Click the links below to view syllabi and other information from courses I’ve taught, or am currently teaching, or have not yet taught but am prepared to teach:

Introduction to Ethics (Online)     General Introduction to Philosophy        Medical Ethics

Introduction to Logic and Reasoning    Elementary Logic

Click the first link below to view a quick snapshot of my student evaluations, summaries of TEQ responses for each course I’ve taught or served as a teaching assistant, and complete TEQs for each course are provided as well. The other links below include (1) an example of my teaching effectiveness, (2) a teaching evaluation from a faculty member, and (3) my certification of my completion of the American Philosophical Association/American Association of Philosophy Teachers Seminar on Teaching and Learning in Philosophy.

TEQs     An Example of Teaching Effectiveness     Teaching Evaluation from Faculty     APA Seminar on Teaching and Learning in Philosophy Certification

Teaching Statement

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.   — John Dewey

I became attracted to the pedagogical framework of John Dewey as part of my formal training in music pedagogy during my years at Henderson State University (a small liberal arts school). Dewey’s view – that education is an intrinsic good, even if it is also an instrumental good – captures a purpose of higher education that rarely receives much press or attention. Moreover, approaching philosophy from a music background has led me to structure my courses in a way that provides my students with a safe environment to practice philosophical reasoning. My entire approach to teaching is deeply infused by Dewey’s conception of education as constitutive of the good life.

This approach to teaching has been reinforced by my completion of the American Philosophical Association/American Association of Philosophy Teachers Seminar on Teaching and Learning in Philosophy. This seminar introduced me to an invaluable method of developing courses, L. Dee Fink’s integrated course design, which I now utilize when preparing my own courses. My choice of readings, activities and assessments is first determined by their effectiveness at achieving specific learning goals, such as the ability to accurately reconstruct an informally presented argument.[1]

Integration also involves allowing one’s learning goals, activities, and assessments to continuously influence each other while remaining sensitive to the circumstances. For example, some of my small group activities were first developed out of efforts to align my learning goals and assessments with the current circumstances. To take one instance: my students were struggling with one of my learning goals: developing the capacity to determine the kinds of evidence needed to assess the truth of various claims. Students were conflating empirical claims with conceptual claims, a posteriori claims with a priori claims, descriptive claims with prescriptive claims, and so forth. Sensing this struggle, I designed a small group activity that involved a list of ten claims and instructions for groups to sort the claims in respect to how one would determine their truth values (e.g., if it seems one would employ similar methods to determine the truth of two different claims, then those claims should be sorted together). After comparing each group’s sorting attempts, it was discovered that most groups inadvertently utilized similar sorting methods. I then revealed that philosophers mark these differences with certain terms of art, showing them how, for example, their “scientific observation” category fits well with the philosopher’s notion of a posteriori claims. Implementing this new activity led to more students grasping the relevant distinctions, thus aligning my learning goals, activities and assessments in response to those particular circumstances.

I also take advantage of current research in philosophy pedagogy in particular. Two examples of this are my adoption of a “scaffolding” approach to written assignments and my carrying over online discussion boards from my online courses to my in-person courses. The scaffolding approach to written assignments simply involves breaking down the components of a full-fledged term paper and assigning each component as an exercise in itself.[2] For instance, one assignment may just require that students summarize a passage, and another assignment might focus on the student’s capacity to formalize an argument informally presented. I have found a clear increase in the quality of student work on term papers since I’ve adopted this approach. Concerning online discussion boards, I was impressed with how well a discussion board was able to get students to engage with the material, and especially with each other, in my online introduction to ethics courses. I received some wonderful ideas on how best to implement them for in-person courses after reading Kalef’s article, “Imparting Philosophical Values through Online Discussion.” For instance, enforcing a word max has both practical and pedagogical benefits: practical given the amount of posts the teacher must read and grade; pedagogical because it forces students to develop a more concise, clear writing style. [3]

Let me offer a brief example illustrating how I teach philosophy. In order to help students grasp Sartre’s existentialist claim that we are “condemned” to making substantive moral choices about how to live our lives, I have students consider the contemporary defense of gun ownership that simply makes appeal to the 2nd amendment of the US Constitution. I give them the amendment to read for themselves, and then I ask them to tell me what it means. For example, I may ask if it implies that, say, any citizen who happens to be able to afford nuclear arms has a Constitutionally guaranteed right to such arms. If it did, I ask, would that then be a sufficient reason to guarantee such a right? As the discussion continues, it becomes apparent that whatever interpretation is settled upon, how we proceed isn’t practically settled by anything outside of our own collective choice on the matter. In Sartre’s words, we are condemned to decide how to proceed: the mere existence of the amendment – or any amendment – cannot free us from this decision. Whenever possible, I try to help present philosophical issues in a way that reveals to students that doing philosophy is in some sense unavoidable – striving to do it well or not are the only choices available.

While the size of the class (35 versus 300 students) and the vehicle with which the class is employed (in-person versus online) both require some variations in my approach to remain effective as an instructor, my Dewey-inspired, integrated course method still serves as the framework for any class I teach. For example, since my students in my Introduction to Ethics online course would not be in the same room together, my stronger emphasis on the use of the discussion board (e.g., making discussion posts worth 15% of course grade, devising meaningful and thorough discussion prompts, offering continuous and live feedback on students’ posts) prevented this aspect of my online course from becoming a barrier to doing philosophy and developing philosophical capabilities.

Finally, although not strictly part of this approach, my enthusiasm for my subject matter has been mentioned quite frequently in student feedback as a major reason why students felt they learned so much in my course. Part of why enthusiasm has this effect on students may be because it more clearly brings out the truth in Dewey’s conception of education: we are not simply preparing for other activities when we learn – we are living a fuller life.

Fink, L. D., (2013). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses 2nd edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Coe, C. D., (2011). Scaffolded writing as a tool for critical thinking: teaching beginning students how to write arguments. Teaching Philosophy 34, p.33-50.

Kalef, J. (2014). Imparting philosophical values through online discussions. APA Newsletter on Teaching Philosophy, 13, p.11-17.

[1] Fink (2013); p.70 gives a helpful diagram illustrating the basic structure of integrated course design.

[2] Coe 2011; p.34.

[3] Kalef (2014); p. 12.