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Some Person

My own experience is that while the amount of training given by graduate departments is insufficient, the sort of training you would receive by outside "experts in pedagogy" is largely pseudo-science and gimmicks designed to sell books and programs to gullible administrators. The problem is really one that philosophers need to step up to fix themselves.

Jerry Green

Thanks for your thoughts, Some Person. I've heard the same reaction from some of my peers about outside experts. There are a few certification programs at UT I've done, and while I my particular sessions were quite valuable, my colleagues who did the same things with other instructors were less happy.

And you're right that there's a danger about pseudo-science in pedagogy. For example, "learning styles" is a popular but unjustified way to think about teaching and learning. [1] So there's definitely a caveat lector attitude needed. I hope to do the occasional book/article review post about good work in pedagogy; maybe I'll start that sooner rather than later.

Unfortunately, though, I think philosophers have no choice but to do the hard work of weeding through the bad pedagogy research to find the good. The alternative, seems to me, is to rely on our own intuitions about how good teaching works, and that hasn't worked out so well.

[1] See, e.g. the articles here: http://top.sagepub.com/content/42/3/266.full.pdf+html or http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2923.2012.04273.x/epdf)

Stacey Goguen

I was really surprised when I discovered that academics in education fields and the humanities and social sciences have already written a lot about pedagogy. I had assumed there was just a pedagogy vacuum all throughout academia.

So while in some sense, yes I think philosophers will need to end up doing their own research if they're interested in pedagogy, it's not the case that there is nothing good on the topic out there, and that we'll need to wholly reinvent the wheel ourselves.

I received my only really pedagogy through a writing program, but I found it incredibly helpful for thinking about teaching in general, and for teaching philosophy where we focus on argumentation. (The writing program focused on argument, too.)

One book we used was this one:

It includes this essay/letter, where the author talks about getting students to approach college writing not as about expressing a point/opinion, but as about "making a point" through argument and evidence:

Jerry Green

Thanks, Stacey: that essay/letter puts things in a very nice way for philosophers to think about or use. But boy, the more things change...

Kate Norlock

Graduate school at Wisconsin (as it happens, David Concepción and I both went there) included a quite decent orientation day or two for new teaching assistants in the Humanities, which included some well-informed presentations from older and wiser graduate students, especially on conducting discussions, marking/grading, and designing in-class activities, good sessions. My memory of the orientation was that it was largely fueled by the graduate student association, and it was not (at the time) supplemented by any efforts within the department (although I hope this has changed since the 1990s). Ideally, Philosophy departments would not just prep you to make syllabi, they would further connect the more general offerings of TA training at the university to philosophy of education and to empirically informed contemporary research in pedagogy and philosophy.

I got much better instruction after I arrived at my first TT job at a SLAC and the first-year teachers' training was organized around McKeachie's Teaching Tips. (Better late than never!) Like Stacey, I was a bit surprised to learn that multiple journals existed on pedagogy in higher ed, and I was kind of ticked to learn that the journal, Teaching Philosophy, had been operating for years. The best works from that journal should be required reading for all would-be philosophy instructors.

Jerry Green

Thanks Kate. Totally agree about departments doing a better job about making resources more widely known, especially discipline specific resources. I'm glad to get the input of somebody who walks the walk on this stuff!

Jerry Green

Future reference, there's a guest post at Daily Nous by one of the paper's authors. The comment section there collects some of the same info as the comments here.


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