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Anyone looking for general "active learning activities" might be interested in this page I've put together: http://melissajacquart.com/teaching/resources-for-instructors/philosophy-active-learning-activities/


Since I asked the question, I guess it's only fair I share some ideas:

1. Every so often I play a review game of "steal the bacon." Chairs are put in a circle, with an eraser in the middle of the circle. I ask a review question and students who know the answer have to run to get the eraser. Once they have the eraser they answer the question and if they guess correctly get some type of extra credit.

2. I have my students put in groups of 4-6 students where each student is given a moral dilemma that I wrote, relevant to the reading. Each group has a different dilemma. I have the group come up with a "what would they do and why" answer to the dilemma and one group member shares their group's dilemma and solution to the class.

3. I put a provocative statement on the board (relevant to the reading) and have students who agree with it move to one side of the room and those who disagree to the other side. I then call on 3 students from each side to defend their claim. Four students who were previously selected serve as judges and decide which side wins the debate.

4. Silent writing: I put a topic on the board and have my students write about quietly for an extended period of time. They turn in the writing at the end of class. I usually do 10 -15 minutes for lower division and 20-25 minutes for upper division.

Stephen Bloch-Schulman

This semester, I am having students in the Rap, Race, Gender and Philosophy class, among other things, rap much of their homework and write and preform their final exam as a rap.

I have found that students relate to this genre of writing and spend much more time, energy, and give much more care to their writing when they are writing it as rap. It is a great way to get more effort on their part, without any more time for me to grade their work.

I organize the class roughly chronologically (Old School, East Coast, West Coast, Dirty South, the "New Political" era of rap), and I give students instrumental tracks from each era to rap over (e.g., they rap about early Bronx rap music to Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock"), or that are otherwise relevant (they rap about Malcolm X's "The Ballet or the Bullet" to 2Pac's "Trapped").

While this is particular to the Rap class, it is typical of my teaching... for example, in a Women/Gender/Sexualities Studies I am teaching, students are knitting and reading about knitting as a feminist activity.

Joshua Mugg

1. Three-way debate on personal identity [soul, body, memory theory] using Perry's 'Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality.' Divide the students in 6 groups (don't let them pick): pro-soul, against-soul, pro-body, against-body, pro-memory, against-memory. One class day of prep, one class day of debate and discussion. I have played around with different formats for the debate/discussion. This last time, each group elected a 'rep', and the rest of the class weighed in on questions.

2. Philosophical Inquiry Model: I am using this as part of my classes 'experiential learning' component (now required for all majors on my university). Students love this. I do one for each module of my intro phil course (what is philosophy?, epistemology, phil religion, phil mind, ethics). A session is a fully class long:
1.Stimulus: a short reading out loud, thought experiment, music, poem, or film clip.
2.Question: students write questions, which I write on the board. Students vote on which question they would like to discuss. Questions should be common (anyone can understand it), central (the group should care about the question), communal (we would answer the question by discussing, rather than merely looking it up), and controversial (reasonable people could disagree).
3.Inquiry: the group attempts to answer the question. We aim for discussion that is critical (conforming to the rules of logic), caring (respectful of others), and creative (considering a diversity of ideas).
4.Metacognition: we ask how well the group did in answering the question.
5. Reflection: students write a one-page account of the discussion including: what they take to be the most reasonable answer to the question, the best argument for that view, how one might object, and how one might reply to that objection.

You can also use Philosophical Inquiry with children. I have done this with K-5, and am currently planning a summer camp for 7-8th graders.

Recent grad

Here's one I did recently: break students up in groups and have competition to see which group can come up with the best attempt to quantify happiness. It was very lively and students began to understand what it would mean to quantify well-being, and why it might not be possible.


Recent grad how did you decide the winner?

Recent grad


When groups presented their proposals, the rest of the class could ask questions or make objections. As a result, it became clear that some failed to truly quantify happiness or quantified it in a way that was open to clear counterexamples. Each group then voted, blindly, for the best proposal (and they couldn't vote for their own). I'll definitely do it again.


Thanks Recent Grad sounds like a good activity.

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