Researching non-formal religious education: The example of the European study on confirmation work
This article discusses the need for researching non-formal religious education as a neglected field of empirical research in religious education. By describing the growing awareness of the theological and educational meaning and importance of non-formal education and by reviewing the literature on research in religious education which appears to be focused somewhat one-sidedly on the formal context of the school and of the school subject of Religious Education, the author creates a background for the presentation of current research on confirmation work in Europe. The author gives an overview on a more than 10-year-long project on confirmation work in nine European countries, with an emphasis on the research design, methods, and main results. The experiences from this project are then discussed from the perspective of research on non-formal religious education. Finally, the author considers implications of this research for religious education and practical theology in general.
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