Learning Goals for Religion Majors
The religion graduate is expected to have an appreciation of the diversity of humanity's religious traditions. No student will recall all the factual information related to a religious tradition, but each should have enough knowledge to form a general picture of the religious traditions s/he has studied. Beyond the content of religious traditions, a religion graduate should be able to identify and coherently discuss the conceptual issues that shape the academic study of religion. There are many such issues, ranging from those usually identified with the humanities (such as philosophy, literature, music, history) to those studied more commonly in the social sciences (such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science).
In order to develop a deeper sense of Religion as an academic discipline, students should familiarize themselves with the core learning goals that motivate the teaching of Religion. These learning goals animate the basic structure and formal requirements of individual courses and underpin the structure of the major and minor in Religion. In addition to the goals outlined here, individual courses may have more specific goals about the acquisition of factual information particular to the course. The goals outlined here are applicable to the entire range of departmental offerings and should be understood as working in conjunction with the goals specified for individual courses. The department's broad goals can be divided into three categories: conceptual learning goals that delineate the principles of the discipline, knowledge-based learning goals that relate to the specific features of particular religious traditions, and practical learning goals that define important skills that students can expect to develop by taking courses in Religion.
Conceptual Learning Goals. Students who study Religion at Rutgers University can expect to develop an understanding of the following concepts:
1.) How religions are shaped by their own past and by the past of their society and institutions;
2.) How religions continue to shape and be shaped by contemporary social and political structures;
3.) How religions have shaped and been shaped by various forms of human expression, from philosophical and theological writing to ritual practices;
4.) How the study of religion has developed as an academic discipline that stands outside particular religious traditions and studies religions through the methods and standards accepted in the secular academy;
5.) How within the confines of that academic discipline there are many methods scholars use for understanding religion and many debates about and among those methods;
6.) How to apply such methods to particular religious questions or situations.
Knowledge-Based Learning Goals. Students who study Religion at Rutgers University can expect
1.) to gain knowledge of the basic tenets and chronological data of at least one western religious tradition: e.g., Judaism, Christianity, Islam. This will include knowledge of its primary texts, ritual, theology, ethics, and epistemology; its essential vocabulary; its influence on and the ways it has been influenced by its contexts; and its basic history as it has moved through time and into different places;
2.) to gain knowledge of the basic tenets and chronological data of at least one eastern religion: e.g., Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism. This will include knowledge of its primary texts, ritual, theology, ethics, and epistemology; its essential vocabulary; its influence on and the ways it has been influenced by its contexts; and its basic history as it has moved through time and into different places;
3.) to gain knowledge of the universe of meaning internal to at least one particular religious tradition, including its central theological and philosophical questions, as well as the theological and philosophical answers proposed. This includes the ability to examine critically philosophical and other theoretical issues concerning the nature of reality, human experience, knowledge, value, ethics, and/or cultural production.
Practical Learning Goals. Students who study religion at Rutgers University can expect to develop the following practical skills:
1.) The ability to read, understand, and discuss a variety of primary sources such as the scriptures of various religions, memoirs, rules for religious practice, theological and philosophical texts, and liturgical instructions;
2.) The ability to read and understand analytical studies of religious issues written in academic prose;
3.) The ability to conceptualize, research, structure, articulate, and defend an original thesis in both written and oral presentation;
4.) The ability to work independently and to conduct independent research.