Presentation on theme: "Sinclair Community College Miriam Rosalyn Diamond, PhD The Collaboration for Learning October 15, 2010 When Religion Surfaces in Class: From Conflict to."— Presentation transcript:
Sinclair Community College Miriam Rosalyn Diamond, PhD The Collaboration for Learning October 15, 2010 When Religion Surfaces in Class: From Conflict to Engagement
Agenda Why religion? Why religion? - Why does it come up in context of - Why does it come up in context of other subjects? - What is religious literacy - What is religious literacy and why should we care? - Why is religion a “difficult” topic? - Why is religion a “difficult” topic? What we can do when religion surfaces in discussion - Faculty reactions, responsibilities - Faculty reactions, responsibilities - Student responses, and responsibilities - Student responses, and responsibilities - Fostering learning amid differing viewpoints Sample – interfaith dialogue Moving ahead/planning
Discussions about religion can involve: - atheists - agnostics - “wounded believers” - secular humanists - “spiritual but not religious” Current students- outspoken, freely disagree, express perspectives Nash and Baskette, 2008
Religious Literacy “The religiously literate person is knowledgeable about religion, including its place in human experience and its impact on our world” - Center for Religious Literacy
The situation ABC News/Washington Post Poll - 55% of Americans feel they have ABC News/Washington Post Poll - 55% of Americans feel they have inadequate knowledge of Islam. (Polling Report, 2009) Nearly 50% were unable to identify the Muslim holy book or name for God (Pew Research Center, 2009 & 2010)
2010 Pew Survey: Only about 50% of Americans questioned knew: - if Golden Rule is in 10 Commandments (55%) - Maimonides’ (8%), Joseph Smith’s (51%) and the Dalai Lama’s (47%) religions - role Martin Luther played in relig. (46%) - names of the 4 Gospels (45%)
Faculty concerns about discussing religion in secular studies class Overcoming student resistance/fear of contradicting view of how universe functions Dealing with emotions Fostering environment where students struggle with new/different ideas Addressing misconceptions re: scientific method/ways of knowing
Educators themselves should have some literacy – or at least know what questions to ask and credible resources to use.
What faculty can do Understand student perspective Foster student development Address our own reactions Identify means and resources
Trautvetter, 2006, Midwestern Non- Sectarian University survey of all levels % Students Who Considered it Appropriate for Faculty to Discuss Religion in Class Personal Relig beliefs Any Relig Beliefs Any Class1938 Certain Classes6982 Office Hours5155 Advising4248
According to William Perry, students enter college holding one of four Positions I. Dualism II. Multiplicity III. Relativism IV. Commitment - At any one time, there is likely to be a mix of these positions in a room.
I. Dualism Good vs. Bad, Right versus Wrong, We versus Them. There are Right Answers to be learned and memorized. Professor’s role is to convey these. Knowledge is quantitative. Power is externally conferred, residing in authority, title. Unquestioning obedience is the norm. Quotes: “What’s THE answer?” “I’m right. If you disagree with me, you must be wrong.”
II. Multiplicity The legitimacy of different perspectives is acknowledged. Each is given equal weight. This perspective discourages disputes and debates. Quotes: "everyone is entitled to their opinion“ “On the one hand…on the other hand…”
III.Relativism Different perspectives have different levels of validity. Evidence and arguments need to be presented and examined. Students at this point can (want to) reflect deeply, metacognate, and assess ideas – including their own. Anyone’s ideas – including those of faculty - are up for discussion Knowledge is qualitative, context-dependent. May have difficulty making decisions.
IV. Commitment Stance is chosen after critical thinking, questioning and evaluating personal priorities (“soul searching”). Aligns behavior with principles. Goal = developing and acting from a coherent set of values. (Integrity) Constant re-evaluation. Not fixed.
Student Responses may include… Temporizing/Deflection – pausing; taking a step back before moving ahead – often seen as disengagement or mechanically going through the motions. Retreat “Fight” – hunkering down in the position. The “other” is viewed as a threat, particularly if they come across as hostile. Escape – avoid thinking about the issues at all, not firmly committed to any specific stance (“flight”, denial)
This can be a difficult and emotional process! “…one of the significant facets of understanding is when the intellectual AND the emotional are privileged” - “disorienting moments” for students, the core of their beliefs seems shaken. - Patricia Owen-Smith
Emotional reactions should be recognized and articulated – in constructive ways. Professor’s role is to help make connections with cognitive learning. - Patricia Owen-Smith
What is role/responsibility of students in their learning? Help develop and maintain learning space - Safe environment -Small groups, circles - Use computers, paper/pens to express visually, in accordance with learning style - Put aside cell phones, distractions (cont.) Nash, et al, Singham, Lee
Role/responsibility of students in their learning (cont.) In discussion: - Get to know each other - Share without (fear of) confrontation/disrespect - Follow rules of engagement: -> Nash, et al, Singham, Lee
Guidelines for Engagement Explain, clarify, rephrase, respect, and affirm Evoke, don’t invoke, or provoke Support without retort Attribute the best motive Flow...and let it go (don’t fight or flee) cont…. Adapted from: Nash and Baskette, 2008
Guidelines, cont. Look for the truth in what you oppose and the error in what you espouse Speak for yourself and not for some group Know when, how to say “ouch” Take time to reflect, process, write about feelings and reactions Adapted from: Nash and Baskette, 2008
Techniques for Students - Articulate their own learning goals - Learn language for: - discussing their beliefs and customs - broaching “hot” topics - disagreeing/clarifying others’ misperceptions (prejudices?) - asking when curious/to confirm - encouraging silent members to speak up Chickering & Nash
Engaging in Critical Thinking, Meta-cognition - Explore “why they believe what they believe “ - Discuss HOW they think, in addition to what - Seek “kernal of truth”, value in other perspectives - Learn to live w/paradox – there may not be one universal correct stance for some issues Nash et al, Rosier, Singham, D. Warren
Engaging in Critical Thinking – cont. Engage in reflection (written, verbal, small group) “One new idea/insight I got today was_______” “ A question has come up for me is __________” “ Where we could go from here is__________” “I had difficulty grappling with _______today” “ _______ was easier to discuss than I expected” Nash et al, Rosier, Singham, Warren
Role/responsibility of faculty in discussing religion
Prepare for the Unexpected – Dealing with your own emotions - Don’t take it personally - Get distance: - “go to the balcony”/ “Listen for the song beneath the words” (L.Warren) - “How fascinating” (B. Zander) - Allow yourself to come back to the topic another day
Role/responsibility of faculty in discussing religion - Note in syllabus opening discussions that “hot”/sensitive-controversial topics may be raised (and guidelines) - Get to know students - Acknowledge diverse perspectives/viewpts - Model providing sources of comments - Admit when you are unsure or could have misspoken
Faculty Role (cont.) - Engage students in exploring WHY a topic is controversial. - Share your target learning outcomes for lesson. (e.g Fink model – cognitive –interpers’l-relat’l) - Distinguish how we “know” things in different disciplines: (scientific method, logic, intuitive/faith,“sacred” teachings/tradition, experience) - “Provide a framework for how an educated person (even a religious one) approaches such a (cognitive) task” (Rosier)
Techniques Current events discussions (student identified) Cases Role play Papers (wikis, blogs) showing different perspectives Journaling Service Learning with processing Campus events Culture-arts Multi-media (films, speakers, field trips) Dialogue/Small Group structured discussions Adapted from Trautvetter, 2008
Resources to enhance our own comfort with the topic/ religious literacy Campus chaplains, religion faculty, clergy Credible documentaries Interfaith dialogue (book, movie…) groups Custom-sharing opportunities with others (ceremonies, foods, music, clothes) Credible books Guest speakers, panels
Helping Students Hear Other Perspectives Know about your own belief system. Recognize conflicting opinions even among respected authorities. Exposure, active listening to others. Cont- William Perry
Helping Students Hear Other Perspectives – cont. Provide evidence to support positions (e.g “The Bible says...” – exactly what verses?) Recognize how context (regional, historical) influences perspective Metacognate – become aware of their own thinking, reasoning - William Perry
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