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.

The Craft of Teaching Winter schedule is now live! 

You can view the full schedule here.

For the 2016-2017 academic year, five University of Chicago Divinity School-trained educators were 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 teaching experiences.
We will introduce a new cohort of Divinity School alumni on the Craft of Teaching blog soon!
  • 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

Winter Dean’s Seminar in the Craft of Teaching, with Valerie J. Hoffman

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

“Teaching Islam in Secular Academia: Challenges and Controversies”

This seminar will discuss two distinct challenges that confront scholars of Islam who teach at secular academic institutions. The first is that religiously oriented students may interpret the academic study of religion as an affront to their faith. While this is a common phenomenon, it takes on a particular edge in the case of teaching Islam on campuses that have large, activist Muslim student populations. This is especially true in an age of Islamophobia, when Muslim students may naturally interpret the academic study of Islam as an attempt to undermine the faith or impugn its founder.  In this case, students may aggressively oppose professors with whom they disagree. How should instructors deal with such opposition? How can we teach Islamic studies in a way that is academically sound, while taking student sensitivities into account? A second and related issue, which will form the core of the discussion, is the phenomenon of academics at secular institutions taking on the role of advocates of “progressive” interpretations of Islam while labeling potentially morally offensive aspects of the tradition as un-Islamic. Aaron Hughes, a professor at the University of Rochester, has systematically analyzed and critiqued this growing trend.  After a presentation of Hughes’ critique and reactions to it, we will discuss the question of the compatibility of advocacy and scholarly objectivity in the academic study of religion, particularly Islam.

The quarterly Dean's Craft of Teaching Seminar is the flagship seminar of the Craft of Teaching program, centered on issues of course design, institutional context, and leadership in higher education.  Complimentary lunch is provided at all Dean's Seminars for the first 25 RSVPs. Please RSVP by noon on Monday, January 29th to  .

Prof. Valerie Hoffman is a specialist in Islamic thought and practice. She has worked on many aspects of Islam, from the time of the Prophet to the contemporary period; She has conducted textual studies and has done fieldwork. She did two major fieldwork projects in Egypt, one on Muslim women's religious lives in contemporary Egypt (1980-81) and another on Sufism in modern Egypt (1987-89). She then studied Swahili and spent two summers in Zanzibar, where she became aware that two distinct strands of Arabian Islam had impacted the Swahili coast: the Sultanate of Oman and the Hadramawt region of Yemen. She spent the 2000-2001 academic year in Oman and the Hadramawt, and became particularly interested in the Ibadi sect of Islam, an ancient and small sect that is neither Sunni nor Shiite and is practiced in Oman and small pockets of North Africa. She has since written the first English-language study of Ibadi theology and has become a specialist in Ibadism in the modern period, especially in Oman and Zanzibar.

Reaching the Starting Line: First-Year College Students and the Challenges of Writing [Arts of Teaching]

Friday, February 9, 10:30-12:00pm, Room TBA

A poor writing prompt accomplishes little, other than frustrating student and instructor alike. Yet, at the same time, designing an assignment that facilitates specific methods of engagement sought by the instructor, while also motivating the student to put her/his best foot forward in a challenging new academic environment, can be an equally frustrating task.

In this session, join Tracy Weiner, Associate Director of the University of Chicago Writing Program, as we explore some of these challenges. This workshop is designed to introduce teachers to non-traditional writing assignments. These writing assignments are intended to help students, particularly first year undergraduates, build the critical reading and writing skills necessary to succeed in subsequent polished written works.

Participants will be expected to to find a 1-3 page sample of "good" writing about religion and submit it to craftofteaching@uchicago.edu by Sunday, February 4th, at 11pm.

Coffee and Tea provided.

Interpretation as Impersonation: Thinking with and as Our Sources in the Classroom [Co-Sponsored with the Early Christian Studies Workshop] [Arts of Teaching]

Wednesday, February 14, 4:30-6:00pm, Swift 403

At the University of Chicago, we are trained to think “with” our sources, an ability which we will one day impart to our students. But can “thinking with” be taken further? To what extent can we attempt enter into the minds of our subjects? What might doing so look like? And how useful is such an exercise for the purposes of pedagogy? In other words, is it possible to think as our sources? The Craft of Teaching invites you to join Prof. Margaret Mitchell (Shailer Mathews Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature) as we explore these questions. She will guide us through an exercise in the ancient rhetorical practice of prosopopoiia, where we will attempt to engage a particular text as the living (re)presentations of its later interpreters.

Participants will be expected to complete a short assignment in advance of the session that will be announced soon.

Coffee and Tea Provided. 

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

Led 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 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
Cameron Ferguson
Associate Coordinator, The Craft of Teaching
University of Chicago Divinity School