University of Tasmania
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Academic viewpoints on spirituality in higher education : an exploratory qualitative study

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posted on 2023-05-28, 09:06 authored by Siddiqi, LA
Although concepts like ethics‚ÄövÑvp are taught in higher education, organisations in many countries seem unable to mitigate the negative behaviour arising from ethical dilemmas and issues within the workplace. This has led academics to research the role of spirituality‚ÄövÑvp in higher education. Spirituality is now regarded as a concept separate from organised religion that gives meaning and connection to life and work. It is suggested that spirituality might enable students to develop a sense of themselves as responsible individuals, capable of creating meaning and purpose within their own lives, and the lives of others, by connecting with themselves, people, and their work. Within Australia there has been increased interest in spirituality within school education, yet significant research in the area of higher education is lacking. This study addresses this gap in an Australian regional university‚ÄövÑvÆthe University of Tasmania‚ÄövÑvÆand focuses on two faculties: the Faculty of Education and the Tasmanian School of Business and Economics. These faculties were selected because of their impact on society; education graduates influence individuals through school and other teaching, and business graduates influence the economy at both small and large scales. Academics from both faculties were interviewed in this exploratory multiple case study, to examine academics' viewpoints on the incorporation of spirituality in teacher and business education, and its impact on students' professional identity. Three topics emerged from the data, addressing the Nature of Spirituality‚ÄövÑvp, Spirituality in the Higher Education Curriculum‚ÄövÑvp, and Teaching Spirituality.‚ÄövÑvp Within these topics a number of themes were identified. Key themes associated with the first topic included academics' understanding of spirituality, as a religious or secular concept. In the second topic, key themes addressed academics' perceptions of including spirituality within higher education, and the topics they perceived could be taught within their faculties. Finally, themes associated with teaching spirituality included the pedagogical approaches that academics could use to teach spirituality, and which could help students develop their professional identities, together with the challenges faced by academics to teach spirituality in higher education. Among the academics there was no consensus about the nature of spirituality, and all perceived a need for a commonly understood academic definition of spirituality. They suggested adapting a range of pedagogical approaches to teaching spirituality, and believed that spirituality could have a positive impact on students' professional identities. They all felt that there are some challenges to incorporating spirituality into their respective curricula, with most believing that it should be taught indirectly, rather than overtly. Some education academics were already teaching a unit that includes spiritual wellbeing, and suggested units such as spirituality and decision-making‚ÄövÑvp that could be taught with an underpinning of spirituality. Some academics in the Tasmanian School of Business and Economics teach ethics and include a spiritual element within it, and suggested additional units that could be taught within the business school. This study revealed that academics generally perceive the inclusion of spirituality to be beneficial to students' development as professionals, enabling students to reflect before making decisions that impact themselves and others. Academics also felt that incorporating spirituality in higher education would require careful planning, and involve determining consensus on a definition of spirituality, and addressing the perception that spirituality is irrelevant in higher education.


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