Book: Constructing Data in Religious Studies
Chapter: 18. Departments: Competencies and Curricula: The Role of Academic Departments in Shaping the Study of Religion
This chapter proposes that the foundation of a university department is its curriculum. Using the recent development of the Religious Studies major at Middle Tennessee State University as a case study, it explores how a shift to competency-focused program design avoids noteworthy pitfalls related to content-based and theory/method-based models. Beginning with a brief outline of the development of religious studies departments, this chapter shows how our pedagogy and representations of the discipline should take seriously the context of our institutions and students. At Middle Tennessee State University, we have eschewed coverage models such as the world religions model or an explicitly method and theory driven model in favor of a curriculum that promotes skills sets or competencies. This curriculum centered on areas of description, analysis, and critique allows the department to organically expand in dialogue with broader social shifts within the academic study of religion, student learning needs, and the research expertise and pedagogical interests of its faculty.