Teaching World Religions in Public Schools: Building Religious Literacy

This course will provide teachers an opportunity to explore specific topics in world religion.

In collaboration with Boniuk Institute for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance at Rice University.

In an era of globalization, mass media and migration, religious literacy is increasingly important in the cultivation of global citizens. Religious literacy is the knowledge of, and ability to understand, engage, and encounter religion and philosophical beliefs from the perspective of believers. Educators, as public intellectuals, play a critical role in teaching the academic study of world religions, which allows us to address misunderstanding, stereotyping and clashes of ignorance in our multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious global village. Armed with the knowledge, skills and values to engage a religiously diverse world, educators teach and encourage their students to understand and value people of all faiths and no faith, and to work together for peace.

Course overview

Teaching world religions and religious literacy in public school classrooms can be challenging for teachers if they lack confidence or feel they need to improve their own content knowledge about religions and philosophies. Yet, world religions are clearly incorporated into many of the state of Texas TEKS such as World Cultures, World Geography, and World History as well as AP Human Geography.

Participants will deepen content knowledge in the study of religions within their fields using the guidelines of the Texas TEKS and AP course descriptions. Teachers will engage in academic reading, reflective writing, discussion boards, and active learning. This course will culminate in a workshop to develop a set of classroom lesson plans utilizing newly acquired content knowledge.

Who Should Attend: Teachers of World Cultures, World Geography, World History, AP Human Geography, and World Religions courses

What to Bring:

  • Course materials will be supplied.
  • Please bring a laptop and any pre-assigned readings.

Course Facilitator: Dr. Gayle Lasater Pagnoni, Program Director, Boniuk Institute, Rice University

Gayle Lasater Pagnoni has taught in secondary and tertiary education for over a decade, and holds a doctorate in religion from the University of Florida. With undergraduate degrees in Anthropology and International Relations, and a Master’s in Latin American and Caribbean Studies with emphasis in Sociology, she specializes in western hemispheric religion, race, and globalization. Her focus is on monotheisms and in particular, Christian diversity, including a uniquely American variety - the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She joined the Boniuk Institute in August 2016 as Program Director for Religious Literacy and K-12 outreach, education, research and collaboration.  

Instructors: The course is facilitated by a master teacher from the Boniuk Institute for Religious Tolerance and consists of interactive presentations by faculty and advanced graduate students of the Rice University Departments of Religion and History, and the Boniuk Institute, with collaboration by the Houston Independent School District Secondary Social Studies instructional team.

When: June 25-28, 2019; 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Where: Courses are held on the Rice University campus.


Early Registration: $435* (until March 26)
Standard Registration: $485* (March 27-June 11)
Late Registration: $535* (after June 11)

Tuition includes course materials, parking and lunch.


Professional Development Credits: Participants will receive up to 26 hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits or 2.6 Continuing Education Units (CEU). SBEC Continuing Professional Education Provider Number 500571

Acknowledgment of enrollment: Once you register for a course through our online registration system, you will be enrolled in the course. An enrollment acknowledgement will immediately be sent to the email address on your account showing payment confirmation or including instructions for submitting payment via check. Please contact our office, 713-348-6031, if you have any questions.

*AP and Pre-AP are registered trademarks of the College Board, which was not involved in the development and delivery of this professional development.


Coming soon.

  • Educators will increase knowledge, skills and best classroom practices on the First Amendment and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 18 on religious freedom and exercise to teach about religion, religious diversity, and religious pluralism as central to tolerance and democratic coexistence
  • Educators will learn new approaches to cultural, geographical and historical knowledge of the world’s major, diverse religious traditions as outlined in the TEKS, AP course outlines, and NCSS Religion Companion Supplement with which to deepen content knowledge and skills
  • Using lesson plans developed during the workshops, educators will engage their students to critically understand and appreciate different religious traditions, and to understand this diversity both as strengthand as a learning opportunity to enhance students’ cultivation of shared values of humility, respect and intellectual curiosity toward all