3. Response: Practicing Theory
Ian Alexander Cuthbertson [+]
In this response I outline how the structure of religious studies programs in Canada and elsewhere communicate a particular conception of what theory is and what it is for and explain why this view of theory gets in the way of the critical approaches Dorrough Smith describes. More specifically, I argue that religious studies programs are often designed such that they frame theory either as an optional accessory or else as a tool for working with pre-existing, unique, and bounded data ('religion'). I also draw on the Universal Design for Learning framework to suggest specific pedagogical strategies that address the disconnect Dorrough Smith describes between the learning goals instructors embed in their courses and their students' expectations for religious studies courses. I argue the apparent gaps between what instructors hope to teach and what students expect to learn can be mitigated by optimizing student choice and autonomy; increasing self-relevance; and minimizing construct irrelevance in the design of our courses and assessments.