This course includes a public course blog. This blog lets students summarize what they are learning about the sociology of religion and — ideally — lets them engage in conversation with others about these topics.
Each course participant is required to post at least one substantive, thoughtful post each week, of about 250-300 words. It can be on any topic related to that week’s activities &/or learning. Posts will be read and graded each Monday evening, so they must be completed before 5pm each Monday during the semester.
Do NOT post about your congregation visits or your specialist interview on the Course Blog, unless you check with me first! This is for two reasons:
- Your post is a public document. In our age, such documents have to be crafted very carefully to avoid being misconstrued or distorted and can cause harm.
- Your post could potentially harm people who have given you information by violating their privacy, threatening their job status, or threatening the aid organizations give them.
- If I do let you post about your congregation, I shall ask you to do use a pseudonym (e.g.: “a local mainline Protestant congregation” or “a small, personable Evangelical church”). Your post should be fair and polite, focusing on what you observed and what you learned. Avoid both puff pieces and antagonistic criticism.
I also expect students to comment on wisely on other students’ posts. That is part of participating in an intellectual community. The blog is public, so posts may also attract responses from outsiders. (We will block spam comments and trolls.)
Students should read the comments on their posts and respond to those that seem fitting. The point is to engage in intellectual conversations about real social issues.
(We will delete spam-bot ‘comments’ and comments from the public that are impolite, irrelevant, or oriented toward anything but reasoned learning. We assume that class members will always be polite and focused on reasoned dialogue.)
Be wise about news you find on the Internet. I highly recommend that you read at least the first few pages of Mike Caulfield’s “Web Literacy for Students” — an open-access book about fact-checking online.
Blog posts are graded on the following scale: (based on a system developed by Mark Sample)
|Excellent||The blog post is focused and coherently integrates examples with explanations or analysis. The entry demonstrates awareness of its own limitations or implications, and it considers multiple perspectives when appropriate. The entry reflects in-depth engagement with the topic.|
|Satisfactory||The blog post is reasonably focused, and explanations or analysis are mostly based on examples or other evidence. Fewer connections are made between ideas, and though new insights are offered, they are not fully developed. The entry reflects moderate engagement with the topic.|
|Underdeveloped||The blog post is mostly description or summary, without consideration of alternative perspectives, and few connections are made between ideas. The entry reflects passing engagement with the topic.|
|Limited||The blog post is unfocused, or simply rehashes previous comments, and displays no evidence of student engagement with the topic.|
|Unacceptable||The blog post is missing or consists of one or two disconnected sentences.|
Those who wish to see a gorgeous example of this type of writing could do far worse that read Maria Popova’s wonderful blog, BrainPickings.org. Popova writes with an almost perfect voice for this genre. Read it, absorb it, emulate it — in your own style.