Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Seeking Participants for Problem Based Learning in Philosophy Project

Available in PDF here.

RE: Doing Philosophy in Teams.
Invitation to participate in an NEH Digital Humanities Implementation

Dr. Michael Hoffmann
Associate Professor
Director of the Philosophy Program
School of Public Policy
http://works.bepress.com/michael_hoffmann/
Email: m.hoffmann@gatech.edu

December 31, 2014

Grant proposal

Dear colleague,

I would like to invite you to participate in the writing of a grant proposal whose goal is to get funding for a three-year, $325,000 project that focuses on using web-based argument mapping software to support problem-based learning (PBL) in philosophy. PBL is learning in teams. Traditionally, PBL has one goal and two basic strategies. The goal is to stimulate and guide self-directed student learning. The first strategy is to let small groups of students collaborate autonomously, but guided by a “facilitator” or “tutor,” and the second is to confront student teams with a problem that poses a real challenge. As Allyn Walsh (2005) highlights in her tutorial, the goal “is NOT to solve the problem which has been presented. Rather, the problem is used to help students identify their own learning needs as they attempt to understand the problem, to pull together, synthesize and apply information to the problem, and to begin to work effectively to learn from group members as well as tutors.” In PBL students are supposed to acquire on their own the knowledge they need to approach the problem. Students should learn to learn.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The undergraduate seminar paper

For the first time in a long time, I have the opportunity to teach a bona fide seminar. The "seminar paper" is a pretty ubiquitous feature of that experience. But to my surprise, I've never thought very explicitly about what an undergraduate seminar paper is supposed to be. So I'm interested in how all of you have explained this to your students: What's its main rhetorical function? What's the proposed length? What are the main components?

Thanks!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Diagnosing and treating students at risk of doing badly in logic: a request.

My friend Tony Laden, who is chair at University of Illinois, Chicago, requested that I pass on the request below. It's something that I imagine most Philosophy departments have to deal with, and I hope some have useful resources: if so, this would be a good place to provide them. Here's the request:


Our department is looking for ways to help the large number of our students who struggle every term in introductory logic (failing to receive a C or better, and thus failing to satisfy the College’s quantitative reasoning requirement).  We have secured funding for an extra TA line to run extra classes or study sections etc for students who are at risk of not passing. The questions that now face us are (a) how to select the at-risk students, and (b) exactly how best the TA can help them. ACT and scores on the University’s math placement test are rather imperfect predictors of success in logic. Does anyone know of a good diagnostic test we could give students in the first week or so that is predictive of logic success? Similarly, does anyone have tested ideas on what kind of small group interventions are most effective with students struggling with logic and how to get those students to make use of that help? (Obviously we have some ideas based on our individual experiences, but would be particularly grateful for any rigorous or systematic studies or clearly successful past interventions.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Specs grading?

Curious to know if anyone out there has experimented with what Linda Nilson is calling "specs grading"? It seems to be a combination of mastery grading, a pass-fail only system, and grading that reflects accumulated knowledge. I'm intrigued and would be interested to hear directly about instructor experiences with this.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Why undergrad teaching is not a "necessary evil"

Over at Philosophers' Cocoon, Marcus Arvan expounds on how we should see undergraduate teaching as something more than a "necessary evil" we tolerate in order to engage in philosophical research. (How come no one ever says we tolerate undergrad teaching in order to do university service?!)

Marcus observes that teaching demands that we set aside jargon and get back to intellectual basics. This forces us to grasp, in a non-technical and intuitive way, what's appealing and unappealing about a philosophical position or claim: 
when teaching Kant's moral/practical philosophy, it's really easy to get sidetracked by Kant's technical terminology, etc. But, when teaching a first-year undergraduate course, getting mired in that stuff is a recipe for disaster. Students tend to tune out. In order to get them to tune in, the challenge is to explain, in the simplest and most intuitive way possible, what Kant is up to, and how his theory is philosophically motivated. - 
This 'cutting to the chase' makes us better researchers, Marcus notes.

I'm intrigued by a second point Marcus makes in defense of undergrad teaching: Undergrads, not having been heavily immersed in the discipline, don't take a problem or argument seriously simply because those in the discipline do. They have, Marcus points out, good BS detectors, and have to be won over to thinking that a position or argument merits esteem. Undergrads thus serve to keep their instructors 'grounded,' we might say, not taken to flights of intellectual fancy. That said, I'm ambivalent about this point: Sometimes this BS detector is also an immaturity meter: Students may not take an argument seriously due to ignorance (philosophical or otherwise) or philosophical inexperience. Indeed, part of our job is to help them see the force of unfamiliar or obscure points.

Why else is teaching more than a "necessary evil"? I'd add two points here: First, teaching can be a source of challenges no less compelling than those we face as philosophical researchers. As I've argued before, our profession would benefit enormously if our teaching culture were more like our research culture in certain crucial ways.

Second, there's been lots of talk about 'public philosophy', the public face of the humanities, and so on, in recent years. I'm often struck by how those who advocate for a more public role for philosophy overlook their most public role of all — their role as philosophy educators. After all, in teaching, we have a semi-captive audience with at least some willingness to be persuaded of the value of philosophy. Our students are our most important 'public,' and each time we teach, we are doing public relations for our discipline and our profession. Teaching is thus a necessary evil only if showing that philosophy is worthy of study and worthy of respect is a necessary evil too.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

EngagedPhilosophy.com: Using Civic Engagement in Philosophy Classes


EngagedPhilosophy.com: Resources for Using Civic Engagement in Philosophy Classes

EngagedPhilosophy.com, launched with a grant from the American Philosophical Association, provides tools for faculty and students to implement activist or service projects in philosophy classes. 

It includes assignment guidelines, many sample projects, student testimonials, and data supporting use of civic engagement in philosophy classes. 

Founders Ramona Ilea, Susan Hawthorne, and Monica Janzen, of Pacific University Oregon, St. Catherine University, and Hennepin Technical College, respectively, support a model of student-initiated civic engagement that encourages student agency, development of skills for citizenship, and insight into the practice and importance of philosophical reasoning. 

Why try it in your classes? In the words of one student,  
“This [project] enabled me to become impassioned in a new way, and express my realizations, insights, in a different way than an academic exercise usually allows…This forum forced me to make connections I may not have necessarily made. And I am very pleased with the outcome.”

Monday, October 6, 2014

New in Teaching Philosophy: 'Team teaching the theism-atheism debate'

Here:

Wesley D. Cray, Steven G. Brown

Team-Teaching the Atheism-Theism Debate
In this paper, we discuss a team-taught, debate-style Philosophy of Religion course we designed and taught at The Ohio State University. Rather than tackling the breadth of topics traditionally subsumed under the umbrella of Philosophy of Religion, this course focused exclusively on the nuances of the atheism-theism debate, with the instructors openly identifying as atheist or theist, respectively. After discussing the motivations for designing and teaching such a course, we go on to detail its content and structure. We then examine various challenges and hurdles we faced, as well as some benefits we encountered along the way. Next, we discuss some informal data collected from the students enrolled in the course, some of which suggest some rather surprising outcomes. We conclude with some considerations of the applicability of this style of teaching to other philosophical debates.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Teaching Philosophy seeks trustee

The Board of Trustees of the Teaching Philosophy Association, Inc. would like you to know about an opportunity to have an impact on the journal.  Teaching Philosophy Association, Inc. is the nonprofit organization that oversees the business of the journal Teaching Philosophy.  The Board is responsible for:
·         evaluation of and strategic planning for the journal;
·         authorizing and carrying out special projects;
·         appointing and providing guidance to the journal’s editors;
·         negotiating the publication contract for the journal.

Individual Trustees are required to prepare adequately for and attend annual and special meetings of the Board, and are encouraged to actively participate in activities of the journal such as serving as a reviewer, writing special columns, etc.

If you would like to join a warm and collegial group of individuals who are responsible for the premier journal devoted to the teaching of philosophy at all educational levels, please email* your teaching vita and a brief statement of interest including a description of your relation to the journal to: Nancy S. Hancock, President at hancockn@nku.edu.
*Please use Word or PDF files.

Sincerely yours,

Nancy S. Hancock, President

Teaching Philosophy Association, Inc.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Request: Do you have good resources for teaching students how to read philosophy in an intro class?

A friend just asked me if I have any good resources for teaching intro students how to read philosophy? I thought readers of ISW might know of or be able to link to good resources. I have to confess I have never taught a true intro course -- the courses I teach for students who are not already majors are not designed to attract students to the major, so I tend to think this as the only encounter with philosophy most of them will have; and most of them are juniors and seniors who, certainly at my institution, have quite different  needs from first years. However, this is timely for me because I am currently piloting a course which will, eventually, be offered as an intro-level large lecture course.

Anyway, any advice would be appreciated.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Soliciting 'How to Teach' articles

No doubt many of you have been reading the 'How to Teach' series in Teaching Philosophy, articles dedicated to how to teach a particular philosophy course. Thus far, the journal has published articles on how to teach early modern philosophy, critical thinking, and comparative philosophy. There are plans for articles on how to teach business ethics and how to teach information technology ethics.

To that end, here are some areas where we'd like to see more articles in this series:

  • philosophy of science
  • medieval philosophy
  • phenomenology and existentialism, the Continental tradition
  • feminist philosophy
  • philosophy of mind
If you'd be interested in writing such an article (on one on another commonly offered philosophy course), please contact me at mjcholbi*at*csupomona*dot*edu.

Call for Abstracts: Experiential Learning

Call for Abstracts: Central APA Panel on Experiential Learning
Organized by the APA Committee on the Teaching of Philosophy
Deadline: September 25, 2014
The American Philosophical Association (APA) Committee on the Teaching of Philosophy invites abstracts for a panel on experiential learning in philosophy to take place at the Central Division meeting of the APA, February 18-21, 2015, in St. Louis, MO.
Philosophical work has traditionally involved armchair analysis, so the institutional request to think about designing a course with an experiential learning component can serve as a challenge to philosophers. Nevertheless, many philosophy teachers are thinking creatively about ways to incorporate field experiences, independent research, lab work, experimental work, service learning, and community-based learning into their courses. Through this session, the Committee hopes to share interesting examples of such courses and consider the theoretical questions that surround this pedagogy.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Survey on graduate philosophy education

A note from David ConcepciĆ³n: Please take this survey if you are eligible. Thanks!
-------------------------------------

Colleagues,

We invite you to help us learn more about teacher training for Philosophy graduate students by taking approximately 10 minutes to complete an online survey.

The objective of this research is to determine the current state of teacher training for graduate students in the field of Philosophy. The data generated from this research should make it possible to develop recommendations regarding how, if at all, teacher training in the field of Philosophy might evolve.

To participate in this research study, you must be at least 18 years old. There are no apparent risks associated with this study. All data will be anonymous and no identifying information will be collected. Participation in this study is completely voluntary and participants are free to withdraw from the study at any time. 

If you are a current Philosophy Graduate Student or an Early Career Philosopher (PhD no earlier than August 2011), click here to go to the survey.

If you are a faculty member in a Philosophy department that has a Graduate Program, click here to go to the survey.

Early career Philosophers in a Philosophy department that has a graduate program may take both the early career and the faculty member survey.

Thank you for considering this invitation, and feel free to pass it on to others.

David W. ConcepciĆ³n
Philosophy Professor and Chair

Ball State University

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

CFP: Teaching Mistakes, Classroom Disasters, Course Challenges, Failing Lessons


Call for Abstracts: Pacific APA Panel on Teaching Mistakes, Classroom Disasters, Course Challenges, Failing Lessons

Organized by the APA Committee on the Teaching of Philosophy

Deadline: October 6, 2014

The American Philosophical Association Committee on the Teaching of Philosophy invites abstracts for a panel on teaching mistakes – or worse – at the Pacific Division meeting of the APA, April 1-5, 2015 in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

The Committee invites panel proposals on teaching mistakes you have made, disasters that have befallen you, or that you have brought on yourself, how you have responded to expected or unexpected challenges in the classroom, and what you have learned about philosophy, and teaching philosophy, from them.


Individual submissions as well as proposals for several panelists together are welcome. The Committee will strive to assemble a diverse panel, including presentations from different institutional settings, course levels, and subfields of philosophy. Please submit as an email attachment an abstract prepared for blind review, 500 word maximum, to Katheryn Doran at kdoran@hamilton.edu by October 6, 2014. Include your name, affiliation, and contact information in the body of the email. Authors can expect a decision by October 10, 2014. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at the email address above. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Intro courses specifically for majors?

My department is revamping its curriculum and is considering adding an intro course specifically for philosophy majors. (This need not be an 'intro' course on either the historical survey or topical smorgasbord model — we'd be open to a seminar for new majors, for instance.) Does anyone out there know of departments that have done this, and what the courses look like?

Thanks!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Quotable teacher, installment 21

Most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting. Most people learn best by being "with it," yet school makes them identify their personal, cognitive growth with elaborate planning and manipulation.

— Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

Monday, August 11, 2014

Call for proposals on inclusive philosophy pedagogy

The American Association of Philosophy Teachers (AAPT) and the American Philosophical Association (APA) Committee on Inclusiveness in the Profession seek proposals for 25-minute presentations to be included in two complementary joint panels to be held at the 2015 APA Central Division meeting, which will occur February 18–21 at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark in St. Louis, Missouri.
The sessions, "Inclusive Philosophy Pedagogy: What Is It and How Do We Achieve It?,” are intended both to theorize (and perhaps problematize) the very notion of inclusive philosophy pedagogy and to provide audience members with tools and resources to help them make their own philosophy pedagogy more inclusive. Thus, both theoretical and practical approaches to the theme are warmly welcomed.

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.



Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Learning by writing the question

Following up on Mike's post about essay question formats: I like to experiment with small exercises designed to encourage metacognition. One I'm going to try this term is to have students write their own essay questions.

BLOOM'S TAXONOMY
Students in my Moral Philosophy course are given a weekly essay assignment. I plan to put them in groups to brainstorm essay prompts, subject to these guidelines:

  • The prompt should relate to the week's assigned materials or topic(s). Outside research should not be required
  • It should require knowledge or understanding made available via the class (texts, in-class discussion, etc.).
  • The prompt should be answerable in 750 words or so.
  • It should require demonstration of skills at multiple levels of Bloom's taxonomy (left).

My aim is to winnow their ideas down to a few good examples and select one of these for the weekly prompt.

What's the learning value of such an exercise? First, and most obviously, it functions as a way to motivate students to review the week's material. Second, it gets them thinking about the prompt beforehand, so it comes as a bit less of a surprise.  Third, because the prompt results from collaboration among themselves and with me, students may feel a stronger sense of ownership with respect to the course. Lastly, by drawing attention to some of the higher levels in Bloom (apply, analyze, evaluate), students see that philosophical knowledge is not primarily propositional, but dispositional — it amounts to being able to do intellectually sophisticated things with information, not simply re-represent it. They may begin to see the contrast between deep and surface and learning. And it may well encourage students to study philosophy in the ways we've advocated here at ISW.

I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts both (a) about the benefits — and potential drawbacks — of such an exercise, and (b) how to maximize the learning value of exercises like this.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Essay Question Formats

I've noticed that students at the introductory level seem to have a greater tendency to fail to address one element of a multi-part essay question (usually the last part of the question). For example, I often ask them to evaluate an argument, or give and briefly defend their own view on a subject. Before the first exam I emphasize that they need to address all aspects of a question, and even if they aren't sure what they think, that they should nevertheless write something down for partial credit. Still, many fail to do so.  I've recently noticed a difference in terms of how much this occurs, based on how I format the question.

For example, I had a significant number of students neglect to answer the last part of the following question on a recent introductory ethics exam:
Explan two of the ways that military training morally harms soldiers, according to Francis Trivigno in his chapter "A Virtue Ethical Case for Pacifism." Briefly explain one objection to his view.
With respect to the following question, there was only one case of a student ignoring the last question:
From the chapter by Stan van Hooft, "Sex, Temperance, and Virtue":
  • Describe the distinct virtue he believes is important in the sexual realm of life that is overlooked by those who focus on temperance.
  • Second, which philosophical account of sex does his view reflect, and why?
  • Finally, do you think his view is correct? Briefly explain.
My working hypothesis is that they are used to having information, including questions, presented to them in bullet-point style, and so they are more likely to miss a part of the question when it is not formatted in this way. I am curious if anyone else has thoughts about this issue or their own anecdotal evidence for or against my working hypothesis. If the second format is clearer to my students, then in my context it strikes me that I should present the question in a manner that they are more likely to attend to in full.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

AAPT Call for Proposals

AAPT Call for Proposals

Eastern Division APA meeting
December 27-30, 2014
Philadelphia, PA 

The American Association of Philosophy Teachers (AAPT) invites proposals for our session at the 2014 Eastern Division APA meeting in Philadelphia, PA, December 27-30, 2014.

Proposals on any topic related to teaching philosophy will be considered. Submissions are encouraged from teachers at two-year as well as four-year colleges. The AAPT encourages proposals that are interactive and practical.

Format: The three hour session will be composed of three 45 minute presentations. It is highly unlikely that the session will have A/V technology, so plan accordingly.

Submissions: Proposals should be prepared for BLIND REVIEW, and include an abstract of no longer than 300 words, along with relevant citations and submitted in either Word or PDF to Andrew Mills (andrewpmills@gmail.com).

Deadline for proposals: May 1, 2014.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A project on graduate education in philosophy

Teaching Philosophy is eager to publish articles that address how graduate philosophy students are trained as teachers. To that end, the journal is seeking assistance in conducting a pair of surveys on this topic. The first survey, directed at graduate department chairs, graduate coordinators, etc. would gather information about the practices and methods graduate philosophy departments use to train their students as teachers. The second survey would be directed at recent Philosophy Ph.D's (2009-2013) and would ask them to evaluate how effectively the practices and methods used by their graduate departments were in preparing them to be capable teachers.

The ultimate objective of this project would be to produce an article for Teaching Philosophy that would summarize and analyze these results (and perhaps draw provisional conclusions about which practices and methods are most valuable in this regard). The journal thus seeks the help of a philosopher (or team of philosophers) willing to take on this project. We do not require expertise in survey methodology and administration, but some familiarity in this area would be necessary.

If you (or someone you know) might be suitable for this project, please contact me at mjcholbi*at*csupomona*dot*edu. Thanks so much!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Respond to the writer by responding to the writing

I recently offered a list of contemporary classics on teaching and learning. Among the shorter classics I didn't mention is Nancy Sommers' "Responding to student writing." Some of you have no doubt encountered Sommers' piece before. For those unfamiliar with it, a summary:

Sommers studied the comments and feedback that 35 university instructors gave to a set of undergrad essays. Her conclusions?

  • Comments and feedback are often overly focused on microlevel issues (commas, sentence structure, etc.) and amount to editing and proofreading on the instructor's part.
  • Instructors give contradictory advice. For instance, instructors critique the grammar of a paragraph while then suggesting that the paragraph is irrelevant anyway and should be omitted.
  • When focusing on macro issues, instructors repeatedly give the same vague advice, advice students do not necessarily know how to implement.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Should teachers of controversial issues disclose their opinions?

My colleagues Diana Hess and Paula McAvoy will publish a book later this year called The Political Classroom, containing a study of high school teachers who teach controversial issues.  Their presentation at a recent conference for philosophers made me think it might be a good idea to articulate my answer to one of the questions the book raises: whether teachers of controversial issues should disclose their views about the issues they teach about (their earlier discussion of disclosure is included in Hess’s book, Controversy in the Classroom). I’m articulating it not to try and persuade anyone, but to broaden the discussion – I’ve only ever discussed these issues with my students themselves, and with close colleagues.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

"Contemporary classics" on the scholarship of teaching and learning

I'm occasionally asked for recommendations for where to get started in the scholarship of teaching and learning. Thankfully, Paul Corrigan has compiled a list of what I think of as the "contemporary classics" in this area. Spilling the beans, they are:

John Tagg,
The Learning College Paradigm

Dee Fink, Creating Significant Learning Experiences
Maryellen Weimer, Learner-Centered Teaching


Rebekah Nathan, My Freshman Year: What a Professor
Learned by Becoming a Student

John Bean, Engaging Ideas