I have been teaching philosophy at the University of British Columbia since 2011. I’ve taught philosophy at the university level since 2005.
At UBC I regularly teach Introduction to Epistemology, Introduction to Formal Logic, Philosophy of Religion, and advanced undergraduate and graduate courses in Epistemology.
This part of my website collects a few thoughts about my approach to teaching.
Affordability and Open-Access
I believe that professors have a moral responsibility to take student finances into consideration when choosing textbooks. Where possible and practical, I avoid assigning expensive books. My logic course uses my own free open-access textbook; my epistemology course uses Jennifer Nagel’s $12 Very Short Introduction to Knowledge (supplemented by additional readings available for free download). My philosophy of religion course runs entirely on papers available for free download.
Sometimes, especially when one is teaching in an area one knows less intimately, a costly textbook is the only way to make the course work. So I wouldn’t say that one should never use such things. But I do think that instructors—especially those of us with secure teaching careers—should make much more of an effort to avoid this when possible, even if it means some extra work.
Professorial Guidance and Student Responsibility
I think it’s important for instructors to design their courses in ways that make students likelier to learn, while at the same time respecting students’ individuality and autonomy. These values can come into tension at some points in the syllabus design process, but I have found that such tensions are often susceptible to creative resolution, like offering students choices about assessment schemes.
Classroom Response Technology
In larger lecture-format courses, it it is not always easy to measure the class’s engagement or comprehension by reacting to body language or listening to the minority of students who ask questions. In such cases I have found interactive systems that engage all students—not just those who volunteer—to be invaluable. In many of my larger courses, I use such systems regularly throughout the semester, to check in five to ten times each class meeting, with students. I can simply ask them whether they feel like they understand a particular point, or — often better — I can give them an instant stakes-free quiz to measure for myself how well they understand a given point. This allows me to make much better-informed decisions about when to move on to a new point, and when to explain something in more detail or work through more examples.
I have tried several different such systems over the years. I prefer Learning Catalytics to iClickers and Top Hat, although it does have the disadvantage of requiring students to pay a nominal fee for its use ($12 for 6-month access). Learning Catalytics allows students to review questions, answers, and explanations after class, and also allows a variety of response formats, including free text response. I end every class with an opportunity for students to give feedback on that day’s class.