Professor publishes book on introductory religion courses

Author: Arts and Letters


“Teaching and Learning in College Introductory Religion Courses: A Study of 533 Classrooms,” by Barbara E. Walvoord, fellow in the Institute for Educational Initiatives and professor emerita of English at the University of Notre Dame, has been published by Blackwell Publishing.

The result of her study of 533 introductory religion courses and 66 successful teachers in public, nonsectarian private, and religiously affiliated institutions of higher education, Walvoord’s book examines student goals, student learning, and effective pedagogical methods.

Supported by Notre Dame, the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion, and Kansas State University’s IDEA Center, Walvoord’s research concerned the effects of courses on world religions, the nature of religion, theology, the Bible, and Christian formation on a wide variety of students, including self-professed Christians or adherents of other religions, as well as doubters, seekers, agnostics, and atheists.

Surveying 12,463 students in 109 institutions, the study suggests the existence of a “great divide” between the desires of faculty members to encourage “critical thinking” and students’ desires for spiritual development, and examines the methods many faculty employ to address it.

According to one review by Raymond Brady Williams of Wabash College, Walvoord’s new book is “instructive, inspiring, practical. This is scholarship of teaching at its best—careful analyses of students’ and teachers’ goals and evaluations along with detailed case studies of effective teaching. Every teacher can learn from this book how to become a better teacher.”

Other books by Walvoord include “Academic Departments: How They Flourish, How They Change,” “Assessment Clear and Simple: A Guide for Institutions, Departments, and General Education,” “Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment,” and “Helping Students Write Well: A Guide for Teachers in All Disciplines.”

Contact: Barbara Walvoord at 413-458-1689 or

Originally published by Michael O. Garvey at on February 22, 2008.