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Lost in the Great Divide: Motivation in Religious Studies Classrooms

Gravett, Emily O.
Teaching Theology and Religion 21, no. 1 (2018): 21-32
BL41.T4 v.21 no. 1
Topics: Teaching Religion   |   Faith in the Classroom   |   Learning Designs

Additional Info:
One of the most illuminating finds in Barbara E. Walvoord's Teaching and Learning in College Introductory Religion Courses (2008) is what she calls “the great divide,” a mismatch between instructors’ goals for their courses, which are academic, and the students’ reasons for taking them, which relate to their personal interests and development. Motivation – or, rather, the lack thereof – is not explicitly considered as a potential victim of this mismatch. This article will turn its attention squarely to this issue. First, I will review data about the “great divide” and link them to the common practice of asking our students to bracket the personal when they take our courses. The article will juxtapose this practice with what research tell us about motivation, which will allow us to further explore why the divide Walvoord and others have identified is so problematic. The article will conclude with pedagogical strategies that can help instructors intentionally influence motivation in religion courses. Ultimately, I suggest that we may be doing students – as well as ourselves, as the purveyors of our discipline – a disservice, if we do not attend to (or, worse, if we actively avoid) what we know motivates students to learn.
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