It Shall Not Return to Me Void: Teaching Religious Content to Individuals with Cognitive Disability




Iguchi, Carolyn M.

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This research is an exploratory qualitative investigation into the challenges of teaching religious material to individuals with cognitive disabilities. The study setting was a single large evangelical Christian church known for excellence in ministry to individuals with disabilities and their families. The following issues were explored: (a) classroom management and teaching strategies utilized in Sunday school classes for students with disabilities, (b) the ways that Sunday school teachers evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching and assess student comprehension of material, and (c) the influence of religious beliefs regarding disability on the approach to teaching and expectations for student learning. Data were collected in the form of interviews with church staff workers and volunteer Sunday school teachers and observations of Sunday school classes. Findings show that teachers utilized many of the same instructional strategies and classroom management techniques to present Biblical material as teachers of traditional academic content. Teachers were resourceful in making adaptations to address the unique needs of their students. Based on the limited cognitive abilities of their students, teachers reported few techniques to evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching and limited methods to evaluate student understanding. Regarding beliefs of the participants about disability and the influence of these beliefs on teaching religious material, teachers reported doing their best to offer the message of the gospel to students but believed that it was God’s work to enable students to understand and to bring individuals to a point of conversion. Teachers persisted in teaching Biblical concepts to children regardless of the limited ability to determine what portion of the material children understand. Findings are examined in relationship to theories of learning and recommendations are made for applying this research to other church communities.



Cognitive impairment, Accessibility, Religious curriculum, Religious instruction, Church congregations