Exploring worldview and identity in an Institution of Christian Higher Education

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 34: Higher Education on the Edge

July, 2011, 394 pages
Published by
K. Krause, M. Buckridge, C. Grimmer, & S. Purbrick-Illek
0 908557 85 X

As numbers of higher education institutions are increasing across the world, policy makers stress the value of Higher Education for “driving economic growth and social cohesion” (cf. OECD, 2006). The Bologna Process reflects a worldwide tendency toward standardisation in higher education, emphasizing “shared values and principles” and “common understandings” (Bologna Policy Forum, 2009). How then does a higher education institution develop and articulate an identity that is distinctive, one that meets the needs of its particular students and academics? The published ‘worldview’ of a Christian Higher Education (CHE) institution can be one way to locate its distinctive identity. Typically, this worldview articulates a set of underpinning theological values or principles in curriculum documents and promotional materials, which are constituted in and influenced by the day to day experiences of groups and individual students and teachers in the institution. This paper reports on a four year study investigating a CHE Institution in Canada, the ways this worldview has evolved over thirty five years, and factors mediating the emergence and experience of this worldview. The study is an institutional ethnographic inquiry into a particular site of Christian Higher Education (Smith, 2005) that seeks to better understand the notion of worldview. It is part of a broader epistemological inquiry into the nature of knowledge, identity and experience in higher education.

Keywords: Christian Higher Education, worldview, institutional ethnography