Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The point(s) of getting students to talk

Most philosophy instructors think that in-class (or online) discussion is vital to philosophy education. Philosophy is a discursive inquiry, so how could students possibly become skilled at it without discussing philosophical positions and arguments?

At the same time, though, discussion is a frustrating component of teaching, as our previous discussions of discussion suggest. For one, it can be hard just to get discussion going. Second, it's a genuine challenge to figure out how to make discussion a worthwhile learning experience. Presumably discussion is not an end in itself: We're trying to teach students something via discussion. But what is it, and how do we teach it?

Monday, July 9, 2012

A reminder: ISW for Kindle

For the tech-savvy: You can subscribe to In Socrates' Wake for your Kindle here. As best I can tell, a couple of dozen of you have done so -- I'd be interested to know you like it!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

No sympathy for those devils?

Like all of us, science professor Steven Dutch can get cranky when he hears the lines students use for which he has no sympathy. It's a roster of the fairly usual suspects: this course covered too much material, "but I studied for hours," I should get a B for coming to class, etc.

But two of the student lines he listed —Do I need to know this? and This course wasn't relevant —don't strike me as just 'making excuses'. I'm even a bit sympathetic to them!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Should we teach writing?

We’ve just finished a round of assessment of our Introduction to Philosophy course that involved going through a large random sample of papers from 10 or so sections mostly taught by our great adjuncts. We examined each paper using rubrics for writing skills, critical thinking skills, and information literacy. Those are the three skill sets that the General Education requirement expects our course to advance. As expected, we found that though students were apt at summarizing the reading, understanding and focusing on the philosophical issue at stake, they needed a lot of help writing a critical paper that defends a thesis. It also became clear to us that instructors often didn’t explicitly require that students take a position and defend it in a paper.