Year

2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Faculty of Education

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate a possible relationship between quality teaching used in parish services and parish viability. The New South Wales Quality Teaching Model (NSWQTM) was chosen as the quality framework for comparison, while service attendance patterns were chosen as the indicator of parish viability. Three parishes from the Sydney diocese of the Anglican Church of Australia took part in the study and represented the three different patterns of parish growth (steady, negative and positive). The study used triangulation between observation, questionnaires and interviews, supplemented by interviews with key individuals associated with rector training.

Due to the cross-sectional nature of the study, the findings may not be applicable to other situations and apparent causal effects need to be considered with this in mind. Nevertheless, the study indicated a positive relationship between the use of quality teaching within services and increased service attendance patterns. It showed in particular, that individuals sought out parishes focused on authentic biblical teaching and where the application of this teaching could be observed in the lives of the rectors and congregants. A desire for experiential learning fostered the requirement for these parishes to also have opportunities for congregants to participate in the design and delivery of parish services or support activities.

The findings also showed that, within viable parishes, the rectors and congregations used different dimensions of the NSWQTM. The rectors of viable parishes aligned and utilised the Intellectual Quality dimension to a deeper and broader extent than that of the congregations, while the congregations focused on and utilised the Quality Learning Environment and Significance dimensions more broadly than the rectors. Moreover, congregations in viable parishes maintained strong social support, inclusivity and, to a lesser extent, connectedness. Most importantly, high levels of substantive communication between the rectors and congregants, and between congregants, were a hallmark of viable parishes.

Rearranging the NSWQTM elements to align with the usage within parishes showed that the elements fell naturally into three groups representing biblical equivalence, faith equivalence and quality teaching elements. The level of usage of these groups with respect to each other reflected the viability of the parishes.

The study identified that each diocese’s definition of teacher, with respect to rectors, influenced the type and depth of training received by the rector candidates. As a result, rector training was shown to be deficient in providing rectors with suitable pedagogical training, although theological training was more than adequate. Practical and on-job training was shown to be poorly structured, with insufficient direction and training given to parish supervisors.

Although not directly part of this study, it was found that distributed leadership positively influenced parish learning by increasing congregants’ self-direction and self-regulation. Similarly, issues such as rector succession planning, learning assessment and the use of traditional parish practices were identified as possible influences on parish viability, and so remain areas for further study.

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