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Although numerous norm-referenced measures of religiosity and spirituality exist for adults, no assessment of the holistic goals for Christian spiritual development in the context of evangelical Protestant schools, geared to adolescents, and using emerging technologies, was found. Addressing this lacuna, the purpose of this curriculum study was to develop and validate the Growing Disciples Inventory (GDI) as a curriculum-aligned self-assessment for Christian education. Using a mixed methods approach, the GDI was constructed in the first phase of this educational design research. Experts in the fields of curriculum, assessment, Christian education and/or discipleship evaluated the extent to which proposed items were aligned to the Growing Disciples (GD) curriculum framework, and were appropriate to adolescent learners participating in Christian education. At least four items were included for each of 21 constructs within the four GD curriculum processes. The 100-item GDI was further refined through two development cycles of usability testing with adolescents. Using a think-aloud protocol, a proportional quota convenience sample of 16 learners completed the GDI online, reviewed their online reports, and took the exit survey. Minor refinements were made with the data from these individual interviews. During the second phase, evidence for the validity of the GDI was evaluated with data from a purposive sample of nine educators and 595 Grade 7 through 12 students in 8 American, South African, and Australian Seventh-day Adventist schools. High reliability was found in terms of internal consistency (Cronbach’s alphas of .855 to .943) and structural equation modelling (standardized correlation coefficients of .59 to .95) for the four cyclical and lifelong Christian spiritual development processes of Connecting,Understanding, Ministering, and Equipping. Confirmatory factor analysis through structural equation modelling provided evidence of construct validity with an adequate model fit. Moderate inter-factor correlations compared to higher correlations within factors indicated discriminant validity. Learner responses to 7 GDI exit survey items further supported the GDI’s design and ease-of-use online. Answers to 3 open-ended GDI exit survey questions supplied rich qualitative data that corroborated quantitative responses, and added perceptions of the utility and relevance of the GDI as a formative self-assessment tool to facilitate exploration of strengths and growth points through reflection and metacognition. The majority of educator interviews indicated favourable perceptions of the GDI’s utility and relevance within their sphere of the global Seventh-day Adventist education system. Structural equation model fit evaluation and correlations demonstrated that the GDI is a consistent self-assessment across gender and grade level. Although a weak correlation between country and learner scores was found, qualitative data supports the relevance of the GDI in each country. Further validation studies are recommended with larger samples international samples to adequately demonstrate generalizability within the context of evangelical Protestant education. Analysis of emerging themes in learner responses corroborated quantitative findings, triangulating evidence for learner engagement and the positive potential for the GDI’s use to facilitate Christian spiritual development. Each study of reliability and validity undertaken in this mixed methods curriculum research added moderate to strong evidence in support of the GDI as a curriculum-aligned self-assessment for adolescents participating in Christian education.

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School of Distance Education & International Partnerships

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