E. Christina Belchercbelcher@redeemer.ca ICCTE 10th Biennial Conference Azusa Pacific University May 23-26, 2012 The Challenge of Sustaining Faith and Worldview in Institutional Life
Narrative and worldview: the creative research imagination in discourseCreation • My research tells an institutional storyFall • My research story struggles with suffering or disequilibrium • My research story strives forRedemption redemption in its truth telling and quest for wonderReconciliation • My research story reconciles its narratives within a biblical perspective of truth, hope andReiteration, justice reflexivity • My story concludes with reiteration and and a new embodiment of purpose embodiment
Session outline:1. Research purpose: questions andconsiderations2. Context: Exploring the problematicunderstanding3. Worldview: Progression andlanguage4. Methodology: Ethnography andtheoretical contours for understanding5. Findings surrounding praxis andintent6. Conclusions
Timeliness of the researchHigher Education policy context (national and international)• Interest in ‘shared values’ (Canada and Abroad)• Canadian CHE conversations: CAUT, CARDUS• Interest in moral agency and institutional design that fosters communityInstitutional context and considerations:• Worldview – significance and understanding over time; institutional ‘particularity’• System and life worlds and narrative voices within
The challenge of sustaining faith andworldview in institutional life ...Research questions How does an Institute of Christian Higher Education (ICHE) develop and articulate an identity that is distinctive, one that meets the needs of its particular students and academics? What role does narrative have in understanding institutional and individual worldview? How is ‘worldview’ as part of institutional life sustained, discarded or embodied?
The challenge of aligning a faith and worldview with lived institutional experience • Worldview is complex and varies institutionally and communally • It provides what Dorothy Smith (2002, 2005) calls a ‘problematic’
Christian Higher Education: Exploring the worldview ‘problematic’ Outsider InsiderPerspective? Ethnography Perspective? Language Worldview Smith, D. E. (2006). Institutional ethnography as practice. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
So how has worldview been understood?Between 1984-1997:• As a guiding vision of and for life (Walsh & Middleton, 1984) Do not be conformed to this• As something ‘individually’ left largely unquestioned world, but (Olthius, 1985) be transforme d by the• As a set of held renewing of prepositions or your mind assumptions , true or false, conscious or … (Rom. subconscious (Sire, 1997) 12:1,2)
Changes in worldview understanding since 1997:• As a semiotic system of narrative signs [creating Do not be a] symbolic universe … conformed responsible for life- to this determining human practices. (Naugle, world, but 2002) be transforme d by the• As a formative, renewing embodied liturgical expression of love of your (Smith, 2009) mind … (Rom.
Clearly, the process of seeking tounderstand the word ‘worldview’ isitself problematic due to the manydiffering contexts and assumptionswhich inform the ways this word isused by academics, byindividuals and by institutions.
A Model for Worldview Analysis (Hiebert, 2008) - SYNCHRONIC WORLD - DIACHRONIC WORLD MYTHS• worldview, ethos, cosmology, • metanarrative, cosmogony, metaphors root myths• synchronic – looks at the structure • diachronic – looks at the of reality cosmic story1. Cognitive themes and counter 1. Storiesthemes2. Affective themes and counter 2. Dramatic themesthemes3. Evaluative themes and counter 3. Progressionthemes•Universalist vs. particularist•Ascription vs. achievement•Equality vs. hierarchy This ‘model’•Individual vs. group was rejected4. Root metaphors for a framework5. Epistemological foundations
How can worldview be bestunderstood and sustained within a‘community’ of Higher Education? Structure and direction (Wolters, 1985/2005)
MethodologyInstitutional ethnography (Smith, 2005)• Voices from within, voices from outside, and a reflexive voice from the liminal spaces• Interconnections between institutional and individual identity• Focus on social experiences and institutional texts• Shuttling between focus on the particularities of institutional academic life and grand narratives, and the local system/life world structure and direction• “Omega College” as a community with an institutional ‘worldview’
Ethnographic Setting This research exploresworldview(s), narratives and lived experience in one Christian institution of Higher education across three cohorts of the institutional community over 35 years.
Institutional Identity, Mission and conversations ‘over time’ ...Participants: Students & Data: professors of the from academic OC community – email over a total of 35 years, conversations from 1970 – 2005. – demographic – Cohort 1:1970-1985; data – Cohort 2: 1985-1997; – focus group – Cohort 3: 1997-2005. interviews – Christina, herself
Grand conversations, cultural critique and‘disequilibrium’ ...• Disequilibrium (Wolterstorff, 2002) as a meaningful (if ‘messy’) dimension of worldview• Being curious about and ‘lovingly dissatisfied’ with the existing state of affairs in a way that engages ‘gracious’ conversation that opens up further dialogue to rigorous academic scrutiny• Under such circumstances, ‘worldview’ presents as a complex ‘problematic’ (Smith, 2005) that deserves close scrutiny – by researchers and by institutions.
Engaging ‘mission’ as one iteration of worldviewHow ‘worldview’ is understood in OC: two voices from Cohort 1:Our mission statement suggests spirituality is not adimension of life but a pervasive life-direction. Though thereare practices (of worship and devotions, e.g.) that would bereadily recognized as "spiritual", these cultic activities areonly one facet of a life which in all its dimensions--economic,intellectual, aesthetic, educational, ethical, etc.—isacknowledged as spiritual, as being in service of the One Godrevealed in Jesus Christ or of a substitute for God (an idol). (Sydney, Cohort 1)There is much more emphasis now on entering into dialoguealongside other views (e.g., postmodernism or criticaltheory), less on stressing the distinctive content of aChristian approach [than there was 20 years ago]. (Alex, Cohort 1)
How ‘worldview’ is understood in OC: Two voices from Cohort 2:This institution breaks down the false dichotomy of separating faith and life; and makes faith significant to life in ways which benefit the world at large. (Karol, Cohort 2)I can select experiences in [OC] that shaped my worldview which developed as much from ordinary experiences (personal shared stories and narratives) as out of philosophical or theoretical reflection. This showed me the importance of life experiences in shaping my worldview beyond theory. (Jade, Cohort 2)
How ‘worldview’ is understood in OC :Two voicesfrom Cohort 3:[OC works at preparing a] thoughtful and critical life-longlearner who is always looking for fresh ways to seek justice,transform culture, obtain the common good. (Geri, Cohort 3)I think it is necessary to reflect more about the unique,historically constituted way in which students’ experiences andagency play into the way students themselves appropriate andutilise the variety of things an institute like [OC] has to offer.One impression I recall is how different [OC] was from year toyear... During the summer [I was] re-hooking up with studentsand staff I had been taught by or studied with. 12 years later,the same common bonds of solidarity, intellectual struggle andfaith/life integration featured in our conversations andcharacterised our shared activities. [OC] sharpened myintellectual skills and confirmed that it is legitimate to pursueacademic interests that serve the needs of the marginalised andexcluded in society. (Lee, Cohort 3)
How ‘worldview’ is understood in OC: one voice over threegenerationsI have experienced the hard reality thatcommonness of worldview may, nevertheless,lead to diverging practices.OC accurately reflects and embodies its visionstatement even though it is beset with all thefoibles and frailties of human institutions.Yes, even as I have done my part in shapingthe institutional worldview, experiences at[OC] have shaped me. (Taylor, Cohorts 1, 2 & 3)
Some insights from interviews and analysis• ‘Disequilibrium’ can be a helpful notion in making meaning from the diverse data. It has helped to reveal tensions in institutional perspectives on its worldview which otherwise may have remained invisible or even corrosive to ongoing institutional life• Reflection ‘over time’ as well as in the moment provides a lens into the function and nature of worldview in institutional life• Institutional worldview: common narratives, but also diversity and tensions (not a prescription for life) – “a dynamic lived experience rather than an abstract set of bounded concepts that govern individuals and the collective of a whole institution over generations” (Belcher & Parr, 2011)
Final words from the inside over time, within system /life world structure and direction …I think that OC has made me far more self-conscious about the ways in which my own work istied to the orienting intuitions, convictions [and]sensibility I bring to that work. It has made me farmore self-conscious about looking at the work ofothers out of the expectation that their work tooflows from equally deep impulses. And it hashelped me thereby to come to both my own workand the work of others with a critical sympathy, atone and the same time convinced that we tend tosee it in partial and [even] in distorted ways. (MacKenzie, Cohort 3)
Some insights from interviews & analysis• ‘Disequilibrium’ has been a helpful notion in making meaning from the diverse data. It has helped to reveal tensions in institutional perspectives on its worldview which otherwise may have remained invisible or even corrosive to ongoing institutional life• Reflection ‘over time’ as well as in the moment provides a lens into the function and reality of worldview in institutional life• ‘Grand conversations’ in community result in hybrid worldviews which eventually strengthen or alter original worldview states within institutions
Institutional Mission And Worldview PerceptionsSystemworld Lifeworld Participant Narratives • Relational •Structure •Philosophical •Governance •Epistemological •Policies Disequilibrium •Metaphorical •Strategies •for engaging conflict •Themes of cultural •Economics and culture engagement Worldview PracticesDisequilibrium over time generates new narratives, perceptions and practices, promoting transformation or conformation into intentional practices. Figure 5.6: The Analysis of Intentional Worldview Practices
The Challenge of Sustaining Faith and Worldview in Institutional LifeConclusions:• Worldview must be engaged and made meaningful to endure/become embodied.• Worldview must be embodied in ways that provoke wonder, truth, justice and reconciliation in community life beyond the institutional walls to engage faith.• Worldview is sustained by narrative expression and intentional practice and presence in institutional contexts• Worldviews become hybrid and change as culture changes, becoming ‘a mirror or a compass’ to society.
For future research:• Does this resultant framework assist other institutions in assessing their worldview?• Does the life-world and system-world balance/imbalance in an institution inhibit or liberate positive worldview embodiment, in what ways, and to what end?