Fred Glennon, Ph.D. (Courses)
Professor (RH 216)
Department of Religious Studies
Le Moyne College
Syracuse, New York 13214 
(315) 445-4343

REL 336

Comparative Religious Ethics and Social Concerns

The learning covenant is an explicit agreement between the student, the professor, and other students concerning the involvement of the student in the class. As such, it sets down the formal requirements for your participation in this course. It lists the learning objectives the student will seek to achieve, the activities the student will perform to meet those objectives, and explicitly identifies the criteria which will be used by the professor to evaluate the student's learning. It has the following advantages over more traditional methods of evaluation: (1) it allows for greater individual flexibility and freedom on the part of the student to select those activities which she or he finds of most interest; (2) it states everything clearly and explicitly so that there is no confusion or ambiguity about what is expected; and (3) it allows the student an opportunity to take responsibility for his or her own learning.

We both know that this is a required core course. Some of you probably would not be taking the course otherwise. Because it is a core course, Le Moyne College has certain objectives they require the course to achieve which I must honor. I also have some objectives for the course and for student involvement. The combination of these objectives constitutes the course objectives which every student must meet successfully to pass the course. However, learning is about more than meeting someone else's requirements. Learning is a life-long adventure that contributes to our development as mature, responsible persons in relationship with others. The learning covenant is a means to enhance your potential as life-long learners. That is why in addition to course objectives you have the opportunity in this course to meet objectives you have chosen based on your own interests and needs.

Before deciding on your objectives take the time to assess your learning needs. A learning need is the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in regard to certain competencies and abilities. These competencies can relate to your knowledge, your understanding, your skills, your attitudes, and your values. For example, do you want to learn more about your own or other religious ethical traditions? Do you need to enhance your analytical writing, public speaking, listening, or discussion leadership skills? Are you interested in appreciating the diversity of religious moral arguments on sexuality? Clarity about your needs or interests can help you to be more specific about what objectives you would like to pursue.

You are now ready to start listing your learning objectives. A learning objective is a clear and concise statement that defines specifically what you want to learn. Your learning objectives should describe what you will learn, in terms most meaningful to you, not what you will do to learn them. Look at the examples I have provided (course objectives and others). You can write as many learning objectives as you want within the parameters of the course. Write these on the covenant in the space provided. Clarity is important because these objectives will provide the basis for the final assessment activity, a self-assessment.

Once you have listed your objectives, you will need to describe how you propose going about accomplishing each objective with your learning activities. I have provided a list of Activity Options from which you can select to meet your objectives, or you can identify your own. The key is to make sure that the activities selected help you to meet your objectives. For example, an objective to improve your ability to write analytically may lead you to write three focused thought papers. An objective to learn more about social justice may lead you to analyze a social justice organization. Accomplishing your learning objectives fully may lead you to engage in more than one learning activity. Once you have identified your learning activities, write them on the covenant in the space provided.

Next you will have to give evidence that you have in fact achieved each objective. For example, evidence that you learned more about social justice might lead you to do a collage and write a report about what you learned. Evidence that you have a clearer understanding of Buddhist views of sexuality may lead you to write a book review essay. The list of Activity Options provided includes the evidence associated with each option. However, you may select one of those options but offer different evidence to demonstrate your learning. Write the evidence you will provide in the space provided on the covenant.

After specifying what evidence you will provide for each objective, you must then specify the criteria by which the evidence will be evaluated. Make sure that the criteria are appropriate for each objective. On the document which lists suggested activities you will find "Evaluation Criteria" attached to each activity. These are evaluation criteria I am suggesting are appropriate to determine the quality of the project. You can make changes to those criteria on your covenant, but we will negotiate any disagreements. Only the evaluation criteria listed with each objective may be used by the professor to determine the quality of your evidence (and a grade). You should pay careful attention to them when completing your activities. It is also possible to have persons other than or in addition to the professor to evaluate your work. If you choose to do this, then you must state what their qualifications are and how they will express their judgments (e.g. rating scales, grades, etc.).

In the final column of the covenant, you must identify due dates for each learning activity. I have selected due dates for the activities I require (See Canvas, under Assignments). You are in the best position, however, to determine when you have time to complete the activities you choose. Just remember: feedback is essential to learning. You will receive more feedback from me the earlier you complete your activities. Waiting until the end of the summer session limits your chances for constructive feedback.  All of your activities must be completed by August 10.

Each of your activities will be worth 100 points each (total of 200 points).  The required activities are worth 450 points or 70% of your grade; your activities should account for the other 30% (200 points).  (Total:  650 points)

After you have completed the first draft of your covenant, review it to see if the following questions are answered:

The final draft of your covenant should be posted on Canvas no later than July 11.  I will review your covenant and make comments.  If everything is fine, I will note that.  If I have questions, I will let you know in the comments section of the submission.  Since this is new to some students, I will be glad to meet with you individually online or by phone (see Contacts). The final step is to carry out your covenant. Remember, the implementation of the covenant is your responsibility. Failure to fully implement any or all parts of your covenant may result in receiving a grade of "F" for those uncompleted sections and/or withholding of the final grade. Your covenant may be revised and/or modified any time prior to July 31.  Revisions after that date will only include final allocations of weights for each graded activity.