My pedagogy has three pretty straightforward goals at the moment:

  1. Focus on students doing philosophy (rather than on passively listening to me do it).
  2. Create lessons that have an affective and emotional impact tailored to heighten the learning (rather than ignoring or suppressing it).
  3. Focus on long-term skills development (rather than only focusing on mastery of content).

Being mindful helps but I am also investing time to develop these features of my teaching.

I have spent the most time and energy into developing priority #1 through obtaining a small army of certifications in Cooperative Learning. This teaching methodology focuses on developing high-performing student groups to get students discussing, rethinking, reading, debating, revising, and more. Students do not learn philosophy much better by watching an instructor talk about it, than they learn to play basketball by watching their coach practice.

Focusing on high-quality student interaction also largely tackles priority #3 because it has students working actively and regularly on many of the skills they need with each other: critical thinking, communication, personal and social responsibility, team work, autonomy, etc. Instead of engaging with me once a class, each student engages with others many, many times each class, offering many opportunities to develop philosophical skills.

I have most recently begun developing priority #2, the attention to affect in education. In teaching classes as I do on powerful subjects like race, gender, sexuality, class, and politics, affect can be harnessed into a great force or tear a class apart depending on how it is used. There are some good texts starting to come out on this. But the arts and theater have been working on just these aspects of communication for millennia and I’ve found that the lessons are there for the taking.

My time invested in improving students’ education has been rewarded with the University of Texas Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award and the Excellence in Hybrid Education award. But my largest motivation comes from the shared of experience of a really excellent philosophy class with my students.