Identifying Questions

Peskowitz, Miriam. “Identifying Questions,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 65, no.4 (Winter 1997): 707-725.

Miriam Peskowitz reflects on an article by Richard Miller, Laurie Patton and Stephen Webb entitled “Rhetoric, Pedagogy, and the Study of Religions. Miller, Patton, and Webb describe tensions faced by religious studies faculty between their professional identity and their loyalty to the discipline of religion. They propose rhetorical teaching as a methodology for addressing this tension. Faculty can use rhetorical teaching to empower their students to develop and practice critical thinking skills. Peskowitz pursues this concept of rhetorical teaching further. She is interested in the effects of classroom environments on the teaching of religious studies as well as teachers’ identifications within the discipline. She stresses that teachers need to form cooperative relationships with their students. Peskowitz describes how impressed she was by a graduate student forum in which facilitators posed complex questions to their audience and then allowed space for open dialogue. This forum helped Peskowitz better understand her role as a teacher.
<p>Peskowitz concluded by addressing not just the importance of revisiting the canon but also of introducing and examining specific religious frameworks commonly used in the study of religion. She wants her students to learn to question and to shape the curriculum so that it is more productive and enlightening to their own personal frameworks of understanding. In addition, students should be able to relate well to others. She believes “the classroom can be a place to learn how to deal with the intimacies of thinking in groups.” (KH)