The Connections Binder: A Theology Project
About this article
The Connections Binder is a culminating activity for use in any unit of study in any theology course. This assignment, inspired by Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, asks students to find a piece of artistic work (visual art, musical selection, essay, poem) that "connects" to any concept studied in a particular unit. Students then write a reflection telling how the work chosen illustrates the topic studied. Also included in this project is student self-evaluation.
The Connections Binder encourages students to find meaningful connections between the content they are studying in class and something from the world outside the classroom that they find interesting or appealing. I assign this project at the beginning of my courses in both morality and spirituality, but you can use this project in any theology course. The project fosters writing skills as well as symbolic thinking, engaging more than just the verbal intelligence of students. I'm grateful for Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences research, which has inspired me to do this kind of project. See, for instance, Gardner's Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (1983) and Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice (1993), both published by Basic Books.
The following is the information I give to students on a handout at the beginning of the course.
Assignment: The Connections Binder
The creation of this binder will be an ongoing project throughout the semester. You will be focusing on one unit of the course at a time in building the binder. Please turn in your binder work for each unit one day before the test for that unit. The binder work you do for each unit is worth 100 points. Spend quality time on this project; ideally, work on it throughout the study of each unit.
- a three-ring binder, 1-inch thick
- eight full-page tab dividers
- transparent contact paper
- construction paper
- an artistic work
- a pencil pouch
What Needs to Be Included?
For each unit, create the following:
- A decorated tab divider. Decorate a full-page tab divider in an artistic, symbolic way to represent what we studied in that unit. The only words on this divider should be the title of the unit. Be as colorful and creative as you can, using collage, markers, construction paper, and so on. When you are finished decorating the divider, cover it with transparent contact paper.
- A concept or topic and a related artistic work. Choose one of the concepts or topics from the unit. Then, from sources outside the course, find an artistic work that you think relates to the unit's concept and that will fit in the binder. It could be an article or an essay, a musical work (sung or instrumental), a poem, or a piece of visual art. If you choose a song or a poem, type the words on one sheet of paper for inclusion in the binder. For a musical piece (sung or instrumental), furnish an audiocassette of the music. For a previously published article or essay or for a painting or other art object, provide a photocopy.
Put the selected artistic work in your binder, and write a reflection piece on the connections between it and the concept or topic you chose from the unit. Type your reflection using the following format:
- At the top of the paper, name the concept you selected from the unit.
- Define the concept and explain in your own words what it means.
- Tell how the artistic work you chose connects with, demonstrates, illustrates, or sheds light on the concept from the unit.
- Give a personal reaction, telling how the concept and artistic work relate to your life and any comments you have about it.
Put the above reflection in your binder along with the artistic work.
- A reflection on the whole unit. Reflect on the whole unit we have studied, responding to the following questions thoughtfully and honestly. Type your reflections and place them in your binder.
- What is the most important thing you have learned in this unit? What will you remember for a long time? Explain fully and give specifics.
- Name one concept or discussion that we had in this unit that you found particularly interesting or challenging. Why?
- Compose a prayer that seems to fit with this unit.
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Published January 1, 1999.