What Do Students Learn in a Wilmette Institute Course?

How to do we know what students learn in Wilmette Institute courses? To help learners get the best out of a course, the faculty ask them, at the outset, to create a Personal Learning Plan in which the students set their own milestones for their learning journey. At the end of the course the faculty ask the learners to complete a self-assessment that that encourages them to look again at their milestones and to comment on what they have learned.

In the four-month course on Baha’u’llah’s Revelation the learners read, studied, and discussed twenty of Baha’u’llah’s books and tablets. When the thirty-six students completed the course, here is what some of them had to say in their self-assessments.

DID YOU MEET YOUR LEARNING GOALS?

Eric Bell, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Goal: I would like to understand Baha’u’llah’s writings better.

Accomplished: This certainly happened, less so than I wanted, but a lot more than I expected. What I was really struck by is how much I enjoyed exploring the writings in more depth, even the more mystical ones that I have historically been a lot less attracted to. I found that I started making connections, asking questions, and profiting from my fellow students.

WHAT NEW UNDERSTANDINGS AND INSIGHTS HAVE YOU GAINED, BE THEY COMPARISONS, CONTRASTS, ANALYSIS, SYNTHESIS, OR INTERPRETATIONS?

Eithne Maunder, Ireland

As a former Christian, I was always conscious of the need for Christ to remove Himself from His community. This, we were told, was so that He could prepare Himself for His future role in humankind’s salvation. It was also made clear to me that Baha’u’llah removed Himself from His community to remove any influence He might have on them about any future role He was to have. However, having been able to trace some of His work at this stage, and also seeing the great heart-wrenching that He had to endure during this time, made Baha’u’llah more approachable for me.

WHAT NEW SKILLS HAVE YOU ACQUIRED OR IMPROVED?

Motoko Caldwell, Hawaii

The course was well arranged–all the supplementary material and descriptions and commentaries on various texts and the questions. It was systematic. I read them all, and I feel I have gained a deeper understanding of the writings than before although the immensity of the Revelation is overwhelming.

What I have discovered is that through “Baha’i Library Online” so many brilliant scholars such as Dr. Momen, Dr. Buck, Dr. Stockman, and many other have written very valuable papers which help me a lot to have better understanding.

I am very grateful for this course and the mentors who helped us with their knowledge and insights throughout the course.

Kathleen Barr, Kentucky

At this point in my personal learning and deepening, I feel a bit less intimidated by the sheer majesty of the writings. Conversations around the analyses have been superb! While I may have had little to add to the discussion, just witnessing the dialogue was most educational. As a bonus, conversations with my circle of friends here in Central Kentucky have become much more deepened and robust.

WHAT NEW FEELINGS OR ATTITUDES HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED?

Lisa Molin, California

I was most impressed by the kindness and grace with which our mentors presented information and explanations to the class. They truly exemplified Baha’u’llah’s words–“If ye be aware of a certain truth, if ye possess a jewel, of which others are deprived, share it with them in a language of utmost kindliness and goodwill”–and were good examples to me.

Paula Bidwell, New Mexico

The most important new attitude is feeling confident in connecting the writings to Native American spiritual traditions and appropriately adapting the presentation of the writings for a Native audience.

Kay Marie Johnson, Arizona

Without wanting to sound too poetical, I must admit that studying this course has fanned the smoldering embers of my heart into flame! It has aided me to study the writings daily and perform the obligatory prayer with a deepened reverence.

I feel as though the drop of understanding I had will not satisfy my quest to understand what is being asked of us by Baha’u’llah and now I am ever thirsty for more. Seeing with a world embracing vision the old world is empty for me, except for the obligation to spread the word of Baha’u’llah and sow seeds in open hearts.

HAVE THERE BEEN CHANGES IN YOUR VALUES AND BELIEFS?

Ron Matthews, Marlborough, Massachusetts

I don’t think that my values and beliefs have been changed but, rather, have been deepened through the greater understanding of the writings I think I have gained by reading the assignments and the emails of the other participants. 

HOW CAN YOU APPLY OR USE THE KNOWLEDGE YOU HAVE GAINED?

Nicholas Okamoto, University of Missouri, Columbia

Talking about the wonderful course I took over the summer has already provided me with a number of opportunities to discuss the Baha’i Faith with my non-Baha’i friends. I plan to keep using that bridge.

I also have at least three presentations on the Baha’i Faith planned over the next year. One is at the Birth of Baha’u’llah Holy Day celebration, the next is in a Religious Studies class at my university, and the third is in an honors class (called “Classical Ideas”) at a local high school. 

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Future Courses for Studying the Baha’i Writings in Depth:

Baha’i Theology: Concepts of God, Revelation, Manifestation, Creation, Humanity, Afterlife, and Covenant, 12/01/12

The Secret of Divine Civilization, 12/15/12

Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, 01/02/13

Baha’u’llah’s Early Mystic Writings, 4/10/13