2014-15 Craft of Teaching Schedule

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Winter 2015   

How to Choose a Textbook, or, Why I Wrote My Own

Monday, January 12 from 4:30-6:00 PM in Swift 200

Dale Walker, Beyond the ObviousLed by Dale Walker (PhD, 1998), Director of Development and Alumni Relations at the Divinity School and author of a recent book for use in introductory courses on the New Testament (Beyond the Obvious: Doorways to Understanding the New Testament [Anselm Academic, 2014]). Dr. Walker's "textbook" takes a different approach from most others, seeking to be briefer, topical, and synthetic, as opposed to exhaustive, book-by-book, and atomizing. Its aim is to orient readers to biblical criticism rather than walk them through every issue, and it prioritizes the preparation of students for productive discussion in class. This approach incorporates recent research on student learning and on making knowledge sticky. In preparation, participants are asked to read in advance the packet of materials available here

Dr. Walker completed his dissertation on 2 Corinthians 10—13 under the direction of Prof. Hans Dieter Betz. He has served as an adjunct faculty member at a number of institutions throughout Chicago and at the University of Wyoming. Co-sponsored by the Early Christian Studies Workshop.

Student Mental Health and Today's College Teaching

Thursday, Jan 15 from 12:00-1:30 PM in Swift 201

mental-health-colorsAt the typical American college or university, the rate of students visiting campus counseling services for serious mental health issues has doubled in the last decade.  What's behind this alarming trend?  What are mental health practitioners observing, and what advice do they have for new college teachers?  Join Dr. Michael Pietrus, psychologist at the University of Chicago's Student Counseling Service and its Divinity School liaison, for a discussion on the state of mental health on today's college campuses and its practical implications for classroom instruction and course design.  Coffee and tea will be provided.  Please feel free to bring a lunch.  A packet of advance reading is available here.

Designing Assessments That Cultivate Rigorous Creativity (Arts of Teaching Series)

Wednesday, January 28 from 4:30-6:00 PM in Swift 201

escher-hands-drawing-handsIn this Arts of Teaching sequel to “Cultivating Rigorous Creativity” (Fall 2014), participants will design and workshop a sample assessment that cultivates creative as well as critical thinking.  (Participants who did not attend Mr. Maxwell's fall workshop should view it in our multimedia library in advance.)  In preparation for this workshop, all participants will read and annotate a text of their own choosing and then design a prompt, model, and rubric for an assignment on the chosen text.  During the workshop, participants will examine the assignments to determine their effectiveness.  Each participant will leave the workshop with a polished assessment that demands rigorous creative thinking.  A reading packet, including a full description with samples of the required assignment (to be completed in advance of the workshop), is available here 

Led by Mark Maxwell, English and Fine Arts, Rolling Meadows High School.  Mr. Maxwell is the author of the novel Nixoncarver (St. Martin's Press) and several short stories, and many of his students have gone on to publish their own creative writing.

Curricula and Criticism in Religious Studies: Notes from the Institutional Field

Friday, February 6, from 10:30 AM-12:30 PM in Swift 208

Led by Professor Brian Britt (MA 1987, PhD, Religion and Literature, 1992), Chair of the Department of Religion and Culture at Virginia Tech.  Professor Britt will discuss some key elements of Religious Studies curricula and departments, with a focus on the challenging transition from graduate student teacher to faculty member. The workshop is intended to help participants understand and articulate how their teaching fits into wider departmental and institutional contours, and to develop language and tools for negotiating disciplinary (and interdisciplinary) expectations in the field of Religious Studies.  Co-sponsored with the Religion and Literature Club.

Pre-Workshop Exercise: Participants are asked to choose a department at an institution they imagine themselves wanting to join and read what's on the web about mission statement, curriculum, and larger institutional context.  On the basis of this research, they should then "write themselves into" the department with a three-year teaching schedule and sketch of committee/service assignments.  They should choose an institition they don't know first hand.  In the session we'll discuss this exercise with an emphasis on the perspective of the candidate and newly-hired colleague.

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

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.

In addition to her service as chancellor and president, Chancellor Chopp has served as Dean of the Yale Divinity School and Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at Emory University.  She is the author or editor of numerous books, including Remaking College: Innovation and the Liberal Arts (Johns Hopkins, 2013), Differing Horizons: Feminist Theory and Theology (Fortress, 1997), and Saving Work: Feminist Practices of Theological Education (Westminster, 1995).  She has held several national leadership positions, including as a member of the governing board of the Association of American Colleges and Universities and as president of the American Academy of Religion. 

A packet of advance reading is available here in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2.

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.  Complementary 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

Teaching the Undergraduate Research Paper (Arts of Teaching Series)

Monday, February 16 from 12:00-1:30 PM in Swift 201

library-stacks-researchTeaching the research paper begins with understanding the tacit skills and knowledge needed for novice learners to move from passive reading to active engagement with sources. The difficulty for the instructor rests in being able to identify and then teach these to students of varying interests and abilities. Anne Knafl (PhD, Bible, 2011), Bibliographer for Religion and Philosophy, and David Frankel, PhD student in History of Judaism and Library Intern, will discuss strategies for teaching the research paper, drawing on their experience collecting, evaluating and teaching scholarly materials at the Regenstein Library. This workshop will address not only the how but the why of assigning research: Why should students write research papers? Do they know? Do you know?

In preparation for the workshop, all participants should complete the assignment available here. The workshop handout is available in advance herePlease feel free to bring your own lunch.

Divinity School Syllabus Workshop (Arts of Teaching Series)

Friday, February 27 from 11:30 AM-2:30 PM in Swift 208

Led by Lucy Pick, Director of Undergraduate Studies and Senior Lecturer in the History of Christianity.  This annual three-hour workshop centers on course and syllabus design.  Participants draft course titles and descriptions that are peer-reviewed during the workshop. Participation is limited and advanced registration is required.  In the first hour, participants will discuss the principles of good course design including how to title a course and write a course description, how to structure a course for college students, what kinds and how many readings and assignments to include, among other topics.  The remaining time will be used to discuss the course titles and descriptions submitted by participants, considering how to make them stronger, and how they might be fleshed out into a full syllabus.  Lunch will be provided.  In order to register, you must email Prof. Pick ( ) by Friday, February 20 at noon with your name, the title of a college-level course you might like to teach some day (or have taught) and a brief, one paragraph description of the course.  You can also include a short list of readings you might use in the course.  It should be no longer than a single page.

Liminal Pedagogy: The Humanities and the Transformative Ritual of the Intro Course

Thursday, March 5 from 4:00 – 5:30 PM in Swift 208

Led by Jeffrey Kripal (PhD, History of Religions, 1993), J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Philosophy and Religious Thought and former chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University.  Prof. Kripal will discuss his two-decade experiment in adopting the structure of van Gennep and Turner’s model of initiation as an apt and powerful tool for teaching the introduction to the study of religion course at two separate institutions: a small, relatively homogenous liberal arts college and a robustly multicultural research university. Prof. Kripal has recently used the same model to write a next-generation textbook on the comparative study of religion (Comparing Religions [Wiley-Blackwell, 2013]).  Prof. Kripal will also discuss that collaborative process, some of the challenges his co-authors and he faced, and his experiences visiting colleges and universities that have adopted it.  

The Table of Contents and a Note to the Instructor from Prof. Kripal's textbook are available here, and a recent syllabus using the textbook is here. Excerpts from the book's chapters are also available by request; please email