Tuesday, August 30, 2011

CFP: AAPT workshop

The American Association of Philosophy Teachers

St. Edward’s University, Austin, Texas
July 25 - July 29, 2012

Proposals for interactive workshops and panels related to teaching and learning philosophy at any educational level are welcome.  We especially encourage workshops and panels on the following topics:

The Quotable Teacher, installment 11

Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theatre. — Gail Goldwin

Monday, August 29, 2011

More skepticism about learning styles

A while back I expressed skepticism about the idea that we should tailor our teaching to students' learning styles. There I cited a study that concluded that to whatever extent we exhibit differences in learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.), teaching to a particular learning style doesn't seem to get better results than does teaching in the style that suits the material taught.

Now it looks like skepticism about learning styles is accelerating. NPR reports on a study that draws a more dramatic conclusion:

Students' prior knowledge and the teaching of philosophy

I've recently been reading Ambrose et al's How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. It's a very fine introduction to the research on learning that I expect any teacher, regardless of subject matter or age of student, could put to good use.

I wanted to invite discussion about the first principle in the book, and specifically, how we who teach philosophy might make use of it: Students’ prior knowledge can help or hinder learning.

A great deal of research on learning indicates that students do not learn ex nihilo. Instead, learning necessarily builds on existing knowledge. As Ambrose et al emphasize, a student's prior knowledge will actually hinder learning if it's inaccurate or inaccessible, or if the student doesn't link the new content to her existing knowledge base:

Friday, August 26, 2011

A new direction for Teaching Philosophy

As some of you may know, I'm about to embark on a five-year term as the new editor of Teaching Philosophy. The previous editors (Patrick Boelyn-Fitzgerald, Michael Goldman, and the founding editor, Arnold Wilson) have left the journal in excellent shape. Teaching Philosophy has been published continuously since 1975, and is indisputably the most important journal in the world with respect to publishing research on teaching in our discipline. Obviously, I'm honored, though slightly daunted, to be taking over these responsibilities.

Let me share some tidbits with you about the journal:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What are your goals? What will you do differently?

The school year is beginning over here in Portland! It's a good time to reflect and make some goals. What goals do you have for this year? Do you have any resolutions? Will you be trying anything new?

My goals are to be more patient and calm - to get less rattled. My resolution is to never grade more than four papers in one sitting. I'm trying a new course management method: I'm using a bunch of different Google tools (Google sites, Google groups, Google docs, etc.). I am going to try more short, low-stakes assignments.

What about you?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

CFP: SoTL at Pacific Division meeting

I hope folks will consider answering this call for proposals. Philosophy lags behind other disciplines in awareness and implementation of SoTL.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Discussion of grade inflation and the disengagement compact at New APPS

New APPS has a nice discussion going of the incentives for, and explanations of, grade inflation. Our own Becko moved the discussion along nicely with her invocation of the disengagement compact. Do go read!

AAPT nominations for 2012-2014 Teaching Fellows

This notice is available at the American Association of Philosophy Teachers website.

(Contact: Prof. David W. ConcepcĂ­on at dwconcepcion@bsu.edu.)

American Association Of Philosophy Teachers


The American Association of Philosophy Teachers (AAPT) seeks devoted, excellent philosophy teachers to serve as 2012-2014 AAPT Teaching Fellows. Teaching Fellows will receive a small stipend ($500) and serve a two-year term August 15, 2012-August 14, 2014. Fellows will advance the teaching of philosophy. This may include mentoring newer teachers, blogging on the AAPT website, facilitating teaching and learning workshops, or other activities.

Initial Review
By Jan. 1, 2012 nominators should submit a short (no more than 500 word) letter of nomination discussing the candidate’s especially meritorious ability to enhance student learning and faculty peer teaching.

Detailed Review
If selected for further review a nominee shall provide by March 1, 2011:
(1) One reflective essay of no more than 2,000 words addressing these four questions:
(i) Describing your particular teaching context, what are your aspirations for your students/learning objectives?
(ii) How are your pedagogies (your structuring of both students' in- and out-of-class time), course content, assessment, and learning objectives aligned?
(iii) Citing evidence, what is the most significant student learning or lasting impact on students inspired by your teaching?
(iv) How and why might you change your classes in the future?
In answering these questions, please be explicit about the sources of the information (e.g. scholarship of teaching and learning, classroom practice, student feedback, etc.) that have influenced your pedagogical choices.

(2) At least four and no more than six letters of support. At least one letter must be from a former or current student. At least one letter must be from a philosophy colleague familiar with the applicant's classroom practice.

(3) While voluminous detail of minor matters will not be viewed favorably, additional supporting material may also be provided. Examples of such materials are:
- Brief course portfolio
- Teaching journal
- Evidence of student learning, with an accompanying explanation
- Student satisfaction ratings (aka course evaluations), with an accompanying explanation
- Samples of student work
- Video of class session(s)
- Course materials, particularly assignment guidelines and assessment rubrics
- A brief CV focused on teaching and learning

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What are you teaching this Fall?

I'm stealing this great post idea from John Protevi over at New APPS.

What are you teaching this Fall? What are your course loads? Do you have a link to a course website or course material you'd like to share?

This Fall I'm teaching:

Exploration and Discovery. (LC's first year core program course) capped at 19. My section is titled "Wisdom and Folly." We read White Noise by Don Delillo, portions of the Hebrew Bible, Matthew from the New Testament, the trial and death of Socrates dialogues, Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Freud's Civilization and its Discontents and the graphic novel Watchmen.

Early Modern Philosophy. This is a 300 level course capped at 35 (17 enrolled). It's so impossible to put two centuries of philosophy into a single semester. I have to leave out so much. Instead I focus on teaching students how to do the history of philosophy by focusing on fewer figures for longer stretches of time. My focus in this class is mainly on mind and metaphysics.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Word limits, or concision vs. precision

L. Kimberly Epting's IHE article on the importance of precision in student writing got me thinking about a question I've struggled with in developing writing assignments: word limits.

Epting, a psychologist, notes that students who write concisely — tersely, compactly — don't always write precisely — exactly, unambiguously. Epting offers this anecdote:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I'll teach, you grade?

Ye olde Chronicle reports that a few instructors, and a few institutions, are divorcing the responsibilities of teaching from the responsibilities of grading. In some cases, the grading is done by a robot, in others, by a paid 'evaluator'. Here's how the latter works at Western Governors, an online university:

Monday, August 1, 2011

The potential of humble ol' e-mail to improve student writing

ISW reader James Somers has published a piece for theatlantic.com, advancing the notion that e-mail has underutilized potential for teaching writing. James' basic insight is not radical: Like any expertise, expertise in writing requires practice (10,000 hours of deliberate, feedback-intensive practice, according to Malcolm Gladwell). E-mail is a medium where students can get rapid feedback from professors on their writing.

As James sees it, e-mail feedback is the antidote to many of the practices typically associated with teaching writing, practices that do little to provide students the feedback-intensive practice they need in order to improve: