The school year is wrapped up at some places, and about to be wrapped up at others. We could use some positive vibes around here, philosofriends, so please share some of your favorite teaching experiences from the past year.
Mine was in my Contemporary Moral Problems course, which I was teaching for the Honors College here at South Carolina. I normally eschew student presentations in my undergraduate courses, but I thought I’d try something different this term. I gave my students a lot of freedom in selecting their final paper topic, encouraging them to choose a moral or political problem related to their major course of study, or their personal interests, or something in the news recently that had gotten their attention.
They had to submit a proposal on their topic and basic approach to it to me for approval and then give a brief presentation on it to their fellow students, getting critical feedback from them before the final draft of the paper was due. Mainly out of time considerations, I prohibited the use of Power Point (which I personally usually use for talks) for these presentations. Doing so prompted more substantive preparation from the presenters, I think, as well as a more interactive dynamic between the presenting student and the students in the audience (at least more eye contact, the presenters not yet acculturated into the usually terrible practice of reading a paper aloud to those assembled). The students in the audience knew it was their job to ask tough questions and make constructive comments, and they did, getting exposed to new ideas and topics and helping each other improve their papers.
The result was a wonderful little philosophy conference on a broad array of topics, including immigration policy, the impermissibility of killing even in self-defense, the importance of music education, the legalization of LSD and the promotion of altered states of consciousness, the halo effect well-known atheletes sometimes benefit from when they run into trouble with the law, and various other topics.
It’s not particularly innovative, I know, but nonetheless it was an enjoyable pedagogical success.
How about you?