UChicago Divinity School Wednesday Lunch ft. Craft of Teaching with Joseph L. Price

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[INTERPOSING VOICES] TERREN WEIN: Hello, everyone. Welcome to today’s
Wednesday march here at the Divinity School. I’m Terren Wein. I’m the director of
communications here, and I organized
this overall series. So I welcome today. As you know, it’s a special
lunch with craft of teaching. And I’m going to turn it
over to Caroline in a minute. But before I do that, I want
to thank our student chef and crew who cooked this meal
from scratch [INAUDIBLE].. [APPLAUSE] So thank you Tori,
[INAUDIBLE],, and everyone else who cooked and cleaned. And we do ask that you clean
up your own station on your way out. We have garbage, and we
have recycling back there. And just remember to
take your cup back. That’s helpful. And most importantly
right now, turn off your noise-making items
before we get started. I want to let you know
that next week there is not going to be a
regular Wednesday lunch. The week after that
will be May 1, I hope. And May 1 is our
quarterly Dean’s Forum, which engages faculty
to speak with each other about their recent work. So that’s going to feature
Professor Chadwit and Robinson, so please sign up in advance. But again, don’t come
here next Wednesday. We won’t be here. You’ll just end up
going downstairs to the coffee shop
and [INAUDIBLE] there, which is also good. So let me turn this
over to Caroline. She’s the associate
director of our craft of teaching program here. She is a soon to be PhD
candidate in religious studies, and she’s going [INAUDIBLE]. Thank you, Caroline. CAROLINE ANGLIM: Thank you. Thank you all for being
here today, and thank you to our speaker Professor Price
for preparing insights for us about teaching
implemented studies. I wanted to just give a heads
up on a few upcoming events for the craft of teaching. And then I’m going to pass
it up to Dean [INAUDIBLE],, who will introduce our speaker. So it’s a tag team effort here. May 3 we’re having an event
hosted by Kelli Gardner, who’s a PhD candidate. And she teaches here in
Chicago and also at Loyola. We’ll be discussing
issues of gender both in the process
of teaching but also in the content of teaching. That’s May 3 at 1:00 PM. You will need to RSVP for lunch
if you’re interested in that. And then we have
three upcoming events that are focused on
professional development, especially professional
development in the academy. So one is a CV workshop, which
is back by popular demand. That’s on May 16 with
professors Fredericks, Mitchell, and Courtney [INAUDIBLE]
Chicago grad. Second, we’ll have
an introduction to the academic job search
with Professor Fredericks and Professor
[INAUDIBLE] on June 6. And in between
those, we’re going to have an alumni panel
here in the common room to discuss institutional
differences and also career path in academia. That will be May 29. And following that event,
we’ll have the opportunity to do microteaching
workshops with those alumni. So if you’re interested
in that, give us a shout. Now, Professor– or sorry– Dean [INAUDIBLE]. PRESENTER: Great. I’ll go over here. Thanks, everybody. Welcome. Also, while we’re
doing good and welfare, I just have an
announcement for– there’s a couple faculty and
also some doctoral students in the room. Monday was the deadline to
apply for various fellowships, among them, the
[INAUDIBLE] fellowship. Because we had extended
funding to our sixth year and have made this occasion
completion grant available, in predictable
fashion, the number of applicants for the
[INAUDIBLE] fellowship was low this year. And so we’re going to extend the
deadline for that fellowship. And any students who will be
doctoral candidates by the time that program starts in the
fall are eligible to apply. So we’ll be sending
a message about that. But if you are now or
would be a candidate, really encourage you. The seminar itself
is really worth it. You also get to say you
[INAUDIBLE] junior fellow and [INAUDIBLE], et cetera. And right now, the odds of
getting in are really good. So if you have more
questions, we’ll be sending something
[INAUDIBLE].. Great. So it is my distinct pleasure
to introduce Joe Price. And Joe was honored yesterday
as our alumnus of the year, as we just said. It’s Divinity School’s
highest honor for alumni. Joe is 1982 alum at the
PhD program in theology. He is professor emeritus in the
Department of Religious Studies and co-director for the
Institute of Baseball Studies at Whittier College. And as a lifelong
devoted Detroit Tigers fan, and general
baseball fan, I’ve been psyched about
this visit for months. Since graduating [INAUDIBLE]
generations of students and colleagues as a pastor, he’s
sharing innumerable committees as a prolific writer and
has taken a scholarly lens to pop culture and sports,
especially baseball. Joe Price founded the
Institute for Baseball Studies at Whittier, wrote
10 books on subjects from Christian theology,
the evolution and expansion of Islam, [INAUDIBLE],,
the national anthem, and the theology of [INAUDIBLE]. He has written over 70 essays
and more than 80 book reviews, book notes, and [INAUDIBLE]
religion [INAUDIBLE] American Academy religion,
[INAUDIBLE] religion. [INAUDIBLE] and critical
review [INAUDIBLE] religion, nine in baseball
history, [INAUDIBLE] material to Sports Literature
Association and The Los Angeles Times, to name a few. He has also been editor
on the editorial board for Mercer University Press,
[INAUDIBLE] International Journal of Sports and
Religion, The Journal of the American Academy of
Religion and Religious Studies Review. He’s also published six poems. So if you have any
interest in publishing, especially in baseball,
[INAUDIBLE] or anything [INAUDIBLE] speak with Joe. Perhaps most important,
Joe was a student manager of [INAUDIBLE]
during his ninth year in 1993, Pendant article
for [INAUDIBLE] magazine for [INAUDIBLE] called
[INAUDIBLE] to [INAUDIBLE].. Hard word. Just doesn’t rule out
the time, does it– for a theology of
coffee and coffee shops. And avid volunteer,
Joe previously attended the Divinity
School’s [INAUDIBLE] and is now an active member of
the Baptist Theological Union for [INAUDIBLE]. Please, welcome Joe Price. [APPLAUSE] JOE PRICE: It is
an absolute delight to return to Wednesday
luncheons in this room where it seems like I’ve
spent decades as a student. And Wednesday Luncheons were
a highlight of each week. OK, so I’ve just
jostled the connection. We’ll see if it comes back on. There we go. I must apologize. Forgive me for doing two
things that are terrible for PowerPoint
presentations slides. Number one, these
are text dense. There are more than
six bullets per page. In fact, there are no bullets. There’s just lots of text. So it’s terrible. But rather than
distributing eight, or 10, or 12 pages of the
syllabi, these are a ways– and I’ll inform you. The other thing is they’re
jpegs that were scanned. And so they were
converted to j– which means I can’t enlarge the type. So frankly, if you can’t see
it, please, come forward. This is not an alter call. But I will try to make at least
sense of the various images that might appear. When I was at Whittier
College in 1982, I inherited the course,
what is religion. It was described in
the college catalog as what kinds of questions are
religious questions, what role does religion play
in human life, and samples from various
religious traditions, one module, two credits. Doesn’t that sound enticing? So I inherited the course. And graciously, my predecessor
ordered the single text that he had to used
for the course for me to be able to use
in the first year. It was [INAUDIBLE]
then earlier edition of understanding religious life. Quickly, I recognized
that I did not do well with teaching a textbook. So I needed to make some changes
in order to enliven the course and perhaps to add some of the
University of Chicago flavor to what otherwise was
Prentice Hall paperback. So in the next iteration of
the course taught in the fall– or excuse me– taught
in the spring of 1984, what is religion used for text? Many [INAUDIBLE]
of which provided basically the conceptual
foundation signaling for its future [INAUDIBLE] since
none of our psychology faculty thought [INAUDIBLE]
was worth mentioning. [INAUDIBLE],, the [INAUDIBLE]
of the [INAUDIBLE] of faith. So you can see with both Elliade
and Tillich Chicago was already beginning to inform the course. But it was still a
method [INAUDIBLE] course that was without vigor so
I needed to do something. My county in religious
studies– now there are great advantages to teaching
in a liberal arts college. But one thing, it’s
usually a small department, which means you can’t
cover everything. So the responsibility
for making sure that a particular segment is
covered is likely not to occur. So there’s much more freedom. As a result, during my
35 years of teaching I taught 35 courses,
different courses, as one way to keep alive myself. And each course that I did
teach I altered regularly. So what we’re going
to see now is not just the transition from waves of– or from Spring’s
book to the one time that I taught the modular
course, but to the development of a much more inventive
course exploring religion that my colleague
Glenn Yoakam and I developed for the fall of 1984. We shifted from a
two-credit course that had been offered in
a five-week session daily for an hour and a half a day. So it shifted from basically
just inundating students with either [INAUDIBLE],,
consecutive days to a more balanced approach
that was spread out through the entire semester. The courses we first taught
was to be in [INAUDIBLE] or– excuse me– a Tuesday,
Thursday hour and a half time frame so that we would
have an opportunity to show longer documentaries and films. The course that we
developed subsequently was, after our first
teaching of it, we recognized a few changes
that would need to be made. And we applied for an MEH grant
and were awarded an MEH grant for the development of
this particular course. It shifted from one
book in the fall of 1982 to four books in
the spring of 1984 to eight books in the first
iteration of the course using [INAUDIBLE] for the
Future Revolution, Berger’s The Sacred Canopy,
Tillich’s Dynamics of Faith, Mary Douglas’s Natural
Symbols, Eliade’s The Sacred and the Profane, and
Zen and the Art of Archery by Eugene Herigel. The thing that we
wanted to do was to pair up, basically, small
texts, small 200 pages or less with films and have
students engage in some way of visual
issue related to and related to the
films themselves. The course description
obviously expanded. It became rather
turgid as it did so. But as you can see from
the beginning of the weeks, we used such films with
[INAUDIBLE] initially as The Chosen People documentary
from the Long Search Series, [INAUDIBLE]. We paired with film
stage play Steambath, Holy Ghost People
about basically snake handling
cults in Appalachia. We [INAUDIBLE] with
The Madness of God. And here you see one of the
problems that we encountered. [INAUDIBLE] with The Madness
of God but the great Bruce Jay Friedman play was
longer than the hour that we had for
the class session. And therefore, we had to split
it and show the second half as we did with Steambath
later in the term. And the class was 15
weeks long at that point. Whittier had subsequently
shifted to basically a 13-week semester. So we now face the issue of not
only shifting days of the week, but also the number
of text or projects that might be encountered. There were also
scheduled changes that we found to be at
various times more negotiable. I love early mornings. I’m usually freshest for
teaching early morning. So I found that
teaching at 8 o’clock was an advantageous time
to basically weed out those who might not be interested. What I discovered though were
two very interesting components of the students who
register for classes. One was the commuter students
were thrilled because they could arrive and find parking. The other was that
the student athletes of [INAUDIBLE] preschool,
the student athletes who had been up working in late
June or early morning practice were already
involved in the day, having been aerobically
exercised for two hours. And they were ready to
begin study as well. And despite what
might be thought about student athletes
at a Division III– well, you know Chicago, all
of the student athletes are Division III. So you know that they
are certainly qualified academically. We found that that is indeed
the case for most of the student athletes at Whittier. The prompts for the
various essays that we had, I’ve got two examples here. And thankfully
these are legible. But we tried to
engage students both in writing about
their own experiences and also writing analytically
about the engagement between the films and the texts. So for [INAUDIBLE],, we had been
writing about a New Year’s Eve party in light of the issues
related to sacred time and profane time
that [INAUDIBLE] treats so well in
the second chapter of the sacred and the profane. And for Berger and Freud,
we offered a chance to reflect on comparing them
about their understandings of religion, what I
call a psychologist. He probably was a
philosopher of mine more than what would presently
be called a psychologist Freud. And Peter Berger’s
the sacred canopy, using some of the concepts. We realized that if we say
compare and contrast, granted, you know that it’s just compare. But when we ask the
students simply to compare, meaning that also
includes differences, they for the most part
thought that that meant show how they’re similar, not
how they’re dissimilar. So we had to use
the redundant phrase to compare and contrast
in order to make sure that there would be that balance
of similarity and dissimilarity in approaches to the study or
the understanding of religion. By 1992, I had
assumed full control of the teaching of the
course in exploring religion and had made a
couple of changes, and changes in terms
not only of the texts, dropping Mary Douglas,
whom I really liked. But frankly, the
students were never able to engage Mary
Douglas’s Natural Symbols. I was surprised that several
were able to respond much, much more excitedly to Peter
Berger’s The Sacred Canopy, which I found to be much
more [INAUDIBLE] than Douglas. But I kept at that
point Berger as well as l inserting instead particularly
Montserrat Fontes’s novel First Confession about
the coming of age, two children coming of
age in northern Mexico, and facing their
first communion, preparing for their
first communion. So the structure of
the course changed. OK, first, we’ll get the two
other prompts that are there. Reflecting on Tillich’s use of– and comparing or
relating it to Steambath, perhaps paying attention to
how [INAUDIBLE] understanding of truth and death related
to Tillich’s understanding of faith and doubt
would be affected. And also, ending this semester
with the issues about death and using the seventh
seal as a prompt for students to engage in
the theoreticians involved. But the changes that
were introduced in 1992 were primarily those
off just trying to make changes in the texts,
give a little more direction to the writing assignments. But by the time that
the course had evolved to its last iteration
in 2001, by then, the organization had
changed to be aligned with– films had shifted. Douglas, of course,
had been deleted. First confession
had been included. And so had Peter [INAUDIBLE]
small book Domestic Religion. The changes in organization
were featured with, among other things, narrative
expressions of religion or religious experience where
both Elle Wiesel’s memoir Night provided an exploration,
and Monserrat Fontes’s novel that provided a different
kind of approach, both about people or youngsters
of about the same age, very different contexts, very
different approaches to faith and to religious expression. Psychological perspectives– by
differentiating the narrative, the psychological
students were beginning to be able to follow the
progress of the course much more effectively. And, as you can see, perhaps
even with a small type, the differentiation
of the segments allowed the students to see
the methodological approaches to religious studies
that they could engage in other courses
in our curriculum, continuing with
sociological perspectives, philosophical and
theological perspectives, and then finally the
phenomenological perspectives. The course had become
so disconnected with many of my
students preparedness and their willingness
to do extended reading that the course began to fail. I loved the course. But frankly, I said I’m
not teaching it anymore. So I completely
redesigned an intro course and made it much more
field oriented so that students
could engage the LA area and religious
communities throughout the LA area in a much more expansive
way without it being [INAUDIBLE]. It must be Buddhism approach. I taught that course for 10
years, and I got bored with it. So I went back to the
drawing board thinking about the kind of pedagogy that
had been so liberating when exploring religion had
first been developed. So in 2012, I reconceived
it completely. But utilizing the same text,
film approach, and [INAUDIBLE] see that some of the films
I retained, one of them being The Seventh Seal. Now, then I’ll admit that
ending the course, as I finally developed the last
iteration of the course, ending the course
with The Seventh Seal and with Elie
Wiesel’s memoir Night is not really a productive way
to get good course evaluations. When you end with death
just before final exams, it tends to dull the
student’s enthusiasm about their engagement
throughout the semester. But frankly, I have the
security of being an old guy who was near retirement. So if students
dissed the course, or if it came to
the dean’s attention that students weren’t
excited about the course– all the dean was interesting
in was, was the class full? Yes, it was full, every
time that I offer it, even thereafter. So the dean was not
as concerned about whether or not the course
evaluations were glowing like I thought they should be. Nonetheless, I don’t recommend
ending the course with death just before [INAUDIBLE]. I redeveloped the course
in terms of themes. So journey became
the first theme. And I talked about
how we would take a journey through the course. And the students
would be on a journey through their
undergraduate studies. And, of course,
they had themselves at some point been on a
journey, even if only coming six miles from their home
to campus so that all had been on some kind of journey. And there’s a fabulous
book published by the University of Chicago
press, Rudolph’s book pilgrimage to the end of
the world about the journey of Santiago de Compostela
there in Spain and in France and paired that with an
absolutely puzzling film La Grande Voyage, a French
Moroccan film that is about a Muslim
pilgrimage from France to [INAUDIBLE] to
Mecca for pilgrimage. So recognizing that the
film itself was potentially beyond the level of
critical, even good entry critical reflection, I
also offered the students a chance to, as instead prompt
to describe a journey that you planned or one in which you
are a reluctant participant like the sun in
La Grande Voyage. And analyze your
experience in light of spiritual insights
gleaned from Rudolph’s book, the selection from The
Encyclopedia of Religion on pilgrimage, the
film, and a segment on the Muslim pilgrimage to
Mecca on ABC’s Nightline. So students were given
a chance initially to write about their experience
on a journey in a way that might help them to reflect about
its religious significance. The second of the segments was
identified as space and time. And, again, I retained
[INAUDIBLE] The Sacred and the Profane and paired it
with a John Boorman film from 1998, I believe,
The Emerald Forest, which is a fabulous film
about two Amazonian peoples and their different
world views– encountered a first world
explorer, basically. It ends with typical
Hollywood violence at the end. So it’s not the best,
but it does [INAUDIBLE] the possibilities not
only for reflecting on space, and world view, and
time, which were conceptions of the fierce people and the
invisible people in The Emerald Forest, but also about the
possibility of thinking about nature [INAUDIBLE]
third chapter’s on basically The Sacred and
Profane’s approaches to nature. So the prompts for the
students were multiple in ways that they might reflect
on either space, or time, or nature, and the
world views of various peoples. The third section
was rites of passage, which utilized Montserrat
Fontes’s wonderful book novel stand by– oh, stand by me– First Confession, and
compared it with, of course, the popular film Stand
by Me, both about rites of passage and transitions
as well as about bonding in communities. OK, the section on
community utilized Reynolds’ wonderful
novel The Rapture of Canaan, which is about the
establishment of and the life of a fundamentalist
sect somewhere probably in North Carolina,
East Tennessee, or Virginia. The space is never
fully identified. but Sheri Reynolds, not
the one with puppets, but the author of
The Rapture of Canaan had a wonderful
way of juxtaposing the community of faith
in The Rapture of Canaan with the community of faith
outside of that isolated or sectarian community. And with that, paired it
with the war film Witness about the contrast between
the police community and the Amish community. That seemed to work well. Food, as we’ve shared, became
a fourth theme to address. And I was questing for a
book that would work well. I selected Field’s
Spirit of Food, which was a collection of 36
different authors reflecting on the spiritual value
of food– terrible text. Don’t use it. I should have known better– Cascading Publishing. But paired it with Babbet’s
Feast, which many of you perhaps have seen, engaged,
responded to, reflecting on. I tell you, when you
began a film at 7:30 in the morning, which is
another advantage of beginning the first hour of
the day, because I could begin a film
early and not have to break it into two segments. So I could tell the
students that, yes, we’re going to start class at 7:30– that’s when the film starts– commuters and the athletes
were there on time. For those who live in
the dorm 600 feet away, they were the ones
that were late. But Babbet’s Feast is
such a distant field in terms of its language. Its black and white,
basically it’s dim setting, that it’s rather
dull at 7:30 in the morning. And Elie Wiesel’s
Night, as I indicated, I love ending the course with
Night and The Seventh Seal. But I don’t recommend
it if you’re after good course evaluations. That was in 2012 when I
first taught the class. By 2016, when I finally
got the course to the point that I thought that it
would be what I wanted, I dropped space and time,
I dropped community, and I dropped rites of passage. Instead, I substituted space
and time with home, community with nature. And I just deleted
rites of passage. And I replaced spirit of
food with [INAUDIBLE] saver. And that was a lucky
stroke because it introduced a Buddhist
perspective into the course. Elie Wiesel’s Night was
itself a Jewish perspective on religious experience, of
the comparative expressions of Eliade just are copious
in terms of the references. It introduced another
perspective effectively. It also at that time, we began
to be urged, if not required, to put learning objectives
into the course syllabi. Now, these are the learning
objectives that I identified, and they are the
ones that I really hope that the student’s
would develop, to recognize how one’s
focus on religious matter shapes one understanding
from religion, to increase appreciation for the range
of religious experiences and expressions, to
develop the ability to distinguish and
articulate characteristics or components of religions, to
strengthen the skill of raising provocative questions
about religious practices, and to develop the
ability to discern how ordinary practices, artifacts,
and places might function in religious ways. And even as I was not as
directed by course evaluations, so too I was not directed
by our assessment office in identifying these objectives
because almost none of these are measurable. And that’s all that the
assessment office really cares about. Can you measure the
growth of the student from entering to the
exiting of the course? Maybe you can in math. Maybe you can in chemistry. To do so in religious studies is
a different matter altogether. Biblical languages, perhaps,
or in various languages. But to be able to understand
and expand the horizon, I was pleased if
I was able to find a student in the first year and
to experience that student’s participation in a
class in a senior year so that I could see the
maturation, or growth, or be able to measure it not
with an Excel spreadsheet, but with watching the
sophistication of the analysis that would be provided. For home, I utilized
Eliade again as the portion of The Sacred and
the Profane about sacred space and profane space, and paired it
with the Chinese film The Road Home. It worked incredibly well. And also, involved
in the reading was a interview with
[INAUDIBLE] with his being displaced from home
while he was living in Paris. And so that also helped
to inform the students. On nature, then using
Eliade’s third chapter on The Sacred and
the Profane nature, and pairing that with both John
Muir, the spiritual writings of John Muir,
providing certainly a Presbyterian informed
but spiritual approach that is not [INAUDIBLE] trial
to an understanding of the appreciation and
engagement with nature, and utilizing that also with
The Emerald Forest, which is about how among other
things animism is understood as being a connection between
one’s spirit animal and one’s own psyche or self. So that there were
multiple opportunities to reflect on the spiritual
and religious significance of nature. And finally, on
food, [INAUDIBLE] offered a couple of
fabulous opportunities. Number one, one of the
exercises involved in the book, or outlined in the book is
that of eating an apple. So for class, I bought a
tray of organic apples, wash them, put on
plastic gloves, put them back into the tray, and
had the students take the apple at the beginning of class. And it required in
the directed exercise that [INAUDIBLE]
identifies, it required about 20 minutes of being
able to look at the apple, to smell the apple, to think
about where the apple had grown, about who had then picked
it, who had transported it, where it had been
then transported from the market by
me to the class, how it had appeared in the tray. By the time the students finally
got to bite into the apple, they were drooling. It was great [INAUDIBLE]
maybe end class with food because that will probably get
you better course evaluation. And the food also
allowed for me to– and teaching it during
the fall semester, I aligned the food
section of the course with Thanksgiving
so that students would have to reflect on
their Thanksgiving meal as a spiritual or
religious exercise, And that if Aunt Minnie
had one dish always was part of the
Thanksgiving meal, they needed to provide
the recipe for that so that we could
basically compile a class recipe of
the spiritual foods of the families in the class. Again, it worked when it was
with Thanksgiving as the time. And finally, the design of the
class in its final liberation helped to hook students
into taking my course on film and religion. It helped to hook students
into taking the course on pilgrimage, the one
on ecology and religion so that although the
students were not really aware at the beginning
that that’s what the course was going to be able to
accomplish, it effectively was able to make those
connections for them. And with that, I have now
been a year without teaching, exploring religion. So I am delighted to be able
to share some of it’s fun, as I experienced its
instruction with you today. And I’ll be glad
to answer questions or if you have a desire for
a copy of the final syllabus in readable form, I’ll be glad
to zap it to you via email. [email protected] [APPLAUSE] AUDIENCE: Thank you
so much for this talk. I had a question
about the films. We had someone come
in, talk to us a bit about teaching with films. And one of the
things that we were sort of discussing
as the group was how you lead a discussion
about a film when you’re working with students
who maybe haven’t had any kind of film
studies or literary analysis kind of class. And I guess this
would also be how do you teach students to
watch a film in preparation for analyzing it. JOE PRICE: Great question. [INAUDIBLE] in an issue
of JAAR has a film– has an article on basically
how to watch film. And she’s religious, former
president or executive director of the AAR. So she– and also an
art historian herself. Fabulous, short way to
identify film as text. And so I highly
recommend, and I often use that posting as one of
the readings on where I said, where [INAUDIBLE] is identified. I’m not sure what your course
management operating system might be, but that’s ours. And so those are
readings that are on the course, internal course
page on the college’s course management system. Yes? AUDIENCE: It seemed
obvious at the beginning you had about five,
maybe six essays that you had students
do over the course. And when I’m adjuncting
[INAUDIBLE] course, I often have 32 students,
which becomes a lot of reading, a lot of particular grading. So I’d be curious, how
did you sort of manage this grading load? Did you have a lower
number of students? Did you set page limits? JOE PRICE: Yes. I usually set page limits. I indicated the 1,200
words was a target. And if students exceeded
it, that was fine. If students wanted to– I long road went away from pages
because students would submit 14 point with 3-inch margins. But best thing about
retirement– well, not the best thing– but other than, let’s
see, no papers to grade and no committee meetings to
attend, retirement is glorious. But in terms of the
grading, the class averaged 26 students
over the years. So yes, it was grading heavy. And what it meant was that
I felt guilty every time I watched a sporting event
because I was not grading. So now in retirement, I
can watch sporting events without the guilt of neglecting
grading that’s piled up. But my wife will tell you that
the way that I did it was I’d get up at 4 o’clock in
the morning to grade for two to three hours before
going to class at 8:00. And yes, now I was
sleep deprived, and I’m still in recovery
from all the sleep deprecation over the years. But there was no grader. I did the grading. And I thought that it
was my responsibility to give as thorough
feedback on their writing as well as their mastery of
analysis and understanding of religion. AUDIENCE: In
hindsight, do you think that there are any ways
in which you can still maintain your objectives, but
reduce the sort of sleep debt that you’ve now incurred? There’s all this talk about the
flipped classroom and all that. But I’d just be curious
about looking backwards. JOE PRICE: Yeah. Most of the best ideas I got– most of them– but yeah,
most of the best ideas I got about teaching
came from my wife, who was an elementary
school teacher for as long as I was at Whittier. On one occasion,
she indicated she had read that the greatest
understanding that occurred from an exam or
an essay was by the grader, not the writer. So I thought, OK, from my Latin
American liberation theology class, which only had
16 or 18 students, I will have the students
write the questions. I will edit them to make them
about similar difficulty. And then the student,
another student will take the exam that
the student has written. And the student
who wrote the exam will grade the exam written
by the other student. And that will be
the best learning. Then I had to grade the
grading and [INAUDIBLE].. No. Remarkable exercise. It might work for
five or six students. I don’t recommend it for more. But if reoriented my
way of understanding who is learning the most
from exams or essays. And it was often me learning
about the students themselves. Yes, John? AUDIENCE: In all of the early
versions of your course, did you ever bring in the
sacred texts and interpretation and pitfalls of translation? JOE PRICE: No. The nearest read to
sacred text was references to particular biblical
passages in John Muir’s spiritual writings. Other than that, no. And Dynamics of Faith, Tillich
doesn’t use biblical texts as a grounding or
his orientation. So no, I was not using
it or spiritual texts from any tradition. Although, I would
claim [INAUDIBLE] was a beautiful example of
a Buddhist spiritual text. Yes? AUDIENCE: I’m curious
to hear if you noticed over the span of
time that you taught this course that the assumptions
of the students about what religion is, about
what it was they would be studying changed
at all [INAUDIBLE].. JOE PRICE: Once the
course got a reputation, it was fairly clear that it
was not going to be about– excuse me– it must be Buddhism. They were not getting a
survey of traditions course. And we had two courses one
on monotheistic traditions and one on monastic
pluralistic traditions. And so at the opening
class session, I would identify that
those courses were available to the students who
wanted to explore, basically, a case of a religious tradition
in that kind of directed way. But this course
was very different. And some students decided it
was too early in the morning. Some decided it was not
exactly what they expected, and some said we’ve got
to read that many books and write that many papers? So it was a
self-selecting process. But, again, the
average enrollment over the years that I
taught, it was 25, 26. And 25 was the course limit for
a single course of this kind in normal circumstances. AUDIENCE: But were you
asking that question, or were you asking the question about– here’s the question I
wanted you to ask him. [INAUDIBLE],, which is
more about the culture, the culture at which
students are coming. Did the world view they
brought in shift vis-a-vis what they thought religion
was over that time? JOE PRICE: Not
religion, but text. It shifted from an essay or
a book to 140 characters. AUDIENCE: Seriously? That? JOE PRICE: Yeah. If the essay prompt is
longer than a tweet, is it going to be able
to be comprehensive? So the preparedness of students
to do sustained reading was probably the greatest
shift in the preparation of my students over the
course of my career. And it’s reflected in the fact
that I shifted from eight books to five. And that was almost always
too much for the students to be able to manage within
the time frame that we had. yes? AUDIENCE: Thank you for this. I was wondering
if you could speak a bit more about their use of
non-traditional [INAUDIBLE] assignments and the relative
merits of doing something much more creative as opposed to
a thesis driven research paper. [INAUDIBLE] you were shying
away from that larger research project. If you could speak to
maybe why you do that– JOE PRICE: At an
introductory course level, I did not think it
was my responsibility to teach research methods. If I could teach
critical thinking, I was making a step in
the right direction. In addition,
providing assignments, the one on journey,
I also, once we started using
Rudolph’s Pilgrimage to the End of the World, I got
a map of the Camino in Spain, pointed out, digitized it,
pointed out the various sites along the way. And if a student wanted to
write a first-person fictional narrative about the journey
between two, of those sites, it would require them
to do some research. And in most cases, students were
asked where they– well, where? Th first thing they
did was Google. And so finding some
of the information about hospitals along
the way, about needles that were being
found, about whether or not going through Pamplona
during running of the bulls was going to be a part
of the experience. So the more I could
connect the understanding that religion, religious
behavior, or the analysis of behavior could be
that of religious studies analysis in various methods,
using various methods, more than I can connect that
with their daily experience, the greater the likelihood
would be that they would come to a new understanding
of what religion is rather than associating with
what their grandmothers hoped they would do. AUDIENCE: Can I ask you
a quick followup to that? JOE PRICE: Mm-hm. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]. One, how do you
grade fairly across the different articulations
of the projects you assigned? And two, do you find
yourself in conflict within the administration
at all when you do this? [INAUDIBLE] they expect that
your students are being trained outright, and [INAUDIBLE]
a certain understanding of what good and
right is, [INAUDIBLE]?? JOE PRICE: Yes, it’s
always difficult to gauge whether or not a student’s
creative expression is comparable to a B paper in
comparison essay of analysis. And I fret over whether
or not it’s fair. And very few students
complained about my grading even though I had a reputation
of being a fairly tough grader. So grading wasn’t
the issue as much as being able to
stimulate and respond. Because when I would respond
to creative expressions, I was thorough in the
marginal responses in the final comment on the
papers as a way of doing so. I got some fabulous essays
of creative expressions and some that were
occasional media generated, which made the evaluation
much more difficult. My favorite course I ever taught
was a course on modern doubt where I tried to create
doubt while having students understand or analyze doubt. So I didn’t
distribute a syllabus. I instead– here’s some books
that we’re going to read. And I cleared this with
the dean and the registrar ahead of time. Here are the list of books
that we’re going to read. This is the sequence
we’ll read them. And I’ll tell you
each week where we’re going to be so that you can– this was a self-selected
group of 16 or 18 students in our special self-designed
curriculum program. And we began reading
[INAUDIBLE],, Nietzsche, Freud. We also read Tillich’s
Courage to Be, the novel, Roger’s
Version by John Updike. Great reading list, OK? Halfway through the
semester, one student said, how are we being graded? And I said, great idea. That’s the quiz. So I gave them a
master’s essay question to write as their quiz. And while they were
writing the quiz, I went out and
got a garbage can. And so at the end of the
class, I called for the papers. And I put them in
the garbage can and had the students
walk outside with me, put it on the pavement,
and lit them on fire. [INAUDIBLE] About three, four weeks
later, Jennifer asked again. She said, I’m not asking for
a quiz, but how [INAUDIBLE].. I said, Jennifer, you got
these group journals that are a part of the assignment. Then we didn’t have
course management system and online access. So there were hard
notebooks in the library that the students were assigned
to be a part of the small group and to respond to each other in
terms of the prompts that were associated with the readings. And I said, we got
the journals in. We got time for the final exam. So we approached the final exam. And I tell them it’s going
to be in the theater. And there we had it set up so
it was like Let’s Make a Deal. And so you could the
question, and you can choose what was behind
door number one, two, or three. And behind door number
one was a big F or a D. Behind door number
two was say I’m from a different class,
organic chemistry. What if the students freaked
out so much, she [INAUDIBLE]?? She decided she was not able
to deal with the anxiety. She [INAUDIBLE] exam threw it in
the back, and started writing. OK, so meanwhile, we were
fortunate at that time to have a former game show
participant and actor on staff who was in seeing
this whole thing. And we were videotaping it. So you try to make it as
game show as possible. Finally, you could
trade what you had gotten behind
the door for what was in an envelop that would
be there, that I would hand. Once you know I
had the question, Ramone Arrowsmith
got a question, where he could deliver
the oral response to. And Ramone is now a–
he was a Rhodes finalist and presently teaching
geology at Arizona State. So he was one of those
incredibly good students. Ramone stood and
extemporaneously reflected on the courses on the
books in such a way that it was absolutely fabulous. So he beat the system that way. One student decided she
would take the D that was behind the [INAUDIBLE]. She was concerned
that she’d passed so that she could graduate. She had been the most
marginally engaged student in the class up to that point. So she escaped. The others, the other
15 of the class, they all took the envelop. And so in the envelope, I had
them wait until the class was over, the exam was over. And I said, OK, you can open it. They opened it. Inside was the white
sheet the letterhead of the college with a carnival
ticket that said one win. And I said, this has
been a great semester. Thank you. Have a good summer. and
I walked out of the room. And I waited a second. They’re packing their bags. I walked back in. And then I explained to them
what they had been through and the kind of engagement that
they had been able to achieve, and how they were
actually being graded, which was with a
letter of evaluation. We, at that time, offered a
narrative grade as an option. And so all of the students
receive credit for the course plus a narrative of their
success in the course so that Jennifer,
who was mad as hell that she didn’t get an
A out of the course, realized some time later
that every time she requested her transcript she
got an unsolicited letter of recommendation attached. So that was another one of those
terrible grading exercises. But [INAUDIBLE] it’s possible
to do creative things, to have a wonderful life
career, even if it’s not the most prestigious graduates. AUDIENCE: I have to
know how your course evaluations [INAUDIBLE]. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] JOE PRICE: That was before
we had standardized course evaluations. And so I used
narrative ones that emphasized how students had
found, which text students had found the most demanding,
the most stimulating. So it was not oriented toward I
liked the course or this course did this for me. AUDIENCE: It doesn’t
recognize the professor. JOE PRICE: Yes. AUDIENCE: It’s a lot of work. AUDIENCE: I have
a question though. I need to follow up [INAUDIBLE]
earlier of the sort of shift [INAUDIBLE] towards [INAUDIBLE]
with [INAUDIBLE] experience more or less. JOE PRICE: Yes. AUDIENCE: And I see
that in the assessments, in the structure, in the
categorization of changing [INAUDIBLE]. The first is whether that
is [INAUDIBLE] function of those decisions are
a function of changing student [INAUDIBLE]
changing compositions of the students in the
classroom and their prepardness, or is a thesis a way to
teach religion and such? JOE PRICE: Is thesis? AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
read into your syllabus, as far as teaching it this
way, I am teaching it this way. And it’s [INAUDIBLE] or teach it
[INAUDIBLE] personal encounter [INAUDIBLE]. JOE PRICE: I frankly
absolutely love the first times that
we’ve taught the Exploring Religion with the
methodological approaches. I thought that that
was very Chicago-ish. The way that it ended up was
much more Northwestern-ish. [INAUDIBLE] It reflected the
shift in students. It really– I teach students
rather than the topics or such. And so I had to respond to the
students whom I was receiving. I mentioned Ramone Arrowsmith. That course was taught in
1989, the doubt course. It could not be taught
today because there would be too many triggers in it. And– AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] JOE PRICE: Yeah. Yeah, [INAUDIBLE]. It would be impossible. Then, it was a fabulous
experience for the students and for me. And they’ve remarked
on it since. But Ramone and Pam Hill
who won a Rhodes that year, were part of the
students as well as [INAUDIBLE] Schoenberg, who
was a semifinalist for Rhodes. I never had a cluster
of students like that. One other time in
one other course I had such a close,
well-prepared students. But over the years, the writing
preparation that students brought to the class, their
writing skills consistently was challenging. I thank you again. If you have any
questions or would like a copy of the
syllabus, [email protected] [APPLAUSE] PRESENTER: Thank you, Joe. Just a reminder, there’s no
Wednesday Lunch next week. And happy and meaningful
holidays to everyone celebrating the next
week, or during. And so we’ll see you
back there in two weeks for the Dean’s Forum. Thank you very much. AUDIENCE: And, please,
put your plates and stuff back [INAUDIBLE].


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