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Wabash College
Wabash Center programs are funded by Lilly Endowment Inc.
2014 Request for Proposals:
Teaching Religion and Theology
to a Changing Student Body

In May 2014 the Wabash Center will gather representatives from seven grant projects to discuss the goals, design, and assessment of the projects that they have undertaken through Wabash Center funding. Each of these projects shares the common goal of addressing the challenges to teaching and learning presented by changes in the students enrolled in their educational programs.

Meeting Dates: May 21-23, 2014


Sarah Drummond, Academic Dean -- Andover Newton Theological Seminary


Catholic Theological Union of Chicago (Project Director: Carmen Nanko-Fernández)
"Resourcing Theology Faculty Latinamente: Teaching/Learning for Ministry in the 21st Century US Roman Catholic Church"
This project seeks to prepare lay and ordained ministers in the Roman Catholic Church to better serve Latin@s, the new demographic plurality, by resourcing faculty across the curriculum at a Roman Catholic school of theology and ministry. The design is grounded in an organic approach that recognizes that the development of intercultural ministerial competencies in students calls for teaching/learning strategies built on the interconnectedness of cultural, theological and practical knowledges as well as particular ways of being community. This project intentionally includes the theological component because it is often ignored in ministerial competency development programs. The project utilizes accompaniment as a means of resourcing faculty. By inviting an interdisciplinary team of Latin@ theological educators, the project establishes within the school faculty community a teaching/learning network of Latin@ colleagues who form a critical mass--for the duration of the project--of those who are usually underrepresented on theological faculties.

Denver Seminary (Project Director: Aaron Johnson)
Aligning and Adopting a Model of Blended Learning
Denver Seminary is a thriving community with a distinct mission and character, reflected in both its faculty and its student body. Our overarching goal is to translate the seminary’s distinctives into a blended learning initiative. We posit that blended learning that is well aligned with institutional values and student realities will be more fully and quickly adopted by faculty and students. Therefore, the specific goals of this project are to design a model of blended learning that is uniquely fit to the institutional character of Denver Seminary and to our profiles of our students, to support that model with corresponding pedagogies, and to foster the adoption of blended learning throughout our community. A faculty committee and a Blended Learning Community of Practice will implement the project through faculty dialogue and development, course design and execution, and established institutional policies and protocols.

Pacific School of Religion (Bernard Schlager)
Learning From Our Graduates: Alumni Experiences of Ministry and the Revision of our MDiv Degree Program"
This project will work to reconfigure how we teach religion, theology, and pastoral ministry skills to the rapidly-changing student body in our MDiv program by supporting twelve faculty members to each interview three alums who have graduated since 2003. As a seminary that remains deeply committed to our MDiv degree as one important component of our mission, we are currently revising this degree to better meet the rapidly-changing needs of (1) those interested in traditional and emerging forms of church ministries, and (2) those who desire a strong theological education for their current and future work as change agents in organizations outside of traditional religious institutions. We know that we have much to learn from these 36 alums as our seminary undergoes its most significant renovation of its faculty, degrees, and related programs since the early 1970s.

Payne Theological Seminary (Project Director: Charles S. Brown)
Andragogy of Spiritual Formation and Online Community Building in a Distance Education Program"
At Payne Theological Seminary over 90 percent of the student population is enrolled in the distance education M.Div. program. Payne’s core faculty of six teaches over 90 percent of the online courses. Payne faculty has learned spiritual formation andragogy and online learning community building practices in two online and learning certificate programs. Implementation of learning is critical and is the focus of this exploration on how well Payne faculty are utilizing new technology mediums to support the teaching of student spiritual formation and development of rich online learning communities. Payne faculty will review relevant spiritual formation frameworks and identify concrete ways to strengthen spiritual formation andragogy throughout the M.Div program and deepen online community building using cutting-edge field models. Andragogical changes and online community building strategies will be implemented and assessed through two years. Lessons learned and field implications will be shared with the broader theological community through publications.

St. Norbert College (Project Directors: Mara Brecht and Reid Locklin)
"Millennial Students and the Pedagogy of Comparative Theology"
Learning Abstract: Comparative theology presumes boundaries between traditions, in order to transgress them. Millennial students, who resist and reconfigure traditional boundaries, would seem to represent an uncomfortable demographic for such a practice. Our project gathered teacher-scholars to imagine new pedagogies that are student learning-focused and also meaningful for comparative theologians' own scholarly work. Drawing on participants' classroom experience, as well as sociological studies of millennial students, the workshop reflected on the challenges posed by the emergence of new epistemologies and patterns of religious belonging. At the same time, we learned that comparative theology offers certain "affordances" to millennial students that other forms of theology or religious studies may not. Because comparative theology is premised on engaging across boundaries, teaching in this mode enables students to talk about and learn with the diverse forms of boundaries, including religious ones, they experience in their lives, while also affording new grammars for naming transcendence.

San Francisco Theological Seminary (Project Director: Virstan Choy)
Teaching Doctor of Ministry Students: Toward Contextually- and Culturally-Attentive Pedagogical Approaches"
What understandings are key to teaching Doctor of Ministry degree program students, who are experienced in the practice of ministry in a diverse range of cultural contexts? How do approaches to Doctor of Ministry teaching need to be different from Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy teaching? Through a three-year series of conversations on these and related questions interwoven with collaborative experiments in alternative teaching/learning activities, ministry project advising, and faculty resourcing, this project will encourage and enable efforts to address the challenges of teaching a new generation of post-M.Div. practitioners in ministry and international D. Min. students seeking alternatives to "classical Western education." Participants will be resourced by consultants in cross-cultural education and faculty colleagues open to engaging in D. Min. teaching/learning experiments. Potential outcomes include: 1) changed understandings of the teacher-student/teacher-learner relationship; 2) revised D. Min. learning objectives, assessment rubrics and proficiency criteria; and 3) new resources for course design, ministry projects, and signature assignments.

Trinity Lutheran College (Project Director: Beth Elness-Hanson)
Integrating Student-Centered Inquiry for Transformational Learning among Diverse Students"
Trinity is in the crucible of change. However, this kairos-time provides the opportunity to strategically innovate—integrating “student-centered inquiry”—for stronger learning outcomes among a wonderfully-diverse student body. The past eight years have seen changes from a traditional Bible college to a “biblically-centered liberal arts college” with new majors beyond traditional ministry. The changes of campus location, president, academic dean, Biblical Studies chair, new majors, and adding athletic programs has resulted in a vastly different student body— with 42% people of color, almost half are athletes, and approximately 7% are non-Christian—a radical change from a decade ago. Thus, the faculty seeks to engage the diversity of ethnicity, faith traditions, and learning styles by integrating the “gracious space” provided through student-centered inquiry. We seek to develop our capacity to empower active, responsible participants in their own learning in ways which respects diversity while engaging meaningfully in exploring the Christian worldview.

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