American Association of Philosophy Teachers Studies in Pedagogy
ONLINE FIRST ARTICLES
Articles forthcoming in in this journal are available Online First prior to publication. More details about Online First and how to use and cite these articles can be found HERE
February 8, 2023
Philosophy as a Way of Teaching: A Handbook
first published on February 8, 2023
In this essay, Drexler reflects broadly on our practices as philosophy teachers: how we think of our classrooms and design students’ learning experiences, how we evaluate ourselves and our teaching, and generally, how we keep walking into the classroom each semester. Based on a talk she delivered in 2020, Drexler’s contribution to this issue presents a series of “chapters” of an “enchiridion” for teaching: a handbook of loosely-connected reflections, principles, and strategies for teaching Philosophy as a Way of Life, and for teaching (philosophy) as a way of life.
February 7, 2023
Gaia Ferrari, Samantha Dragar
PWOL as Situated Pedagogy: Adapting Hadot’s Model for Today’s Classroom
first published on February 7, 2023
This article pursues the goal of articulating a pedagogical paradigm of philosophy as a way of life that can effectively re-invigorate the teaching of philosophy in today’s academic world. This re-invigoration should take direct inspiration from Hadot’s hermeneutical framework of how to live philosophically, while still recognizing the intrinsic limitations that his model presents when applied to the modern educational practices of academia. In particular, we maintain that a literal application of Hadot’s model would require we turn the teaching of philosophy as a way of life into a systemic affair that demands from students a full commitment to particular schools of thought. Conversely, we argue for a pedagogical paradigm of philosophy as a way of life (“PWOL-as-Situated-Pedagogy”) that enacts a triple balancing between theory and practice, progress and assessment, and depth and breadth. In this way, the problem of self-cultivation is tackled by engaging students with a broader consideration of philosophies and spiritual exercises.
February 4, 2023
Sharon Mason, Benjamin Rider
Philosophy for Living: Exploring Diversity and Immersive Assignments in a PWOL Approach
first published on February 4, 2023
In this article, we reflect on our experiences teaching a PWOL course called Philosophy for Living. The course uses modules focused on different historical philosophical ways of life (Epicureanism, Stoicism, Confucianism, Existentialism, etc.) to engage students in exploring how philosophy can be a way of life and how its methods, virtues, and ideas can improve their own lives. We describe and compare our experiences with two central aspects of our approach: engagement with diversity and the use of immersive experiences and assignments. In particular, we discuss how we recognize and center various forms of diversity in philosophy—cultural and gender diversity, but also diversity in how and in what forms philosophy can be done and what “philosophy as a way of life” can be. We also examine how the experimental and experiential aspects of immersive assignments promote deeper understanding and create possibilities for personal transformation.
Monica Janzen, Benjamin Hole, Ramona Ilea
Civically Engaged Philosophy as a Way of Life
first published on February 4, 2023
Teachers committed to seeing philosophy as a way of life (PWOL) often focus on assignments that help students develop personal practices, so they experience peace of mind, independence, and a cure from anguish. While we applaud these goals, our work highlights another important aspect of philosophy as a way of life that sometimes is overlooked. We want our students to experience a transformation toward seeing themselves as moral agents, growing in civic virtues, and developing “cosmic consciousness.” To reach this end, we utilize a civic engagement (CE) project that we call the “Experiments in Ethics.” This CE project consists of a series of small, interrelated assignments or “experiments” that help students develop habits and certain civic dispositions. While students complete the experiments throughout the semester, we argue that civically engaged philosophy as a way of life extends beyond the confines of the classroom and the semester as our students cultivate the ability to see themselves as ethical agents capable of making changes in their own lives and the communities in which they live.
Laura J. Mueller, Eli Kramer
Let’s Be Frank: Revitalizing Frank Friendship in the Contemporary Philosophy Classroom
first published on February 4, 2023
Philodemus’s On Frank Criticism offers a unique conception of friendship that relies on frank speech, or truth-telling. The ability to have frank conversations with one another is the heart of a conception of friendship in which we are seen, heard, and acknowledged. This is the friendship through which we become better citizens and better selves. In particular, Philodemus is offering this truth-based friendship to students and their mentors. Yet, one would be hard put to find such trust and deep friendship in the university philosophy classrooms of today. Our professionalized and content acquisition focused culture in the academy all too often inhibits fostering these kinds of relationships with our students. We begin the essay by tracing the roots of this kind of frank friendship in Plato’s Lysis, and then contextualize its emerging role in the ancient philosophical classroom by exploring its place in Philodemus’ Epicurean philosophical community at Herculaneum. We do so to see how such friendship moves beyond discourse and into practice. Next, we use Arendt and Foucault to unpack the public and private dimensions of frank friendship in the philosophical learning environment and its role in a good life and good politics. Finally, we show how the classroom practice of Modern Socratic Dialogue (MSD) can re-enliven frank friendship as a spiritual exercise in the contemporary university-philosophy classroom. Specifically, we argue that MSD is a particular method of dialogue suited for the public realm of friendship and that it contributes to the care of one’s soul, thus modeling in our classrooms a method of dialogue for both the public and private dimensions of life.
February 3, 2023
Alexander V. Stehn
American Philosophy as a Way of Life: A Course in Self-Culture
first published on February 3, 2023
This essay fills in some historical, conceptual, and pedagogical gaps that appear in the most visible and recent professional efforts to “revive” Philosophy as a Way of Life (PWOL). I present “American Philosophy and Self-Culture” as an advanced undergraduate seminar that broadens who counts in and what counts as philosophy by immersing us in the lives, writings, and practices of seven representative U.S.-American philosophers of self-culture, community-building, and world-changing: Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), William Ellery Channing (1780–1842), Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), Margaret Fuller (1810-1850), Henry Bugbee (1915–1999), and Gloria Anzaldúa (1942–2004). Students enter the class with preconceptions about who philosophers are, what they do, how they write, and the languages in which they write. Students walk out with new senses of self, place, and language that emerge through new ways of seeing, doing, and writing philosophy.
November 24, 2022
PWL for the Twenty-First Century Academic Philosopher
first published on November 24, 2022
In this essay, I sketch a third possibility between teaching PWL solely as history of philosophy (which seems to inescapably pull against its own conception of philosophizing), and the fascinating recent attempts by scholars to experiment with introducing modes of teaching and assessment which would reactivate ancient spiritual exercises within the modern university. This third way takes for granted that, for the foreseeable future (and if academic philosophy widely survives the twenty-first century’s recalibration of the university), it will do so as a primarily theoretical discipline. Nevertheless, it proposes that insights from PWL’s re-conception of philosophy as a situated, social as well as ethical activity can and ideally should be integrated into such modern syllabi. This can be done by introducing and teaching (a) capstone unit(s) for advanced students which would reflect critically on what it is to be an academic philosopher today and the ways that the fact that philosophy is institutionalized as a professional discipline in neoliberal universities creates pressures towards particular forms of intellectual and ethical vice and sophistry. Based on a course taught at the author’s home university, it examines how Plato’s Republic, Bacon’s Novum Organum, and Kivisto’s Vices of Learning prompt students, respectively, to consider the place of the philosopher in the “city,” their own (and everyone’s) propensities towards forms of epistemic bias and partiality, and the ways that institutionalized competition for status can promote forms of pride, vanity, and misanthropy in scholars. Encountering and discussing these texts, it is argued, can prepare students for the realities of philosophizing in the professional universities of the twenty-first century, helping them to identify ways philosophers can go wrong, and helping them to identify chastened, more Socratically self-aware ways of thinking, reading, arguing, and understanding what philosophers do.
November 22, 2022
Transforming Our Classrooms and Ourselves
Philosophy as a Way of Life as Radical Pedagogy
first published on November 22, 2022
I argue that Philosophy as a Way of Life (PWOL) represents a distinct pedagogy that differs from philosophy’s signature pedagogy because of PWOL’s differing views of what philosophy is and how it is successfully practiced. I further argue that this pedagogy is radical in two senses. First, PWOL is technically radical because it naturally incorporates cutting-edge pedagogical techniques that promote student success. Second, I argue that PWOL is transformatively radical because it seeks to transform students’ understanding of themselves and the world around them. Following this argument, I discuss my own experiences implementing a PWOL-based course as a case study of PWOL’s radical nature.
Moving and Looking
first published on November 22, 2022
There is a way of teaching philosophy as a way of life that is focused on delivering content. It is focused on giving students information about the topic. In this paper, I consider a different way. It is focused on giving students the experience of philosophy as a way of life—in particular, the experience of being in love with wisdom. The main question of my paper is what it might be to teach philosophy in a way that prioritizes giving students the chance to fall in love with wisdom. I do not so much argue for an answer as invite the reader to follow me along a path of metaphor, reflections on teaching philosophy, and quotations.
Moral Transformation, Identity, and Practice
first published on November 22, 2022
Standard ways of conceptualizing moral development and measuring pedagogical interventions in ethics classes privilege the growth of moral judgment over moral sensitivity, moral motivation, and moral habits by too often conflating improvement in moral judgment with holistic moral development. I argue here that if we care about students’ construction and cultivation of their ethical selves, our assessment design principles ought to take seriously the transformative possibilities of philosophy as a way of life and be based on a more robust and holistic account of moral development. I illustrate these principles of assessment design through an examination of the Character Project, which I created to help students engage in their own deliberate ethical transformation through self-directed, individualized, and concentrated practice. Finally, I conclude with a discussion about how to appropriately and fairly assess this kind of deeply personal learning.
Marisa Diaz-Waian, David Nowakowski
Talking Shop: Invitations to a Philosophical Life
first published on November 22, 2022
December 31, 2019
Developing Engineering Students’ Moral Reasoning Skills Using Problem-Based Learning
first published on December 31, 2019
Problem-Based Learning has become an increasingly popular instructional method for a variety of disciplines at all levels. Many studies and meta-analyses of these studies have shown the efficacy of this method for developing knowledge and skills. I adopted this method for teaching Engineering Ethics at Carnegie Mellon University, which has as its main course objectives the development of moral reasoning skills, as well as collaboration and communication skills, with special attention given to ethical dilemmas that may arise in the normal course of an engineer’s professional career. In the most recent iteration of the course, I used the Engineering and Science Issues Test as a pretest and posttest to test the development of my students’ moral reasoning skills over the course of the semester. Based on the results of these tests, I argue that the students in my Engineering Ethics course did in fact significantly develop their moral reasoning skills.
December 24, 2019
Julie Walsh, Sara M. Fulmer, Sarah Pociask
Cross-Year Peer Mentorship in Introductory Philosophy Classes
The Home Base Mentoring Program
first published on December 24, 2019
Philosophical writing is challenging for students new to philosophy. Many philosophy classes are populated, for the most part, by students who have never taken philosophy before. While many institutions offer general writing support services, these services tend to be most beneficial for helping to identify problems with style and grammar. They are not equipped to help students with the particular challenges that come with writing philosophy for the first time. We implemented the Home Base Mentoring Program in two introductory-level philosophy courses to target the specific challenges that novice learners have when learning how to write philosophy. Through the program, students had access to writing mentors who were undergraduate senior philosophy majors. Based on surveys given to the students who have participated in this program, we found that the program boosted student confidence in writing and also worked to develop a welcoming, judgment-free, and encouraging environment in the philosophy department more generally.
December 20, 2019
J. Robert Loftis
Beyond Information Recall
Sophisticated Multiple-Choice Questions in Philosophy
first published on December 20, 2019
Multiple-choice questions have an undeserved reputation for only being able to test student recall of basic facts. In fact, well-crafted mechanically gradable questions can measure very sophisticated cognitive skills, including those engaged at the highest level of Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy of outcomes. In this article, I argue that multiple-choice questions should be a part of the diversified assessment portfolio for most philosophy courses. I present three arguments broadly related to fairness. First, multiple-choice questions allow one to consolidate subjective decision making in a way that makes it easier to manage. Second, multiple-choice questions contribute to the diversity of an evaluation portfolio by balancing out problems with writing-based assessments. Third, by increasing the diversity of evaluations, multiple-choice questions increase the inclusiveness of the course. In the course of this argument, I provide examples of multiple-choice questions that measure sophisticated learning and advice for how to write good multiple-choice questions.
December 18, 2019
Scaffolding for Fine Philosophical Skills
first published on December 18, 2019
Philosophy students often struggle to master the complex skills needed to succeed in their work, especially in writing thesis-driven essays. Research over the past forty years on instructional scaffolding, both generally and as applied in philosophy, has helped teachers to refine both instruction and assignment design to improve students’ performance on complex philosophical tasks. This essay reviews the fundamentals of scaffolding in order to motivate and support some innovative in-class exercises and writing assignments that can help students develop even finer-grained skills. These skills are useful both intrinsically and for their transfer to longer-form essays, to other philosophical work, and to the general academic and intellectual development of our students.
December 12, 2019
Andrew P. Mills
Letting Students Choose
Investigating the Menu Approach to Graded Work
first published on December 12, 2019
Traditionally, students have no choice over which assignments they must submit to receive the grade they desire in a course. An alternative “menu approach” (developed by Maryellen Weimer in 2002) provides students with a list of possible assignments and lets them select which to submit. This approach is demonstrated to increase student engagement with course material, motivate students to engage in creative work, and allow students to choose assignments that allow them to best demonstrate their learning. Student reaction is mixed: some like the choice but others are stressed and overwhelmed by it. This may result from the increased responsibility they must shoulder under the Menu Approach. Some questions remain about the link between increased engagement and student learning, questions that may form the basis for future research on the Menu Approach.
December 11, 2019
Juli K. Thorson
Drawing for Understanding, Insight, and Discovery
first published on December 11, 2019
The literature on drawing provides a justification for using drawing in the teaching of philosophy. The aim of the essay is to show how drawing as a pedagogy, though unusual in philosophy, fulfills high-quality teaching desiderata: make it personal, go beyond the text, allow students to show and explain their work, and unify the work of the course. I explain these four desiderata and how students complete drawing exercises to develop understanding, generate insights, and make philosophic discoveries. I begin by explaining and justifying the pedagogical desiderata. I discuss the literature on drawing-to-learn and concept mapping and apply its insights to teaching philosophy. Finally, I describe my exercises on color theory, two-point perspective exercises, my modifications to concept mapping, and the use of summative drawings.
December 10, 2019
Rancière and Pedagogy
Knowledge, Learning, and the Problem of Distraction
first published on December 10, 2019
In this essay, I analyze the pedagogical system contained within Jacques Rancière’s , paying special attention to the conceptions of knowledge and learning that follow from the presupposition of the equality of intelligence between teachers and students. From this, I show how the Rancièrian pedagogical system introduces the problem of distraction and suggest that the phenomenon of distraction in learning presents a problem for emancipatory teachers. I conclude by considering the role that pleasure plays in learning and suggest that cultivating pleasure minimizes the problem of distraction.
March 5, 2019
Playing Games and Learning from Shared Experiences
first published on March 5, 2019
One way for an experience to provide an effective scaffold for learning is when the concepts and theories it is intended to help students grasp and understand can be used to productively analyze, make sense of, and discuss the experience itself. In this essay I propose that games and game mechanics can be used to create learning experiences amenable to this kind of scaffold.
March 1, 2019
Lee Beavington, Jesse Jewell
Connecting Learners to Experience and Place
first published on March 1, 2019
The Global Positioning System (GPS) has been used as an experiential educational tool for nearly twenty years. Innovative educators have expanded the educational use of GPS devices beyond the geocache. This essay uses Leopold’s land ethic as a philosophical framework for relational education, and outlines the practical application of the GPS ecocache. The experiential, place-based ecocache has learners navigate to sites of ecological significance (e.g., plants, animals, landforms), where they must answer a question or riddle related to this site. We discuss the contradictory nature of using a gadget to connect with the outdoors, and integrate the GPS ecocache with Kolb’s model of experiential education. Ultimately, we hope to cultivate the values of Leopold’s land ethic through the use of a ubiquitously available device, and for learners to engage in relational pedagogy relevant to ecology, geography, environmental ethics, philosophy of science, philosophy of education and other courses concerned with human-nature connection and the nature of space.
Reflections on Teaching Applied Environmental Ethics in a Philosophy Course
first published on March 1, 2019
I designed and executed an environmental ethics course intended to provide a useful product to a municipal partner. In teaching the course I had an opportunity to get concrete experience in experiential teaching. I share my experiences with being a philosopher in an applied program and tie it to the models of experiential learning. My experience indicates that the important work is not the abstract conceptualization or the concrete experience, but the bridging between them.
February 27, 2019
Nine Ideas for Including a Civic Engagement Theme in an Informal Logic Course
first published on February 27, 2019
A class in informal logic can be an opportunity to do more than just cover the basic material of the subject (such as fallacies, induction, and deduction). “Critical Thinking” can also foster civic engagement as experiential learning—in the course’s readings, assignments, in-class activities and discussions, and tests. I favor an inclusive understanding of civic engagement: the course theme is engaging (from the French, pledging with) with the concerns of the civis (Latin for the citizenry). The argument made throughout here is that the civic engagement theme is a way of doing experiential learning in informal logic. I offer nine ideas for instructors here, which could be adopted wholesale or piecemeal, including how to do CSI (that’s Civic Scene Investigation).
February 26, 2019
Julie Loveland Swanstrom
Embedding Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in a Philosophy Course
first published on February 26, 2019
I explore methods for the explicit instruction of critical thinking in a topics-based philosophy course (topically or historically organized courses designated neither as Critical Thinking nor Logic). These methods make the classroom more experiential and less didactic and involve students in the philosophical process, allowing them to learn content while using the methods of philosophy to work through, explain, or produce similar content. Experiential learning—approaching learning as a “continuous process grounded in experience” involving the acquisition of practices, the specialization in those practices, and the integration of oneself into the learning process—enhances traditional philosophy classrooms, and explicitly teaching critical thinking skills involves the methods of experiential learning. After an overview of relevant aspects of experiential learning and addressing how experiential learning methods can be used for the explicit teaching of critical thinking skills, I explain four methods I use to explicitly teach critical thinking in my introductory classes.
February 6, 2019
Jonathan A. Buttaci
Aristotle on Learning How to Learn
Geometry as a Model for Philosophical Inquiry
first published on February 6, 2019
I consider a more generic goal teachers have for students in addition to learning some determinate content: that they learn how to learn anything whatsoever. To explain this process, I draw on two insights from Aristotle’s account of learning: first, that in every case students learn by doing the very things they are learning to do; and second, that it is possible to achieve a general educatedness whereby someone can make intelligent judgments and intellectual progress even in previously unfamiliar subject areas. In both cases, Aristotle’s account of the teacher as thinking-facilitator rather than knowledge-infuser is illuminating. This connects with recent literature on Experiential Learning. Having developed this broadly Aristotelian account of learning how to learn I offer some concrete strategies for putting the theory into practice in the philosophy classroom. These strategies include targeted reading guidance and mystery text assignments, both of which develop incrementally throughout the course.
January 31, 2019
Sean Blenkinsop, Chris Beeman
The Experienced Idea
Using Experiential Approaches to Teach Philosophical Concepts
first published on January 31, 2019
The central focus of this article is to share several experiential activities we have designed in our teaching careers that we use to help education students, primarily undergraduates and teacher candidates, access philosophical ideas and enter philosophical discussions. The examples shared below come from our attempts to help students reach key concepts and abstract ideas in some well-known educational philosophical discussions, through engaging in experiences relating to them. They are based on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, John Dewey’s scientific method, and Martin Buber’s philosophy of dialogue. The focus for this article is not so much on the specific content or philosophical interpretation of these works but instead on the activities themselves as a means towards better understanding the concept of experiential learning itself. The three examples we present serve to show ways in which well-designed and thoroughly-considered experiences can serve as a bridge to difficult and abstract material while also honoring a more expansive range of learning styles.
January 17, 2019
Aporia as Pedagogical Technique
first published on January 17, 2019
In this essay, I muse upon aporia’s value as a pedagogical technique in the philosophy classroom using as a guide examples of aporia that are found in Plato’s Socratic dialogues. The word aporia, translated as “without passage” or “without a way,” is used metaphorically to describe the unsettling state of confusion many find themselves in after engaging in philosophical discourse. Following a brief introduction in which I situate aporia as a pedagogy amicable to experiential learning, I examine various ways in which aporia appears in certain Platonic dialogues, which enables us to draw out some paradigmatic features of aporia. I then discuss how I apply aporia as a pedagogical technique in the contemporary philosophy classroom, taking up three specific concerns in detail: aporetic discomfort, right use, and potential misuse.
December 8, 2017
Challenging Privilege in Community-Based Learning and in the Philosophy Classroom
first published on December 8, 2017
Community-based learning is one way to bring discussions about diversity and inclusion into the philosophy classroom, but it can have unintended, negative consequences if it is not carefully planned. This article is divided into four sections that utilize courses and projects in which I have participated, as both co-architect and instructor, to discuss potential negative outcomes and how to avoid them. The first section introduces the projects and courses. The second section discusses practices that nurture positive relationships between institutions of higher education and communities, and pedagogical strategies to prevent reinforcing negative student perceptions about vulnerable communities. The third section discusses how curricular and pedagogical choices can challenge privilege and power both in the classroom and community experience. The final section focuses on what to do when a student resists the learning experience. I conclude with a brief reflection about the community side of this partnership.
November 23, 2017
Using Small-Group Discussion Activities to Create a More Inclusive Classroom
first published on November 23, 2017
This paper is meant to engage with philosophy teachers who are interested in creating a more inclusive environment by using small group discussion exercises. I begin this paper by describing the connections between the inclusive classroom and the collaborative classroom. I then articulate two learning goals that group discussion exercises can help students accomplish and define these learning goals as philosophical discovery and philosophical creation. Finally, I discuss a number of activities that encourage students to accomplish these learning goals in small groups and describe how the incorporation of these exercises has affected the inclusivity of my own classes.
November 19, 2017
Journaling and Pre-Theoretical Discussion as Inclusive Pedagogy
first published on November 19, 2017
When one thinks about inclusive pedagogy, it is tempting to focus solely on adding more diverse voices to one’s syllabus. While this technique is valuable and important, one can also promote inclusivity by encouraging and supporting the diverse voices of one’s own students. In this paper, I argue that two practices—low-stakes journal assignments and the pre-theoretical discussion of student thoughts about a topic before any readings have been assigned—promote inclusivity by encouraging and supporting a wide range of perspectives in the classroom, because such methods foster the students’ individual voices, experiences, and beliefs and demonstrate that they are valued and respected.
October 25, 2017
Beyond Providing Accommodations
How to be an Effective Instructor and Ally to Students with Learning Disabilities
first published on October 25, 2017
In this essay, I provide some insights on how to instruct students with learning disabilities. The first half of this essay deals with the theoretical issue of equal opportunity. I begin by examining the question of access and consider the various ways philosophy remains inaccessible to students with learning disabilities. Then, I use the legal definition of accommodation to argue that it is possible to make philosophy courses accessible to students with learning disabilities without fundamentally altering the nature of these courses. Finally, I point out several reasons for preferring the accessibility model of equal opportunity in education over the accommodation model. The second half of this essay proceeds to highlight several pedagogical practices an instructor can employ to create an inclusive college-level philosophy course under the accessibility model. Specifically, I provide recommendations for how to write effective accessibility statements, develop inclusive course design, ensure equal assessment opportunities, utilize technology in the classroom, and maintain strong academic relationships between instructors and students.
October 24, 2017
Carmen Adel, Joseph Ulatowski
Breaking the Language Barrier
Using Translations for Teaching Introductory Philosophy
first published on October 24, 2017
Some students who possess the same cognitive skill set as their counterparts but who neither speak nor write English fluently have to contend with an unnecessary barrier to academic success. While an administrative top-down approach has been in progress for many years to address this issue, enhancement of student performance begins in the classroom. Thus, we argue that instructors ought to implement a more organic bottom-up approach. If it is possible for instructors to make class content available in other languages, such as Spanish, without thereby compromising something of comparable pedagogical value, then they ought to do so. In fact, we provide here Anselm’s Ontological Argument rendered in Spanish to show how, when translated, it provides native Spanish speakers with greater accessibility to difficult material. Then, we consider the possible beneficial implications of doing so for university students.
October 19, 2017
Danielle Lake, Hannah Swanson, Paula Collier
Dialogue, Integration, and Action
Empowering Students, Empowering Community
first published on October 19, 2017
Hoping to expand upon public philosophy endeavors within higher education, the following captures the story behind the course Dialogue, Integration, and Action. The course has yielded a number of innovative pedagogical tools and engagement strategies likely to be of value to philosophy instructors seeking to explore a more participatory, experiential educational approach. As a transdisciplinary, community-engaged philosophy class, it engages students in the theories and practices of deliberative democracy and activism, encouraging the development of dialogic skills for their personal, professional, and civic lives. By documenting the community-instructor-student collaborative design of the university course; the feminist pragmatist philosophic commitments underlying its design; the community-led and student-facilitated dialogue and the subsequent public report, as well as the impact of this work on the students, the community partner, and the instructor, the article highlights the benefits and the challenges of undergraduate philosophic engagement that emerges from and responds to place-based needs.
October 18, 2017
Diotima and the Inclusive Classroom
first published on October 18, 2017
Despite a growing awareness that the philosophical canon consists almost exclusively of white male philosophers, it can be tempting to ignore the problem—especially for those who lack either the time or the expertise to fix it. Yet philosophical practice regularly requires us to raise questions and acknowledge issues even when we lack solutions. Engaging students in a discussion about dismissive or exclusionary comments that they notice (or ought to have noticed) in the reading is a good place to start; it provides insight into the origins of the problem and acknowledges its wide-reaching impact. For example, analyzing an editorial comment about Diotima during a class on Plato’s Symposium allows us to recognize and reconsider our assumptions about the impact of women on philosophy, a reflection that becomes even more salient when we realize that neither Plato nor the Socrates depicted in his dialogues seem to find anything ridiculous about the suggestion that the theory stems from a woman. This easy intervention provides us with a blueprint for envisioning similar responses in other courses.
October 6, 2017
Ruthanne Crapo, Matthew Palombo
Postcolonial Pedagogy and the Art of Oral Dialogues
first published on October 6, 2017
This paper explores postcolonial pedagogy and the use of oral dialogues as a way to assess college students and cultivate intellectual virtues in philosophy courses. The authors apply the theories of postcolonialism, particularly the emerging work of “poor theory,” to affirm the academic validity of oral dialogues and subaltern philosophy for a pedagogical framework of equity that goes beyond inclusion. Oral dialogues utilize an epistemology of the body in contexts of scarcity to increase student success and retention. The authors offer two case studies that exemplify the promise and complications of oral dialogues. The paper does not argue for the replacement of written philosophical work, but rather, draws attention to the symbiotic relationship between oral and written philosophy.
April 20, 2017
Carla A. H. Johnson
Finding Philosophy in Plato’s Apology
first published on April 20, 2017
Students in introductory philosophy courses bring with them varied preconceptions about philosophy and its place in their education and their lives. Rather than assuming we all agree on what it is we are doing when we do philosophy, it can be effective to problematize the discussion from the start. Plato’s Apology of Socrates is a useful tool for this. While interpreted by some philosophers as not particularly philosophical, recent approaches by Sellars and Peterson suggest that the Apology is rich with philosophy. Here Plato’s Socrates reveals much about himself and his own understanding of the love of wisdom. By engaging in a process of mutual disclosure and active discovery of what matters to Socrates, we give students an excellent opportunity to find philosophy for themselves. As a result, students not only retain an understanding of key themes from Plato but also develop skills and attitudes well-suited to life-long philosophical engagement.
April 19, 2017
Audrey L. Anton
Teaching Plato’s Cave through Your Students’ Past Experiences
first published on April 19, 2017
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is both a staple in the philosopher’s diet and the lesson that is often difficult to digest. In this paper, I describe one way to teach the Sun, Line, and Cave analogies in reference to students’ personal past experiences. After first learning about Plato’s metaphysics and epistemology through reading Republic VI-VII, students are asked to reflect upon a time in their lives when they emerged from a particular “cave of ignorance.” In reflecting on this experience, students are encouraged to consider how each aspect of the line analogy might be represented in their own experience. Students also consider the epistemological experience turning towards that which is more real. In so doing, students gain a deeper understanding of these lessons by connecting new, abstract, and difficult information (Plato’s Theory of Forms) to information that is so familiar, it is remembered and not merely imagined. Putting Plato’s theories into the context of their own learning experiences facilitates students’ comprehension of the different levels of being and cognition, their interrelation, and the psychological process of increasing understanding.
April 18, 2017
Definitions vs. Ideals
Beyond the Standard Interpretation of the Forms
first published on April 18, 2017
Traditional pedagogical approaches to the Platonic forms pose problems that can be best addressed by presenting students two rival interpretations: one that understands the forms in terms of definitions, and another in terms of ideals. The second, if not the first interpretation, models, for students of even a relativistic stripe, how one can conceive the existence of thought-objects about which no consensus exists. It also serves to illustrate how knowledge of such thought-objects may be attained nonetheless. This approach is to be preferred, therefore, to traditional approaches that tend to reinforce, rather than counteract, relativism in students.
José A. Haro
Teaching the Trial and Death of Socrates
first published on April 18, 2017
This paper discusses an assignment used to teach the trial and death of Socrates that asks each student to give a tour for someone of personal significance (a partner, family member, friend, loved one, etc.) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view and discuss two pieces of art about Socrates. The overall aim of the task is for the students to engage the texts and conceptual material and emulate philosophical practice outside of class and in public. The paper focuses on preparing the students to partake in such an endeavor, laying out a historically contextual approach to the study of Socrates, the varied texts that are used, as well as the general pedagogical framework employed. More importantly, the paper explores how one might adapt the assignment to their particular classroom.
April 15, 2017
Rebecca G. Scott
Learning to Love Wisdom
Teaching Plato's Symposium to Introductory Students
first published on April 15, 2017
In this essay, I examine how Plato’s Symposium can be helpful for teachers who are interested in encouraging introductory students to develop a sense of wonder in their early encounters with philosophical texts. Plato’s work is helpful, I argue, in two ways. First, as teachers of philosophy, the Symposium contains important pedagogical lessons for us about the roles of creativity and affectivity in philosophical pedagogy. Second, the dialogue lends itself well to the pedagogical methods that Plato’s work recommends. That is, the Symposium invites students to engage with it in ways that involve them as affective and creative learners. I begin by providing the theoretical basis for my pedagogical approach, which is inspired by phenomenology. Next, I offer my interpretation of the Symposium, indicating what we can learn from the text about how to teach philosophy. And finally, I describe three classroom activities based on Plato’s text that are aimed at accomplishing the pedagogical ends I have outlined.
April 14, 2017
Patrick Lee Miller
Leaving Plato’s Cave
first published on April 14, 2017
In Republic, Plato presents a pedagogy whose crucial component is the conversion of the student’s soul. This is clearest in the Allegory of the Cave, where the prisoner (the student) begins her liberation (her education) by turning herself away from the images on the wall. Conversion is not something we professors typically seek to provoke in a philosophy course, even when we teach Plato. But if this were our goal, what could we do to achieve it within the limits of the modern university? I present one such effort, a paper that uses the Allegory to focus on two questions: who are you (your self), and how did you become that way (your education)? After presenting both the prompt and its rationale, I summarize six student submissions and discuss how I evaluated them. I conclude by considering the risks and possibilities of addressing the whole soul and not simply the intellect.
February 4, 2017
Robert Colter, Joseph Ulatowski
Social Dexterity in Inquity and Argumentation
An Apologia of Socrates
first published on February 4, 2017
While Euthyphro and Apology are widely taught, they do not offer a complete picture of the variety of ways in which Socrates interacts with his interlocutors in Plato’s dialogues. Perhaps the most important point we wish to bring home is that most, if not all, of Socrates’ discussions are carefully calibrated according to a certain social awareness. Through careful analysis of sections of the dialogues, we argue that aspects of discussions between Socrates and his interlocutors should serve as lessons for students and instructors. Students should see that learning to philosophize is a matter of skill development, Instructors should see that one ought to be cognizant of students’ abilities, as well as other relevant information. The upshot of paying attention to Socrates’ interactions is to augment instructors’ and students’ understanding, facilitating the cultivation and development of philosophical skills.
January 18, 2017
Critical Thinking in Higher Education, and Following the Arguments with Plato's Socrates
first published on January 18, 2017
In spite of his reputations as an impractical skeptic or dogmatic idealist, Plato’s Socrates is often an impressive example of a critical thinker, and we can use Plato’s dialogues to promote such skills in the college classroom. This essay summarizes recent institutional motivations for promoting critical thinking in a student-centered, active-learning pedagogy; compares Plato’s core model of education and fundamental rationale for it; shares an essay–presentation–discussion assignment that serves those modern and ancient goals; and discusses how this flexible type of assignment is especially well suited for Plato’s dialogues, serving students and teachers in a Socratic manner. The first two sections thus situate Plato’s dialogues in relation to the heart of critical thinking in higher education generally. The later sections and Appendix explain a way to “follow the arguments” with Socrates that’s informed both by recent best practices and by much of what we see in Plato’s dialogues.
October 7, 2015
Teaching the PARC System of Natural Deduction
first published on October 7, 2015
PARC is an "appended numeral" system of natural deduction that I learned as an undergraduate and have taught for many years. Despite its considerable pedagogical strengths, PARC appears to have never been published. The system features explicit "tracking" of premises and assumptions throughout a derivation, the collapsing of indirect proofs into conditional proofs, and a very simple set of quantificational rules without the long list of exceptions that bedevil students learning existential instantiation and universal generalization. The system can be used with any Copi-style set of inference rules, so it is quite adaptable to many mainstream symbolic logic textbooks. Consequently, PARC may be especially attractive to logic teachers who find Jaskowski/Gentzen-style introduction/elimination rules to be far less "natural" than Copi-style rules. The PARC system is also keyboard-friendly in comparison to the widely adopted Jaskowski-style graphical subproof system of natural deduction, viz., Fitch diagrams and Copi "bent arrow" diagrams.
Power-Sharing in the Philosophy Classroom
Prospects and Pitfalls
first published on October 7, 2015
Many of our students learn to approach their college education as yet another system of external control that places authority and decision-making power in the hands of others. This attitude carries consequences for young people’s growth as independent learners, critical thinkers, and participants in democratic community, which in turn has repercussions on personal, professional and political agency. One of the chief benefits to power-sharing in the philosophy classroom is that it disrupts students’ sense of passive complicity in their own schooling. However, as I explore in this essay, there are many ways we can fail as instructors to create deeply engaging scenarios in our classrooms, not least in part because our methods and manner can unintentionally and subtly continue to encourage student passivity. Drawing on insights emerging from my own experience with classroom power-sharing, in this essay I will both examine the value of classroom power-sharing activities as well as offer ideas for implementing them responsively and effectively in a standard college setting, with particular emphasis on the philosophy classroom.
October 6, 2015
On the Value of a Newspaper-Centered Philosophy Seminar
first published on October 6, 2015
For the last several years I have made the daily newspaper the pedagogical center piece of my philosophy seminar. This essay begins by describing the variations, themes, and logistics of this approach. The essay then offers several arguments in support of the value of this approach. The first argument references measurable indicators of success. A second argument contends that by “going live” with philosophical concepts, the newspaper-centered approach is uniquely well-positioned to motivate and excite the philosophy student. A third argument claims that the newspaper-centered approach is well-positioned to construct an individualized bridge between the student and the world of philosophy.
Andrew M. Winters
Some Benefits of Getting It Wrong
Guided Unsuccessful Retrievals and Long-Term Understanding
first published on October 6, 2015
What might be called the “common approach” to teaching incorporates traditional retrieval exercises, such as tests and quizzes, as tools for evaluating retention. Given our course goals, many educators would recognize that the emphasis on retention is problematic. In addition to understanding information in the short-term, long-term understanding is also desirable. In this paper, I advocate for a new use of quizzes in philosophy courses that is intentionally designed to enhance long-term understanding of course material as well as to develop skills that are applicable outside academic settings. These skills include learning to confront problems that do not have obvious solutions and revise beliefs in light of new information. I will specifically consider three iterations involved in developing this method.
October 3, 2015
Defining and Evaluating Student Participation
first published on October 3, 2015
In this article, I will show that a general and inclusive model for participation is one that includes: (1) explaining to students what participation is; (2) explaining why it is important to participate; (3) providing a list of modes of participation; and (4) methods for encouraging students to identify and pursue the modes that suit their individual needs and circumstances. The article concludes by outlining a self-assessment assignment for evaluating course participation that satisfies this model.
October 2, 2015
Kimberly Van Orman
Teaching Philosophy with Team-Based Learning
first published on October 2, 2015
Team-Based Learning is a comprehensive approach to using groups purposefully and effectively. Because of its focus on decision making, it is well suited to helping students learn to do philosophy and not simply talk about it. Much like the “flipped classroom” approach, it is structured so that students are held responsible for “covering content” through the reading outside of class so that class meeting times can be spent practicing philosophical decisions, allowing for frequent feedback from the professor. This chapter discusses how TBL works in Philosophy, the elements of a TBL course including activity design (which can be adapted to non-TBL courses), and how TBL avoids the known problems of group work. The appendix contains examples of TBL activities in philosophy courses.
Teaching and Learning Philosophy in the Open
first published on October 2, 2015
Many teachers appreciate discussing teaching and learning with others, and participating in a community of others who are also excited about pedagogy. Many philosophy teachers find meetings such as the biannual AAPT workshop extremely valuable for this reason. But in between face-to-face meetings such as those, we can still participate in a community of teachers and learners, and even expand its borders quite widely, by engaging in activities under the general rubric of “open education.” Open education can mean many things, from sharing one’s teaching materials openly with others, to using and revising those created by others, to asking students to create open educational materials, and more. In this article I discuss the benefits and possible drawbacks of such activities, and I argue that the former outweigh the latter.
October 1, 2015
Developing Hands-On Learning Activities for Philosophy Courses
first published on October 1, 2015
Although philosophy courses are not known for hands-on learning activities in which students use, manipulate, or touch objects with their hands, there are simple hands-on activities that teachers can use to liven up their classrooms and foster active learning. In this paper I describe four activities I developed to attempt to improve student learning: GoldiLocke and the Three Buckets, The Argument From Disagreement Box, The Trolley Problem Reenactment, and The Lego Man of Theseus. I argue that such activities are effective for two main reasons: (1) they are fun; and (2) they involve embodied learning. Finally, I offer some advice for developing hands-on learning activities for philosophy courses and share some of the ideas generated by session participants when I presented this material at the American Association of Philosophy Teachers (AAPT) Twentieth Biennial Workshop/Conference.
Paul G. Neiman, Linda V. Neiman
Engaging Students in Philosophy Texts
first published on October 1, 2015
One of the most common and frustrating experiences for philosophy instructors is teaching students who have not read the assigned text prior to coming to class. This chapter proposes three specific strategies, supported by the literature on student learning, that encourages and enables students to read and understand assigned texts. Each strategy activates students’ prior knowledge, sets a purpose to read and uses novelty to engage students’ attention. Evidence from experience with these strategies is provided to further support their effectiveness. The chapter concludes with examples of how strategies can be presented to students and templates that instructors can use to create their own strategies for use in any class or assigned text.
Trading in Values
Disagreement and Rationality in Teaching
first published on October 1, 2015
Should we teach from a value-neutral position or should we disclose our positions when in the classroom? How should we approach disciplinary values, commitments, and procedures? Recent work in the epistemology of disagreement could have a profound impact on our response to these questions. While some contemporary epistemologists argue that it is possible to have rational disagreement between epistemic peers (Kelly, van Inwagen), many argue that such disagreement is indicative of a lack of rationality for one or both parties (Kornblith, Feldman, Christensen, Elga). Yet, if there is something inherently irrational about peer disagreement—even amongst philosophers, then our pedagogical approaches will need to undergo significant revision.
J. Alden Stout, Chris Weigel
Psychological Influences on Philosophical Questions
Implications for Pedagogy
first published on October 1, 2015
Discoveries in social psychology pose important questions for philosophical pedagogy. For example, social psychologists have identified several error-producing biases that are commonly impediments to critical thinking. Recent evidence suggests that the most effective way of improving students’ critical thinking is to address these biases explicitly and metacognitively. Biases that produce errors in thinking are not the only psychological features relevant to philosophical pedagogy. Additionally, experimental philosophers have applied the methods of social psychology to uncover various influences on philosophical intuitions. This research may naturally lead an instructor to wonder if research in experimental philosophy ought to change our teaching methods. We argue that the discoveries of experimental philosophy need not change pedagogies that use a Socratic methodology. We provide paradigmatic examples of pedagogical techniques that justify different approaches that include the insights of social psychology and meet generally accepted outcomes for introductory philosophy courses.
September 29, 2015
Philosophical Practice in the Classroom, or, How I Kill Zombies for a Living
first published on September 29, 2015
After a brief introduction to Philosophical Practice, I explain why I use it in my courses and elaborate on some of the material and techniques I present to students in the hope that it helps them to become better-adjusted and happier people. As an example of the sorts of assignments I create for these courses I present a semester-long assignment called “Everyday Philosophical Practice” that is based on the practice of mindfulness (with a bit of motivational interviewing thrown in) and requires intentional metacognition from the students. This approach has shown success not only at helping students to gain self-knowledge, but also at awakening and strengthening different positive cognitive dispositions such as desiring to think about difficult things, acceptance of the need for effort in clarifying thought, and the like.
September 25, 2015
Thinking Critically about Disability in Biomedical Ethics Courses
first published on September 25, 2015
Several studies have shown that nondisabled people—especially healthcare professionals—tend to judge the quality of life of disabled people to be much lower than disabled people themselves report. In part, this is due to dominant narratives about disability. Teachers of biomedical ethics courses have the opportunity to help students to think critically about disability. This may involve interrogating our own assumptions, given the pervasiveness of ableism. This article is intended to facilitate reflection on narratives about disability. After discussing two readings that illustrate the medical and social models of disability, I share my own approach to teaching on disability in my biomedical ethics course. I include student responses to the readings and ways that they report their thinking about disability changed through engagement with the medical and social models.
September 24, 2015
How to Motivate Students
A Primer for Learner-Centered Teachers
first published on September 24, 2015
Learner-centered pedagogy defines successful teaching in terms of student learning—and a necessary condition of learning is the motivation to learn. The purpose of this paper is to provide learner-centered teachers with the basic information they need in order to be able to successfully motivate their students. In particular, I focus on three beliefs that are important to students’ motivation to learn: (1) beliefs about the subjective value of the learning goals; (2) beliefs about their ability to achieve these goals; (3) beliefs about how well their learning environment supports their learning. I provide concrete suggestions about how we can strengthen these beliefs to increase student motivation. One important implication of the relevant research is that the traditional motivator—the desire for good grades—can be relatively ineffective and, in fact, counterproductive.
Updating Syllabi, Reimagining Assignments, and Embracing Error
Strategies for Retaining Marginalized Students in Philosophy
first published on September 24, 2015
One of the significant problems for philosophy’s development into a more diverse discipline is the familiar sharp reduction in the proportion of women and students of color after initial, introductory-level courses. This contributes to a lack in the breadth of perspective and experience that both upper-level students and faculty bring to philosophy, which in turn undermines the strength of the discipline as a whole. Much of the transformation of philosophy must necessarily happen at the departmental, and even university, level; but there are, nonetheless, a number of strategies available to individual teachers of philosophy to help to retain marginalized students—from the composition of course syllabi and assignment choices, to increased awareness of challenges within the discipline to students’ success and embracing error as a learning tool. This variety of pedagogical tools provides a means to help to make philosophy more broadly inclusive.