies at the heart of the research process, rather than procedure and method. Hermeneutic research relies upon a capacity to identify and respond to the question that is presented by the expression of life being understood.

Change agentry was presented in this thesis as unfolding in a middle space between the familiarity of current practice and the unfamiliarity of the new world that a change process seeks to open up. Hermeneutics has long understood that that interpretation would be impossible if the expressions of life were totally alien and unnecessary if there was nothing alien in them. A hermeneutic approach to change agentry seeks to discover points of commonality and points of challenge between the world of current practice and the world that the change process would open up. This thesis points to the tactful and dialogical dimensions of change agency when it is considered from the vantage point of philosophical hermeneutics.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Faculty of Education, Language and Community Services
Keyword(s) Ignation Education
Educational change--Australia
Change Management
Philosophical hermeneutics
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Created: Thu, 17 Feb 2011, 11:14:32 EST
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