Contributed by Dr. Molly Bassett
Students in RELS 3270, “Religious Traditions of the World,” often work as a class to develop a final project with a community partner. This year, Covid-19 made that more challenging, and so members of the class created an applied project that would benefit one another. Each module in the class introduced new material using an inquiry-based method. Students started the unit on Buddhism, for example, by sharing questions they had about the tradition. Then they studied a variety of texts and media before answering a few questions that encouraged them to (1) check for understanding; (2) think about the text; and (3) think about their thinking. Students started to understand each religious tradition by checking to see that they understood the terms and ideas in a text before they thought about the author’s argument and evidence. Then they practiced metacognition or thinking about their own thinking, which could involve making connections among texts or class modules, anticipating where an author might go next, or creating knowledge of their own.
In their final projects, students engaged each step by writing a research question and then answering it. Their questions and answers followed the style of Russell McCutcheon and Aaron Hughes’ recent Religion in 5 Minutes. In addition to writing questions based on their own curiosity, students worked with university librarian Dr. Jill Anderson to find relevant sources. Then they drafted and revised research-based answers with support from GSU’s Writing Across the Curriculum program and course Writing Consultant Nathan Springer (RELS MA ’22). Together they “published” a book of questions and answers to share with one another.
I asked two students for permission to share their work here so that colleagues (theirs and mine) have a clearer sense of opportunities our undergraduate program offers. Michael Gargus, a Religious Studies major, chose to write about whether secular ideas are replacing religious ideas in the United States, and Alice Riviére reflected on whether Judeo-Christian values impact Americans’ attitudes toward the environment. Other students asked questions that revealed assumptions people make about other culture groups (“Why are Asians Atheist?”) or about specific religious traditions. The most successful answers unraveled the tangled misinformation people bring to unfamiliar cultures and religious traditions.
Read more about Michael Gargus's project here.
Read more about Alice Riviére's project here.