Teaching

Good teaching begins with acknowledging that college classrooms, like all other classrooms, have learners from various backgrounds and with a variety of learning styles. Therefore, I believe in teaching philosophy holistically, which means applying a variety of methods, media, and assignment types. For example, when I teach social and political philosophy, I have developed several immersive games and exercises specifically geared towards college students. One such game is the "assembly line," where students mimic early industrial factory work by drawing the same part of an image and passing it down the line at increasing speed and pressure. This exercise typically functions as the springboard to discuss the labor theory of value and alienation. I also frequently utilize video games in my teaching. Many modern video games let the player experience a philosophical dilemma interactively. Thus, I often assign video games with a companion paper to further engage with the class material. One such example is the video game Soma that allows the player to experience some of Derek Parfit's thought experiments on personal identity.

Furthermore, I often offer a range of more untraditional assignments in addition to regular papers. For example, I ask my students to curate music playlists that engage with philosophical content from class and ask them to justify their choices. I find it important to teach from the student's starting point and not from some abstract idea of where they ought to be academically. I have published on this and similar ideas within philosophical pedagogy.   

To keep students interested and engaged across learning styles, I strive to provide interactive classes. For example, when I teach derivations, I have invented a Dungeons and Dragons style game in which students have to use sentential logic derivations to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. Furthermore, I frequently utilize the apps Mentimeter and Kahoot to generate quizzes, word clouds, and opinion polls that students can interact with live in the classroom through their phones. Additionally, I frequently switch between discussion, small group work, and in-class writing exercises. Given this approach, I will go out on a limb and claim that I have successfully managed to make Introduction to Logic a fun and engaging course.

Learning is a fully embodied endeavor, even when learning something as abstract as logic or metaphysics. However, today's students, especially in college, use fewer and fewer of their learning modalities. Thus, to stimulate engagement and reinvigorate student attention, I often implement stretching and yoga exercises into my classes. Such activities depend on the class topic and are often followed up by discussions regarding embodiment, mind, and knowledge. For example, I sometimes have students do Tai Chi and somatic exercises before introducing the mind-body problem. Other times a two-minute mindfulness exercise is enough to refocus a class and rekindle the discussion.

I always teach a diverse curriculum of thinkers and perspectives. Thus, my classes typically follow a set of problems rather than running in chronological order. My syllabi include texts by women and people of color and use them as central texts rather than for tokenized inclusion. In a similar vein, I understand that my students often come from very different socioeconomic backgrounds and aim to create safe classroom environments where all students are encouraged to bring their perspectives. Concretely this means I make my students agree on the code of conduct included in their syllabus before a semester kicks off. Furthermore, even when I teach more abstract topics such as metaphysics or logic, I encourage my students to connect these topics to their lived experiences and to speak about that connection. If you would like a sample syllabus, game, or activity instructions, feel free to send me an email.  

christian.k(at)memphis.edu
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