Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Study strategies revisited

Following up on some past posts about how students study, Daniel Willingham reports on some studies about the frequency with which students use various study techniques (versus how effective those techniques actually are).

Here's a table from a study by Karpicke et al (2009) on the study strategies of students at Washington University:

Monday, March 26, 2012

Getting beyond 'learning styles'

We've had some discussions here at ISW about the apparent dubiousness of student 'learning styles' and the notion that instructors should tailor their teaching to these styles. Cedar Reiner and Daniel Willingham do an excellent job separating the wheat from the chaff on this topic — what we can really learn from studies of the diverse ways students learn and what's suspect. They've persuaded me that the learning styles dogma is not only false, but pernicious.

(A quick aside: I strong recommend Willingham's blog on Science and Education — he knows his stuff, inside and out.)

First, a definition of 'learning styles':

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Late to the game: PowerPoint

I know that this makes me a late adopter, but I am considering using PowerPoint to teach my Intro class next term. I’ve taught this class a few times and I’m comfortable with the mix of lecturing and discussion that I have now. I consult my lecture notes sparingly and have a worked out rhythm that doesn’t require too much preparation on my part. So why change a good thing? Because I think that it is time to take a new look at how I’m teaching the course and try something new. As they say, don’t knock it until you try it. And some students really do seem to think that PowerPoint would help them learn the material.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Quotable Teacher, installment 17

A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply a teacher who is not teaching.
(G.K. Chesterton)

Women philosophers in social and political philosophy

Our old colleague John Alexander would like some suggestions for readings by women philosophers for a course in social and political philosophy (beyond Warren, Thomson, Nussbaum, Foot, and Gilligan). John is particularly interested in women who write from a rights-oriented approach. Iris Marion Young, Frances Kamm, Onora O'Neill, Susan Okin, and Amy Gutmann come to mind. Any other ideas for John?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Addressing the pessimistic student objectivist

Reader CD asks in the comments to another post:
I was wondering if we could have a discussion about the following topic (sorry if you have discussed this already). I teach global justice and political philosophy, and the complaint I often hear from students is "well, we agree that X would be fair (X could be something like world equality, the application of Rawls's Difference Principle, or any other moral ideal that students like), but the problem is that it will not happen in real world because agents act according to their self interest and do not care about fairness". Notice that this is different from the typical relativistic objection. They are not saying that there are no objective or universal moral standards. They agree that such standards exist, but believe that it does not make sense to justify them because the world will never be shaped in accordance with them anyway. How should philosophy professors deal with kinds of skeptic objections? Any clue?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Laptop policies: Getting beyond 'yes or no'

Tomorrow's Prof blog has a nice post summarizing some recent research about student use of laptops (and like devices) in the classroom. Some main findings:

  • More than half of students at least sometimes bring a laptop to class.
  • The number of questions asked in class increases when students can ask questions via their laptops.
  • Most students report that laptops, their own and those of other students, are sometimes a distraction in class.
  • 35% of the students report that when they have their laptops available, they spend at least 10 minutes per class period using e-mail and social networking sites.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

How to teach independent projects

For the past two years, I've been overseeing the students in my department who are writing senior theses. This is now required for all of our majors. 

For the most part, this is a very positive teaching experience. It's gratifying to see students begin with ideas for their theses that are embryonic (or less charitably, half baked) and arrive at an intellectually credible piece of philosophical scholarship. I also enjoy being able to see the learning going on — to witness their struggles to identify an argument for a claim they find plausible and so on. And in general, I find this sort of teaching, which is closer to coaching, more my style than classroom theater.

Still, overseeing these theses presents various teaching challenges, and I'd welcome advice from those who oversee theses (or similar independent student projects) about how to meet these challenges: