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, invited guests, and an extensive alumni network of decorated teachers to share strategies, develop skills, and advance critical reflection relating to religious studies pedagogy. Find out more here, or browse our program schedule and multimedia library. Craft of Teaching workshops are open to the whole university community, within and beyond the Divinity School.

  • Autumn 2016 Schedule is live!

View our full schedule of this quarter's Craft of Teaching programs here.


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For the 2016-2017 academic year, five University of Chicago Divinity School-trained educators are invited to provide their unique insights as faculty members. Our Bloggers in Virtual Residence engage with some of the topics addressed by this year's CoT programming and discuss some of their own personal experiences.
The 2016-17 conversation is underway! Check out the latest post, "Claiming Authority in the Classroom."
  • The Craft of Teaching has its first publication! (September, 2015)

Hearty congratulations to the graduate student Craft of Teaching participants who have been featured in a co-authored publication in the most recent volume of Teaching Theology and Religion! After the Spring 2015 workshop, "The Art of the Approach: Negotiating Hard Choices in Introductory Course Design," Prof. Russell McCutcheon, our guest for the workshop, invited four Divinity School graduate students to respond to the essay version of his presentation and collaborate on a forum-style submission to the journal. The publication, entitled "Crafting the Introductory Course in Religious Studies," consists of Prof. McCutcheon's essay, the four Divinity School responses (by Andrew Durdin, Kelli Gardner, Adam Miller, and Emily Crews), and an introduction by Aaron Hollander, Program Coordinator for the Craft of Teaching. Download the publication from the journal here and we'll keep you apprised of further interventions in the field of religious studies pedagogy by Craft of Teaching participants.

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

Friday, October 28, 12:00-2:00 pm, Swift Hall Common Room

“Religion, Ecology, and Institutional Citizenship in the Anthropocene Era”

profile_wallace.jpgIn a time when humankind’s intensive use of resources has caused massive changes to the global climate, one of the challenges of the study of religion is to analyze critically the religious and moral worldviews that have shaped these changes.  The emerging discipline of religion & ecology focuses on how religious traditions have grounded human beings' fundamental outlooks on the environment in ancient and modern times.  In turn, it examines how various spiritual worldviews can aid – or not – the development of an Earth-centered philosophy of life in a time of human-caused global warming, the so-called era of the Anthropocene. This discipline contends that the environmental crisis, at its core, is less a scientific or technological problem and more a spiritual problem, a matter of the heart more than one of the head. Market values have overtaken community values, and the lives of most people in the developed world run opposite the crucial insight in the American Indian proverb, "The frog does not drink up the pond in which it lives."

In this seminar, join Professor Mark Wallace of Swarthmore College to consider a range of pedagogical and institutional considerations that reflect the diagnoses of an ecological perspective. In such a natural and cultural context, the university classroom is not closed in on itself but is part of a living network of people, institutions, and organisms, all bearing an impact on one another’s flourishing. Pedagogically, diverse approaches exist for integrating the fields of inquiry in religious studies with this broader orientation, whether at the classroom level or the level of the larger institution.  In addition to in-class dialogue, writing, and exam assignments, alternative learning activities may cultivate cognitive development, self-discovery, and growth in civic responsibility, including:

*  Community Based Learning, including class members volunteering in under-resourced communities in order to develop, as referred to by Swarthmore College, ethical intelligence in a mission-driven educational context.  To that end, the goal of community based learning is to integrate classroom theory and community practice so that that class members can become more reflective and competent participants in public life.)

570_tori_gate.jpg*  Earth-Based Rituals, including nonsectarian performative and contemplative practices, borrowed and modified from different religious and cultural traditions, to develop experiential understandings of class subject matter. These “spiritual lab” practices often include neo-Pagan Council of All Beings ritual, lectio divina contemplative reading, modified Tu B’shevat (Tree Planting) ceremony, Zen Buddhist zazen sitting meditation, and Lakota medicine wheel practice.

*  Student exposure to, analysis of, and involvement in institutional policies, including land use, energy use, investment, food acquisition and waste disposal, curriculum development, etc.

In advance of this seminar, please download and review the packet of syllabi here. For additional, optional reading, please see the collaborative final project report of Prof. Wallace's "The Green Campus" students here.

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 by Monday, October 24 to , indicating meat, vegetarian, or vegan preferences.

Mark I. Wallace (PhD in Theology, ‘86; Professor of Religion, Swarthmore College) focuses his research and teaching on the intersections between Christian theology, critical theory, environmental studies, and postmodernism. He is a member of the Interpretation Theory Committee and the Environmental Studies Committee at Swarthmore; he is a member of the Constructive Theology Workgroup, active in the educational justice movement in the city of Chester, and received an Andrew W. Mellon New Directions Fellowship for research in Costa Rica. He is the author of Green Christianity (Fortress, 2010),  Finding God in the Singing River: Christianity, Spirit, Nature (Fortress, 2005), Fragments of the Spirit: Nature, Violence, and the Renewal of Creation (Continuum, 1996; Trinity, 2002), The Second Naïveté: Barth, Ricoeur, and the New Yale Theology (Mercer University Press, 1990, 1995), and he is the editor of Paul Ricoeur's Figuring the Sacred: Religion, Narrative, and Imagination (Fortress, 1995).

Using Practical Cases to Teach Religion [Arts of Teaching]

Monday, November 14, 4:30-6:30 pm, Swift 200

The range of resources and strategies with which we might engage in the teaching and learning of “religion” is virtually endless, though their usage shifts with different construals of the field and commitments to different learning goals. In the Craft of Teaching series, “Using X to Teach Religion,” members of the Divinity School faculty are invited to lead Arts of Teaching workshops combining a short presentation on the merits and limits of a particular type of resource they emphasize in their courses with close consideration and group workshopping of the associated course-design and active pedagogical decisions that need to be made.


In this edition, join Professor Richard Miller to consider the pedagogy of using practical cases to augment appreciation of otherwise theoretical or conceptual material. In the field of religious ethics, for instance: although it is sometimes stated that knowing moral theory is sufficient for resolving ethical questions that arise in practical experience and that the knowledge of cases adds little to moral knowledge, this theoretical priority is challenged by realities that seem not to be satisfied or exhausted by the interpretations we give of them. We will put these issues to the test through a discussion of historical cases and patterns of practical reasoning that, in participants’ respective fields, might be used to interrogate or enhance theoretical frameworks.

Prior to attending this workshop, participants are asked to select a historical or contemporary case that they might consider using in their classes, whether as a primary ‘text’ or as an example for testing or troubling other material (for example, a news story detailing a development in genetic engineering, or an example of sectarian violence over a shared sacred site). Please send a description of your case and the kind of class in which you would consider using it to the CoT Coordinators at craftofteaching@uchicago.edu (by Friday, November 11), and come to the workshop prepared to introduce your case to the group and discuss your preliminary insights.

See our full Autumn 2016 lineup here

For the remainder of the quarter's events, see our full schedule

Featured Content:

Beyond Polarization: Professor Martin Marty on Strategies for Public Engagement

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

Reflecting on a lifetime of public engagement, Prof. Marty discusses concrete strategies for communicating with broader audiences and for enhancing public discourse as scholars of religion.  Click here to download mp3 audio of this event.

If you experience any technical difficulties with this video or would like to make an accessibility-related request, please send a message to craftofteaching@uchicago.edu.

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 ChoppLed by Dean Laurie Patton (PhD, History of Religions, 1991), this pedagogy seminar focuses on a graduate course on the theory of comparison: "The Very Idea of Comparing Religions." Dean Patton, the incoming President of Middlebury College, leads 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.  Click here to download mp3 audio of this event.

If you experience any technical difficulties with this video or would like to make an accessibility-related request, please send a message to craftofteaching@uchicago.edu.

Dean's Craft of Teaching Seminar with Chancellor Rebecca Chopp (Winter 2015)

Thursday, February 12 from 12:00-2:00 PM in the Swift Common Room

Rebecca ChoppLed by Rebecca Chopp (PhD, Theology, 1983), Chancellor of the University of Denver and former President and Professor of Religion at Swarthmore College and Colgate University.  In this unique Dean's Seminar, Chancellor Chopp will draw upon her extensive experience in higher education leadership to discuss her approach to the classroom and university administration.  She will address the future of higher education and liberal education in particular, as well as the rewards and challenges of administrative leadership today. Click here to download mp3 audio of this event.



If you experience any technical difficulties with this video or would like to make an accessibility-related request, please send a message to craftofteaching@uchicago.edu.

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.  

If you experience any technical difficulties with this video or would like to make an accessibility-related request, please send a message to craftofteaching@uchicago.edu.

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.

If you experience any technical difficulties with this video or would like to make an accessibility-related request, please send a message to craftofteaching@uchicago.edu.

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

Craft of Teaching requirements for Divinity School doctoral students:

  • Participation in the Chicago Center for Teaching's annual Teaching@Chicago Conference.

  • Participation at three 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 detailed descriptions of upcoming events, please see our schedule page.

For more information about the Craft of Teaching, please contact: craftofteaching@uchicago.edu

Aaron Hollander
Program Coordinator, The Craft of Teaching
University of Chicago Divinity School
Maureen Kelly
Associate Coordinator, The Craft of Teaching
University of Chicago Divinity School