I include below my teaching experience and philosophy, which has arisen from experience teaching at Duke and service as a teaching assistant at Duke University, the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, and Victoria University of Wellington. I have designed and taught three courses for small classes (typically 12-15 students) over five semesters as sole instructor, all at Duke.
1. Social and Political Philosophy (Spring 2018)
2. Introduction to Philosophy (Fall 2017, Summer 2018)
3. Logic (Fall 2018. Spring 2019)
I was also co-Instructor for the Climate Change Practicum (with Emily Pechar, supervised by Billy Pizer and Jonathan Weiner). (Fall 2016)
I have served as a teaching assistant for five courses over nine semesters:
1. Intro to Philosophy,: Alex Rosenberg (Spring 2016)
2. Philosophy of Entrepreneurship, Instructor: John Fjeld (Fall 2015)
3. Chinese Philosophy, Instructor: David Wong (Spring 2017)
4. Business Ethics [online course], Instructor: Vanessa Scholes (three times 2012-2015 [need to get dates] Online Polytechnic of New Zealand)
5. Contemporary Ethical Issues. Instructors, Ramon Das, Nicholas Agar, Richard Joyce (Semester 1, 2010, Semester 1, 2011, Semester 2, 2012 Victoria University of New Zealand).
In addition, I have been a guest lecturer on the topics of climate ethics and the history of logic
Apart from teaching Social and Political Philosophy, Introduction to Philosophy and Logic courses, I am well prepared to teach Non-Western or Asian Philosophy, Applied or Environmental Ethics, and an introduction to Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
In my classes, students develop skills of critical thinking, clear communication, and productive collaboration, via learning philosophical methods, distinctions, and ideas. I assist them in this process by practicing three qualities: openness, leadership, and empathy.
Engaged and excited students learn more. Students, where feasible, have input into the design of at least part of the course they are taking. For my Introduction to Philosophy, and my Political Philosophy courses, students can choose (from a shortlist I have prepared) some of the topics we study. To date, certain topics (such as philosophy of time, and freedom of speech) have been clear winners, and participation in discussions tends to be very high in these student-chosen topics.
I practice leadership is by setting clear, timely expectations of the high standard of work I am looking for. Students can follow clear grading rubrics and can review sample versions of particularly good assignments. I began building the skill of providing helpful constructive feedback on early drafts and outlines through online grading of business ethics students for the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, and Duke students have specifically mentioned the quality of my feedback. When I next teach a writing-intensive course, I plan to experiment with asking students to explain changes they have made in their drafts in response to my comments, and peer (or even automated) assessment for the first steps of the writing process.
As teachers, it can be easy to take for granted facts or methods we know well. Practicing empathy, the ability to stand in another’s shoes, can help overcome the “curse of knowledge”. In my seminar-based classes, students candidly demonstrate their understanding through regular posts on a class forum. Reviewing these posts while preparing for class helps me engage with the perspective of a beginner, and to recognize what background knowledge I should not presume them to have. Another simple practice of empathy is in design of my lecture slides. While I may begin with a detailed text to remind myself of points to cover, my viewers would typically prefer engaging and even provocative graphics and visual aids, with text available separately. Thus, a typical slide for my political philosophy course might be a full screen image of an artwork such as Gandolfi’s “Alexander and Diogenes” (for cosmopolitanism) or local and global mountain summits (for ideal vs non-ideal theory)
Even in my Logic courses, which draw undergraduates from across the university, I encourage students to explore their own specific research interests, and to share this in a final presentation. I was delighted to find that the STEM students were able to share their expertise about logic gates in computer hardware with the humanities students who, in turn, introduced them to philosophical problems such as the “gentle murderer paradox” or the liar’s paradox. Students also work in collaborative teams that exploit these diverse skill-sets to complete complex logic exercises.
This semester, I will also complete Duke’s Certificate in College Teaching and will participate in the American Association of Philosophy Teachers’ Workshop on Teaching and Learning. Of course, I realize that there is only so much that one can usefully learn in the abstract about teaching. I am fortunate to have been able to teach quite a lot, as a graduate student. Yet I know that my development as a great teacher has barely begun. My hope is that my commitment to openness, leadership and empathy will continue to help me grow as a teacher as it helps the students to improve their reasoning, communication, and teamwork skills.