Thesis (Ed.D., Leadership and Counseling)--University of Idaho, June 2014 | This companion dissertation integrated team-based research designed to improve the professional environment of religious educators by influencing curriculum development, enhancing faculty and staff training, and adding insight and understanding into the literature concerning religiosity and higher education. This three article-based dissertation contains an individual research project, a group research project and a white paper.
Research conducted over the past thirty years repeatedly indicates that the educational achievement for members of the Mormon (LDS) religious tradition is positively correlated with religiosity. This dissertation explored the many possible factors involved in the relationship between educational attainment and religiosity for college-educated members of this particular faith. The research aimed to answer the following question: Why do college-educated Mormons manifest the highest levels of religiosity within their faith? Based on data gathered from interviews of those living the phenomenon (highly religious members with a college education), it was observed that church participation, influential religious mentors, and an expanded epistemology were important factors in the preservation and amplification of religious beliefs and practices for these highly religious educators.
These college-educated believers were not without challenges. Women participants particularly identified challenges within the faith regarding gender stereotypes that challenged their non-traditional interpretations of religious expression related to motherhood and family. Rationally describing and defending religious positions left other participants with a cerebral faith and a skeptical disposition that in their views weakened devotional aspects of religiosity.
The group research project was a collaborative co-authored effort that presented a more theoretical examination of the education-religiosity phenomenon. The purpose of the group study was to further explore the education-religiosity phenomenon in Mormonism (Albrecht & Heaton, 1984; Heaton et al., 2004; Hill, 2011; Merrill et al., 2003; Smith, 2011; Stott, 1983) using principles of qualitative meta-synthesis to evaluate data previously collected in our three qualitative studies. Although students and professors reported experiences concerning moral and intellectual challenges to their faith in the university setting, the sense of community provided these participants with support, strength, and examples of religious living and thinking.
The white paper (chapter 4) provides implications for practice based on the individual and group research. It was written for religious educators and offers professional practice recommendations for curriculum development and teaching pedagogy.