Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Newest issue of Teaching Philosophy

Here she is, in all its summertime glory: Teaching Philosophy, vol. 37, no. 3:

(A reminder: The journal is always looking for excellent contributions on the scholarship of teaching and learning. Submit your manuscript here!)


Vanessa Carbonell
The purpose of this essay is to make the case that the ethical issues raised by the current U.S. practice of direct-to-consumer (DTC) prescription drug advertising are worthy of study in philosophy courses, and to provide instructors with some ideas for how they might approach teaching the topic, despite the current relative scarcity of philosophical literature published on it. This topic presents a unique opportunity to cover ground in ethics, critical thinking, and scientific literacy simultaneously. As a case study, the practice of DTC advertising is both theoretically rich and universally relevant to students’ lives. The nature of these ads—numerous, diverse, visually and thematically entertaining—makes them delicious fodder for in-class activities, small group work, discussion-based learning, creative projects, and customizable essay topics. I offer a set of suggestions for approaching the study of DTC drug ads that is informed by my own experience doing so in bioethics courses. Ultimately, including this topic on your syllabus not only contributes to students’ philosophical skills and knowledge, but also helps them become better informed as citizens and potential “consumers” of health care.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Is it possible to give too much feedback?

Recently, in the course of a presentation I was giving, I made a statement that is evidently controversial:
Many conscientious instructors give too much feedback to students on their work.

(I'm thinking mainly about student essays here.) Several audience members were taken aback (and this post at Philosophers' Cocoon suggests that at least some philosophers share such sentiments). But in my own defense, here's my rationale.

Monday, June 9, 2014

A non-policy electronic device policy?

The evidence that (a) we simply cannot multitask, and (b) in-class electronic devices probably hurt students as learners more than they help them, continues to mount. This is an issue we've addressed before. What options are there besides an outright ban on devices? One position: "it's you're funeral". Some require students to post their electronic notes. Others try to turn the technology to their advantage, allowing students to send questions electronically.

I'd like to share what I tried this term (and which seemed to work, based on my unsystematic observation):

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Chance to Try Again

This semester I asked students in my classes to give presentations on their papers. I've been very generous in grading these presentations. And I realized that part of the reason I was being so generous was because I was only giving them a chance to present once. In the past, when I've had students present I give them a chance to do it twice and I am much more critical in my grading. This made me think that I operate under the following grading policy: Only grade a particular assignment harshly if students had a chance to try that kind of assignment before. So, for example, if you are going to grade papers harshly, then you should have more than one paper due a term (or a draft in which you give them comments) so students can learn from the mistakes they make the first time around. Thoughts? 

[Edited: The original post didn't quite capture what I meant. Thanks to Sarah Paul for pointing this out.]

Monday, April 14, 2014

2014 Lenssen Prize winners

Let's extend congratulations to Ann Cahill and Stephen Bloch-Schulman. Their article, "Argumentation step-by-step: Learning critical thinking through deliberative practice," Teaching Philosophy v. 35, no. 1 (2012), pp. 41-62 is the winner of the biennial Lenssen Prize for the best article on the teaching of philosophy. Congratulations to Ann and Stephen!

Goldstein on philosophy and the humanites

Over in the Chronicle of Higher Ed,Rebecca Newberger Goldstein seems to share some of my reservations about philosophy being classified within the humanities. She offers a compelling diagnosis: Philosophy seems caught between two academic epistemologies. One, modeled on literature, is the investigation of our "inner lives." The other, modeled on science, seeks laws of nature. Goldstein advocates for a Sellarsian alternative: Philosophy makes progress by making our image of ourselves and our world more consistent or coherent. It's definitely a piece worth reading — and I'm glad to see more people questioning philosophy's place in the humanities.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New articles in Teaching Philosophy

New articles, from v. 37, no. 2, of Teaching Philosophy are now online. Abstracts below:


Forrest Perry
This paper describes a project I have my students do that is based on parallels between the position Socrates describes himself as being in when addressing the charge that he corrupts the youth of Athens and the position critics of capitalism in the U.S. are in when they try to make the case that capitalism is a deeply flawed system that needs to be transformed into something better. For the project, students are asked to give to three audiences of their own choosing a presentation in which they argue against capitalism. The main aim of the project is to help students to appreciate that although the unexamined life may not be worth living, living an examined life can be difficult to do since it can feel a little like dying.

Christopher A. Pynes
Overwhelmingly, students desire the opportunity to earn extra credit because they want higher grades, and many professors offer extra credit because they want to motivate students. In this paper, I define the purposes of both grading and extra credit and offer three traditional arguments for making extra credit assignments available. I follow with seven arguments against the use of extra credit that include unnecessary extra work, grade inflation, and ultimately paradox. I finish with an example of a case where extra credit could be justified, although it relies on an important equivocation. Ultimately, I show that extra credit is neither a pedagogically sound nor a conceptually coherent grading practice, and I conclude that extra credit should not be part of the pedagogical toolbox.

Sinclair A. MacRae
The Cooperation Game
In this paper I explain how to play and administer a game that helps teach students a lesson about the value of cooperation and the role of ethics and the law in obtaining the conditions under which cooperation is reasonable. I also discuss several applications of this Cooperation Game, primarily in courses in social and political philosophy, introductory ethics, and the philosophy of law. The game can usefully be played with a range of groups of students from small tutorial sections to large sections over one hundred, and the game and post-game analysis can be completed in one or two classes.

Elizabeth Schiltz
This article articulates a range of possible pedagogical goals for courses in comparative philosophy, and discusses a number of methods and strategies for teaching courses intended to achieve those ends. Ultimately, it argues that the assignment to teach comparative philosophy represents an opportunity to design a course with remarkable freedom and tremendous potential. Comparative philosophy courses can engage students in unique ways that not only increase their understanding of the fundamental assumptions and beliefs of non-Western traditions, but also facilitate the development of the skills and dispositions that enable them to become better philosophers.