My teaching is guided by at least these principles:

  • Find out what students are thinking: to get them where I want them to go, I must understand how they are understanding the issues, their perspective on what we are doing, their sense of the relevant concerns, etc. This results in fewer 'lectures' and more student-engaging discussion and activities. 
  • Get students to develop as much of the 'content' of a course as possible: if students can develop a theory, an argument, etc. for themselves - instead of me telling them about it - that is far better. This also results more student-engaging discussion and activities, such as list building (e.g., of reasons to believe X, reasons to believe ~X, etc.), student-done surveys, internet research and so forth.
  • Use class time to provide experiences for students that they could not get on their own. 
  • Explain complex views, theories and arguments accurately and simply
  • Be able to identify the reasons for and against various views, arguments and theories. 
  • Be able to responsibly evaluate these reasons solely in terms of whether the claims made are true or not, supported by good evidence of not. 
  • Write and present information, arguments in theories in simple, straightforward, well-organized manners: this is to be able to teach the material to an audience unfamiliar with the issues. 

My course goals tend to focus on core communication skills, useful for all fields and, more importantly, for being a more thoughtful, socially engaged citizen.  

At least in introductory ethics courses (my favorite courses!) the general strategy is always this:

  • Identify an issue as a controversial one: "Do people disagree about this topic?" "Yes.."
  • Identify some common, contrary conclusions on the topic.
  • Ask students to make lists of common reasons, or premises, given in favor of these conclusions. This can be done on their own, in groups, doing surveys (outside of class), internet research, etc.
  • Get these reasons written up on the board/screen.
  • Add some premises/reasons given by philosophers. 
  • Identify question-begging arguments, ones with premises that assume the conclusion. Strike those.
  • Formulate remaining argument in logically valid form.
  • Assess arguments as sound or unsound, i.e., whether all the premises are true or not.
    • For general moral premises, identify possible counterexamples.
  • Any overall conclusions on the topic drawn from these activities will depend on the number and strength of the arguments evaluated. 

Some advising materials: