A reader asks:
Just yesterday I started teaching a summer course on early modern. We read Descartes, Spinoza, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant (with a few others mixed in here and there). The problem is, there are only six students. And we meet for two hours and fifteen minutes each day, five days a week. My experience with modern has been that the default class is the lecture, with an active back and forth mixed in throughout. I don't think this is ideal generally, but more importantly, I think it could lead to a very dull next four weeks. Do you have any advice on how to make a small history course (designed for first-timers) more interesting? Any help would be appreciated.
Anyone have any ideas here? My experience echoes the writer's. In history of philosophy courses, the central goals (textual exposition, grasping the main doctrines and arguments, etc.) are challenging on their own, so students have to lean heavily on instructor expertise. As a result, the 'punctuated lecture' tends to emerge as the default format. What might be some techniques to shake things up and keep the classroom experience fresh and lively?