Teaching Undergraduate Research in Religious Studies

Teaching Undergraduate Research in Religious Studies

Teaching Undergraduate Research in Religious Studies

Teaching Undergraduate Research in Religious Studies

Synopsis

Teaching Undergraduate Research in Religious Studies offers an introduction to the philosophy and practice of Undergraduate Research in Religious Studies and takes up several significant ongoing questions related to it. This volume emerges from sustained conversations about the pedagogy of Undergraduate Research by a group of teacher-scholars in the discipline, and it seeks to extend those conversations. For those new to Undergraduate Research, this book provides an overview of fundamental issues and pedagogical questions and practical models for application in the classroom. For seasoned mentors, it acts as a dialogue partner on emerging issues and offers insight into pertinent questions in the field based on the experience of recognized experts. Individual chapters focus on select theoretical and practical topics including the nature of collaboration between faculty and students, what it means for undergraduate students to make an "original contribution" in their research, how to identify and shape a research project that is appropriate and manageable, the types of institutional and professional support systems needed to adequately support and reward faculty who participate in this kind of pedagogy, and procedures for adequate and appropriate assessment. Student perspectives highlight the importance of Undergraduate Research to student learning.

Excerpt

Bernadette McNary-Zak and Rebecca Todd Peters

In the fall of 2001 we both began our first tenure-track positions in religious studies departments at church-related liberal arts institutions. By our second year, we had each been asked to mentor undergraduate students in projects that fell under the institutional rubric of “Undergraduate Research.” While we had each written advanced theses during our own undergraduate days that are parallel to what is now being called “Undergraduate Research,” this nomenclature and the accompanying trend in higher education to promote intensive, individualized opportunities for substantive and original research at the undergraduate level has increased markedly in the humanities in the last ten years. While we each enthusiastically embraced the possibility for mentoring students, this was quickly tempered by the realization that there were few resources in the humanities to support our efforts.

We share an approach to pedagogy that recognizes good teaching as a process of figuring out how to connect ideas, materials, and concepts with varied groups of students day in and day out. Consequently, we believe that innovation, improvisation, and spontaneity are necessary hallmarks of good teaching. Through experimentation, trial, and error we learned that some kinds of research projects and experiences were successful while others were not, and our conversations with our peers yielded similar stories. We also recognized that while our ability to innovate and respond to student requests for new forms of engaged learning in the form of . . .

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