Religion plays an important role in contemporary American society. Indeed, religious overtones are present in many of our official rituals like the swearing in of presidents down to the classroom practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance which clearly intones God. The social studies textbook is central to school-based teachings about religion. In an increasingly pluralistic environment in the United States (U.S.), it is imperative to examine the role that schools and educational resources, namely textbooks, play in teaching young people about societal understandings of various religions. Existing research on social studies teaching and learning about religion generally focuses on researchers' interpretations of how religions are represented in social studies textbooks. There is a paucity of feedback from the textbooks' main users—teachers and students—to examine how the texts are involved in classroom learning.
In contemporary society in the US discussion of religion in the mainstream can have high stakes consequences. In some instances, resulting controversy and misunderstanding in schools has caused suspensions, protests, and threats against schools. This situation is accentuated in an age of religious extremism and political strife. However, social studies classrooms can offer students safe spaces to have complex and important discussions about religion. In this dissertation, I investigated the ways that students and teachers engage with textbooks in two secondary level social studies classrooms as they studied Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Drawing primarily on sociocultural and critical theories, this study examined how social studies textbooks are used by teachers and students in classrooms to engage with learning about religion, specifically Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. By observing two social studies classrooms, conducting interviews with the teachers and some of their students, and analyzing textbooks and student work, I gathered data from which to reflect on the ways that textbook discourses can affect students' understandings of religion. I also examined how teachers play an important mediating role in students' learning about these three religions.
The main findings from the study describe how students and teachers use out of school connections—through personal experience, popular media and news media—as well as analogies to engage with religion in the classroom. Implications from the study for teaching about religion in social studies classrooms capitalize on opportunities for teachers to draw on personal experiences as well as using popular media, news media, and analogies linked to other religious or broader concepts.
|Advisor:||Curry, Mary Jane|
|School:||University of Rochester|
|School Location:||United States -- New York|
|Source:||DAI-A 79/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Religion, Pedagogy, Secondary education|
|Keywords:||Christianity, Classrooms, Islam, Judaism, Social Studies, Textbooks|
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