The Craft of Teaching

The Craft of Teaching (CoT) is the Divinity School's program of pedagogical development for its graduate students, dedicated to preparing a new generation of accomplished educators in the field of religious studies.  We bring together Divinity School faculty, current students, and an extensive alumni network of decorated teachers to share our craft and to advance critical reflection on religious studies pedagogy. Find out more here, or browse our program schedule and multimedia library.

  • Craft of Teaching schedule for Spring 2015 is up! 

Check out the Spring schedule here - and stay tuned for room assignments, packets of reading, and added details.

  • The CoT unveils its new blog (Oct 24, 2014)!

  • Important improvements in the Craft of Teaching announced for 2014-15  

Download the our fall newsletter to see changes in the program requirements and a preview of the upcoming year of new offerings and initiatives!






  • Andrew DeCort named 2014 Excellence in Course Design Award Finalist

Congratulations to Divinity School PhD student Andrew DeCort for being selected as a finalist for the 2014 Excellence in Course Design Award by the Chicago Center for Teaching. Andrew's course "Authority, Action, Ethics: Ethiopia", taught at Wheaton College last spring, was recognized as exemplary from a highly competitive pool of applications submitted by graduate students from all the university's divisions.

John and Jane Colman, long-time friends and supporters of the Divinity School, have made a generous gift of $900,000 to endow the Craft of Teaching.  The entire Divinity School community is deeply appreciative of their vision and leadership. Read more here.

The Craft of Teaching not only has a new Facebook page, we now have a members-only group for online conversation about pedagogy!  We'll communicate event info on our FB page, while our FB group is intended as a semi-private place to post questions, share ideas, and otherwise confer about teaching and professionalization.  You could share your thoughts on the last Craft of Teaching Seminar; or ask other teachers for advice about leading an upcoming discussion section; or post a link to an interesting article on the future of religious studies departments.  It will also be a fantastic place to connect with and ask questions of Div School alums on FB, who are eager to share their teaching experiences with current students.   Be sure to like our page and join our group the next time you're on FB!

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


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.

See our full line-up on our schedule page.

Featured Content:

Dean's Craft of Teaching Seminar with Joanne Maguire Robinson (Autumn 2014): "From Paper Syllabi to Online Learning: Expanding Course Boundaries"

Friday, October 24 from 12:00-2:00 PM in the Swift Hall Common Room

With the help of technology, college-level teaching has expanded well beyond classroom walls.  Using a selection of syllabi from her seventeen-year career, Divinity School alumna Joanne Maguire Robinson (PhD, History of Christianity, 1996) will discuss shifting settings for and assumptions about both teaching and learning.  Prof. Robinson is Associate Professor and Department Chair in the Department of Religious Studies at University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  She is a recipient of the Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence (2012), a National Endowment for the Humanities "Enduring Questions" course development grant (2012), and the North Carolina Board of Governors' Award for Excellence in Teaching (2013).  She is also a member of the Editorial Board of Teaching Theology and Religion.  Prof. Robinson is the author of Nobility and Annihilation in Marguerite Porete's Mirror of Simple Souls (SUNY 2001) and is presently revising Waiting in Christianity.  

Dean's Craft of Teaching Seminar with Davíd Carrasco (Spring 2014)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

CT - Carrasco.jpgLed by the 2014 Divinity School Alumnus of the Year Davíd Carrasco (ThM 1970, MA 1974, PhD, History of Religions, 1977), Neil Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America at Harvard University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Anthropology and the Harvard Divinity School.  Prof. Carrasco is the author of numerous books, including Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of EmpireReligions of Mesoamerica,  Breaking Through Mexico's Past: Digging the Aztecs With Eduardo Matos Moctezuma and Cave, City, and Eagle's Nest: An Interpretive Journey Through the Mapa de Cuauhtinchan No. 2.  He has served as the editor-in-chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures and was the executive co-producer of the award winning film Alambrista: The Director’s Cut which put a human face on the ordeal of undocumented workers from Mexico.  Prof. Carrasco will discuss his pedagogy in relation to his teaching context and a recent course he has taught.  Professor Carrasco's syllabus for "Moctezuma’s México" is available for download here.  Click here to download mp3 audio of this event.

Dean's Craft of Teaching Seminar with Jonathan Z. Smith (Winter 2013)

February 27, 2013

jzsmith3.jpgLed by Prof. Jonathan Z. Smith, Robert O. Anderson Distinguished Service Professor of the Humanities, Associate Faculty in the Divinity School, and author of a collection of essays on pedagogy entitled On Teaching Religion: Essays by Jonathan Z. Smith (edited by Christopher Lehrich; Oxford UP, 2012).  Prof. Smith discusses his approach to pedagogy especially in relation to the Introduction to Religious Studies course that he taught in the College.


Visit our Multimedia Library for audio and video of more Craft of Teaching events.

Craft of Teaching requirements for Divinity School doctoral students (updated September 2014):

  • Attendance at the Center for Teaching and Learning's Workshop on Teaching in the College and the submission of a workshop journal

  • Attendance at three of the Dean's Quarterly Craft of Teaching Seminars

  • Participation in three Arts of Teaching Workshops

  • Participation in at least five additional Craft of Teaching programs of your choosing

  • Submission of a Philosophy of Teaching Statement

Download the printable self-tracking sheet available in Word format or PDF.  For additional details, see the Program Requirements page.

For more information about the Craft of Teaching, please contact: craftofteachingreligion@gmail.com

hollander 2.jpgAaron Hollander
Program Coordinator, The Craft of Teaching
University of Chicago Divinity School