I have been a (graduate) teaching assistant at since 2011, starting during my undergraduate education at Utah Valley University, throughout my time in the graduate program at Colorado State University, and during my time at the University of Tennessee. The opportunities exist primarily for introduction to ethics and philosophy courses. I have also solo-taught a number of these courses at the University of Tennessee.
My primary objectives as a teacher are to balance the goals of student success and participation in civic life. Student success has both narrow and broad aims: from the comprehension of course materials, to the development of skills, and from passing the class, to creating conditions of academic success in the future. Teaching in the area of philosophy, I focus in particular on critical reading and thinking skills, including argument evaluation and (re)construction.
This means prioritizing skill-based teaching, rather than content-based teaching. In the latter, the emphasis is on covering and retaining the material, a feat which is usually accomplished through memorization and tested via exams. The former conceives of working through the materials as a means of skill-building. These skills include critical reading and thinking, clear communication, argument construction, and paper writing. These skills transcend any particular discipline and are important not merely in the university classroom, but in participation in civic dialogue and duties more broadly. Of course, I have a responsibility to orient students to ethics and philosophy as a distinct academic field. I do this by using key debates, figures, and texts as a means to skills-building.
I aim to promote diversity in the classroom, both in terms of the authors we read, the topics we engage with, and in meeting the needs of students. For instance, since I learned that a wide variety of more frequent and smaller assignments promote the success of a diverse student body, I have amended course syllabi accordingly. I have also been experimenting with less traditional forms of content, from videos and podcasts, to games and ethics bowl competitions.
It might be obvious from my pursuit of a doctoral degree that I have a lifelong love for learning. Teaching allows me to realize this pursuit in a different way, growing as a teacher, developing pedagogy, and by participating in the learning of others.
COURSES TAUGHT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE, KNOXVILLE
In order to provide more detail about these courses, I've included a non-exhaustive selection of syllabi.
PHIL252: Contemporary Moral Problems
Summer 2019, Spring 2018 (below), Summer 2018, Summer 2017
Philosophy is about the very human project of figuring out the world and the best way to live in it. In this class, we discuss a variety of moral theories and problems relevant to our place and time. One of the aims of this course is to get “unconfused” about the intuitions we have and why we have them. This requires serious reflection on the course texts, cases, as well as our society and ourselves. This worthwhile process allows us to better understand one another and contribute to our moral community.
During this semester, we read very few primary sources on ethics theory, focusing on moral problems and working out particular ethics views based on our discussion of these. We focused on questions of individual versus social responsibility, developed case studies, and ended the semester with an ethics bowl competition. Topics included the problem of global poverty, reparations, disability ethics, and environmental ethics.
While similar in content to the the Summer 2019 version of this course, during these semesters we read more primary sources on ethical theory at the front end. This allowed for in-depth conversations during the remainder of the semester. Here, the focus was on the relationship between various kinds of oppression and resistance, prioritizing the lived experience of those who experience oppression. Topics included the ethics of race, feminism, sexual violence on campus, media representation, and U.S. foreign affairs.
The goal of this course is, first, to familiarize ourselves with the foundations of philosophy and its various subfields. Second, to gain a solid understanding of some of the foundational texts, concepts, and methods in the discipline. Third, to use these foundational texts in Western philosophy to leverage a discussion of contemporary and non-traditional philosophical views. And finally, to apply this conceptual work in challenging classroom discussions and written assignments.
The course was set up broadly by the major fields in philosophy, where more theory-heavy topics were brought into the contemporary sphere by assigning videos and podcasts that tied them to their practical implications.