pedagogy

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Reviewed by: Frederick Schmidt, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
Date Reviewed: December 10, 2019
Against the backdrop of growing debate over both the nature and value of higher education, David Cunningham and twelve scholars offer what they believe may serve as a “common purpose” – vocation. Along with the word, “calling,” vocation has theological roots, but Cunningham argues that a “more expansive” approach to the word “is attentive to questions of profession, work, and employment” and “encompasses a much broader range of concerns that will ...

Against the backdrop of growing debate over both the nature and value of higher education, David Cunningham and twelve scholars offer what they believe may serve as a “common purpose” – vocation. Along with the word, “calling,” vocation has theological roots, but Cunningham argues that a “more expansive” approach to the word “is attentive to questions of profession, work, and employment” and “encompasses a much broader range of concerns that will arise during a college student’s current and future life.” The writers of this volume do not believe that appealing to the concept of vocation will eliminate conflict swirling around competing visions of the academy, but they do believe that the concept appeals to both the roots of the modern university and the goals of faculty from across the academy (3).

With that goal in mind, Cunningham and his co-contributors divide their effort into four parts. Eschewing a disciplinary-centered approach to their work, they instead consider “four different pathways or approaches through which the disciplines can come into conversation with one another: first by emphasizing certain themes that are common to them all; second, by borrowing concepts from one discipline that can apply to many other disciplines; third, by focusing on the future lives of undergraduates…; and fourth, by considering some of the institution-wide obstacles that need to be addressed if the language of vocation and calling is to be perceived as relevant to all academic departments and programs” (14).

In a closing epilogue, Cunningham notes that the volume demonstrates that neither vocation nor calling exhaust the concerns that arise from their use in the academy. The words, “responsibility, character, virtue, mission, covenant, mapmaking, storytelling, performance, work, [and] leisure,” along with others, figure in the contributions to this volume (315). That should come as no surprise, he argues. From the very beginning, Cunningham commends a definition of vocation that is “capacious, dynamic, and elastic” (315, cf. 10ff.).

Accordingly, he argues that one should approach the issue of vocation prepared to use multiple vocabularies that reveal different, but interrelated discoveries. To have a vocation means that one is shaped by that calling (317ff.); that one is summoned “from without” (319f.); that one must decide what to do (320f.); that those who are called inevitably consider their link to the callings of others (321f.); and that they are compelled to think about the impact their vocations will have on the future (322ff.).

This is the second of three volumes in an ambitious and welcome effort to recapture the inspiration of vocation as a locus for higher education. The first, published in 2015 under the title, At This Time and in This Place, focused on pedagogy. The third, published in January of 2019 appeared under the title, Hearing Vocationally Differently, and expands on the vocabulary associated with vocation, relying on contributors from diverse religious traditions.

One may well wonder what the prospects will be for the project of this series. Embattled as the academy is – by forces both within and without – one would hope that scholars will find a common inspiration that will lend new energy and focus to their work. But even cursory attention to the debates roiling college and university campuses underlines the truth that “an optimist is someone who is not in possession of all the facts.” It is difficult to believe that disciplines that are struggling to define a shared vision of the work that they are doing could agree on a vision for the larger work to which the whole academy is devoted.

The task that the writers propose is made all the more difficult by the choice of “vocation” as the organizing principle around which they attempt to rally their readers. As Cunningham himself observes, the verb vocare is transitive (317). As such, it implies that one is not only called, but one is also called by someone or something. The absence of a shared understanding of who or what issues that call - if anyone or anything does – underlines how little shared vision may be in the offing for the modern academy.

For theological educators the answer to that question and others ought to be easier to achieve, but anyone who teaches in the modern divinity school knows better than that. As seminaries struggle to address declining enrollments, degree programs are crafted with an eye to the individual’s goals and the notion of vocation – and the spiritual formation that accompanies it – has slipped again to the margins of theological education. Where it still lingers, it is necessarily governed by private definitions. In the meantime, seminary faculties differ with one another as much or more on such questions as the faculties at any college or university.

The effort made by Cunningham and his co-contributors comes, then, as both question and indictment: What is it about the concept of vocation that leads even a small but brave cohort of scholars without shared confessional commitments to imagine that they can galvanize their work around the concept? The indictment is this: What are the factors that have relegated the question of vocation to the margins of the very institutions that gave birth to the vocabulary?

Reviewed by: Eduardo Fernández
Date Reviewed: December 10, 2019
As a Roman trained missiologist who teaches intercultural pedagogy and ministry, as someone who grew up on the US-Mexican border and who has worked in religious formation since the age of twelve, I was drawn to this book’s title and cover design, a world map on a chalk board. I am blessed with a large number of international graduate students, most of whom will be returning to their home ...

As a Roman trained missiologist who teaches intercultural pedagogy and ministry, as someone who grew up on the US-Mexican border and who has worked in religious formation since the age of twelve, I was drawn to this book’s title and cover design, a world map on a chalk board. I am blessed with a large number of international graduate students, most of whom will be returning to their home countries or will be called to work internationally. The book’s title seemed a tall order – but it did not in the least disappoint.

Penned by a seasoned missiologist and professor who knows how to draw educationally from his extensive international travel and work abroad, the work is exceptionally readable, one which strives to integrate course content, or knowledge of the biblical tradition, with contemporary human experience, or alternatively phrased, an appreciation for an ongoing dialogue between a course being content-centered and student-centered. Plueddemann does this especially by engaging Edward Hall’s highly effective categories of “high and low context” styles of communication, together with Geert and Gert Jan Hofstede’s development of power distance. Filled with examples and anecdotes, not only from his own teaching but also from other practitioners appropriately placed at the end of every chapter, he makes a strong case for paying attention to biblical pedagogy, one which is profoundly experiential and cognizant of diverse contexts. His sources are carefully selected so as not to overwhelm the reader with jargon and very applicable to those wishing to respectfully do global Christian mission in a way in which Bible and culture inform each other, especially in contexts which are much more communal than our U.S. contexts. His brief inclusion of key learning theorists such as Piaget, Lewis, Dewey, MacDonald, and Freire show their continued relevance, and provide a necessary bibliography for further study.

It is not often that we find good pedagogical material specifically aimed at teaching theology or religion, so this little gem is a welcome one, a work carefully tailored to shifting contexts, learning styles, and contemporary media globalization. Much to my amazement, Plueddemann’s tools can be applied to a variety of educational tasks such as teaching language, preaching, summer camp work, Sunday school, mentoring and coaching, and even parenting. His appreciation of the teaching potential of novels and other forms of art provides ways in which teachers unfamiliar with local contexts can begin to enter these learners’ worlds. Teaching across Cultures’ ecumenical sensibilities, similarly, such as the inclusion of the work of Thomas H. Groome, well-known in Catholic educational circles, makes it a useful text beyond the Protestant world.

Will I assign this text? Definitely! My own use of some of the biblical and anthropological tools he cites will be enhanced by his examples of how they can be applied to educational and pastoral settings, not only to those which demand intercultural sensitivity, but even to those which we think we already understand.

Reviewed by: Ryan Korstange, Middle Tennessee State University
Date Reviewed: December 10, 2019
Social media and the daily news both mark the continued normalization of violence. Given that one of the chief aims of liberal education is toward personal development and the attainment of civic responsibilities, the normalization of violence is a central issue with which twenty-first-century educators must grapple. To this end, Pedagogies for Building Cultures of Peace is a useful resource both for centralizing current research on structural and cultural violence ...

Social media and the daily news both mark the continued normalization of violence. Given that one of the chief aims of liberal education is toward personal development and the attainment of civic responsibilities, the normalization of violence is a central issue with which twenty-first-century educators must grapple. To this end, Pedagogies for Building Cultures of Peace is a useful resource both for centralizing current research on structural and cultural violence and the concomitant dehumanization of the “other” (Chapters 1-4). Further, the book details the many benefits of engaging youth in structured critical dialogue about their experience and internalization of violence in many forms and leverages this dialogic strategy for the transformational aim of building peace and destabilization of structural violence (Chapters 5-9).

This book is a theoretical treatment of a specific dialogic experience examining the normalization of violence. It is evident that the experience was significant for the participants, and the detailed reporting of the participant dialogue helps make clear some ways in which structures of violence are normalized for these youth. However, as with qualitative research – the difficulty lies in transferability, specifically in the question of how generalizable the experience of these ten youth is for a broader audience. In part, this challenge could have been alleviated with a more detailed description of both the methods used in the dialogic process itself and by providing more information about the participants themselves. That difficulty aside, the central argument – that safe, collaborative, and critical dialogue functions as a viable pedagogical strategy for building real peace – is compelling, even if the author does not provide practical details for creating this type of dialogue or these types of spaces (a brief outline of the dialogic structure utilized does appear in Table 10.3).

Readers of The Wabash Center Journal on Teaching will find the final two chapters the most beneficial. These summarize the dialogue and extract pedagogical implications, which are supported by research in experiential learning, social constructivism, relational epistemology, and power analysis. Taken together, these chapters provide a robust theory that must inform teaching aimed towards peace. As Abidi observes, “education that neglects to challenge normalizations of violence, and the relations that maintain violence as an accepted norm in society, further reinforces unquestioned ideologies of the dehumanized other” (113). It is, therefore, no longer an option to say nothing about the normalization of violence in the classroom – rather collaborative critical conversation must be employed towards the end of peace.

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Out in the Center: Public Controversies and Private Struggles

Denny, Harry; Mundy, Robert; Naydan, Liliana M.; Sévère, Richard; Sicari, Anna (eds.)
Utah State University Press, 2019

Book Review

Tags: pedagogy   |   teaching writing   |   writing centers
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Reviewed by: Zandra Jordan
Date Reviewed: December 10, 2019
Out in the Center: Public Controversies and Private Struggles provides a fresh perspective on the inter- and intra-personal dynamics of writing center work. Building upon Greenfield’s and Rowan’s Writing Centers and the New Racism: A Call for Sustainable Dialogue and Change (2011), Condon’s I Hope I Join the Band: Narrative, Affiliation, and Antiracist Rhetoric (2012), and Denny’s own Facing the Center: Toward an Identity Politics of One-to-One Mentoring (2010), ...

Out in the Center: Public Controversies and Private Struggles provides a fresh perspective on the inter- and intra-personal dynamics of writing center work. Building upon Greenfield’s and Rowan’s Writing Centers and the New Racism: A Call for Sustainable Dialogue and Change (2011), Condon’s I Hope I Join the Band: Narrative, Affiliation, and Antiracist Rhetoric (2012), and Denny’s own Facing the Center: Toward an Identity Politics of One-to-One Mentoring (2010), this edited collection presents the personal narratives of underrepresented voices in writing centers and invites critical conversation about the complexities of identity negotiation among tutors, writers, and administrators.

While some writing centers claim to be neutral spaces where writing is engaged apart from the culture that produced it, this collection acknowledges the ways in which writing and collaborations around writing are always already both personal and political – shaped by a confluence of internal and external factors. Writers, tutors, and administrators bring their selves to the work, thereby making public their past, present, and emerging identities, which are inextricable from the social, political, economic, and cultural dynamics of the communities in which centers reside.

The collection is organized into six parts – race, multilingualism, gender and sexuality, religion, class, and (dis)ability – some with more narratives than others. This imbalance likely speaks to the variety of submissions and also signals the need for even more narratives from underrepresented and marginalized perspectives. Additionally, while each part is purposefully arranged, the editors recognize that identities are intersecting and note in the review following each section that identity categorizations are fluid.

Part I narrativizes the interplay between the reading or erasure of black female and male bodies in one-to-one consultations and the writing classroom and how those occurrences interconnect with public discourse on issues like black natural hair, Black Lives Matter, and black masculinity. Part II explores the benefits and complexities of multilingualism in the center and ways that tutors can leverage linguistic dexterity. Part III focuses on the role of gender and sexuality in the identity formation of writing center administrators and tutors. Part IV takes up religion, an identity-marker that is sometimes unseen, and asks how inviting disclosure of religious identities might challenge hegemonic norms. Part V considers how class converges with other identities in writing centers, inviting interrogation of economic standing and belonging. Part VI explores how learning differences can shape writing practices and influence pedagogical approaches to tutoring.

The collection concludes with a final chapter and afterword that encourage readers to recognize the pedagogical and epistemic value of these lived stories in their own contexts and for future research. Engaging meaningfully and critically with these stories and the intricacies of intersecting identities that they underscore enriches our ability to create more inclusive practices in hiring, training, and tutoring – a worthy charge and a fitting ending for this valuable work.

“With A Little Help From My Friends” was composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1967. The familiar song pronounces the power and necessity of friendship: What would you think if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me? lend me your ears and ...

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