Thursday, November 8, 2007

Teaching Intro to High School Students

Hi All,

Tis' the season for email requests. I received another email from Jenny Hudson, who teaches in an international school in Hong Kong (living in Hong Kong! I'm jealous!). She asks for some advice about teaching introduction to philosophy to students of that age, and also in that setting. I'll reproduce her email request below for all of you to read.

Advice needed for a new teacher of Philosophy

I have just started to teach Philosophy to 17 and 18 yr olds in an international school in Hong Kong. The course is designed to fulfill the requirements of the IB syllabus. The school has chosen 3 units of study; What is a Human Being (mind body question, manifestations of personhood, knowledge of self and others), Philosophy of Religion (concepts of a higher being,religious experience and behavior and religion around the world) and Theories of Ethics.

Currently the students are studying the first 2 themes and, while I have the philosophical knowledge to teach them, I am uncertain of any 'good' teaching methods. I am a qualified teacher but have not taught this age group before and I find their maturity a little daunting!

I am interested in ensuring this course is taught in the most engaging way possible but need some ideas to kick start me.

Does anyone have a tried and tested techniques for teaching philosophy, for making the lessons engaging, to ensure the lessons are not just me reading notes to the kids, and explaining them?

I would really appreciate any activities, methods, websites, ideas - anything that can help me to make the course as interesting as possible.

Thanks in advance


  1. I would suggest (a) googling the topic -- teaching philosophy in HS and/or (b) just finding a textbook or anthology to use. Here are some suggestions from me:

  2. I second Nathan's suggestion. More and more first-year undergraduates are arriving having taken some philosophy in high school.

    Also, for the philosophy of mind section, I would suggest using some of the provocative readings in Hofstadter and Dennett - it was what got me into philosophy of mind when I was that age.

  3. Jenny, the American Philosophical Association maintains a committee on pre-college instruction in philosophy. You can reach their website from the main APA page by clicking Committees (under Governance), then clicking on pre-college instruction on the lower right. There is a link to Resources, and the link 'So you want to teach pre-college philosophy?' looks like an excellent place to start.

    Good luck -- it sounds like an exciting challenge.

  4. And let me also add that high school students (even more than college students) may be receptive to the use of popular culture in the philosophy classroom.


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