Project Coordinator: Bernadette Miles, Kardia Formation P/L
Phone: +61 404 027 400
Project Title: Spiritual direction as a resource for teacher formation, wellbeing and resilience.
Expected Time Frame of Project: July 2019 – March 2023
Teacher education courses focus largely on curriculum content and pedagogical knowledge and skills. The greatest resource in the cultivation of wellbeing and enhanced learning outcomes for students, the teacher’s self, is given scant attention. Yet, we teach who we are, for better or worse. The complexity of the work of teachers continues to grow. Teachers carry high expectations from their school leaders, parents, their students, the wider community and themselves. They carry heavy, demanding workloads. In such a climate it is easy to see how, without a robust sense of vocation and the nurturing of this, that teachers suffer from high stress, become disillusioned, disconnected and ultimately leave the profession. Spiritual direction is a practice that enables a person to be connected to their authentic core self which can, in turn, foster and strengthen a sense of purpose and vocation. This project seeks to explore how spiritual direction can support and enhance teacher identity and wellbeing, leading to a deepening of vocation and capacity for longevity in the profession.
The project involves the following process:
Stage One: Case Study: In-depth role analysis of a spiritual director already working within a school environment, with a view to understanding any complexities and challenges for the role of a spiritual director in schools. Teachers who have received spiritual direction from this director in their school context will be interviewed. This data will guide the establishment of criteria for Stage Two.
Stage Two: Preparation of spiritual directors for Stage Three will involve formation in the areas of organizational role analysis, systems theory, and leadership theory. We will draw on the learning from Stage One in developing this training.
Stage Three: (October 2021 – September 2022) Across twelve months, spiritual direction will be provided to teacher- participants across a variety of schools (eight sessions given monthly). Teacher participants will be asked to complete a survey prior to participating in spiritual direction in which quantitative and qualitative data will be collected about their experience of themselves in the role of teacher. They will be given the same survey at the end of the project. Spiritual directors who have been working with the teachers in schools will participate in focus groups during the project. Teacher participants will be interviewed nearing the conclusion of the project. No identifying data will be collected. Please contact Bernie if you would like to participate in stage three of the research or for further information.
This project will follow an academic research model to develop the ministry of spiritual direction to be industry specific for educators and leaders in the educational field.
My recent PhD research concluded:
“An opportunity exists to develop formation programs that specialize in forming spiritual directors to work in the area of leadership and organizational development, enlarging the framework for spiritual direction to integrate concepts of leadership and organizational development. There is an emerging opportunity for spiritual direction to enter the workplace where a formally appointed spiritual director cares for the spiritual needs of an organization. When an organization places a spiritual director in a formal professional role, the most vulnerable aspects of the organization are given a voice … Designing formation programs that support the integration of business disciplines and spiritual direction will reshape the face of spiritual direction and at the same time develop new awareness of the capacity of spiritual direction to support the corporate world.”
This research seeks to take this further step in challenging the ministry of spiritual direction to enter the world of educators and offer professional support to teachers and educational leaders in strengthening their spirit and releasing potential.
The research will be carried out as an honorary post-doctoral study within the University of Divinity and will follow all protocols in regards to ethics and research methods. It will result in academic articles, course development and training for spiritual directors. The researchers have expertise in education, spiritual direction and formation, and include:
Dr Marlene Marburg MTheol PhD has a background in secondary education, is a poet, spiritual director, formator and supervisor of spiritual directors.
Dr Bernadette Miles BTheol MAppSci(Organizational Dynamics) PhD has a background in business management, is a spiritual director, formator and supervisor of spiritual directors and recently completed her thesis on the topic if how spiritual direction can support leadership and organizational development. This current research proposal will extend the learning of this prior work moving into industry specific questions in the educational field.
Dr Julie Mitchell PhD is formed as a spiritual director in the Ignatian tradition in the Heart Wisdom Program at Kardia Formation, Melbourne. She has worked as a secondary teacher in Victorian schools, a curriculum writer and consultant nationally and a teacher educator at the University of Melbourne.
Miles B. (2018) Spiritual Direction as an Enabling Resource for Leadership and Organizational Development for the 21st Century. Stirling Theological College. Melbourne: University of Divinity.
 Miles B. (2018) Spiritual Direction as an Enabling Resource for Leadership and Organizational Development for the 21st Century. Stirling Theological College. Melbourne: University of Divinity. 254