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BRISTOL, Tenn., April 28, 2015 – King University senior Erin Graybeal recently presented
“Teaching a Judeo-Christian Worldview to a Diverse Student Population” at the Southeastern
Commission for the Study of Religion (SECSOR) Conference in Nashville, Tenn.
The SECSOR Conference brings together members of the American Academy of Religion
and the Society of Biblical Literature from the southeastern United States. The annual
conference provides a setting for scholars in the academic study of religion, whether
undergraduates, graduate students, or professors, to present and discuss ongoing research
and to network with others in the region.
Graybeal will graduate from King in December with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies,
part of King’s Teacher Education program. She will be working towards her licensure
in Elementary and Middle Grades Education. During the first semester of her freshman
year, Graybeal took the first Foundations of Christian Thought and Practice course
with Dr. Don Michael Hudson, associate professor of Religious Studies, chair of the
Philosophy and Religion Department, and director of the King Tel Azekah Consortium.
“At the end of the semester, Dr. Hudson asked a few other students and me to come
talk to him about the class,” said Graybeal. “I shared my ideas with him about what
I liked about the class and provided suggestions on how some areas might be improved.”
As a result of their conversation, Dr. Hudson offered Graybeal a position as his student
worker. She spent the next three and a half years working closely with Dr. Hudson
to hone both the theoretical framework and practical application of the Foundations
One of the major features that had been implemented was the use of peer mentors along
with the lecture material. “This was a good beginning, but the peer mentors were lacking
organizational perspective and training,” said Graybeal. “I was very interested in
providing input for the class and could see several possibilities for improvement.
As an education major, I was learning how to teach at the same time that I was helping
Dr. Hudson increase the rigor and relevance of the Foundations course. The ideas of
pedagogy and development were fresh in my mind. As a millennial myself, I could advise
Dr. Hudson on how students viewed his class and what could be improved.
Graybeal added, “Further, we wanted to ground all pedagogical changes in a theoretical
framework. We discovered William G. Perry Jr., an expert in Educational Psychology,
whose theoretical method models intellectual development in college students. We determined
his model was most conducive and successful in teaching millennials.”
The Foundations course, at its inception, was a direct result of administration and
faculty seeking to meet the needs of King’s quickly changing population while maintaining
its heritage as a Presbyterian affiliated liberal arts school in the hills of Appalachia.
With the school’s transition to NCAA Division II and the implementation of online
degree programs, the student population of King was increasing in numbers and becoming
more diverse. The Foundations course was created, in part, to teach an introduction
to Judeo-Christianity within a faith tradition while being inclusive to this new generation
of millennial students in a fashion to which they would not only relate but also with
which they would become actively engaged.
Graybeal presented in the Teaching and Learning section of the conference. Her presentation,
“Teaching a Judeo-Christian Worldview to a Diverse Student Population,” is a direct
result of her work with Hudson.
“Erin and I have been developing this course for four years now. We worked together,
and, utilizing feedback from other students, were able to take this course to the
next level,” said Hudson.
He added, “It has been very important to have [Erin’s] input [on the Foundations course]
because many professors teach in a top-down fashion. That doesn’t work well for millennials.
It has been invaluable to bring in someone like Erin, who is a millennial, to listen
to her about what does and what does not work. We have been successful with the course
because we have tried new techniques and, after evaluating what works well, adjust
each semester to provide a course that engages the students. This work is both unconventional
and groundbreaking in not only what we are teaching but also how we are teaching it.
“It was an honor to present at the conference,” said Graybeal. “I was encouraged by
their interest in my research. The Foundations course, on which my research is based,
is the only one we have found operating on this model where you are teaching a large
class and including group discussions, peer mentors who are paid, specialized workbooks,
and thematic units. This teaching format is a novel idea that has now proven successful,
and we want to share it with others. We are seeing results. We have students every
semester who say this class has changed their lives.
Graybeal concluded, “If we can inspire somebody at a school that is looking for an
answer to revitalize their program to train more people in careers for ministry and
missions and social work and education, and so much more, then that is what we want
King University is a Presbyterian-affiliated, doctoral-level comprehensive university. Founded in
1867 as King College, the University offers more than 90 majors, minors, pre-professional
degrees and concentrations in fields such as business, nursing, law, medical and health
sciences, pharmacy, education, and humanities. Graduate programs are offered in business
administration, education, and nursing. A number of research, off-campus learning
opportunities, and travel destinations are also available. King University is a NCAA
Division II and a Conference Carolinas member with 25 varsity sports. For more information
about King University, visit www.king.edu. King University does not discriminate against academically qualified students of
any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, or disability. King University
is certified by SCHEV to operate locations in Virginia. For more information, contact
the King University office at Southwest Virginia Community College, 309 College Road,
Richlands, VA 24641.