Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Education)

First Supervisor

Professor Chris Hackett


This research provides a Western Australian perspective of teaching and assessing Religious Education (RE) in Catholic schools. The perspective recognises RE as a learning area reserved for classroom instruction. This educational focus aligns RE with other learning areas as well as highlights the important role that RE plays in the evangelising mission of the Catholic Church.

A pragmatic approach to research was implemented to focus on religious educators’ perceptions of a large-scale, standardised assessment in RE called The Bishops’ Religious Literacy Assessment (BRLA). This assessment is developed by the Catholic Education Office of Western Australia. The research surveyed 238 religious educators working in Catholic primary and secondary schools. These religious educators were teachers and school leaders responsible for delivering a RE curriculum common to all four Catholic dioceses in Western Australia. The religious educators were also responsible for preparing students aged eight to fifteen in three Year levels for the administration of the BRLA.

Three aspects regarding the religious educators’ perceptions were explored using mixed methods research. The first aspect was how religious educators perceived the purpose and role of the BRLA. The second, how religious educators responded to the different components that comprise the administration and implementation of the assessment. The third, how the religious educators’ perceptions of the BRLA influenced their teaching and assessment practices in RE. The mixed methods research was conducted over two phases. Phase One involved the collection and analysis of response data from an online questionnaire. Phase Two used individual and group interviews to further investigate the religious educators’ perceptions of the BRLA.

The research findings suggest that the religious educators’ perceptions of the BRLA were contrasting and complex. This complexity seems to be a product of an interplay between individual and collective perceptions of teaching RE and using large-scale, standardised assessments. That is, the meaning that the religious educators attributed to the BRLA and the influence their perceptions had on their teaching and assessment practices in RE are interconnected. Furthermore, a connection is evident in how the religious educators interpreted their professional training and teaching experiences in RE and, in turn, prepared for and engaged with the administration of the assessment. These findings act as a stimulus for professional dialogue and collaboration between teachers, school leaders and system administrators who are willing to improve the quality of student learning in RE.

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