I used to think…but now I think…

dvd_jacket_206How can we help students reflect on their own thinking? How can we make their thinking — and their learning — visible to them? These questions are at the heart of engaged teaching, and I’ve been using some resources from Harvard’s Visible Thinking Routines in an effort to help students do this work.

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Alternate Ways of Being in the World

Into-the-wildDuring a weekly faculty mindfulness group I’ve been participating in this year, a colleague mentioned that he showed the film “Into the Wild” to his students. Usually he shows this film to his 12th grade students in a class on identity, but he also showed it to his 9th graders this spring. The results, he said, were quite positive. After learning about Christopher McCandless’s story — donating his trust fund to Oxfam, cutting up his credit cards, heading to Alaska — several students wrote him inspiring emails late at night, clearly moved by this example.

Things do not end well for McCandless, of course. And while there are some parts of his life to value, it’s also an important cautionary tale. But my colleague’s comments came as I was teaching a unit on Marx, gender, and advertising and resonated with some of my experiences there.

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Back at it…

We started a new term today. There were some great moments in the department as we all began our new courses: a colleague explaining a priori knowledge to two students in the context of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (!), which they are pursuing in an independent project. A discussion with a colleague about how to incorporate Ferguson into my course on Nonviolence this winter, with special attention to the role of religion: it can help people create narratives of hope and it can provide theological justification for the status quo. Students in class writing and talking about ideas of freedom and enchainment using Rousseau’s saying that “humans are born free but everywhere they are in chains.”

A good day. A good start. More soon!

Reza Aslan, Islam, and the Cultural Studies Approach to Teaching about Religion

(What this title lacks in pith it makes up for in accuracy.)

Reza Aslan is a historian of religions who happens also to be a Muslim. While these two identities can lead to confusion in certain members of the media (see this interview here), those matters are not the primary focus of this post. Instead, I want to use a recent interview Aslan did with CNN to illustrate the ways in which he utilizes a cultural studies approach to Religious Studies. Continue reading

Choosing a Concrete Image

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Choosing a Concrete Image: A Discussion

Small-groups, free-writes, or open-ended questions are my usual ways for starting a discussion in my classes. And while there can be value in routine, I do worry about a routine becoming a rut. With that concern in mind, I turned to Brookfield and Preskill’s superb Discussion as a Way of Teaching* and tried out one of the techniques they mention: choosing a concrete image. Continue reading