In 2013, I taught an Introduction to Religion course at Florida A&M. This class fulfilled both general education and writing intensive requirements. I assigned Russell McCutcheon’s Studying Religion and Daniel Pal’s 8 Theories of Religion. To put these two texts–with radically different methods for studying religion–in conversation with one another, students wrote essays applying the method supplied in McCutcheon’s book to the figures and ideas presented in Pal’s book. They did so by writing about an example of their choice, connecting course content to a “real world” example they found on their own.
I wrote about my experience teaching this course at Religion in American History:
Focusing on Tupac’s All Eyez on Me and “Only God Can Judge Me” as his primary focus and using interviews to supplement his claims, this student argued that Tupac most closely resembled Mary Douglas’s ideas about social structures and social control. Complete with an analysis of what “keeping it real” might mean, this paper was a home run for the introductory course. More than anything else, I wanted students to be able to read deeply into things they were already interested in rather than attain a certain level of religious “literacy.” Some students were more cursory of their connections between their interests and the course concepts, but others, like this case study, exceeded my expectations.
My full post can be read here: http://usreligion.blogspot.com/2013/05/teaching-introduction-to-religion-or.html.