Introducing the Teaching Workshop

Question: I’ve got a serious pedagogical challenge this term, and I’d love some help figuring out what to do. Where can I go online to get some helpful advice?

Answer: Right here!

Welcome to The Teaching Workshop. This is a space where we can, as a community, work through the pedagogical challenges we face, come up with new ideas about how to teach philosophy, and, in general, do what we can to support and help one another.

In a humorous post over on Crooked Timber, Harry Brighouse makes the point that teaching is not only difficult, but incredibly important—it potentially affects the lives of the many eager young students in your classroom—yet we rarely get much training or support in how to do it. Unlike surgeons who have years of training and ongoing support, we are often left to our own devices in front of the classroom. Sure, we might get evaluated by our students at the end of term or occasionally be observed by a colleague who will write a report that will go into a file cabinet somewhere, but we rarely get the kind of detailed feedback or commentary developing expertise requires. The goal of this series of posts is for us to offer an additional source of support for philosophers who are interested in becoming better teachers.

This series is being managed by the APA’s Teaching Committee. The committee offers many sessions at our professional meetings (which we encourage you to attend), but we thought it important to develop a place online where philosophers can ask pedagogical questions and get answers from other philosophers. The model for these posts is that of a clinic or workshop. You email us your query. It could concern syllabus design, specific readings, classroom policies, student discipline, pedagogical techniques, discussion prompts, or any other area of teaching, broadly construed. We welcome all questions.

Initially, members of the committee will provide advice, and we hope that members of the philosophical community will join the conversation through the comment section. We aim to give advice that is helpful, concrete, and useful not only to those asking the question, but to the philosophical community at large. With your help, this series will become a valuable resource for new and experienced philosophy teachers.

Here is what we hope to provide: a variety of perspectives, careful advice, creative ideas, kindness, and direction. We see this as an opportunity for us to provide support and encouragement to those who believe that teaching is an important part of what we do as philosophers.

There are two things we want—rather, need—from you. First, we need your questions! Describe the issue or question you would like us to address briefly. Please keep your question to under 250 words. Include in your question a little bit about your institution and student body and what you have tried already to address the question or issue you are facing. We will post the questions anonymously unless you request that we use your name. We might have to edit your questions for length and clarity.

Second, we need your insight. No one person has the answer to pedagogical questions. Different techniques work for different instructors; each person faces different challenges in the classroom. All of us, as instructors, have some hard-won wisdom from our own experiences. We will be previewing the next Teaching Workshop post’s teaching question over the APA Blog’s social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter), please share your thoughts about how you would answer the question with us.

Please send us your own teaching question, or other related comments, to PhilTeacherWorkshop@gmail.com.

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