The “examples approach” that is central to American Examples is not just an approach to research, but also an approach to teaching. These resources explain the move from an approach in the classroom that is driven by content to one that uses the content as examples for teaching larger concepts, theories, and ideas. Russell McCutcheon’s “Theses on Making a Shift” outlines that shift nicely while the syllabi in the collection show what that shift might look like. The 1-800-REL-HELP videos, produced by the 2020 cohort as part of their public humanities workshop, may be useful in the classroom for instructors looking to make that shift.
Theses on Making a Shift
In my experience, too many undergraduate classes presume that the students are budding specialists in whatever the topic of the course happens to be, instead of taking seriously that, in many cases throughout the Humanities (and often the Social Sciences as well), this maybe the only class in the topic in whichthe majority of students will ever enroll. If so, it is worth asking what such courses shouldbe teaching students—or, better, how faculty can use their own historical, regional, and ethnographic expertise to introducestudents to the study of broad topics of culture-wide relevance(classes that will therefore have application in a wide variety of other settings).For while our classes, regardless their content, provide sites to investigate such complex issues as how to define, describe, compare, interpret, and explain, they are also sites where students learn how groups form, are reproduced, and inevitably come to an end, let alone the workings of such things as status, power, and identification—topics that have wide application, whether that’s in or outside of the university classroom.
During the 2020 and 2021 sessions, participants created syllabi for introductory Religious Studies courses.
The 2020 American Examples cohort worked with graduate students in the Dept. of Religious Studies to produce a series of animated videos answering some questions about key terms and concepts in the study of religion. These episodes are also available as podcasts.