Theory Practice Learning: Models in Violence Studies and Conflict Resolution PDF-NOTE: Internet Explorer Users, right click the PDF Icon and choose [save target as] if you are experiencing problems with clicking. Print

Richard Freund, University of Hartford

This issue will introduce the AAR/SBL membership to current developments in the intersection between theory practice learning and violence studies and conflict resolution. Editors, Bobbi Patterson and Thee Smith, of the religion department of Emory use the term "theory practice learning" to indicate various types of experiential education. We have asked each contributor to describe a course in which they use experiential teaching and learning methods to address our topic. They provide a spectrum of approaches within the larger category of experience-based pedagogies, ranging from in-class simulation exercises, to service learning courses, and research-based fieldwork. Traci West has her students engage in in-class exercises involving reflection on violence against women. John Cort asks his students to conduct practices based on the philosophies they are studying for a period of their everyday lives. He also requires that they maintain a record of their experiences in response to the readings interfaced with "experiments in Jainism" and "experiments in Buddhism." Peter Gathje moves even further along the spectrum by providing service learning opportunities for students addressing the topics of religion, race and resistance, the life and thought of Gandhi and King, and Christianity and peacemaking.

The first goal of this issue is to identify and describe the rationales, techniques, and the intellectual and practical outcomes of experiential education. Questions we want to address include:

  1. What is experiential education?
  2. How many forms can it take, for example, from in-class activities, to site visits and field trips, to semester long practicums with evaluation as a regular, integrated component to the course?
  3. How are such courses designed and taught?
  4. What differences result for faculty and students when teaching, learning, and research connect theory to structured and relevant practices, and vice versa?

The second goal is to focus our examination of this pedagogical strategy through the lens of courses addressing violence and conflict reduction. Of course, we have chosen courses relating both religious and theological studies to these issues.

The third goal is to highlight the ways in which theory practice learning methods revision the way we teach and learn. One of the most striking elements of the theory and practice pedagogy is its attentiveness to the embodied nature and social location of both students and instructors. In this connection, the editors will share our own experiences of discovering and using this pedagogy.

An additional benefit of the Theory Practice Learning pedagogy is its attentiveness to the embodied nature and social location of both students and instructors. In that connection readers may find it useful to know more about the interpersonal and professional context of this Spotlight emphasis. We hope that it will be instructive for you to observe the background and the teaching experience that your editors bring to this nexus of theory/practice pedagogy and violence studies/violence reduction.


This website contains archived issues of Religious Studies News published online from March 2010 to May 2013, and PDF versions of print editions published from Winter 2001 to October 2009.

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