Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Russell Waugh


The focus of this study is the impact of student perception of the validity of content on student learning. It is proposed that, if the content of a subject is perceived by students as being different to the content of another subject, a result of this perceived difference is that students will treat their learning in these subjects differently. To test this proposal, student beliefs about items from the content of the religious education course are compared with student responses to items of content of their science course. A sample of 1418, year 11 students from nine co-educational Catholic secondary schools were asked to respond to a series of outcome statements from the year 10 religious education and science courses. The questionnaire asks two questions; one, can• the student recall being taught each item; and two, does the student believe that the item is true. If the students believe that the item is true, they are asked to indicate one of three possible reasons for their belief. One, they believe the item because the teacher had provided them with evidence that convinced them that the item is true; two, they believe the item because they trust the teacher to teach them what is true, or three they believe the item for some other reason such as faith. This study does not deal with the issue of faith formation, catechesis, new evangelisation or evangelisation which are significant raison•d'etre of Catholic schools and are closely linked to the study of religious education in Catholic schools. Student and staff responses to a number of open-ended questions, and extensive discussions with students in a Reference Group, provide additional insights into the student beliefs regarding the nature of knowledge particularly for the content of their religious education and science courses.

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