Statement of the Issue:
This task group asserts that any analysis of Catholic adolescent catechesis must include sound research on catechetical methods, practices, and outcomes. With that in mind, the Research Work Group proposes the following areas for research as well as the development of a structured body that will manage research initiatives.
Proposed Areas of Research
1. Define what is meant by “effective catechesis”.
To fully address the issue of adolescent catechesis, it will be important to define what is meant by the phase “effective catechesis.” This needs to be defined not only in theoretical terms but also by defining measurable outcomes. A key assertion of this task group is that “effective catechesis” must be viewed through the lens of the diverse realities in which young people are immersed. Evaluative tools should include pre-assessments of context and baseline assessments of individuals. Effective catechesis should not be seen as getting all people to a hypothetical “level 10” but movement forward in a life-long process.
2. Research what is not working, and for whom.
Often the phrase is heard “What we are doing is not working.” The task group proposes that research on current practices, why practitioners and evaluators believe these practices are not working, why practitioners continue to use these techniques, and what would be needed from a school or parish to change current practices. It is the belief that this research could provide not only a snapshot of catechetical practices in both parishes and schools but also insight to attitudes regarding implementing change.
- As a sub-point, some practices may be effective for those who are participating but current research from the NSYR points out that significant amounts of young people are not attending. Research should be done regarding identification of those who are not participating and why.
3. Identification of characteristics of effective catechesis in context.
Adolescents in the Catholic Church in the United States are catechized in a variety of parish, school, and home settings. They are catechized in rural and urban communities, ethnic-majority and multicultural communities, affluent and impoverished neighborhoods, and in a variety of regional contexts. Each setting provides different needs and methods of responding. Using the indicators identified for effective catechesis from Research Proposal 1, the task group proposes a survey of effective catechetical practices in context. This survey would not only provide useful tools for leaders and practitioners but also address the “one-size-fits-all” mentality to catechetical practices.
4. Assess the structure and outcomes of Confirmation preparation.
The reality is that outside of Catholic schools, a significant concentration of adolescent catechesis occurs in the Confirmation sacramental preparation programs in parishes. Research is needed on the effectiveness of confirmation preparation on young people, identifying explicit and implicit theologies that drive formation programs, and reasons why participation in the sacrament has decreased.
Current research being conducted focuses on the Wave III data from the National Study of Youth and Religion and its impact on Catholic young people and a national baseline of current catechetical knowledge of high school young people using the ACRE assessment.
To read the entire Research White Paper with proposed strategies for PAC, click here.