First, we briefly familiarize the reader with the emerging field of “experimental philosophy,” in which philosophers use empirical methods, rather than armchair speculation, to ascertain laypersons’ intuitions about philosophical issues. Second, we discuss how the surveys used by experimental philosophers can serve as valuable pedagogical tools for teachingphilosophy—independently of whether one believes surveying laypersons is an illuminating approach to doing philosophy. Giving students surveys that contain questions and thought experiments from philosophical debates gets them to (...) actively engage with the material and paves the way for more fruitful and impassioned classroom discussion. We offer some suggestions for how to use surveys in the classroom and provide an appendix that contains some examples of scenarios teachers could use in their courses. (shrink)
This paper is about teachingphilosophy to high school students through Lincoln-Douglas (LD) debate. LD, also known as “values debate,” includes topics from ethics and political philosophy. Thousands of high school students across the U.S. debate these topics in class, after school, and at weekend tournaments. We argue that LD is a particularly effective tool for teachingphilosophy, but also that LD today falls short of its potential. We argue that the problems with LD are (...) not inevitable, and we offer strategic recommendations for improving LD as a tool for teachingphilosophy. Ultimately, our aim is to create a dialogue between LD and academic philosophy, with the hope that such dialogue will improve LD’s capacity to teach students how to do philosophy. (shrink)
A growing body of research suggests that students achieve learning outcomes at higher rates when instructors use active-learning methods rather than standard modes of instruction. To investigate how one such method might be used to teach philosophy, we observed two classes that employed Reacting to the Past, an educational role-immersion game. We chose to investigate Reacting because role-immersion games are considered a particularly effective active-learning strategy. Professors who have used Reacting to teach history, interdisciplinary humanities, and political theory agree (...) that it engages students and teaches general skills like collaboration and communication. We investigated whether it can be effective for teaching philosophical content and skills like analyzing, evaluating, crafting, and communicating arguments in addition to bringing the more general benefits of active learning to philosophy classrooms. Overall, we find Reacting to be a useful tool for achieving these ends. While we do not argue that Reacting is uniquely useful for teachingphilosophy, we conclude that it is worthy of consideration by philosophers interested in creative active-learning strategies, especially given that it offers a prepackaged set of flexible, user-friendly tools for motivating and engaging students. (shrink)
Philosophy and joke telling do not share the same pedigree, but both can have an allied function and purpose. Philosophy and joke telling can help us to organize, interpret, possibly understand, or, at least, hopefully face and confront the fundamental issues of existence.Let me be more precise about what I mean by using humor and jokes in teachingphilosophy. Humor, joke telling, can serve as a narrative playlet to metaphorically illuminate a complex philosophical concept. However, every (...) class should not simply be played for laughs and comedic effect. Rather, through the judicious use of joke telling, the instructor needs to create an atmosphere of “respectful playfulness” which allows students an opportunity to comfortably address some of the complexities, confusions, and conundrums of the human condition. (shrink)
This article assesses undergraduate teaching students’ assertion that there are no right and wrong answers in teachingphilosophy. When asked questions about their experiences of philosophy in the classroom for primary children, their unanimous declaration that teachingphilosophy has ‘no right and wrong answers’ is critically examined across the three sub-disciplinary areas to which they were generally referring, namely, pedagogy, ethics, and epistemology. From a pedagogical point of view, it is argued that some teaching (...) approaches may indeed be more effective than others, and some pupils’ opinions less defensible, but pedagogically, in terms of managing the power relations in the classroom, it is counter-productive to continually insist on notions of truth and falsity at every point. From an ethical point of view, it is contended that anti-realist approaches to meta-ethics may represent a viable intellectual position, but from the point of view of normative ethics, notions of right and wrong still retain significant currency. From an epistemological point of view, it is argued using Karl Popper’s work that while it may be difficult to determine what constitutes a right answer, determining a wrong one is far more straightforward. In conclusion, it is clear that prospective teachers engaging in philosophy in the classroom, and also future teachers in general, require a far more nuanced philosophical understanding of the notions of right and wrong and truth and falsity. In view of this situation, if we wish to promote the effective teaching of philosophical thinking to children, or produce educators who can understand the conceptual limits of the claims they make and their very real and often serious practical and social consequences, it is recommended that philosophy be reinstated to a fundamental, foundational place within the pre-service teaching curriculum. (shrink)
This paper addresses the problem of the perceived irrelevance of philosophy to undergraduate students and advances a pedagogical strategy for making philosophy relevant. Teachingphilosophy as the pursuit of life as meaningful, that is, as a life skill, frames philosophy as a relevant study of significant benefit to them. The overall goal of a course which approaches philosophy this way is to develop a “creative aptitude” in students. Thus, students do not learn philosophical lessons (...) by wrote, but rather, like apprentices, learn to personally incorporate the critical tools of philosophy and treat philosophy as a “life craft.” The author details the pedagogical techniques that make such a course possible and concludes this paper by briefly detailing some student feedback on a course of this nature. (shrink)
Standard approaches to teachingphilosophy tend to focus on teaching aspects of philosophy that are important to doing professional philosophy. This paper suggests an alternative to this approach by preparing college students to teach philosophy to elementary school children. After arguing that classics in children’s literature ought to be the primary vehicle for initiating philosophical discussion in elementary school children, an upper-level seminar for undergraduates at Mount Holyoke College that takes this alternative approach is (...) described. Finally, the paper evaluates this alternative approach, contending that this method is more effective than the traditional approach due to the fact that it provides a multi-dimensional learning experience for college-level students. (shrink)
This paper reviews goals, content materials, and other essential elements of a new, experimental philosophy course on the built environment of cities now being developed in Buffalo, New York. Applying traditional philosophical methods, the course adds experiential components and expands philosophy’s scope in ways that promote deep learning about the city. A model unit on the work of Frederick Law Olmsted receives special attention here, as Olmsted’s work in Buffalo and elsewhere invites philosophical treatment—analysis, critical examination, and so (...) on—from scholars, students, and city residents alike. We shall see that the distinctive character of philosophy can encourage teaching in new areas where philosophical study might promote learning and understanding, thus inspiring curricular innovation and a wide range of powerful student learning experiences. (shrink)
In recent years, universities throughout the People’s Republic of China have begun actively seeking foreign professors to work full-time in their philosophy departments. This, coupled with the decrease in the number of job openings in philosophy across western Europe and North America, might very well lead to a sharp rise in the number of foreign faculty members in philosophy departments across mainland China. In this article I will outline three of the major difficulties facing philosophy teachers (...) who have little or no experience in the Chinese education system, and provide suggestions for dealing with them. The first two are general and apply to a broad range of courses; namely, initiating class discussion and teaching students how to understand philosophical arguments. The third is specifically related to those who teach or engage with Chinese thought. These professors should be prepared to encounter a surmountable but pronounced skepticism among many Chinese students against the ability of foreigners to truly comprehend Chinese philosophy. (shrink)
This paper outlines a strategy for teaching an Introduction to Philosophy anthology. The author argues that students in introductory philosophy courses are unable to comprehend primary sources in philosophy anthologies because of the distance and foreignness of the text. A course relying on lectures as the primary mode of engagement with texts results in mere exposition and does not facilitate a critical engagement with primary texts for students. The author suggests that teachers in introductory courses should (...) integrate weekly and monthly writing assignments into the curriculum to help facilitate a critical engagement with primary texts. The writing assignments provide students with constant feedback on their own thoughts and allow educators to assess how well students read and comprehend primary sources before the course lectures. The writing assignments also encourage more classroom discussion because students are able to think through their objections and critiques and to feel more comfortable talking in class. (shrink)
Student participation is essential to philosophy since dialogue is at the center of philosophical activity: it provides students an opportunity to articulate their philosophical ideas, it helps them connect philosophy to their practical experience, it serves as an opportunity for instructors to take an interest in their students’ views, and it promotes intellectual virtues like courage and honesty. However, lectures can serve many of the same functions, albeit in different ways, e.g. a lecturer can engage other historical philosophers (...) so as to illustrate various dialogues in the history of philosophy. This paper argues that both student participation via dialogue and traditional lecturing play important roles in university education and attempts to offer guidance on how to strike a balance between lecture-driven and student-driven instruction. (shrink)
Second Life is a free, three-dimensional, multi-user, online virtual world program created in 2003 by Linden Research Inc. In this paper, I recount the Introduction to Philosophy course I taught in Second Life for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and address five areas of interest: (1) traditional vs. non-traditional learning environments, (2) communication, (3) illustrative props, (4) student feedback, and (5) and potential concerns. My conclusion is that philosophy courses can be taught online in Second Life effectively and that (...)philosophy instructors need to be more aware of the educational possibilities of Second Life as education becomes increasingly more digital. (shrink)
In this article I describe my experience teaching a moral problems course to first-year students within a Learning Community model. I begin with the learning goals and the mechanics of both my Learning Community and my moral problems course. I then focus on the experiential learning requirement of my Learning Community which is based on a field trip model instead of a service learning model. I describe how two field trips in particular—one to an Arab American community in Brooklyn, (...) New York, and the other to a Black American community in West Harlem, New York—primed my students to more effectively engage in philosophical discussions about terrorism, war, and affirmative action. I conclude that experiential learning on a field trip model helped my students to have more sophisticated conversations about complex and emotionally charged moral issues. (shrink)
Our knowledge of how the mind works is growing rapidly. One area of particular interest to philosophy teachers is research on reasoning and decision making processes. I explore one model of human cognition that offers new ways of thinking about how to teach philosophical skills. The bulk of the paper is dedicated to exposition of the model and the evidence that supports it; at the end of the paper, I suggest ways these findings might be incorporated into the classroom.
The author presents an updated version of J.B. Conant's vision of the inclusion of hands-on experiences and self-contained historical case studies in introductory philosophy of science course. The experiential component is often neglected in philosophy of science courses. Students are usually given scientific facts, concepts, and practices as their formal introduction to the material, which prohibits them from engaging with the question of the nature of science in general. Student finish courses without adequate experience of the concepts or (...) objects that are essential for understanding the philosophical foundations of science. This paper outlines a series of pedagogical tools that highlight vital experiential components of the scientific enterprise, such as an emphasis on observation and the problem solving and creative aspects of scientific inquiry. The author contends that these components help confront common misconceptions on the nature of science which many students hold in introductory philosophy of science courses. These tools also help students engage with the scientific literature and incite discussion among students. (shrink)
This paper offers a number of tips for teaching small philosophy classes (under twenty-five students). Some of these include using a horseshoe seating arrangement, replacing hand-raising with name cards, engaging in “real” Socratic dialogues, having students create a philosophical “Question of the Day”, and assigning students “Critical Response” papers.
This paper examines the pedagogical values inherent in various traditions of philosophy education, from the ancient Greeks to current practices in Ontario high schools, and asks whether our current educational practices are imparting the philosophical values we wish to bestow upon our learners. I compare the approaches of Socrates, Descartes, and Dewey on the nature of philosophy and the pedagogical frameworks they defend for transmitting the “spirit” of philosophy, and then examine the Ontario curriculum guidelines for the (...)teaching of philosophy. In past philosophical traditions, dynamic growth, free questioning, and social responsibility are considered essential to the practice of philosophy. Certain factors in today’s educational institutions limit students’ abilities to achieve those values, although the appeal to these values is the same. I end with recommendations for amendments to the Ontario curriculum expectations that would help put the philosophical development of the individual student more clearly at the centre of these guidelines. (shrink)
I propose to consider chapter 1 of the famous, classic, and foundational Daoist text Dao De Jing, attributed to Laozi, in order to enable a non-expert to negotiate the subject of Daoism in a global philosophy context, and to further enhance the teaching of philosophy by introducing and emphasizing at least some of the controversies that inevitably surround interpretation of a classical set of texts and ideas. This forces students to see through simplistic dichotomies and form subtler (...) conclusions, on their own, and I suggest that this is what the teaching of philosophy should always involve, to be considered philosophy. (shrink)
A number of colleges and universities offer writing intensive courses that emphasize writing as a primary means of learning. This paper presents an approach to teaching undergraduate philosophy courses that makes an effective use of writing as a means to teach students philosophy. The paper begins by discussing the aims and requirements of writing intensive philosophy courses and the nature of philosophical writing. In addition, five course activities are discussed along with a summary of the work (...) required by both the student and the instructor. (shrink)
An explanation of how to organize and teach a course in recent continental thought, including treatments of the major figures in critical theory, hermeneutics, structuralism, deconstruction, psychoanalytic feminism, poststructuralism, postcolonialism, and postmodernism. Reprint from *In the Socratic Tradition: Essays on TeachingPhilosophy*, ed. Tziporah Kasachkoff (Lanham, Md: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998).
This paper explains how to use a new software tool for argument diagramming available free on the Internet, showing especially how it can be used in the classroom to enhance critical thinking in philosophy. The user loads a text file containing an argument into a box on the computer interface, and then creates an argument diagram by dragging lines from one node to another. A key feature is the support for argumentation schemes, common patterns of defeasible reasoning historically know (...) as topics . Several examples are presented, as well as the results of an experiment in using the system with students in a university classroom. (shrink)
A large body of work in science education indicates that evolution is one of the least understood and accepted scientific theories. Although scholarship from the history and philosophy of science (HPS) has shed light on many conceptual and pedagogical issues in evolution education, HPS-informed studies of evolution education are also characterized by conceptual weaknesses. In this chapter, we critically review such studies and find that some work lacks historically accurate characterizations of student ideas (preconceptions and misconceptions). In addition, although (...) several studies in the science education literature have drawn parallels between students’ conceptual change patterns and those from the history of science (HOS), we identify several issues that complicate the characterization of student ideas as “Lamarckian” or “Darwinian.” Finally, a review of the topic of explanation illustrates how the plurality of approaches employed in evolutionary biology is not reflected in evolution education scholarship or practice. This finding is particularly concerning given the recent shift in emphasis in science education standards to teaching content through practice-based tasks (e.g., explanation and argumentation). Overall, this chapter demonstrates that while HPS is of central importance to a deep understanding of evolution education, too often its contributions are poorly realized. (shrink)