Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Research productivity and teaching quality: No correlation!

There's a good bit I agree with (and a bit I disagree with strenuously) in this piece by Edward O'Neill. O'Neill takes up an issue we've engaged at ISW in the past: is it possible, from a pedagogical perspective at least, to know too much about one's subject — can expertise make you a worse teacher?

O'Neill notes there's some evidence for an affirmative answer, but overall, if knowledge is measured by research productivity (which I concede is a questionable assumption), there appears to be no correlation between subject knowledge and teaching effectiveness. O'Neill notes that this finding upends some central assumptions about higher education: 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

PLATO awards for K-12 philosophy teaching

The Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization (PLATO) is sponsoring three awards for K-12 philosophy teaching. Details about the awards, including eligibility and nominations, are available here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Would philosophy be better off divorcing the humanities?

We've had lots of discussion here about the place of philosophy within education and the place of the humanities within higher education. I'd like to focus for a bit on the place of philosophy within the humanities.

I've long thought that philosophy's classification within the humanities was an uncomfortable one. Many philosophers have told me that they don't think other humanists understand the aims of their work. And I often find that I can convey the significance of my research more readily to scientists and social scientists than to my supposed humanistic cohort.

Philosophy is an intellectually diverse discipline, with many different strands within it. But much of what philosophers do doesn't seem to fit with how the humanities are perceived, even by academic humanists. Consider this statement of what the humanities are from

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The importance of teaching: "Majoring in the professor"

There are plenty of reasons why philosophers should care about the quality of their teaching. There are narrowly prudential reasons obviously. Your ability to find or retain academic employment can depend on the quality of your teaching. There are also broadly prudential reasons too. Treating teaching as a worthwhile and engaging endeavor makes it possible for teaching (which, let's face it, is (a) what earns most of us our pay, and (b) what we spend the majority of our professional hours attending to) to be a central and rewarding part of your professional identity.

But there are also collective reasons to teach effectively. This piece in the IHE provides evidence for what I suspect most university faculty already notice: Students' academic interests are malleable, and the discipline they choose to study often turns on the instructor who firsts introduces them to it:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Learning orientations and political bias

Later this week I'll be joining fellow ISW'ers Jennifer Morton and Harry Brighouse for a conference on "Education: Ideals and Practices." It looks to be a great event, and I thought I'd share my paper with our readers. I'd welcome any feedback you might have. The paper draws on a fair amount of empirical research about learning and personality, but it was motivated by my own observation that students' political beliefs map onto personality differences that shape how students learn.

Here's the abstract:

Anti-Conservative Bias in Education is Real — But Not Unjust

Conservatives commonly claim that systems of formal education are biased against conservative ideology. I argue that this claim is incorrect, but not because there is no bias against conservatives in formal education. A wide swath of psychological evidence linking personality and ideology indicates that conservatives and liberals differ in their learning orientations, that is, in the values, motivations, and beliefs they bring to learning tasks. These differences in operative epistemologies explain many demographic phenomena relating educational achievement and political ideology. Systems of formal education thus disadvantage conservatives, especially in the later stages of formal education. Conservatives are therefore ‘selected against’ in the process of formal education, not due to their values or ideology but because their learning orientations are not especially conducive to academic success beyond a certain point. However, because the bias against conservatives in not ideological in origin, a case cannot be made that conservatives are victims of institutional injustice. This bias against conservatives in formal education could be mitigated were the purposes of formal education radically modified (the education of the military class in Plato’s Republic serves as a model). But such a model of formal education would ill serve the needs of modern, industrialized, information-driven societies.