Current teaching

In spring 2019 I am teaching Phil 166: Current Moral and Social Issues, a general education course that I have been working on improving. I’ve included references to some of the things that I am working on for this class right now, below.

In fall 2019 I expect to teach a graduate seminar on a topic yet to be determined but related to my current research. It is likely to be related to topics connected to silencing or paternalism. I will also teach Phil 593, the philosophical pedagogy course for first-term teaching assistants at USC, and am in the process of developing its new companion course, Phil 595, which will be a more advanced philosophical pedagogy course for more advanced graduate students who have done more teaching and are in the process of transitioning to planning and conducting their own courses.

Course Videos

One of the improvements that I have been working on for Phil 166 this semester is to modularize my treatment of the most essential course skills, mostly those involved with finding and evaluating arguments, and teach them outside of traditional lecture time using short videos that students can view as many times as they need to, and follow up with questions when they think of them. In a class of 100-150, there are also too many students for several not to miss every such piece of essential content if I only do it during class, and it is very difficult to be ‘on’ well enough to deliver the material equally effectively every time, so this is I think a better control. These are the eight course videos that I am using this semester:

Slides as study aids

I’ve also been trying to convert the visual aids that I use during class to better tools that can be used outside of class for students to be able to re-trace what happened in class and go over the most difficult material. For this reason I’m converting completely to Prezi this semester, in order to take advantage of its capacity for intuitive visual layout, making it much easier to identify where to find material from class and go over it again.

I’m also keen on exploring, using both Prezi and my course video format, ways in which slightly visually different presentations of similar organizational structures can make different pieces of content more easily distinguishable from one another and with less student effort.

These are a couple of examples so far of what I have been trying to do this semester:

For the first of these classes, class 3.2, which is Wednesday of week 3, students have already read and spent time thinking about what Peter Singer is trying to show using the drowning child case to support his original argument from “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”, and listened to Barry Lam’s Hi-Phi Nation podcast episode, “The Wishes of of the Dead”, which compares different principles that might be used to justify giving priority to the wishes of the dead, and for this class they’ve read one more reading that looks for what sort of principle can do important work - this semester USC PhD student Jasmine Gunkel’s paper “Pleasures of the Flesh”, about whether a line can be drawn between bestiality and animal fighting as compared to consuming animal products as food. My goal for the in-class time is to use all of those to reflect more generally on why it is important to think in terms of ethical principles that are much more general than particular cases. You can see that I haven’t included enough text to make it a self-standing study aid, although I think Prezi is also quite good for that purpose. But I’ve tried to include more text and detail than I have had on slides in class in the past, to make it a better study aid for students who were in lecture.

For the second of these classes, class 5.2, which is Wednesday of week 5, students have just read Philippa Foot’s “The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of Double Effect”, which is one of the two most difficult readings all semester and follows a week on abortion where we read Marquis and Thomson. This class is one of the more lecture-heavy presentations I do over the course of the semester, and it’s my goal to take material that Foot breezes through and walk through it much more closely and show students how background assumptions are needed in order to apply either the Doctrine of Double Effect or the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing to many cases. There are probably several things that I massively oversimplify, and this one could do with more text and some re-organization, and part of what I took away from presenting this material this semester was that I am still trying to do too much in one class, but I still think it’s one of my better examples so far where I think the visual layout makes it much easier to explain much more difficult things that I was really struggling to lecture about before.