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An Introduction to the Study of Christianity -- Developing Collaboratively Authored Curriculum Resources

Awarded Grant
Ruiz, Jean-Pierre
St. John's University (Jamaica, NY)
Undergraduate School
Topics: Gathering Faculty within an Institution   |   Teaching a Specific Subject   |   Designing Courses

Proposal abstract :
Develop a textbook and other curricular resources in support of a new core-curriculum undergraduate introductory course in theology, doing so through a process of collaborative authorship among members of the department faculty.

Learning Abstract :
As initially designed, this project fell short in its estimate of the amount of time and energy that would be required to implement a core curriculum course with as many sections, as many students and as many adjunct faculty members as came to be the case for our Perspectives on Christianity: A Catholic Approach. As a result, the process of consensus building among the faculty has proceeded much more slowly than was originally anticipated. In addition, institutional complications, including the organizational details of a new university-wide core-curriculum, the need to coordinate course offerings across several campuses and with theology faculty in two distinct colleges of the university, and the implementation of new features of a university-wide information technology infrastructure have increased the challenges involved in this process.

It quickly became clear that the original intention, to produce a collaboratively authored printed textbook for our Perspectives on Christianity: A Catholic Approach represented an inadequate solution. This initial disappointment actually opens doors to opportunities of a different sort: it becomes increasingly clear that the St. John's University's Academic Computing Initiative will play an important role in the development of curriculum resources and course materials. These course materials, taking advantage of the flexibility and scalability of digital technology, can be customized and updated much more easily than conventional printed textbooks. In addition, digital technology has the potential for facilitating more interactive teaching and learning. Web-CT, the St. John's Campus Pipeline gateway, the wireless network and the notebook computers in the hands of freshmen provide both an incentive and a practical opportunity for our faculty to implement appropriate and well-designed digital technological teaching and learning resources. Because digital technology looms large in the consciousness of our undergraduate students, as a "given" of their world, it also provides faculty with an opportunity to tap into the "new literacy" in teaching theology and religion. The university administration has shown considerable interest in this dimension of the project, and has encouraged the department to proceed.

On the plus side, our faculty's intensive and systematic attention to the design and implementation of Perspectives on Christianity: A Catholic Approach has yielded significant positive outcomes, inasmuch as this work has focused our attention intentionally and deliberately on issues of teaching and learning. Implicit assumptions about successful teaching came to the surface for examination and for revision. At the same time, the department's collaboration in the design of this course has resulted in a stronger sense of the department's shared mission, and has increased the concern of the full-time faculty for the faculty development of our adjunct faculty colleagues.
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