The Heart of Teaching Program

image of people in conversation


“Set love as the criterion of all that you say, and whatever you teach, teach in such a way that the person to whom you speak, by hearing may believe, by believing hope, and by hoping love.” -St. Augustine, The Instruction of Beginners, 8


In the Catholic tradition, teaching is a vocation and a ministry, as well as a gift of the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:20; Eph. 4:11, 1 Cor. 12:28). As an Augustinian university, Villanova looks to the model of St. Augustine, who exercised his ministry to the church as an educator.

Embodying the integration of heart and mind, Augustine realized the pivotal relationship between his faith and pedagogy (Confessions, I; The Teacher, XII). With love as the criterion of excellent teaching (On Christian Teaching, I), he cultivated a community of learners intent on seeking the truth together in friendship.

The Department of Theology and Religious Studies recognizes the need for educational leaders committed to the common good who can teach effectively in various contexts, including schools, colleges, and universities, as well as parishes, congregations, and parachurch and community organizations.

Higher education today demonstrates increasing concern for pedagogy, with the recognition that how people learn affects what they learn - and who they become. Moreover, as a discipline that integrates theory and practice, theology calls for educators who critically reflect on the mutual mediation of subject matter and pedagogy.

In light of our Augustinian identity, graduate student formation in theology at Villanova prioritizes an apprenticeship-in-community model of education as students transition from “senior learners” to “junior colleagues.” Therefore, The Heart of Teaching provides graduate students with instruction, supervision, and mentorship in pedagogical theory and practice, as well as mentoring in professional and leadership competencies. This apprenticeship occurs within the context of a peer community.

Overall Learning Goal

Through completion of The Heart of Teaching, students will be equipped for the ministry of teaching in various contexts as a community of educators who creatively integrate heart and mind, practice and theory, in service to a diverse church, academy, and world.

Learning Outcomes

The Heart of Teaching program aims to form educators who demonstrate:

Sufficient knowledge of the field of education, which includes the ability to:

  1. Describe various philosophies of education and their expression in theological education, emphasizing praxis and the integration of heart and mind
  2. Explain elements of teaching philosophies, including aims and goals, curriculum, method, role of the teacher, role of the learner, and context
  3. Critically examine contemporary cultural challenges and trends in theological education, including changes in context and media and an increased focus on diversity and inclusion, embodiment, and affect
  4. Articulate the benefit of interdisciplinary scholarship for theological education

Culturally responsive competence in concrete tasks of education which includes the ability to:

  1. Articulate a philosophy of education informed by an Augustinian vision
  2. Cultivate a diverse learning community that prioritizes interpersonal relations while attending to dynamics of power
  3. Design course objectives and learning goals
  4. Construct curriculum and assignments that feed into learning objectives
  5. Craft innovative and effective teaching methods, including spiritual practices
  6. Implement appropriate assessment tools
  7. Lead or facilitate discussions in various teaching and learning event contexts
  8. Develop habits of self-reflection as an educator

Qualities of an educator who integrates heart and mind, including the following:

  1. Confidence and flexibility in adapting to diverse educational contexts
  2. Intellectual curiosity and critical thinking
  3. Openness toward spiritual experience as a theological source
  4. Dispositions of gratitude, humility, and hospitality