The principal manner in which we in the School of Religion assess our graduating majors is by means of a capstone seminar (REL 401) required in the final year of studies. The REL 401 Seminar in Religious Studies is a survey of methods and selected issues in the field of religious studies taught around one theme, such as religion and the body. Students in this class produce an original research paper that encourages/requires them to utilize the methodological training they have gained in the study of religion. The seminar format allows close contact between graduating majors and faculty, such that we are able to assess through discussion and writing how the student has matured intellectually in the course of taking the major in Religion, and how well we have fulfilled our objectives for the majors.
Although it is a more generic mode of assessment, nevertheless consideration of the grades and GPAs of students majoring in Religion also allows us to track their mastery of our Learning Objectives. In many cases, the objectives closely correlate to the wide range of courses we offer. For example, the first requirement students often take is REL 301 Introduction to the Study of Religion, which requires the students to show an awareness of the diversity of periods studied, and also the diversity of methods, from textual to archaeological, from gender studies to art history and visual studies. Success in this course also indicates that students have understood a number of key concepts in Religious Studies (such as “comparison” or “experience”).
To give another example of how our courses relate to learning objectives, students will take a wide range of other courses in religions, such as REL 329 Themes in the Religions of China, REL 471 Jesus, or REL 317 Ancient Near Eastern Myth and Literature. Success in such courses indicates that religion majors have gained an experience of studying diverse religious phenomena in a cross-cultural, historical, and interdisciplinary perspective.