University Of Tasmania

File(s) under permanent embargo

Is ‘Learning' Science Enough? – A Cultural Model of Religious Students of Science in an Australian Government School

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 13:36 authored by Ferguson, JP, Barbara KameniarBarbara Kameniar
This paper investigates the cognitive experiences of four religious students studying evolutionary biology in an inner city government secondary school in Melbourne, Australia. The participants in the study were identified using the Religious Background and Behaviours questionnaire (Connors, Tonigan, & Miller, 1996 Connors, G. J., Tonigan, J. S., & Miller, W. R. (1996). A measure of religious background and behaviour for use in behaviour change research. Psychology of Addictive Behaviours, 10, 90–96. doi:10.1037/0893-164X.10.2.90 [Crossref], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]). Participants were interviewed and asked to respond to questions about their cognitive experiences of studying evolutionary biology. Students' responses were analysed using cultural analysis of discourse to construct a cultural model of religious students of science. This cultural model suggests that these students employ a human schema and a non-human schema, which assert that humans are fundamentally different from non-humans in terms of origins and that humans have a transcendental purpose in life. For these students, these maxims seem to be challenged by their belief that evolutionary biology is dictated by metaphysical naturalism. The model suggests that because the existential foundation of these students is challenged, they employ a believing schema to classify their religious explanations and a learning schema to classify evolutionary biology. These schemas are then hierarchically arranged with the learning schema being made subordinate to the believing schema. Importantly, these students are thus able to maintain their existential foundation while fulfilling the requirements of school science. However, the quality of this “learning” is questionable.


Publication title

International Journal of Science Education










Faculty of Education


Taylor & Francis Ltd

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 2014 Taylor & Francis

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Learner and learning not elsewhere classified