Teaching and Christian Practices: Reshaping Faith and Learning

By David I. Smith; James K. A. Smith | Go to book overview

Recruiting Students’ Imaginations:
Prospects and Pitfalls of Practices

David I. Smith

As the conversations that led to and accompanied many of the chapters in this volume unfolded, a familiar-sounding concern raised its head more than once. The attentive reader will find its traces here and there in the preceding essays. Sometimes it appeared as a simple question to someone who had tried to introduce a Christian practice into their class: Did students get it? Or, more anxiously: When you introduced an unfamiliar set of practices, did students resist? Did they think it was weird? Is this more like church than higher education? At other times it came as a cautionary anecdote: even though we spent time at the start of the semester discussing theological perspectives, at the end some students claimed to have perceived no Christian dimension to the course. Occasionally colleagues rather than students were the target: How did your department react? Was this a hard sell? Whatever the specific guise under which it arose, a recurring underlying concern was whether introducing some form of Christian practice not commonly encountered in the classroom would lead students or colleagues to either bewilderment or resentment, distracting from learning or perhaps undermining the professor’s need to be liked, understood, or at least perceived as sane.

This book is an extended effort to persuade colleagues that there is something in the connection between practices and learning that is worthy of serious consideration. Rather than offer an extended theoretical account of why practices are important and what they have to do with learning (several of those already exist and are cited in multiple places in earlier chapters), we have chosen to paint pictures of attempts to rethink and reenact our classes in the light of Christian practices. If colleagues are not persuaded by this point that there is something to the enterprise, further

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