2014-15 Craft of Teaching Schedule

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Spring 2015   

Why They Don't Get It: Implications for Our Teaching from the Intellectual and Ethical Development of College Students (with the Chicago Center for Teaching)

Tuesday, March 31, 9:30 am -12:00 pm, Swift Hall Common Room (note change in location)

Dale Walker, Beyond the Obvious

Led by Craig Nelson (Indiana University). Most of us who teach undergraduates aim to foster our students' capacities to think through complex problems and to make informed judgments in full awareness of ambiguity and complexity.  But this sort of deep learning that we long to see is strongly constrained by our students' cognitive development and implicit assumptions about learning. While this has been a consistent finding of over 40 years of research, beginning with William Perry’s seminal work with Harvard undergraduates, we typically design our courses with little attention to the developmental capacities of our students.  In this workshop, we will examine students' typical epistemological assumptions as well as concrete strategies for designing assignments that foster deeper change in our students. We will also suggest ways in which our success in this effort facilitates students' subsequent success in graduate and professional school and in other contexts. While relevant across the curriculum, this workshop will be especially appealing to those who teach in values-encompassing fields, such as religion, culture, politics, and literature.

Please register for this event in advance at https://cotworkshop-whytheydontgetit.eventbrite.com. Relevant articles by Prof. Nelson are available here: "Dysfunctional Illusions of Rigor" and "Why Don't Undergraduates Really 'Get' Evolution?"

Craig Nelson is Professor Emeritus of Biology at Indiana University and a nationally recognized expert in teaching and learning.  Dr. Nelson's scholarship on teaching has been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and he served as the first President of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.


Grading's Dual Roles: Facilitation and Evaluation (with the Chicago Center for Teaching)

Tuesday, March 31, 2:00-4:00 pm, Swift Hall Common Room (note change in location)

Led by Craig Nelson (Indiana University). How can we better prepare students to do well on our assignments and exams--and to best benefit from them in terms of their own intellectual development? How can we maximize the effectiveness of students’ writing and thinking while dedicating our own limited time most strategically? In this workshop, we will examine the philosophy and technique of grading in light of this goal: fostering more substantial and meaningful achievement among students while fine-tuning our expenditure of time and effort as teachers.

Please register for this event in advance at https://cotworkshop-gradingsdualroles.eventbrite.com.

Craig Nelson is Professor Emeritus of Biology at Indiana University and a nationally recognized expert in teaching and learning.  Dr. Nelson's scholarship on teaching has been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and he served as the first President of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.


The Art of the Approach: Negotiating Hard Choices in Introductory Course Design

Monday, April 6, 4:30-6:00 pm, location TBA

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Taking seriously Jonathan Z. Smith’s much quoted line: “there is nothing that must be taught, there is nothing that cannot be left out,” this workshop with Russell McCutcheon (University of Alabama) focuses on the choices an instructor makes in designing and teaching an introductory course in the academic study of religion. Because such courses serve broad curricular needs (often comprising a General Education or Core Curriculum credit) while also recruiting majors for Departments of Religious Studies, the students taking such course, and their interest in/prior exposure to the material, can vary widely. So the choices the instructor makes—what to include and what to leave out—must take into account such a variety of concerns as to sometimes make designing and teaching such courses surprisingly difficult.

This workshop provides an opportunity to think more widely about the intellectual tools that can be used in such courses, so long as the instructor can clearly distinguish a delimited set of skills (e.g., description, interpretation, comparison, explanation) from the innumerable human situations where their scholarly use can be exemplified. For if Smith is correct that the liberal arts and/or the Humanities are concerned with “developing the students’ capacities for reading, writing, and speaking—put another way, for interpreting and arguing,” then teaching skills, used in precise situations, to make sense of human doings, likely ought to be the aim of such courses.

The workshop presumes that attendees have read Smith’s essay, “The Introductory Course: Less is Better” (available here). Please also review Prof. McCutcheon's latest introductory syllabus, and read as much as you are able of Prof. McCutcheon’s concise book Studying Religion: An Introduction, this being an example of one way to approach the challenge of an introductory course that is about more than memorizing names and dates. ***The first 25 people to RSVP for this event (at ) will receive a complimentary copy of Studying Religion*** (Of course, please do not register for a book unless you are committed to attending.)

Russell McCutcheon is Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama; his interests have long revolved around the practical implications of classification systems. He has written or edited a variety of books in the study of religion, often focused on methodology and theory, and frequently blogs at his Department’s site or at the blog for Culture on the Edge, a research collaborative of which he is a member.


Teaching Religious Pasts: Making Historical Studies Transformational and Relevant for College Students (with the Theology & Religious Ethics Workshop)

Monday, April 13, 4:00-5:30 pm, location TBA

194xav24gqvx2jpg.jpgOne of the challenges facing undergraduate teachers of the history and theologies of Christianity is how to interest students in what is to them ancient—and not very relevant—history and thought. Their disinterest in the past is only one aspect of a broader cultural attitude that sees little value in the study of the humanities. Amy Nelson Burnett (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) will discuss how she has used recent scholarship on teaching and learning (known as SoTL) to change the ways she teaches Christian history and thought more generally, and the courses on Reformation in particular, in the context of a large public University.  In the course of the session, we will identify pedagogical practices encouraging the development of intellectual skills and bringing about a transformative understanding of religious past, so that students can see that the study of histories is both practical and relevant. This workshop is co-hosted with the Theology & Religious Ethics Workshop. Please contact Ekaterina Lomperis (elomperis@uchicago.edu) for more information.

Professor Amy Nelson Burnett is the Paula and D.B. Varner University Professor of History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, an R1 public institution of higher learning.  She has authored several major monographs including Karlstadt and the Origins of the Eucharistic Controversy (Oxford, 2011) and the award-winning Teaching the Reformation: Ministers and their Message in Basel, 1529-1629 (Oxford, 2006).   She is also a co-author of two volumes on pedagogy, Inquiry into the College Classroom: A Journey Towards Scholarly Teaching (Anker Publishing, 2007) and Making Teaching and Learning Visible: Course Portfolios and the Peer Review of Teaching (Anker Publishing, 2006).  


Dean's Spring Craft of Teaching Seminar with Alumna of the Year, Laurie L. Patton

Thursday, April 23, 12:00-1:30 pm, Swift Hall Common Room

Rebecca Chopp

This pedagogy seminar will focus on a graduate course on the theory of comparison: "The Very Idea of Comparing Religions." Dean Laurie Patton (Duke University, incoming President of Middlebury College) will lead a discussion on how a case-study method may be effectively used for teaching comparatively, drawing on her own extensive experience with such a method. Teaching comparatively, moreover, may involve not only drawing on the case studies of others but also equipping students to design and carry out their own case studies. Dean Patton’s presentation will address effects of such pedagogical methods, the merits and limits of using the same case study throughout the course, how to enable students’ sustained engagement with such case studies to become more textured as the course proceeds, and how the particular design of this class fosters a specific kind of intellectual community.

Advance reading materials will be available soon.

The quarterly Dean's Craft of Teaching Seminar is the flagship seminar of the Craft of Teaching program, centered on issues of course design and institutional context.  Complimentary lunch is provided at all Dean's Seminars for the first 25 RSVPs.  Please RSVP at any time to , indicating meat, vegetarian, or vegan preferences. 

Laurie L. Patton (PhD, History of Religions, 1991) is incoming President of Middlebury College.  She is currently the Dean of the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, Robert F. Durden Professor of Religion, and Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. She is the Divinity School’s 2015 Alum of the Year.


Beyond Polarization: Professor Martin Marty on Strategies for Public Engagement

Monday, April 27, 4:00-5:30 pm, Swift Hall Common Room

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In collaboration with the Marty Center, the Craft of Teaching is pleased to present a special workshop with Martin E. Marty, Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of the History of Modern Christianity.  Reflecting on a lifetime of public engagement, Prof. Marty will discuss concrete strategies for communicating with broader audiences and for enhancing public discourse as scholars of religion.  In advance of this workshop, please access the selections of Prof. Marty’s published writing on the challenges of public conversation about religion, illustrating exemplary public engagement, available in two parts: one and two. Participants are expected to have read the first selection: “Argument, Conversation, and Story,” and “Tools for Moving from Argument to Conversation.” The second selection, “Handle with Care” and “Worth the Risk,” is optional.

Please remain after the workshop for a celebratory reception hosted by the Craft of Teaching Program and the Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion!


Introducing Religion: A Swift Hall Colloquium

May 1, 2015, 9 am - 5 pm, Swift Hall Common Room

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One of the most difficult, yet most important, tasks for the scholar of religion is thinking about how to teach the college-level introductory course in Religious Studies. How should you teach it -- as a "World Religions" class? A "Theory and Methods" class? What should you teach, given that most of us don't specialize in all religions, everywhere? At this full-day colloquium, nine members of the Divinity School faculty will facilitate a richly-textured conversation on the introductory course in all its complexity, taking as a starting point the notion that the academic study of religion should begin with its sources, broadly construed. Each faculty member has chosen a particular source that he or she thinks will work well in an introduction to Religion Studies, and these will be available as a pre-circulated packet. On the day of the workshop, each faculty member will introduce their source, then conversation will be opened to all for a discussion of its challenges and possibilities.

All interested members of the Swift Hall community are welcome to attend and participate in this very special gathering. Please plan to come for part even if you are not available to attend for the whole day (a schedule of speakers and topics will be available soon). Register to by April 20th for access to the packet of faculty-selected materials. Breakfast and lunch will be served.


Experiential and Service Learning: The Pedagogy of Community Engagement [Arts of Teaching]

Monday, May 4, 4:30-6:00 pm, location TBA

Led by Joe Blosser (High Point University) the intention of this workshop is to illustrate the power of community engaged pedagogies — often called “service learning” — to increase student engagement and learning. It will draw on the experiences of participants to help them develop potential service learning courses in their respective fields. We will look at example syllabi, examine case studies, and brainstorm new ways to connect theory to practice by engaging students in promoting the common good of their larger communities.

In advance of this workshop, participants should read the packet of readings available here (two pieces expected, two optional) and mentally prepare a short statement, as if for a job interview, addressing how the classes you have taught / would like to teach could be integrated with service learning principles.

Joe Blosser (PhD, Religious Ethics, 2011) is Robert G. Culp Jr. Director of Service Learning and Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy, High Point University.


Teaching on the Page: Fine-Tuning Feedback on Student Writing Assignments [Arts of Teaching].

Monday, May 18, 4:30-6:00, location TBA

Led by Tracy Weiner (University of Chicago Writing Program). Teachers of the humanities and social sciences make extensive use of writing assignments to assess student learning, but many consider the assignment to be complete once it has been handed in and graded. The teaching process continues, however, in the feedback we give on writing assignments: in marginal comments, in stylistic encouragement and dissuasion, and in summary discussions of the assignment’s effectiveness in light of course goals and content. In this workshop, participants will learn and practice strategies for continuing to teach, and to teach effectively, in the process of responding to student written work.

In advance of this workshop, please complete a short student-paper-comment exercise provided by the Writing Program (available soon).

Tracy Weiner is an Associate Director of the University of Chicago Writing Program. 


Spring Microteaching Workshop: Square One [Arts of Teaching] 

Friday, June 5, 9:30am-12:30pm, location TBA

Microteaching is organized practice teaching in a supportive, low-risk environment.  Participants will teach a short lesson to a small group of peers and receive detailed feedback (including self-assessment based on video-recording) on their teaching strategy and performance. This Spring’s microteaching workshop provides a capstone opportunity to this quarter’s running theme of the introductory course in Religious Studies. Participants will design and practice teaching the first ten minutes of an Introduction to Religion (or equivalent course) in a specific institutional context. Participants will not only practice techniques of effective delivery, but will also gain a deeper understanding of the he special problems and opportunities of providing an initial framework not only for an intro level course but also for an entire field of inquiry. What choices must be made? What potential liabilities must be accounted for? How to draw students in and set them up most effectively to approach the course as you will curate it?

The workshop will be facilitated by Professor Sarah Hammerschlag, Assistant Professor of Religion and Literature, also in the College; and Aaron Hollander, Craft of Teaching Program Coordinator. Participation is strictly limited and advanced registration is required. You may view our Participants’ Guide (available soon) and register to at any time.


For the events of previous quarters, please see our archive.