Teaching

Theology is the exploration of the deepest questions that humanity asks. Teaching theology is the privileged opportunity to talk about these deepest questions with students. It is the chance to meet with young adults who are asking questions about their own lives and to engage those students in the conversation. As a Catholic theologian and religious educator, teaching theology means facilitating a dialogue between the questions that students are asking and the ways that Catholic Christian tradition has sought to address those questions. All good education, at any level and with any group of people, is an attempt to help others think more clearly about what they have learned, what they believe, and what they want to do. Theological education takes that reflection to the level of ultimate significance – we talk about God and humanity together.

For nearly twenty years, I focused my educational efforts at the secondary school level. This was a profound opportunity, not only because it has grounded my research, but also because it provided me with insight into how learning works, what pedagogies are effective, and why the role of the teacher is so important. While teaching young adults is not identical with teaching adolescents, the solid pedagogical practices that I learned as a secondary school teacher have formed the foundation of my current teaching. Moreover, these experiences led me to the conviction that the best theological education takes place in a dialogical community of learners.

Dialogue – conversations founded on mutual respect and curiosity – creates a classroom dynamic where teachers and students are learning together. Therefore, I approach theological education as the practice of dialogue around the core questions that humans have been asking throughout history. The practice of dialogue opens up the conversation so that everyone can participate regardless of their faith background, regardless of their prior experience in the study of theology, regardless of their vocational aspirations. The asking of important questions can lead to a dialogue that addresses meaningful ideas. As students work together to think through these theological questions in light of their own experiences, they have the opportunity to learn from each other, with me, and in conversation with the Catholic theological tradition.

To facilitate this, I name three key commitments for the theological classroom. Regardless of whether I am working with undergraduate students in a required course, students majoring in theology, graduate students preparing for teaching or ministry with others, or doctoral students training to take up a place in the guild, these key commitments shape my approach to theological and religious education. First, I am committed to student engagement. This means that, no matter what faith commitments a student has, they will find that the questions and conversations that happen in the classroom are questions that are meaningful and engaging. Not only are these the questions that humanity has been asking for millennia, they are connected to the questions that each student is likely asking. Second, I am committed to student learning. Learning about theology provides students with a toolbox of terms, images, practices, ideas, and arguments that can help them develop into knowledgeable and critical thinkers. When students engage Christian teachings in light of their own experiences, they are better equipped to take ownership of their own faith commitments and to engage with those from other faith traditions. Third, I am committed to student growth. While theological education in the university classroom is never an exercise in proselytizing, it is always an opportunity for students to be transformed by what they are learning. The questions that are considered are the core questions of humanity and, because these are the questions that have shaped humanity, they are the questions that can engage students as persons with a mature and thoughtfully grounded faith.

Because my approach focuses on dialogue centered around the asking of important questions, my teaching strategies work to support a classroom that invites careful listening and respectful conversation. When I am lecturing, this means I take a Socratic approach that helps guide students towards an idea and invites their active engagement with these ideas. When I use discussion, this means I am asking thoughtful questions that provoke constructive responses from students and encourages them to engage in conversation with each other, and not just with me. When I ask students to work in groups, this means that they are engaged in creating something that has meaning for them and their lives and that help them to reflect critically on their lives and the wisdom of the theological tradition.

The assessments that I use are also designed to support this dialogic approach. I do not ask students to simply repeat information; rather, students are asked to engage a reading or an idea in light of their own experiences. It is always my goal that papers, short reflections, or research projects will support the goals of student engagement, learning, and growth. Through these assessments, it is my hope that students are increasingly formed as theologians, as persons who are reflecting on the faith. My hope is that they will take the skills they learn in my class and use them to reflect critically on the theological questions that they will continue to encounter throughout their academic life, in their careers, and in their personal lives.

 

Sample syllabi
Sacred Heart University, “Human Journey Seminar I” Syllabus SHU Human Journey I
Sacred Heart University, “Human Journey Seminar II” syllabus-shu-human-journey
Rivier University, “God and the Created Order” syllabus-rivier-god-and-created-order
Boston College, “Mission, Curriculum, and Pedagogy” syllabus-stm-mission-curriculum-and-pedagogy


Evidence of successful teaching
Student Evaluations, Sacred Heart University, “Human Journey Seminar II,” spring 2017 SHU Evaluations Spring 2017
Student Evaluations, Rivier University, “God and the Created Order,” fall 2016 cameron-rivier-student-evaluations
Student Evaluations, Boston College, “Mission, Curriculum, and Pedagogy,” summer 2016 evaluations-summer-2016

Faculty Evaluation, Rivier University, “God and the Created Order” (Paul Demers) cameron-rivier-teaching-evaluation
Faculty Evaluation, Boston College, “Foundations of Theology” (Colleen Griffith, PhD) cameron-bc-teaching-review 


Teaching Video
Sacred Heart University, “Human Journey Seminar II,” class discussion of Dorothy Day’s The Long Loneliness (text based discussion, connecting their reading of the text to their own lives).