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Religious Studies & Classics

Overview: 

The University of Arizona’s interdisciplinary Religious Studies Program, at http://religion.arizona.edu/, offers a major (B.A.) and a minor in Religious Studies. The Religious Studies Program prepares students to participate intelligently in the world’s most religiously diverse democracy and to develop an understanding of cultures throughout the world. Religious Studies is central not only to understanding the borderlands of the Southwest and the entire multicultural U.S., it is key to comprehending today’s complex global issues.

The faculty and associated faculty of the Religious Studies Program are committed to introducing students to a broad spectrum of religious traditions and their social and historical impact. Religion intersects in powerful ways with the cultural, economic, and political arenas that shape human life. The role of religion in American politics, global religious fundamentalism, the relationship of religion and science, and the religious dimensions of art and culture, are among the many contemporary issues that draw students to the study of religion at the University of Arizona.

Strengths of the Religious Studies Program

  • The Religious Studies Program challenges students to engage with the study of religion from an academic, interdisciplinary perspective.
  • The Religious Studies Program teaches students about multiple worldviews, communities, and ethics that have shaped world history.
  • Our research and course offerings are strongly interdisciplinary, involving our core faculty and associated faculty from disciplines across the University, including Africana Studies, American Indian Studies, Anthropology, Biology, Classics, East Asian Studies, German Studies, History, English, Judaic Studies, Near Eastern Studies, Philosophy, Psychology, Political Science, and Sociology.
  • Religious Studies majors have pursued careers in a wide variety of fields, including business, government, medicine, law, education, and social services. The Religious Studies major provides students with a broad understanding of human diversity, the complexities of social and cultural systems of thought, and the human pursuit of meaning. Combined with core academic skills in written and oral communication, the Religious Studies major prepares students to become independent thinkers and problem solvers in the twenty-first century.
     

 

Expected Learning Outcomes: 

 Major-specific outcomes

  • Knowledge of world religions
  • Understanding of the social and cultural role of religion, past and present
  • Ability to distinguish between academic claims and faith-based claims
  • Ability to distinguish between popular stereotypes and misconceptions of religions and the complex realities of religious beliefs and practices
  • Foundational knowledge of Religious Studies as a discipline, including theories and methods in the study of religion

Lifetime learning outcomes

  • Appreciation of cultural diversity
  • Awareness and concern for ethical issues, including human rights, ecology and environmental ethics, bioethics, and social justice
  • Independent, critical thinking

Academic Achievement outcomes

  • Writing skills
  • Research skills
  • Data compilation and analysis
  • Ability to communicate ideas and data effectively, both verbally and in writing
Assessment Activities: 

Regular or Recurring Activities

·        Entrance Self-evaluation Survey
·        Entrance Faculty Evaluation (conducted over the course of RELI 200)
·      Course Work
Two Required Courses for Majors:
o   Introduction to Religion
Assessment Activities: Exams & Papers
o   Senior Capstone
Assessment Activities: Research Paper & Portfolio
·         Exit Interviews
·       Exit Self-evaluation Survey
·         Entrance Faculty Evaluation (conducted over the course of RELI 498)
 

Special or Occasional Activities

·         Alumni Feedback
·         Employer Feedback
·         Community Responses
·         Surveys and Case Studies

 

 

Assessment Findings: 

Religious Studies Student Outcomes Report

July 17, 2017

ASSESSMENT DATA, 2017

Religious Studies Majors Exit Survey

The following data was collected from Religious Studies Program’s 2017 survey for students graduating with a Religious Studies Major. The data was collected anonymously.

Survey data related to the Religious Studies Program’s outcomes are grouped into “Major Specific Outcomes,” “Lifetime Learning Outcomes,” and “Academic Achievement Outcomes,” just as the outcomes are listed on the Religious Studies assessment website at http://assessment.arizona.edu/hum/Religious%20Studies.

Students were asked to respond to the following questions, using this scale:

Strongly Disagree = 1; Disagree = 2; Neither Agree nor Disagree = 3; Agree = 4;

Strongly Agree = 5.

The mean response is listed under each question below.

Responses to Open-ended question about skills developed as Religious Studies Major

Response Word Cloud

 

With this visualization tool, all students’ responses were collected with each word in the word cloud representing total number of times the word was used in the students’ responses. The larger the font the more times the word was used by our students. From this graphic it is clear that Religious Studies majors believe that the major has helped them develop in their writing, thinking, research, and general understanding of the world around them. 

 

Religious Studies Majors Entrance Survey

 

The following data was collected from the Religious Studies Program’s 2016 survey for students entering the Major. The data was administered as part of the coursework for RELI 200: Introduction to the Study of Religion. The data was collected anonymously.

 

Survey data related to the Religious Studies Program’s outcomes are grouped into “Major Specific Outcomes,” “Lifetime Learning Outcomes,” and “Academic Achievement Outcomes,” just as the outcomes are listed on the Religious Studies assessment website at http://assessment.arizona.edu/hum/Religious%20Studies. This data, though currently inconclusive, will overtime allow us to assess how Religious Studies students view their academic growth within the Religious Studies Program’s outcomes over time.

 

Students were asked to respond to the following questions, using this scale:

Strongly Disagree = 1; Disagree = 2; Neither Agree nor Disagree = 3; Agree = 4;

Strongly Agree = 5.

 

The mean response is listed under each question below:

 

October 7, 2016

ASSESSMENT DATA, 2016

Religious Studies Majors Exit Survey

The following data was collected from Religious Studies Program’s 2016 survey for students graduating with a Religious Studies Major. The data was collected anonymously.

Survey data related to the Religious Studies Program’s outcomes are grouped into “Major Specific Outcomes,” “Lifetime Learning Outcomes,” and “Academic Achievement Outcomes,” just as the outcomes are listed on the Religious Studies assessment website at http://assessment.arizona.edu/hum/Religious%20Studies.

Students were asked to respond to the following questions, using this scale:Strongly Disagree = 1; Disagree = 2; Neither Agree nor Disagree = 3; Agree = 4;Strongly Agree = 5.

The mean response is listed under each question below.

 

Responses to Open-ended question about skills developed as Religious Studies Major

Response Word Cloud

 

With this visualization tool, all students’ responses were collected with each word in the word cloud representing total number of times the word was used in the students’ responses. The larger the font the more times the word was used by our students. From this graphic it is clear that Religious Studies majors believe that the major has helped them develop in their writing, thinking, research, and general understanding of the world around them. 

 

Religious Studies Majors Entrance Survey

The following data was collected from the Religious Studies Program’s 2016 survey for students entering the Major. The data was administered as part of the coursework for RELI 200: Introduction to the Study of Religion. The data was collected anonymously.

Survey data related to the Religious Studies Program’s outcomes are grouped into “Major Specific Outcomes,” “Lifetime Learning Outcomes,” and “Academic Achievement Outcomes,” just as the outcomes are listed on the Religious Studies assessment website at http://assessment.arizona.edu/hum/Religious%20Studies. This data, though currently inconclusive, will overtime allow us to assess how Religious Studies students view their academic growth within the Religious Studies Program’s outcomes over time.

 

Students were asked to respond to the following questions, using this scale: Strongly Disagree = 1; Disagree = 2; Neither Agree nor Disagree = 3; Agree = 4; Strongly Agree = 5.

The mean response is listed under each question below.

 

 

 

PREVIOUS ASSESSMENT DATA (2015)

May 29, 2015

OVERVIEW OF ASSESSMENT ACTIVITIES

Since 2012, the Religious Studies Program has implemented the assessment and outcomes plan outlined below.

· Since 2012, the Religious Studies Program has posted the expected learning outcomes of the major.

· Since 2012, the Religious Studies Program has revamped the major to better achieve the desired learning outcomes. This has included creating two new required courses, “RELI 200: Introduction to the Study of Religion” and “RELI 498: Senior Capstone.”

· The senior capstone has been designed to collect assessment data for the Religious Studies major. Assessment activities will include opportunities for students to assess themselves and their peers regarding the major’s desired outcomes. However, as the revamped major has only recently been approved and implemented, the newly required senior capstone has not been taught yet. It will be taught for the first time in Spring 2016. It will be taught every spring after that. Data collected from each year’s senior capstone will be posted on the assessments website..

· The Religious Studies Program has sent out a survey to graduating seniors to assess students’ perceptions of the outcomes of the major.

 

ASSESSMENT DATA, 2015

The following data was collected from the Religious Studies Program’s 2015 survey for students graduating with a BA in Religious Studies. Survey data related to the Religious Studies Program’s outcomes are grouped into “Major Specific Outcomes,” “Lifetime Learning Outcomes,” and “Academic Achievement Outcomes,” just as the outcomes are listed on the Religious Studies assessment website at http://assessment.arizona.edu/hum/Religious%20Studies.

Students were asked to respond to the following questions, using this scale:

Strongly Disagree = 1; Disagree = 2; Neither Agree nor Disagree = 3; Agree = 4;

Strongly Agree = 5. The mean response is listed next to each question below.

Survey Question

 

Mean Score*

 

Questions on Major-Specific Outcomes

 

1.     I gained satisfactory breadth of exposure to religious ideas and practices.

4.57

2.     I have gained knowledge about the social and cultural role of religion.

4.5

3.     I gained satisfactory depth of learning in at least one area of religious studies.

4.43

4.     I have developed a solid understanding of the difference between academic claims about religion and faith based claims about religion.

4.21

5.     I have gained a foundational knowledge of Religious Studies as a discipline, including theories and methods in the study of religion.

4.21

Questions on Lifetime Learning Outcomes

 

6.     Through majoring in Religious Studies I have developed a greater appreciation of cultural diversity.

4.64

7.     My Religious Studies major has fostered awareness and concern for ethical issues, such as human rights, ecology, environmental ethics, bioethics, and social justice.

4.14

Questions Academic Achievement Outcomes

 

8.     My critical thinking and analytic skills have developed through my Religious Studies coursework.

4.57

9.     My writing skills have developed through my Religious Studies coursework.

4.43

10.  My communication skills have developed through my Religious Studies coursework.

4.43

General Questions

 

11.  Overall, I found the quality of instruction by faculty members to be good.

4.43

12.  My degree in Religious Studies has prepared me for my future academic or professional goals.

4.36

*Strongly Disagree = 1; Disagree = 2; Neither Agree nor Disagree = 3; Agree = 4; Strongly Agree = 5

The survey also asked graduating Religious Studies majors to list skills they developed through Religious Studies coursework. Below are a selection of student responses:

· Academic research, questioning mindset, foreign cultural relations, basic anthropological classification, effective written communication.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

· Critical thinking, knowledge of cultures outside my own, writing.                                                                                                                                                                                       

· Critical thinking, research, writing, communication, asking for help.                                                                                                                                                                        

· Greater understanding of people and cultures, greater respect for diversity, increased analytic thinking, improved skills at formal, research based writing.

·  Logic, compassion, maintaining a general overview, observation skills, writing skills.                     

· Objectivity to other religions, better understanding of the role of religion in cultures, critical thinking in regards to religion, looking at impact of sacred buildings and their impact on culture, writing papers.                                                                                               

· Writing, Academic Reading Analysis, Research, Communication in writing, Communication in speaking.                                                                                                                                                                                     

· Writing, Debating, Respecting other's opinions, Critical reading, researching.                                                                                                                                                                      

· Writing, presenting, rhetoric, understanding of various faiths, and how to be a TA.                                                                                                                                                            

· Writing, understanding of various cultures, grasp of religious theory, understanding of people, communication with those different from me      .                                                                                                                                                                       

CHANGES IN RESPONSE TO FINDINGS, 2015

· The major-specific outcomes that received the lowest mean scores in the above survey (items #4 & #5) are expected to receive higher scores in the future, as future graduates completing the newly revamped major will have taken the two newly required courses, , “RELI 200: Introduction to the Study of Religion” and “RELI 498: Senior Capstone.” 

 

Change in Response to Findings: 

2017

Findings and Changes in Response to Exit Survey Findings

Our 2017 Exit Survey data showed slight decreases in mean score in many targeted Religious Studies outcomes from the 2016 Exit Survey; however we believe these are within a normal margin based on the lower than normal response rate from our graduating seniors (down from 10 to 7) with one negative response greatly affecting the results. We plan to address this decrease in student responses at our annual faculty retreat as we continue to address issues of student retention.

Additionally, while the responses are lower than we had hoped, we recognize that the high averages from 2015 & 2016 (approximately 4.7 avg.) are impossible to maintain annually. We believe that as we continue to refine our major and its requirements the average student response will steadily return to the 4+ range at a sustainable level. In the meantime, we are addressing the decrease in the average student response rating by refining our approach to our new major and through the emphasis on core Religious Studies curriculum for our majors, especially by developing the necessary skills in our RELI 200 course and by encouraging our students to take more classes with core RELI faculty.

Finding and Changes in Response to Entrance Survey Findings

Our findings from the Entrance Survey are inconclusive for assessing the growth of our students in the Religious Studies targeted outcomes, but they will become helpful over time to see how the students perceive their preparedness for college and their growth in the major. We implemented this entrance evaluation in 2015; so we will implement entrance/exit comparative data in 2018.

For now, however, we can see that the students rate themselves lowest on knowledge of religious traditions and writing and communication skills. We believe that our course structure is well designed to meet these needs of our students with our many writing intensive courses and our new areas of concentration within the major. 

Plan for Further Outcomes Assessment

Additionally, in order to continue collecting data through which we can better evaluate our students’ growth within the Religious Studies Major’s Learning Outcomes we plan to implement a faculty evaluation of Religious Studies majors in the same areas that the students have self-evaluated in the entrance and exit surveys. The faculty member responsible for teaching RELI 200 will evaluate the incoming majors in these areas during the duration of the course. The faculty member responsible for teaching RELI 499 will evaluate the graduating students throughout the duration of their final semester. The data from RELI 200 will be maintained on a secure server until the student takes RELI 499. The data will then be anonymously collated, compared, and analyzed to provide a faculty perspective of our majors’ achievements. This data will compare sets of students over a three year period (second year to fourth year); therefore, this data will be available for comparisons starting in 2018. 

 

 

2016 

Finding and Changes in Response to Exit Survey Findings

Our 2016 Exit Survey data showed great increases in mean score in almost all targeted Religious Studies outcomes from the 2015 Exit Survey. The greatest increases were in response to the “the social and cultural role of religion” (from 4.21 to 4.7), “foundational knowledge of Religious Studies as a discipline” (from 4.21 to 4.6), and “development of writing skills” (from 4.43 to 4.8) We believe this to be a direct result of our implementation of two required core courses RELI 200: Introduction to the Study of Religion and RELI 499: Senior Capstone.

Three areas saw a margin decrease in mean response score: “breadth of exposure to religious ideas and practices” (down 0.07), “depth in one area of expertise” (down 0.1), and “understanding the difference between academic and faith-based approaches” (down 0.03). We believe these are within a normal margin of error but plan to address each area through a restructuring of our major.

In order to provide more depth for our majors will be requiring students to select one area of concentration from which the majority of their coursework will be taken. Students may create their own concentration area or choose from one of the suggested concentration areas: Asian Religions, Indigenous Religions, Religion in the Americas, Studies for Health Professionals, and the Christian Tradition.

In order to provide more breadth for our majors, in addition to their area of concentration, the students will be required to take three courses in Global Religions (one from each of the following: Asian Religions, Abrahamic Religions, and Indigenous Religions).

In order for students to better understand the difference between academic and faith-based approaches to the study of religion, we will continue to emphasize this distinction in our two core courses required for all majors (RELI 200 and RELI 499), which was implemented in 2015. 

Finding and Changes in Response to Entrance Survey Findings

Our findings from the Entrance Survey are inconclusive for assessing the growth of our students in the Religious Studies targeted outcomes, but they will become helpful over time to see how the students perceive their preparedness for college and their growth in the major. For now, however, we can see that the students acknowledge their need for growth in writing (4.18) and communication skills (3.95). We can also see that they rate themselves low on their depth of knowledge of any religious tradition (4.09). We believe that our course structure is well designed to meet these needs of our students with our many writing intensive courses and our new areas of concentration within the major. 

Plan for Further Outcomes Assessment

Additionally, in order to continue collecting data through which we can better evaluate our students’ growth within the Religious Studies Major’s Learning Outcomes we plan to implement a faculty evaluation of Religious Studies majors in the same areas that the students have self-evaluated in the entrance and exit surveys. The faculty member responsible for teaching RELI 200 will evaluate the incoming majors in each of the learning outcomes listed above through writing and presentation assignments during the duration of the course. The faculty member responsible for teaching RELI 499 will evaluate the graduating students throughout the duration of their final semester. This course involves seminar-style discussions of the methods and theories from the academic study of religion through various religious traditions that culminates in a large research paper and public presentation on a topic of the students’ choosing. The data from RELI 200 will be maintained on a secure server until the student takes RELI 499. The data will then be anonymously collated, compared, and analyzed to provide a faculty perspective of our majors’ achievements in our Major-specific, Lifetime Learning, and Academic Achievement Expected Learning Outcomes listed above. 

Updated date: Mon, 07/17/2017 - 04:09