We live in a world where the practice of religion flourishes in a rich diversity, in a country where many social and political issues contain a religious dimension, and in communities where issues are charged with religious language: abortion, fundamentalism, gay rights, environmental protection, Holocaust studies, poverty, stem-cell research, and war. In such a context, ignorance of religion’s role in society is unfortunate. Truly the value of a college education increases when graduates have a better understanding of religion’s presence, diversity, and influence in regional, national, and global life. Indeed, it is imperative that a liberal arts program speak to why religion gives meaning and purpose to billions of people on the planet.
The study of religion at PLU builds on the historic strengths of Lutheran higher education and enhances global perspectives that reflect our commitment to human communities and the world. This discipline engages students in the scholarly study of sacred texts and practices, histories, theologies, and ethics. Students are invited to investigate the historical and cultural relevance and implications of religion for individuals, communities, and the earth [General Education Description]. At PLU, students can take classes in Bible, environmental ethics, the religions of Asia, feminist theology, Luther, Pacific Northwest Indian traditions – to name just a few. PLU students study religion in Tacoma and Seattle as well as far off destinations such as China, Italy, and Trinidad-Tobago.
Religion graduates make significant contributions as lawyers, lay and ordained religious leaders, school teachers, college professors, and leaders in local and global agencies devoted to healthcare, global hunger, and the environment. Like people everywhere, PLU students have questions, fears, doubts, and hopes. Through the lively study of religion, we prepare students for focused living in a complex world [Religion Department website].
2. Religion Department Goals and Objectives
a. To promote the academic study of religion, including its scriptural, ethical, historical, existential, and theological dimensions.
b. To assist those preparing for church-related vocations or advanced studies in religion.
c. To lead students to think existentially, religiously, and theologically about the meaning of human existence within Christian and Global Religious Traditions.
d. To promote maturity, wisdom, sensitivity and understanding of multiple religious perspectives through critical thinking about and interaction with major religious traditions.
e. To encourage students to engage questions of religion and values; this includes encounter with other disciplines and contemporary society.
f. To develop awareness of the multi-faceted influence of religion
3. Religion Department Objectives in Relation to the University’s Objectives
PLU educates students for lives of thoughtful inquiry, service, leadership and care. The Religion Department contributes to this mission by building on the historic strengths of Lutheran higher education and enhancing global perspectives which reflect our commitment to human communities and the world. Religion courses support the university’s educational mission by offering courses in Christians Traditions and Global Religious Traditions. General education students, majors, and minors in Religion thus select courses which reflect the Lutheran and Christian heritage of the university and the university’s commitment to global education and global citizenship. Thus, faculty invite students to the study of the historical and cultural relevance and implications of religion for individuals, communities, and the earth.
The integrated learning objectives of the Religion Department are in alignment with the university’s learning objectives in that they support critical thinking, written and verbal expression, interaction with others, values and beliefs, and the study of course content through multiple frameworks.
4. Student Learning Outcomes in General Education Religion Courses
The General Education Program at PLU mandates two required courses in religion for all undergraduates: one in Christian Traditions, and one in Global Religious Traditions.
Christian Traditions (4) examines diverse forms of Christianity within their historical, cultural and political contexts.
Global Religious Traditions (4) highlights PLU’s commitment to local-global education through analysis of diverse religions, both here and abroad.
The Department of Religion supports the university’s integrated learning objectives with objectives and outcomes that guide pedagogy, course construction, and evaluated assignments appropriate to general university students and majors and minors in religion.
Courses in Religion are categorized in terms of upper (300-400 level courses) and lower division (100-200 level courses). Lower-level religion courses introduce students to course-specific content and methods in the study of religion. Upper division courses assume participants already have acquired the basic skills of critical inquiry, interpretation, and competent oral and written expression that are essential to religion and the liberal arts. In addition, upper-division courses push higher-level cognitive skills of analysis and synthetic thinking.
Lower Division (100- and 200-level courses)
- Reading: accurate reporting on texts, beginning to identify an author’s assumptions and the structures of arguments.
- Writing: writing a short paper for clear expression and understanding; command of basic grammar, spelling, and form; capacity to describe a text accurately; capacity to relate one’s own ideas clearly and structure an interpretation or argument.
- Communication: capacity for oral communication and presentation skills in small group and large group settings.
- Thinking: interacting critically with course material; becoming aware of one’s own assumptions and biases and how these inform one’s understanding of religion’s texts, practices, histories, theologies, and/or ethics.
- Beginning facility with academic tools and methods within a disciplinary area (e.g., contextual study of texts, practices, histories, theologies, and/or ethics).
Upper Division (300-level courses and above)
- Read, critically and empathetically, the works of scholars in the field of religion; identify and describe the vision, theme, or argument in primary and secondary sources.
- Writing: Demonstrate advanced undergraduate writing abilities, including a substantial, well-organized research paper which offers a persuasive argument.
- Communication: Demonstrate competence in discussing and evaluating complex ideas
- Thinking: Demonstrate their mastery of facts and conceptual frameworks within the field of religion; expand and deepen one’s description and interpretation of texts by locating them within their larger social, cultural, and geographic contexts; demonstrate, in writing and speaking, their assumptions and biases.
- Use, with growing sophistication, academic tools and methods within a disciplinary area; identify and pursue a question or problem independently, using the library and other sources.
- Method: to know academic tools and methods within a disciplinary area.
- Content: to be familiar with thinkers, texts, practices, histories, theologies, and/or ethics which shape the academic study of religion within a disciplinary area or on a topic in the field of religion.
- Relevance: to recognize religion’s roles in shaping human life, culture, and history.
- Method: understand academic tools and methods within disciplinary contexts.
- Content: understand thinkers, texts, practices, histories, theologies, and/or ethics which shape the academic study of religion within a disciplinary area or on a topic in the field of religion.
- Relevance: understand religion’s roles in shaping human life, culture, and history.
- Engage: integrate the works of scholars of religion and factual and conceptual information using appropriate tools and methods on a single topic.
VALUES AND BELIEFS (all Religion courses)
- To develop intellectual humility and critical empathy as they learn from a variety of religious perspectives which may differ from their own.
- To develop the ability to think about the meaning of human existence from the perspective of Christian Traditions and/or Global Religious Traditions.
- To develop the ability to engage in constructive dialogue regarding questions of religious faith and values as they are encountered in local and global cultures.
Demonstrate all Knowledge and Skills learning objectives expected at the upper-division level, and be able to discuss their education in Religion in relation to the Values and Beliefs objectives.
- Reading: Read, critically and empathetically, the works of scholars in the field of religion; identify and describe the vision, theme, or argument in primary and secondary sources.
- Writing: Demonstrate advanced undergraduate writing abilities, including a well-organized Capstone paper (25-30 pages) that offers a persuasive argument.
- Communication: Demonstrate competence in discussing, evaluating, and presenting complex ideas.
- Thinking: Demonstrate mastery of factual and conceptual frameworks within the field of religion; expand and deepen their description and interpretation of texts by locating them within their larger social, cultural, and geographic contexts; demonstrate, in writing and speaking, an awareness of their assumptions and biases.
- Use, with growing sophistication, the scholarly tools and methods of the discipline; identify and pursue a question or problem independently, using the library and other sources.
- Demonstrate their mastery of factual and conceptual frameworks within the field of religion.
- Present Capstone research publicly in an engaging and persuasive manner.
Sources for this statement
- Department of Religion Integrated Learning Objectives
- Doug Oakman, “Model Integrating Religion Department and University Integrated Learning Objectives with Bloom’s Taxonomy” (1998)
- Department of Religion Proposal to General Education Committee
- Departmental rationale for curricular revision
- Assessment Criteria for the senior seminar in Religion (1998)
- Points on Consensus for Expectations for Courses (1995 and 2003)
- Appendix A: Assessment – Department of Religion Annual Report 2007-2008, Samuel Torvend
- Department of Religion Retreat (Spring 2012)