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Mendive. Revista de Educación

versión On-line ISSN 1815-7696

Rev. Mendive vol.18 no.3 Pinar del Río jul.-set. 2020  Epub 02-Sep-2020


Original article

Social perception of spirituality in students of pedagogical careers

Gilma Gómez Veloz1  *

Julita Morales Arencibia1

Ana Caridad Veitía Acosta1

1 Universidad de Pinar del Río "Hermanos Saíz Montes de Oca". Cuba


This article reflects the social perceptions of young university students about spirituality and its impact on professional training. It establishes as a foundation the need to recognize that spirituality has changed its ways of making itself present, that it has crossed the threshold of what is conceived as religious and that it stands today as an essential pillar within higher education. The research was carried out from a qualitative design supported by theoretical methods such as phenomenological, historical-logical, and systemic-structural, in addition to empirical methods such as observation and interview, and techniques such as the free association of ideas and the focus group. The objective was to explore the social perception of spirituality in students of pedagogical careers at the "Hermanos Saíz Montes de Oca" University in the province of Pinar del Río. The perceptual contents around the characteristics, the forms of expression and the elements that enhance spirituality in the performance of the profession were revealed. As a result, it is shown that spirituality is perceived as an inherent element of every human being, that it is not necessarily associated with a religious experience and that it is necessary to enhance it in the professionals of the pedagogical sciences; because it is considered an essential attribute for the conception of the world, interpersonal relationships, and the optimal performance of the profession. Premises from which it is recognized that the approach to spirituality is essential for the integral formation of students and for higher education in the 21st century.

Keywords: Spirituality; Pedagogy; Social perception; Profession; Psychology


Spirituality is a phenomenon that is becoming more prevalent in the media space in social discourse and in scientific research, but approaches it from this angle it becomes a complex task because it involves getting rid of the bias from which it has conceived, just as a part of religious experience. It is true that it is impossible to deny the spirituality-religion relationship, since these phenomena have been interwoven both in individual practical experience and in the genesis of scientific research on the subject, but it is necessary to recognize that spirituality has changed its modes of expression and it has crossed the threshold of what is traditionally conceived as religious.

In this transit, the social sciences have tried to mitigate the opacity of which this term has been loaded and in this, various philosophical, anthropological, pedagogical and psychological studies have merited it, which have approached it from their different perspectives. In psychology, and particularly, can be seen from SDE its genesis as a science the subject of religion and spirituality; however, these themes were relegated by psychologists who conceived it as something pathological or as a process that could be reduced to more basic underlying psychological, social and biological functions.

However, some of the most respected psychologists in the history of psychology conceived spirituality as one of its focuses of attention and work, although in the world of science it was avoided, in its beginnings, to refer to spirituality.

On the approach to this phenomenon in the psychological field,Simkin (2017)expresses: "Although the religious-spiritual phenomenon has been studied psychology since its inception, in recent years the increase in the number of works published and specialized magazines on the subject have contributed to the development of a specific area called religion psychology" (p. 2) .

Fundamentally, in the field of p transpersonal psychology, has also given special treatment to this phenomenon. The transpersonal psychology is a psychological movement that considers that psychology and spirituality are two complementary aspects of human development, so it tries to perform integration between psychological practice and spiritual principles, showing science and spirituality as two paths to arrive at the same reality.

In consideration ofParis (2018)"The psychology, biology or neuroscience, among other sciences and disciplines, begin to provide studies supporting the need for a look into the interior, mental training, the importance of ethical values in the well-being of the people while proving its benefits" (p.68).

So, an important accumulation of investigations are presented as references of this topic in the most diverse areas of knowledge, highlighting the approach of spirituality as a preventive tool of violence, as an integrating mediation of the human social material, spirituality in practice of sport, the influence of spirituality on the health-disease process, spirituality and its repercussion on subjective well-being, integration between spirituality and the new era, spirituality in the workplace and spirituality in higher education, among other edges.

Therefore, it is so that, from several approaches, the number of investigations in the social sciences has multiplied, including the spiritual as one more aspect to take into account and to be evaluated, so that the human being has not be conceived only as a result of biological, psychological and social factors, but also with a spiritual nature to know and study.

The rising interest in this subject is a model of awareness in various academic and professional sectors on the need to consider spirituality as an essential and integral part of the development of the personality of the human being and as an experience that goes beyond the religion and of cultural limits.

Thus, it is urgent to signify spirituality as a human dimension that emerges when women and men seek to search and construct the meaning of their life based on self-knowledge, without individualism, but open to the understanding of the absolute dimension of reality(Naranjo and Moncada, 2019, p. 113).

In this sense,Piedra (2018)expresses:

The importance of attending to spirituality from the understanding of human integrality constitutes the basis of the ideas of Viktor Frankl, for whom the spiritual is a force, not a substance, in this way the spirituality of the person is not only a characteristic - just as the corporal and the psychic are, but a constituents, something that distinguishes the human being. (p. 99)

According to the psychological significance definitions of spirituality such as those ofSimkin (2017)expressing: "The spirituality can be considered a sixth personality factor" stand out to which he also adds in his arguments: "This author highlights the value of spiritual significance, which, unlike religious sentiment, represents a motivational construct that reflects the individual's effort to create a broader meaning for his life." (p. 2).

When referring to spirituality,Naranjo and Moncada (2019)express:

The spirituality can be understood as the natural practice of cultivating human interiority, not as intimate or individualism, but as a search for knowledge and care of personal development, based on the constructions of meaning of life, horizon that manifests the epiphany of human openness to the understanding of its different realities (p. 116).

Pedagogy, meanwhile, is a science that has also taken into account the spiritual dimension of the human being; Theoretical referents such as those ofBurguet (2014)show us that the different pedagogical traditions have worked from the knowledge of the self as a guarantee to develop the dimensions of the person and care for their own educational process.

This author recognizes that there is a broad legacy of education, which cannot be understood without the spiritual dimension and the baggage it has left in the different traditions. Expressing that:

Adding that "to stand for pedagogies that refer to spirituality is a challenge in an intercultural and cosmopolitan world, where the experience of fullness can go beyond everyday circumstances(Burguet, 2014, p. 60).

When analyzing the emergence of a new spirituality from a holistic pedagogy,Castillo (2011)refers that "it is essential to approach humanity, considering the approaches of a holistic paradigm, which leads us to understand spirituality as an expansion of consciousness and allow us to recognize ourselves as interconnected systems with other systems" (p. 57).

More recent researchers on the subject is in favor of spirituality in the pedagogical field from the analysis of the bases laid down by UNESCO (1998), in its World Declaration on Higher Education in the XXI century. About the roles and missions of higher education and bases governing educational models postulated in this statement, authors likeFernandez and Barradas (2014)report that it is necessary to conceive in any educational process involved, four main aspects of training: the Intellectual training, human training, social training and vocational training. Describing the latter as" […] an indispensable component of comprehensive training that is related to the development of attitudes and the integration of values that influence the personal and social growth of the human being as an individual. Human formation must approach the subject in its emotional, spiritual and bodily dimensions"(Fernandez and Barradas, 2014, p. 61).

In this sense,Piedra (2018)refers: "traditional educational models supported by philosophical and epistemological currents such as pragmatism, behaviorism or reductionism continue to develop curricula that disregard the spiritual dimension". (p. 102)

It is necessary to overcome the traditional pedagogical positions that reduce education to the transmission of knowledge, since, defined as a cultivation of interiority and meaning of life, the spiritual tends towards self-knowledge, the search for truth, the resignification of daily life and the transformation of identity with a view to solving the problems of daily living(Naranjo and Moncada, 2019, p. 115).

Undoubtedly, the contemporary views of spirituality in the field of educational sciences invite us to rethink this concept, breaking the frameworks of what has traditionally been established in the approach to this phenomenon, providing in their ways of conceiving it a more human, more natural perspective and more apprehensible.

In this direction, it is expressed that " Human strength, called spirituality, has an important role at the service of constructing vital meaning and therefore, constitutes an element of first importance when discerning about what elements should be considered when addressing a quality education "(Vargas and Moya, 2018, p. 295).

Despite the wide range of conceptions around spirituality, the relevance of their scientific approach is perceived; above all, by the way this phenomenon is involved in each of the spheres of daily life of the human beings.

This challenges us to perceive spirituality from a holistic perspective and to chart new paths for approach in all social settings and, especially in the higher education because universities are institutions created for the training of new generations; a formation that includes as pillars of knowledge: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, but also learning to be. More complex learning and more difficult to tackle in the professional training process. This necessarily implies conceiving spirituality as a fundamental dimension in the professional training process, especially in pedagogical careers, since these professionals assume the responsibility of guiding the formation of the new man, of safeguarding political, ethical, and moral values and humans of future generations.

In this sense, it coincides with the criteria ofCastillo and Montoya (2015)when considering that the institutions in charge of teacher training must guarantee the concretion of training processes increasingly coherent with the social conditions that are lived, each time with higher quality, since this professional, by leading the training of the new generations, manages the individual and collective socio-cultural transformation; therefore, his professional profile, beyond the domain of scientific and technical knowledge, requires a culture of aesthetic-pedagogical spirituality, which is achieved in the exercise of teaching, but must begin in professional training (p. 193).

Therefore, matching spirituality and education is a challenge and a latent need from the research point of view. Studies such asPapalini (2017)about the approach to spirituality in social settings and especially in the educational context, shows this reality, to which the author states: "No case with studies oriented to convergence between spirituality and education, which constitute a vacant area when it comes to research" (p. 230).

In this regard,Piedra (2018)refers: "Education becomes the agent par excellence for the development of spirituality, but it is a model that, in attention to the educational paradigm for the 21st century, understands and attends to an educational act where an indivisible union is assumed between all the dimensions of the human being and of one's own knowledge" (p. 104).

The purpose of this article is to analyze the importance of spirituality in vocational training and to reveal the social perception that a group of students of pedagogical careers has of spirituality within their teaching role. Rethinking the emotional and the spiritual and dimensions of personality that integrates with the value system, which urges boost, so that future science teaching professionals conceived the spiritual dimension as part of their professional practice. Faced with this research as a scientific problem arises: ¿what is the social perception of spirituality among students in teaching careers at the University of Pinar de Rio "Hermanos Saiz Montes de Oca"?

Research is conceived from a qualitative design and a phenomenological approach, using as instruments the free association, the semi structured interview and a focal group, which allow revealing the perceptual content around the main characteristics of spirituality, their forms of expression and their enhancing agents. Intending general objective and explore social perception of spirituality among students in teaching careers at the University of Pinar de Rio "Hermanos Saiz Montes de Oca".

The studies of spirituality in the area of education and vocational training, especially in the province of Pinar del Rio, where there are few investigative references, which provides a vision of social perception of spirituality in the doctor-patient relationship, from the perspective of a group of young people from the University of Medical Sciences carried out in 2016 and another that provides a look at spirituality from the perception of a group of young people from the career of Sociocultural Management for the development of the University of Pinar de Rio "Hermanos Saiz Montes de Oca" made in 2017 are not enough. So, follow the route of the study of spirituality connecting its background research and current demands lead us to addressing this phenomenon from the social perception of young people, those eternal visionaries and protagonists of change and that carry, in addition, to the stage of pedagogy, as this is a stage where education is conceived as a typically social and specifically human phenomenon.

If, then, the social environment encourages us to think about spirituality, due to the constant evocations that it makes of this phenomenon and if the frequent complaints of the human condition grow more and more, there are justified reasons to think about the need to contribute to the study of spirituality, with the purpose of knowing how it is perceived in the pedagogical context and how it can, from the research results, enhance its development.

Emperor giving response also to the call of the Brazilian theologian Frei Betto, who urged in Pedagogy Congress 2017 in Cuba, pedagogues from various latitudes, boost liberating education, by emphasizing the need to incorporate the work of educational institutions the attention to nutritional, sexual and spiritual education.

This article is intended to reveal the investigative results on the social perception of spirituality among students in teaching careers at the University of Pinar de Rio "Hermanos Saiz Montes de Oca", in order to propose solutions that contribute to the development of the spirituality in the educational setting.

Materials and methods

Since the certainty of its importance to the "new man" and the possibility of the dream "better world", this research that focused his gaze on the social perception of spirituality emerged, from a broad view; considering that in the literature consulted there were not enough the research references with an integrative approach to spirituality and that the "new individual spiritualities", the "emerging syncretism" and "revitalization of the notions of spirit" were a reality which can be seen in social practices, especially of youth.

For this reason, a young population of students of pedagogical careers from the University of Pinar del Río "Hermanos Saíz Montes de Oca" was taken as the protagonist of this research; for being part of the comprehensive training of future generations, specifically students of the Bachelor's degree in Primary Education, graduates of this specialty and agents of the experience of socialization of an individual upon entering primary education. Students from the Bachelor of Marxism -Leninism and History were also selected, for belonging to the area of human iodides and being in his postgraduate major contributors to the formation of a worldview of the world in the future youth.

The sample was intentionally selected. It was made up of 16 young people, in the period September 2018 to April 2019. Both groups were made up of equal numbers of subjects, but with differences in the number of women and men. Eight young females formed the group's degree in Primary Education, while the group's degree in Marxism - Leninism and History was composed of five young men and three for women.

Social perception was taken as a point of reference, as this is a dimension of subjectivity that makes up the important meanings that, in a more or less conscious way, the subject attaches to the objects of his perception; in a process of subjective construction used in the social practice and sets the reading becomes reality.

Methodology goals

Overall objective:

  • Explore the social perception of spirituality in students of pedagogical careers at the Pinar del Río University "Hermanos Saíz Montes de Oca".

Specific objectives:

  • Unveil the content of the social perception of spirituality in students of pedagogical careers.

  • Unveil the coincident, divergent and contradictory perceptions about spirituality in the studied group.

Kind of investigation

It was an exploratory-descriptive investigation, which addressed a topic that was scarcely investigated in the Cuban context and represented one of the first attempts to study spirituality from a psychological perspective in Pinar del Río. The study was conducted from social perception, as this is a process of subjective construction that makes up the meanings and valuations that people give to objects of perception. Students from pedagogical careers were taken as a sample of the research due to the importance of spirituality in them, as agents of socialization for future generations.

The research was conditioned by the insufficient understanding of the studied phenomenon and the pertinence of carrying out a study that allowed to deepen its internal particularities and that opened the way to future investigations.

The study was guided, following the path of qualitative research, then it pretended to approach to the social perception of spirituality through life experiences, subjective, in which the communication processes and the active role of the investigated subject were implicated, which led us to consider qualitative methodology as an epistemological foundation from which to focus research.

Methods and Techniques

To explore the social perception of spirituality in students of pedagogical careers at the Pinar del Río University "Hermanos Saíz Montes de Oca", the following dimensions were established: characteristics of spirituality, forms of expression of spirituality and curricular and extracurricular elements that enhance spirituality.

To study the dimension of the social perception of spirituality, associated with its characteristics, the following indicators were taken:

  • Type of religious belief or manifestation

  • Emotional well-being

  • Personal attribute with a self-regulating character of behavior

  • Resource with a socio- emotional value

To study the dimension of the social perception of spirituality associated with its forms of expression, the following indicators were taken:

  • Relationship with God or with a supreme being

  • Relationship with others

  • Relationship with himself

To study the dimension of social perception of spirituality associated with the curricular and extracurricular elements, were taken as indicators:

  • Programs of subjects of the pedagogical careers

  • Extension activities of the university

The following techniques were used:

  • Association free of ideas: the value that is granted to appeal to ratings that individuals give off abruptly and suddenly on a particular object or phenomenon was used, which allows the researcher to easily access the figurative nucleus and the representational field. A technique is used with the purpose of having a global approach to the conceptions, ideas, criteria, notions and valuations that subjects make about spirituality. With this claim, the following slogan was offered: Express the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word "spirituality".

  • Semi structured interview: It a technique of gathering information through a professional conversation. According to the purpose for which it is used, it can fulfill several functions, such as obtaining information from individuals or groups, influencing certain aspects of behavior (opinions, feelings, behaviors), exercising a therapeutic effect. In the present investigation, the first of the functions was fulfilled, that is, obtaining information from the subjects investigated on spirituality. The interview was carried out in a semi-structured way, inserting questions depending on the established communicative dynamics, always trying to cover the variables that we consider necessary for the analysis of the results, with the purpose of responding to our objectives.

  • Focal Group: This method relies on the interaction of a group of people in relation to the subject of research, under the guidance of a moderator; the investigated subject is offered the possibility of interacting directly with the other, in a process of analysis and reflection. In this research, the workspace group allowed to debate what is perceived as spirituality within the framework of pedagogical training, promoting group reflection and construction from concrete experiences.


Despite the diversity that was shown in the perceptual contents revealed in the applied instruments, the integration of the analysis of its results allowed us to appreciate the personal meaning that spirituality possesses for the subjects of the study population within the framework of vocational training.

For a better understanding of the phenomenon, the perceptions that were coincident due to their common essences, the divergent perceptions that did not have a common nucleus with others, and the contradictory ones, which showed contradictory perceptual contents, were taken into consideration.

In this regard, common criteria were expressed in their essences which reveal that spirituality is perceived by the subjects that make up the study population as one element inherent in every human being who is not associated necessarily to a religious experience and It manifests itself at different levels of expression, depending on external factors such as age, personal training, life experiences, the cultural heritage of professional practices and the wealth of experience that human beliefs provide.

Other contents revealed, around the characteristics of spirituality, showed their affective component, which is the highest level of the associations and perceptions when defining and addressing their ways of expression. Perceptual contents in which the cognitive dimension of spirituality was appreciated were also showed, because this determines the ways of thinking about " oneself ", others and the world in general; manifesting itself through the personal value system. As part of volitional-emotional-cognitive unit, contents that reveal volitional component of spirituality given by its self - regulatory character and mobilizer behavior toward achieving future projections were perceived.

The main forms of expression of spirituality, perceived by the study group were framed on the indicators "relations with oneself" and "relations with others", showing coincidence in the perceptions that reflect individually as the main stage of expression of spirituality, from which the expression of it emanates in relation to others, in all spaces of socialization. There is divergence in the indicator referring to the expression of spirituality in the relationship with God or with a supreme being, on which less perceptual content was manifested.

Regarding the perceptual contents referring to the agents that enhance spirituality, consensus was found when perceiving the main agents as curricular activities, among which the subjects Religion, Philosophy and Psychology stand out. Perceptual content on extracurricular activities that promote spirituality were not unveiled, although the role of their careers in their general training was recognized, perceiving spirituality as a necessary phenomenon for the exercise of the profession and to the educational stage as a space of satisfaction of their needs for personal fulfillment and improvement, which for them translates into spiritual enrichment.

In relation to this, consensual perceptions about the need to cultivate the spiritual dimension were shown, especially in some teachers and in the professionals of the pedagogical sciences, as it is considered an essential attribute for the conception of the world, interpersonal relationships and optimal performance of the profession. It was also consensus on the correlation between spirituality and pedagogy because the group felt that spirituality is an element that must always have implicit education professionals.

Conflicting perceptions were only in relation to people who are considered more spiritual; Therefore, although the group studied felt that all human beings have a spiritual dimension, students of the Bachelor in Elementary Education distinguished as more spiritual, the people with religious beliefs by their experiences of faith, to professionals for their cognitive riches and adults for their life experiences.


This integral analysis of the results evoked the theoretical assumptions about social perception that served as a reference for the research, since perceptual differences were exposed that responded to processes such asperceptual stress;through which there is a tendency to focus attention on the aspects of greatest interest to the subject, according to personal values, human motivations and experiences in reference to the object of study.

In general, attending toperceptual selectivity, which states that the human being is unable to perceive all the stimuli that are present, discriminating those that are irrelevant among the most relevant stimuli, the perceptual contents revealed in this study were considered of extraordinary value, since they showed the most significant aspects of spirituality for a group of young people in the process of pedagogical formation, from the personal senses that they conferred on them.

Concerning the theoretical assumptions addressed about spirituality, coincidences were evident on the three basic dimensions of spirituality described byBarretoet al.(2015), who recognize: anintrapersonal dimensionof spirituality associated with the most significant aspects of the subject that offer meaning and coherence; aninterpersonal dimensionreferring to harmony in relationships with other people anda transpersonal dimensionthat is associated with the transcendent and the need to have hope and leave a legacy that goes beyond the human being. Dimensions that coincide with the forms of expression of the perceived spirituality by the study group in terms of indicators "relationship with oneself", "relationship with others" and "relationship with a God or supreme being", becoming these forms of expression in the same order that the consulted literature confers on these dimensions. 

In another sense of the analysis, it was appreciated that Krishnakumar and Neck, as quoted inPerez Santiago (2007)report that contemporary definitions of spirituality are grouped into three main perspectives: the perspective of intrinsic origin, religious perspective and the existential perspective. Of these three was evident in the group studied, the first perspective definition, concerning spirituality as a concept or principle that originates in the interiority of the individual and is not limited to the rules of religion, which is capable of transcend it and that goes to the internal search for meanings, without having to belong to a religious denomination. This perspective was related to the group's appreciation of spirituality as an inherent element of every human being and not necessarily subject to a religious experience.

About this element, differences with the results obtained in investigative references about the subject of spirituality were showed, specifically with addressing social perception of spirituality in the context of the relationship doctor - patient developed at the University of Medical Sciences in 2016. Comparing the researches, differences in social appreciation of spirituality among young students of medical sciences and young students of pedagogical careers were appreciated. The firsts perceive that the spirituality is mostly associated with religious experience and seen as synonymous with religion, revealing as the main form of expression of spirituality relationship with God, the social interaction and satisfaction with himself. Meanwhile, the young people in this research perceive that spirituality is not necessarily subscribed to a religious experience and perceive the forms of expression of spirituality in reverse order: "relationship with oneself", "relationship with others" and "relationship with God"

In essence, the results are associated with contemporary understandings of spirituality, which according to anthropologistsCornejo Valleet al.(2019)show the rebirth of a subjective and experimental spirituality, which is framed within thenew ageor new era of spirituality, in which a state of spiritual openness different from the traditional conceptions of it, is perceived, "where a concept of spirituality marked by subjective experience is highlighted, not by a doctrine" (p. 7). 

Given the research problem and the objectives set for it, and after analyzing the results obtained, to the following conclusions arrived:

  • The social perception of the study group on spirituality showed that this is an element inherent in every human being, that it is not necessarily subject to a religious experience and that it manifests itself at different levels depending on external factors such as age, personal training, profession and types of beliefs.

  • The main characteristics of spirituality are perceived: its affective component, which is distinguished in the emotional well-being that it brings; its cognitive component, because it conditions ways of thinking about oneself, others and the world; and its volitional component, given by its self-regulating and mobilizing character of behavior.

  • The main forms of expression of spirituality, perceived by the study group is framed at the individual level by self-satisfaction that this provides in the social interaction, through the mediation having relationships with others and in relationship with God.

  • The Perceptual contents concerned about the potency agents the spirituality showed main sources of spiritual curriculum subjects of Religion, Philosophy and Psychology, not being unveiled extracurricular activities that can enhance spirituality in them as future teachers.

  • There was consensus when perceiving the need to strengthen the role of the teacher, not only as a transmitter of knowledge, but also as a source of spiritual wealth.

  • Coincident perceptions relating to the characteristics of spirituality and its forms of expression; divergent perceptions content associated with curricular activities that enhance spirituality and contradictory perceptions in relation to the factors that determine which people are more or less spiritual were showed.

It is recommended, from the contributions of this research:

  • Socialize the results obtained in this research, so that they are taken into consideration for psycho educational work with young people with pedagogical training.

  • Develop other research on spirituality and its link with pedagogy, extending the analysis to include other pedagogical careers and other variables such as gender and religious beliefs.

  • Extend the study of the social perception of spirituality to teachers, educators of pedagogues, to obtain a broader vision of the phenomenon from their specific work experiences.

The interest to know the spiritual dimension and the promotion of spiritual competence in the profile of the graduate must constitute an explicit objective of the study programs, to make educational experiences a genuine process of integral formation that allows us to affirm that spirituality Humanity is an essential component in the XXI century in higher education.

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Received: April 15, 2020; Accepted: June 15, 2020

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