2015-16 Craft of Teaching Schedule

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Spring 2016   

Gateway to Teaching: Enriching the TA Experience [Arts of Teaching]

Thursday, April 7th, 10:30 am - 2:00 pm, Swift Hall Common Room


Many Divinity School students gain their first pedagogical training while working as Teaching Assistants (TAs) in the large, graduate-level introductory courses offered by the Divinity School. Combining perspectives from faculty members and experienced TAs, this two-part program will provide Divinity students with insight into this experience, exploring what it means to be an effective teaching assistant and what new TAs can expect to encounter in their first experiences in front of a classroom.

For the morning session, we have invited three faculty members who employ TAs in their introductory courses in the Divinity School for a panel discussion. Professors Simeon Chavel (Introduction to the Hebrew Bible), Sarah Hammerschlag (Introduction to the Study of Religion), and Willemien Otten (History of Christian Thought) will discuss their general expectations for their TAs, their views on the application process, and how they utilize TAs in their courses.

The afternoon session will be all about practice. A group of experienced TAs will run mini Microteaching sessions in which participants will be broken into small groups and be asked to lead five minutes of a mock discussion section on J. Z. Smith’s famous article “Religion, Religions, Religious” (download it here). They will then receive detailed feedback on their teaching strategy and performance from the experienced TAs and the other participants in their “section.”

There will be a lunch break between the morning and afternoon sessions and the CoT will provide box lunches for participants. Please RSVP to  with your meal preference (meat/vegetarian/vegan) by Monday, April 4th if you would like a lunch. As always, tea and coffee will be provided.  

Syllabus Workshop: Global Christianities (with the Global Christianities Workshop) [Arts of Teaching]

Thursday, April 14th, 12:00-1:30 pm, Martin Marty Center Library

In recent years, religion departments have increasingly sought faculty to teach courses on “Global Christianities,” yet there is no clearly established canon or structure for such a course. Instructors have many choices to make and questions to ask in their particular teaching contexts: How should one organize such a course -- thematically, regionally, etc? What kinds of material should be included and omitted? What does one hope students will gain from such a course by contrast with other courses on religion at the introductory level, on the one hand, or more advanced topics in the study of Christianity, on the other?  What is at stake in the title: Global vs. World? Christianity vs. Christianities?

This workshop, led by Divinity School alum Garry Sparks (PhD, 2011), will consider the practical challenges of teaching classes on Global Christianities (or analogous formulations) in various different institutional settings. Participants will also have the opportunity to workshop draft syllabi of their own. If you would like to have a syllabus (or a segment thereof) workshopped, please email it in advance to contact-global-christianities@lists.uchicago.edu. Otherwise, participants should simply bring a draft course description and a list of potential readings you might use for such a class of your own design. Samples of syllabi from Prof. Sparks, of relevance to the workshop, are available here and here.

Co-sponsored by the Global Christianities Workshop. Lunch will be provided.

Garry Sparks, Assistant Professor at George Mason University, received his Ph.D. in Theology from the Divinity School in 2011. His research and teaching interests focus on anthropological (socio-cultural and linguistic) and ethnohistorical understandings of theological production in the Americas, particularly among indigenous peoples. His areas include histories of Christian thought, theories of religion and culture, Native American religions, and religion in Latin America. He specifically attends to the periods of first contact between Iberian mendicant missionaries and indigenous Mesoamericans as well as current religious movements like liberation theologies, “Indian” theology (teología india), Latin American Protestantisms, and the revitalization of indigenous traditionalism (such as Maya Spirituality or kojb’al). Since 1995 he has done human rights work with and conducted fieldwork and language study among the K'iche' and Kaqchikel Maya of Guatemala.

Spring Dean’s Seminar in the Craft of Teaching, with Alum of the Year Peter Iver Kaufman

Thursday, April 21st, 12:00-1:30 pm, Swift Hall Common Room


The humanities, scholars and educators continue to sense, are increasingly associated on college campuses with pre-professional requirements, a warm-up act to the real task of preparing students for a range of existing and tightly specified careers. The data suggest that the curricular presence of the humanities (core courses; gen-ed requirements; concentrations or majors) is being accordingly and considerably reduced. Yet it may be suggested -- not without controversy -- that preparation in the humanities serves not only its own edifying ends but also the formation of sensibilities and skills without which the professions are severely impoverished. In light of these problems, Prof. Peter Kaufman (Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond) reinvented himself at the age of 63, leaving an R1 where he taught undergraduate courses in the history of Christianity and graduate courses in religious studies (from late antiquity to early modern Europe) to engage the issues represented in the materials included for this seminar, and to continue developing what could be called an extra-curricular avocation to promote the indispensability of the humanities to the practice of leadership in our changing society. This seminar confronts the formidable challenges facing the profession, in order to consider the role that Swift Hall graduates have the opportunity to play in stewarding the future of the humanities.

In advance of this seminar, please review Prof. Kaufman’s syllabus and read the short article that will set the stage for our conversation.

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 Sunday, April 17 to , indicating meat, vegetarian, or vegan preferences.

Peter Iver Kaufman (PhD, 1975) studies the political cultures of late antique, medieval, and early modern Europe and North Africa. He has written nine books and more than 40 articles on authority, religious conflict, and literary history, which have appeared in, among other journals, Leadership and the Humanities, Journal of Late Antiquity, Harvard Theological Review, Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, and Journal of the American Academy of Religion.  He is editor-in-chief of Religions and editor of a series of monographs on the religion around iconic figures from Dante and Dürer to Virginia Woolf, Billie Holiday, and Bob Dylan. He has also edited five books, ranging from studies of charisma to others on leadership and Elizabethan culture.

Introducing Religion II: The Second Annual Craft of Teaching Colloquium

Friday, May 6, 9:00 am - 3:30 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, five 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, available below. On the day of the colloquium, each faculty member will introduce their source, then conversation will be opened to all for a discussion of its challenges and possibilities.

The full schedule for the colloquium is below. The packet of materials that our faculty will be using in their presentations is available for download here (please bring your copy with you to the colloquium so we need not print too many!).

9:00-9:15         Welcome and Introduction--with breakfast & coffee

9:15-:10:00      Karin Krause:   A painted box containing relics from Palestine

10:00-10:15     Break

10:15-11:00      Dwight Hopkins:   “Pedagogy For Being Human in Global Comparison”          

11:00-11:15       Break

11:15-12:00      Sarah Fredericks:   Ninian Smart, “The Nature of Religion”

12:00-1:00       Lunch--included for attendees!

1:30-2:15         Jeffrey Jay:   Letter of Paul to Philemon

2:15-2:30         Break

2:30-3:15         Angie Heo:   "Praise to the Libya Martyrs," assorted media

Participants are encouraged to attend for as much of the colloquium as they are able, but are certainly invited to attend fewer sessions, as befits their schedules!

“Does Liberal Education Need Saving?” The Society of Fellows Annual Weissbourd Conference

Thursday, May 19 - Friday, May 20, Ida Noyes Third Floor Theater


Does liberal education need saving? Some would consider an affirmative reply obvious. Under pressure from academic professionalization, corporatized universities, and a society obsessed with practical outcomes, liberal education must be championed anew or risk disappearing. Others argue that liberal education is at best a luxury that our society can no longer afford, at worst an elitist agent that reinforces social inequalities. To such minds, shifts away from liberal education are no reason to lament. And then there are those who dismiss the prophets of doom, arguing that liberal education remains alive and well on college campuses today.  

This conference -- of which the Craft of Teaching program is one of several co-sponsors -- brings together historians, theorists, administrators, and educators to discuss the meaning of liberal education, the roles it has played through history, and its purposes and prospects for the future. Questions that the conference will explore include: What does liberal education aim to accomplish and why is it good? How has liberal education been understood at different times and in different societies (including outside the West), and what kinds of positions has it inhabited in relation to more utilitarian conceptions of education? Should everyone (in a democratic society) receive a liberal education? How have rising college costs produced changes in liberal education? What differentiates liberal education, general education, higher education, and the humanities—and what is at stake in clarifying these differences? With the increased professionalization of academic disciplines, are graduate students properly prepared to provide their students with a liberal education and to what extent is this a priority among faculty? How have changes in university administration and increased competition for prestige affected liberal education? What role should new technologies play in liberal education? What practical steps can and should be taken?

The conference will take place at the University of Chicago on May 19-20, 2016. On Thursday evening, May 19, Martha Nussbaum and Talbot Brewer will deliver keynote addresses that will lay out some central themes and questions.  Friday, May 20 will feature four panel discussions, each with four panelists. Panelists will set out positions in brief opening remarks of 10 minutes each, to be followed by a moderated discussion between the panelists and with the audience. In this way, we aim to create a conversation in which many voices are heard and in which multiple perspectives are represented.

Please see the Society of Fellows website for the full schedule of the conference (including receptions each evening) and information on its speakers.

Using Ethnography to Teach Religion [Arts of Teaching]

Tuesday, May 24, 12:00-2:00 pm, Swift 200


The range of resources and strategies with which we might engage in the teaching and learning of “religion” is virtually endless, shifting 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 Prof. Alireza Doostdar to consider the pedagogy of assigning ethnography -- the study and representation of observable human practices in particular sites or communities. Discussing published ethnographic texts (and other media) or crafting ethnographic assignments can bring "religion" to light in a way that would be impossible if we were to restrict ourselves to the textual artifacts (theological, legal, literary, and so on) produced within religious traditions. But what kinds of inquiry can ethnographic research inform? How do we draw on such research (whether published or practiced) more effectively for a range of classroom goals?

Prior to attending this workshop, participants are asked to complete the following short exercise of the skills we will be cultivating: (1) Select a site where you think “religion” is going on. (2) Spend a couple of hours at your selected site, observing the activities taking place and the people carrying them out. (3) Consider the following questions in relation to your site, and come to the workshop prepared to discuss your preliminary insights.

1- Space: How is space organized at your site? In what ways are specific spatial relationships produced in practice? What makes this space "religious"? Can you identify practices and processes by which space is "produced" as religious?

2- Power: What kinds of hierarchies can you identify at your site? How are these hierarchies produced? Who authorizes what goes on at your site? How? In what ways (practical, processual) does power get perpetuated or challenged?

3- Texts: Is what goes on at your site in any way related to something written down and viewed as authoritative? What is this relationship? If your site is produced through specific practices (like those you identified in response to 1 and 2), what is the role of the act of "writing" in relation to these practices? Where does this writing occur? Do you have to study a different site altogether to understand it?

4- Reflexivity: What is your role at this site? How does your presence affect what is going on? How does your identity and your relationship with the participants affect what you see and what you don't see?

(Participants are encouraged to email craftofteaching@uchicago.edu in advance with a one-sentence description of the site they have selected for consideration. Conversation partners who have not had the time to complete the exercise are also welcome to attend -- please still have a site in mind where ethographic inquiry of relevance to your work might take place.)

Navigating Normativity: Pedagogical Challenges and Opportunities of Diverse Commitments in the Classroom (with the Theology & Religious Ethics Workshop)

Wednesday, June 1st, 4:30-6:30 pm, Swift 106

It has become a truism that there is no neutral position from which course material may be examined, either on the part of students or of teachers. Not exclusively but certainly not least in religious studies, students and teachers alike enter a class with held positions of some kind toward the objects of inquiry. Particularly when the material at hand is disturbing or provocative (e.g. the Crusades; demonic possession), ethically uncompromising (e.g. animal rights activism; the Left Behind novels), or under contemporary public scrutiny (e.g. race relations; religiously motivated violence), being able to monitor and respond to the range of attitudes brought to bear by participants in the classroom is essential to ensuring learning. However, just how to relate to these commitments and to what extent address them explicitly can trouble even veteran teachers.


This workshop is intended to cultivate sensitivity and strategy in relation to the commitments of students and teachers, which come together in an inevitable but variable mixture specific to each classroom setting. Teaching effectively to and not only about diversity is a challenge that we will embrace. There will not be one solution but rather a palette of possibilities with which teachers may choose to proceed in light of their pedagogical contexts and goals.

Our panel represents three different fields in three different institutional settings:

-Prof. Laurie Zoloth (Northwestern University) is Professor of Religious Studies, Professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the Feinberg School of Medicine, and Director of Graduate Studies at Northwestern University’s Department of Religious Studies. She is co-chair of the American Academy of Religion's Section on women and Religion and a member of the Society for Scriptural Reasoning, and she has been a member of the NASA National Advisory Council.

-Prof. Valerie Johnson (DePaul University) is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at DePaul University. Her research focuses on urban politics, African-American politics, and urban education.

-Prof. Jonathan Ebel (U of I Urbana-Champaign) is Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Department of Religion. His research program involves religion and war, religion and violence, lay theologies of economic hardship all within the American context. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago Divinity School (PhD, 2004).

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