Standards for Teaching Theology/Religious Studies Upper Division Courses


Overview of Requirements for Instructors

All CLAS undergraduate courses syllabi must include basic information as defined by the College. Please note the items listed in the CLAS Syllabus Checklist (they are mandatory, not optional), and make sure to organize your syllabus, course content, learning goals, and assignments accordingly.

In this way, your course outcomes (i.e., what your students demonstrably have learned after completing your course) will contribute effortlessly to program-level assessment routines. These routines measure regularly the degree to which students achieve learning with respect to the TRS Undergraduate Program Learning Goals.

Specifically, at the end of each semester, TRS majors enrolled in your course must submit to their e-portfolios one or more assignment/s completed in your course that demonstrate their learning with respect to one or more of the TRS Undergraduate Program Learning Goals.

Thus, please keep these learning goals in mind when you develop course content, course-level learning goals, and assignments. In other words, you must design course content/goals/assignments such that your course enables students to achieve at least one of the TRS Undergraduate Program Learning Goals.

To facilitate easy understanding of the relationship of your course’s learning goals to the TRS Undergraduate Program Learning Goals, you must

  1. include in your course syllabus (as an appendix) a copy of the TRS Undergraduate Program Learning Goals and
  2. identify clearly which of your course learning goal(s) align(s) with which TRS Undergraduate Program Learning Goal(s).

If you need help with completing any of these requirements, there are brief guidelines posted below.

Specific Syllabus Requirements

Roadmap for Developing Upper Division Courses

white bar

The Course

Upper Division Courses Rationale

The Department of Theology and Religious Studies is committed to the time-honored definition of its task as “faith seeking understanding” (Anselm of Canterbury). It draws upon the rich legacy of St. Augustine’s passionate pursuit of truth, a purposeful endeavor that evokes the union of mind and heart, links faith with rational reflection and, in dialogue with culture, builds unity in the midst of diversity. Thus, the department accepts “faith seeking understanding” as a process that takes place in specific cultural contexts that also must be analyzed.

Villanova University exists within a world of profound religious, theological, racial, economic, and cultural diversity, some of which can be seen on campus. Globalization and information technologies effectively collapse walls and barriers that once defined the boundaries and borders of our lives and of the disciplines within which we have learned to study. We, therefore, have an opportunity to open windows for understanding ourselves in relationship to others, the social order, and the social divisiveness and violent confrontations rooted in deep economic, political, ethnic, and theological/religious worldviews (cf. Gaudium et Spes 37).

Christianity itself is changing in the midst of these forces that bring faith into question. It is crucial that students recognize that what they believe has implications in relation to the lives of others in our own society and across the globe (particularly poor and marginalized people), the planet, and diverse religious traditions and cultures. Theological and religious literacy is not only the mark of a liberally educated person but also an indispensable resource helping us to understand ourselves in order to empathize with one another and contribute to shaping a more just, compassionate, inclusive, and peaceful global society. Students and teachers thus have a triple task: to be steeped in the rich tradition of Christianity and the faith-claims that it makes; to understand how the Christian construal of reality interacts with and has a continuing impact on the global society today and for the future; and to engage in a thoughtful and practical inculturation of religion/theology.

Theology and Religious Studies courses acquire their unique significance in the Liberal Arts and Sciences Core Curriculum because of their inner need to make the dialogue between faith(s)/religion(s) and culture(s) authentic. Understanding the substantial relationship of faith(s)/religion(s) and culture(s), instructors accept the challenge to render faith(s)/religion(s) intelligible, meaningful, and relevant in diverse contemporary cultural contexts – both local and global. With their own canons of inquiry and verification and with increasing degrees of methodological complexity, theological and religious studies disciplines probe rigorously broader questions of relevance to Christian belief and practice, the prophetic mission of the body of Christ, the union of mind and heart, life as a whole, and the discovery of God who is at the center of it all. This emphasis is characteristic of the University itself: “Inspired by the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, the University is grounded in the wisdom of the Catholic intellectual tradition and advances a deeper understanding of the relationship between faith and reason.” (Villanova Mission Statement)

white bar