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I agree with Marcus' advice: by any description of them I've gotten, the purpose of these documents is to show that you've thought about pedagogy -- so even if your pedagogy is 'generic', it's a good idea to be able to explain why one uses these methods rather than something else.

One set of goals a lot of humanities courses share is what a history professor once described to me as "teaching how to read and teaching how to write". I suppose in philosophy you could add to that "teaching how to argue". These goals won't impress any philosopher who might read them, but I think it might still be important to convey to people at the Dean's office that this is what you do (rather than merely inform students about what Hume thought about causation). I also personally would say that these goals do justify using traditional course papers as at least part of course assessments (i.e. I wouldn't want to change entirely to something like "dossiers" as an alternative method of assessment, because it would compromise those goals).

It would also be a good idea to speak to how your teaching promotes diversity goals, i.e. how one's methods make sure that students of underrepresented background benefit equally from one's classes. Here I do feel that there is a good case for deviating from the 'chalk and talk' approach, because it tends to lead to discussions being dominated by students who are naturally confident enough to just spitball ideas in class (and those students are often White men). But that's just my opinion, and maybe that's not what OP means by 'generic' methods...


1) Don't underestimate how novel your teaching practices might be. I do a lot of (slightly more structured) chalk and talk, and my TA last semester - who has been TAing for several years now, said he'd never seen anyone teach like that.

2) Be specific about what you do. Rather than saying you lead open discussion, pick something more narrow and explain why you do it. Do you have students brainstorm solutions to a problem before your read literature on it, to foster their creativity, explore the possibility space, and encourage them to see themselves as active participants in the debate? Do you ask them to recreate arguments in small groups, so that they can test their understanding of the material and try to figure out the logical structure of the argument? Things like that, that might be really standard philosophy teaching practices, are done for really good reasons.

Good luck!


I think there's a formula for this stuff. 'Aims', to me, sounds like code for something that connects with a student learning outcome (SLO). SLOs, in turn, use an action verb to describe something that students should be able to do. Deans and deanlets looooove examples. So you get a formula like this:

1. A core aim of my teaching practice is to help students learn to [outcome = skill described by action verb].
2. In my classes, I work toward this aim by [general description of a teaching practice - chalk n' talk, group discussion, writing assignments, etc.]
3. For example, in [class #1] I do [X = example of practice], and in [class #2], I do [Y = another example of practice]. [describe in more detail!]
4. This practice has been show to be effective in promoting [aim - skill] because [evidence].

Depending on your institution, you might include in step 1 aims related to diversity, community engagement, or (for religious schools) moral/spiritual development.


My recommendation is similar to historygrrrl. Suppose your overall aims are generic. But suppose that the ways you pursue those aims are creative or very effective. Then I think it would not be problematic to say that you have generic aims. But what makes you distinctive is not the aims, but the ways in which you try to achieve them. Then you would just have to provide evidence of the effectiveness of your specific methods. You could go into specific details, etc.

(PS I don't its too laborious to read university level pedagogy books. They are hit or miss, but I normally find reading them useful. So I would also recommend this.)


Learning is not a one-way street and is quite complex and so in addition to your in-class methodology, try to find effective studying tips (suitable for philosophy) for your students. And no, telling your students to just “read slowly and carefully” is insufficient.

I would prepare a list of critical questions for your students to think through and ask themselves as they read the materials. You should encourage them to memorize these questions or have them handy while reading philosophy. Although it’s important to encourage your students to think and come up with their own questions, it can be difficult. Students’ creativity and intellectual autonomy, many times, require a catalyst. It’s to jump-start their intellectual machinery so to speak.

The other issue concerns the question: What does mean to have learned something?

This is a complex question with complex answers and I cannot do justice with a comment. But I do think we should reflect on it. Questions to consider: Does having learned something involve memorization? Does having learned something involve acquiring knowledge-that and/or knowledge-how? If so, which kinds? By which methods?


For whatever it's worth, I've compiled some teaching methods. It's not complete, but I do hope it helps. They're based on my observation, experience, and imagination.

1) Lecturing (purely descriptive)
1A) Summarization (overview of the topic, recap)
1B) Explanation (analysis, drawing connections, clarifications, examples, asking and answering questions)

2) Instruction (procedural)
2A) Procedure (steps, strategy)
2B) Demonstration (teaching by example, showing-how)
2C) Command (giving an order e.g. to do's and don't do's, coaching, reminders)

3) Construction (imaginative)
3A) Planning (Brainstorming, plan of action, strategy)
3B) Organizing
3C) Creating

4) Discussion
4A) Reasoning (justification and defense of beliefs, ideas, or work)
4B) Criticism (negate certain ideas, beliefs, reasons, or information)
4C) Questioning
4D) Expand ideas

5) Revision
5A) Correction (fixing mistakes)
5B) Feedback (suggestion, criticism, praise, affirmation)

6) Grading

7) Guiding (Referential and Suggestive)
7A) Referencing (giving resources, recommended readings, pointing to something or somewhere, showing outlines)

8) Suggestion (practical solutions

Mike Titelbaum

First thing to do: Find someone in your institution (a colleague, friend from another department), who can tell you what this exercise is really for and what the higher-ups want. It could be a pro forma thing that allows them to check off a box; they could be looking for really thoughtful and innovative material; or they could be looking for reassurance that you're conforming to stated departmental teaching outcomes. Don't assume the question asked in writing is the best guide to what you should be doing.

Second, I (slightly) disagree with Marcus about this being a similar kind of exercise to what applicants have to do in their teaching statements to get a job. Job application teaching statements are often first read by philosophers, so you have to make yourself stand out from other philosophers. When writing to administrators, on the other hand, what philosophers generally do will stand out from other humanists. Feel free to talk about stuff like improving critical thinking and argument analysis. That may sound incredibly generic to you, but it might be exciting and distinctive for your audience.

Assistant Professor

Wow. These responses are incredibly helpful. Thanks so much everyone!


An 8th method: Performance (collaborative). Suggestion actually falls under Guiding.

8) Performance (collaborative and individualistic/relational)
8A) Performing (acting, hands on activity, imitations e.g. choreography)
8B) Mock performance (mock trials, mock interviews, mock presentation, mock exams, mock patient care, mock surgery)
8C) Experimentation (trial and error)

One aim of performance is to learn something X by acquiring approximate, perceived, or actual experience of something X.

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