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.

  • Spring 2016 Schedule is live!

Take a look at our Spring Quarter schedule, hot off the presses. More details, including locations for events, are forthcoming.

  • The Craft of Teaching has its first publication!

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.

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For the 2015-2016 academic year, five recent University of Chicago Divinity graduates have been invited to provide their unique insights as new faculty members. Our Bloggers in Virtual Residence will be engaging with some of the topics addressed by this year's CoT programming and discussing some of their own personal successes and failures.

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


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.)


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 (updated September 2014):

  • 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
Marshall Cunningham
Associate Coordinator, The Craft of Teaching
University of Chicago Divinity School