What learning processes take place in Reflecting Faith courses?
The Reflecting Faith courses are short and asynchronous, designed to fit into your busy schedule. Yet we have carefully considered ways to vary the learning experience, create interaction, and provide a learning sequence that contributes to your growth. Each course consists of several key elements designed to help you not just to digest information, but to make active connections between faith and learning and to make your learning fruitful in your own life and work. The key elements of each course are as follows:
In this part of each course, you will engage directly with the text of Scripture as well as with significant creedal and theological writing from the Christian tradition. The specific texts are chosen to illuminate and ground the particular theme of the course. As scholarly conversations about faith and learning develop, there is a risk that we become more familiar with current positions than with the primary sources. Regular re-engagement with Scripture and with the theological tradition can help us to make fresh connections and challenge our assumptions, even the assumptions that we have developed about what faith requires. The Roots section is where we do this. You will engage with the selected texts using Perusall, a social annotation tool that enables you to respond to prompts, add your own comments to the text, see and respond to other participants’ comments, and interact with the course instructor. We also guide you through key texts more than once, providing fresh reflection prompts for a second reading – this material is not meant for a quick skim through, but for careful and reflective engagement. The process here focuses on thoughtful engagement with the text and interaction with others around the text. We read in community and seek one another’s good as we read closely and seek truth together.
In the second part of the course, we engage directly with key writing from Christian scholars that examines and develops the course’s theme and begins to connect it to the work of higher education. This often means engagement with carefully selected readings, though other media such as extracts from talks or interviews may also be used. This section serves an important bridging role. If we wish to take a theme from Scripture or Christian thought and connect it to the current work of higher education, we have to do more than lean on it for inspiration. It has to be thought through, clarified, checked for limits and misunderstandings, and articulated in ways that connect to our needs. We come to this task in the company of others on whose work we can build. This part of the course is therefore focused on reading or hearing and understanding important scholarly voices addressing our topic.
Our goal in Reflecting faith is not just to know more theology, but to help you discern how Christian commitments can inform the work of higher education. In the Applications section, therefore, you will encounter current examples of those connections being made in the work of Christians working in higher education in a variety of disciplines. You will explore short pieces of writing and video interviews in which your fellow educators at other institutions explain how the course’s theme has been generative for their work. These are not intended as prescriptions or as the single correct answer, but as suggesting examples that might help you to make your own connections. After reviewing them, you will outline a possible application to your own field of work and receive feedback from the instructor as well as from other course participants. You will also be invited to review the connections that other participants are finding and provide them with your feedback as a final opportunity to invest in one another’s growth.
Connecting faith and learning is not just about reading and thinking. If the process is divorced from our overall formation, it can easily become an abstract exercise. Alongside the processes described above, we therefore suggest reflective practices to engage in during the course as a way of relating the course theme to your own personal growth.