Sample pedagogical resources, my courses, and a teaching statement:
Page contents (click on the list to move down the page)
- How to Talk to Your Professor – Communication guidelines that accompany the course outline.
- Paragraph Response Sheet – A coded rubrics on formal aspects of paragraph writing, to help students practice and to communicate my expectations and feedback. Odd numbered comments are thing to improve; even-numbered comments are strengths. Additional substantive comments are required.
- The Writing Process – A set of tips on how to navigate the process of writing.
- Essay Rubric – A standard essay assignment rubric.
- Reading Images – A method for reading religious images by looking for the fit between visual elements and religious concepts, developed with art educator, Irene Naested.
I teach six sections of the following courses per year at Mount Royal University:
- RELS 1101 – World Religions: Western
- RELS 1105 – The Nature of Religion
- RELS 2208 – Religion and Popular Culture
- RELS 2253 – Christianity
- RELS 3302 – Topics in Religion (Spirit Possession and Healing)
- RELS 3305 – Esotericism, Magic and the Occult
- RELS 3322 – Religion in the Americas
- RELS 3333 – Death and Afterlife
- RELS 3360 – Topics in Christianity (The End of the World)
- HUMN 2297 – Issues in Science and Religion
- GNED 1203 – Cultural Perspectives on Science
This diagram illustrates one sort of tension that can be very useful as a reflective exercise in class. The diagram draws students’ attention to relations between naturalistic and relational views of religion (on the left) and ideological critique (on the right).
The study of religion is not just one academic discipline among others. It is a critical space for coming to understand how values and ideologies shape individuals and societies.
All aspects of my teaching are oriented by the imperative to act professionally and ethically, especially by treating all students equitably and respectfully, regardless of identity and background, and by maintaining a supportive and productive learning environment.
Four levels of teaching outcomes:
Skills-based: reading, writing and reasoning. Assignments, handouts, discussion and feedback focus on a small set of specific skills. I encourage students to meet one-on-one to discuss their work and how to take it further. I am working to incorporate UD principles and I take account of relevant scholarship on teaching and learning.
Example: I give students full marks for submitting practice sentences and paragraphs. I then post anonymous examples of that work, showing and explaining what grade each would have earned and why. This moves past individual feedback (“why did I get the grade I got?”) to a range of comparables (“How can I get a higher mark, as these others would have?”).
Substantive: teach the material. Each course discusses core ideas from a specific set of readings, images, videos, web-sites etc. I link assessment to a range of teaching techniques, with due attention to maintaining currency.
Example: In my first-year Western Religions course (before the current viral politics), students choose between interviewing someone for whom religion has been an important factor in their life or making a site visit to a synagogue, church or mosque. We spend class time discussing methodological issues. Each student meets with me to discuss either a coded partial transcription or thematically organized field notes. Student evaluations suggest that this is a valued and effective course component.
Disciplinary: represent the study of religion. Academic disciplines are distinguished by their epistemological (theoretical, methodological), social (cultural, institutional, and organizational) and pedagogical dimensions. I tell students that our course is, in part, a process of disciplinary inculturation.
Example: I illustrate the task of writing clear paragraphs with journal articles. This helps to shake students’ assumptions that writing is about achieving a uniform, universal standard. It shows how writing in the human and social sciences differs from other styles and models.
Critical: model and provide practice in ideological critique. Religions constitute worldviews; and students bring their own religious and non-religious worldviews into the classroom. The former is core material; I consistently bridge to the latter.
Example: We discuss types of authority: why anyone in the class would follow a classmate who called for an exodus to study religion with them in a classroom down the hall? My authority is institutional; theirs, if acknowledged, would be charismatic. Students often refer to this discussion if they choose authority as the lens for writing their comparative final exam essay.
My pedagogical strategies aim to present religions as vital instances of the forces that shape our lives, in the hope that students will benefit, beyond the classroom, from this discipline-specific mode of critical thinking as ideological critique.