Case Study Initiative

case2Over the past two decades, the Pluralism Project has documented the changing religious landscape of America. We have studied the ways in which these changes, largely stimulated by the “new immigration” of the post-1965 period, have posed new issues for virtually every public institution in the United States, including all of our educational institutions.

At the same time, there has also been increasing research in the field of education documenting the effectiveness of case studies in learning, either as a substitute for or an enhancement of the primarily lecture-based courses that are still the usual fare in many universities and theological schools. Indeed, research has consistently shown that active case-study learning is far more effective in teaching critical thinking than lectures.[1]

cases3The Pluralism Project has developed a Case Study Initiative to explore how the case method can be creatively applied to teaching and learning in the theological and religious studies classroom. Our basic texts are the issues that arise in the contexts of our civil society, public life, and religious communities. Staff and graduate students are currently researching, writing, and refining case studies on topics ranging from inclusiveness in city-sponsored prayersPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not. to a controversy over bringing the kirpanThe kirpan is a sword, more commonly a small knife, carried by initiated Sikhs who have become members of the Khalsa, the order of fully committed Sikhs. It is one of five symbols of Sikh identity. to school.

We invite you to consider using cases in your own educational context. We welcome your feedback and are happy to discuss these and other case study resources available from the Pluralism Project.

For more information about the Case Study Initiative, please contact Ellie Pierce at: epierce@fas.harvard.edu.


[1] See the many studies cited by Derek C. Bok in Our Underachieving Colleges, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006, chapter 5. The same critique would most certainly hold for theological schools in which the theological dilemmas of “real life” theological thinking rarely have a place and active case-based learning is still in its infancy. ↩︎


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