Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Developing a Philosophical Skills undergraduate course

I was recently handed a very interesting project, and one that aligns nicely with my pedagogical interests. Durham has a fantastically diverse syllabus for its philosophy programme, but one consequence of having such a diversity of topics, approaches, and methods is that one can sometimes lose sight of the forest for the trees. Or, to put it another one, we sometimes run the risk of teaching philosophy rather than teaching how to be a philosopher. So I've been tasked to develop a new 1st-year course on "Philosophical Skills" which focuses on the latter rather than the former. Topics covered will include things like:

  • Reading philosophical articles.
  • Writing analytically.
  • Coming up with paper/thesis topics.
  • Giving a philosophical presentation (of either your own or someone else's work).
  • What is plagiarism?
  • Finding and identifying appropriate scholarly resources.
  • Implicit bias, stereotype threat, good seminar dynamics, etc.
  • Writing essays for philosophy exams.
  • Collaborating on written and oral work.

Ideally we'd like something that is writing intensive (because the best way to learn how to become a philosopher is to practice!), with clearly identifiable assignments that don't require that much effort to grade. Though one person will be the main course coordinator, the different topics (and perhaps the different assignments that go with the topics) will be handled by different lecturers, hopefully both spreading out the work and allowing 1st-year students to get to meet many more of the staff than they would just taking the basic courses.

Building a course like this from scratch -- and making it a good one -- is going to be a lot of work. I would love to know of other courses similar to this -- if you know of any, can you share syllabi? topics covered? what worked well and what didn't? Even if you don't have a course like this, what would you want to see in such a course? What did you wish you'd been explicitly taught about how to be a philosopher as an undergrad? What do you want your students to know about being a philosopher that you aren't able to teach them in a course with dedicated content?

1 comment:

  1. Because it'll be useful for me to have all this in one place, here are suggestions I've received via twitter:

    * How to make thinking visible
    * Erotetics
    * Argument/concept mapping software, such as CMAP, XMind, MindMeister
    * Reverse outlining
    * Thought experiments/intuitions
    * Paradoxes as an introduction to logic
    * P4C
    * Philosophical problems in TV/film/social media