Guidelines for Christ and Culture Small Group Project (Lab #2)
This second lab
is designed to help you broaden your understanding of American cultures and the
Christian faith by offering you an opportunity to learn from those who are
different from you. Whether we
realize it or not, all of us have a relatively narrow and provincial
understanding both of American cultures and of the Christian faith. At one
level, we can’t help this, since our understanding only extends to the limit of
our experience and learning. But
there are ways to stretch beyond the familiar in ways that broaden our
understanding and thus enrich our lives.
for your small group to have a conversation with a small group of people
(ideally 2-3) in the local community who are in some way different from
those in your small group. This
conversation should generally take place off campus and on turf familiar and
comfortable to those with whom you are in conversation. This conversation
can be part of a larger agenda (a visit to a place of worship, an act of
service, etc.), but the focus and emphasis should remain on interacting with
and coming to a deeper understanding and appreciation of those with whom you
are in conversation.
research both before and after your arranged conversation.
This component is not optional. Your initial research should
familiarize you enough with those with whom you will be meeting so that you
can ask intelligent questions. Your
follow-up research should fill in any holes and deepen your understanding of
issues that were raised in the interview.
In both instances, please do your best to find reliable information
written from a perspective that is sympathetic to those you are
interviewing. If you are unsure what
you should be researching for your interview, please ask.
with a list of good questions to use during your visit that would offer
ample opportunity for those with whom you are visiting to talk about
themselves, their life experience, fundamental convictions, etc.
These questions should be respectful in tone, clearly communicating a
genuine desire to learn from those with whom you are in conversation.
Remember: Your purpose for engaging in this conversation is not
to try to convince others that they need to be more like you.
Rather, the objective of this project is to try to understand this
group of people and to explore how their being different from you might
enrich your understanding of American cultures and the Christian faith. As a
general rule, opt for open-ended questions that leave plenty of room for
your conversation partners to explain matters in their own terms and in
their own way; do your best to avoid asking “loaded” questions.
conversation. (You should probably plan for at least an hour.)
a small group to debrief about the conversation and what you learned as a
together a joint small group report (4-5 pages minimum, single-spaced,
exclusive of bibliography and appendices) that explains what you did and
what you learned through this experience.
Your group report should be written in narrative form rather than as
a list of answers to particular questions, but your report should minimally
include responses to the questions listed at the end of this document.
(Please note that writing a paper together is different than dividing the
work and then stapling it together.)
oral presentation to the class during the last two weeks of the course that
would offer the rest of us an opportunity to learn from your experience.
of people from whom you might learn (There are, of course, lots of other
a different religious heritage
a different country
are part of a different subculture within American society
have a different life experience
hold different fundamental convictions regarding something about which your
group feels strongly
Only one Christ and Culture small group will be given permission to interview a
particular group of people, and I will approve these on a first-come,
first-served basis. You need not
wait until the due date to turn in your proposal.
I will keep an updated list online of those groups who have had their
project proposals approved and whom they are planning to interview.
address in your written report:
report should include enough details of your planning process so that we can
understand why you chose to learn from this particular group of people.
How did you come to decide on this group?
Were there others you considered? What did you hope to learn?
What anxieties, if any, did you have about taking up this project?
report should be informed by your research, use proper documentation of all
sources, and include a bibliography that identifies all sources you consulted
both prior to and after your interview.
Your report should also include an appendix that lists the questions you
planned ahead of time to ask, and some indication of which ones were actually
asked in the interview.
The bulk of
your paper should consist of a narrative account of your conversation and your
group’s reflections on it. Please
make sure that the voices of those you are interviewing come through accurately
and authentically. A good check on this is to ask yourselves this question: “Are
we confident that if the people we interviewed were to read our paper that they
would see themselves portrayed fairly and accurately?”
In other words, would they recognize themselves in your paper?
below are not to be asked in your interview, but are designed to guide
your reflection processes both before and after your interview. You would be
wise, for example, to jot down your initial responses to the questions listed in
#1 below before your interview. You
need not, of course, limit yourselves to these questions, but your written
report should at least weave responses to these concerns into your overall
narrative. You may also include
additional matters in your report that you believe are of equal depth and
experiences have shaped your small group’s understanding of this group of
people you are interviewing? How has
your group tended to view this group of people in the past?
In what ways and for what reasons did you view them as “different”?
Are there specific ways in the past in which you have experienced
this difference as threatening? Are there specific ways in the past in which
you have experienced this difference as enriching?
some of the most important ways in which you are similar to this group of
people? What, in other words, do you
hold in common despite the differences noted above?
How has the way you perceived these differences and similarities
changed as a result of this project?
As a result
of this project, what are some of the most important insights have you
gained about: a) this group of people; b) yourselves; c) American cultures;
d) the Christian faith?
of this experience had the deepest impact on the members of your group?
What, if anything, do you believe will be different in the future as
a result of having done this project?
All group members will receive the same grade unless I am informed of reasons why this
is not appropriate. Your grade will be determined on the basis of the project's three
component parts: 1) planning and executing of the group project; 2) your group's joint
written report; and 3) your group's oral presentation. Click
here for a
more detailed grading rubric.