Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


College of Education and Human Services


Educational Foundations

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Mark Weinstein

Committee Member

Maughn Gregory

Committee Member

Brian V. Carolan


This study examines a teaching method to help fifth-grade students understand the meaning of the symbols of the sacraments of the Catholic Church. The method implements physical objects in the classroom followed by the development of metaphors to ascertain the meaning of those objects. First, possible metaphors were explored dialogically in class. Then, through individual metaphorical thinking, students create their personal metaphoric statements for each sacrament. The study shows that students given the treatment, on average, scored higher on assessment questions related to the meaning of the sacraments than the control group. Fifth-grade students in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) program historically score below a desired level on questions about the personal meaning of the sacraments in ways deemed appropriate by the church according to The Assessment of Catechesis/Religious Education (ACRE). The sacraments are metaphoric. Therefore, it makes sense that these fifth-graders may improve their scores with a method that employs metaphorical thinking. The literature on pedagogies using metaphor tends to focus on subjects such as science and math. The literature, however, does not reach out to areas of study such as CCD religious education. Furthermore, the methods suggested in the literature do not incorporate group dialogue, semiotic objects, and the writing of spontaneous metaphors in one treatment. Since the sacraments are metaphoric, and the symbols are actual objects, it follows that in students’ search for meaning they should experience semiotic objects from which to generate metaphor. In the development of metaphor, the literature supports making a connection between one domain of thought to another. This cross-domain mapping involves cognitively connecting one concept, like the emotional effect of a sacrament, to the object that, in this case, is the symbol of a sacrament. The foundation of my method follows Abrahamson’s implementation of semiotic objects and spontaneous metaphors with students. Abrahamson demonstrates that his treatment helps students learn the meaning of complex ideas. This dissertation includes a description of the treatment, and the quantitative instruments used.

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