How We Work
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a painting of German Philosopher Immanuel Kant engaged in cutting-edge 19th Century teaching methods

You will very likely find that this course does not work in the way you are used to having classes work. "Traditionally", students sit passively and take notes while the teacher lectures. Interaction usually takes the form of the instructor asking students questions in a noble (but often misguided) hope that some sort of conversation will take place.This style of teaching is instructor-centered. Students are presumed to have come to the class to get the knowledge the instructor has, and the instructor pushes the knowledge across the table as a product for students to consume.

That's not how this course works.

In this class you will find that the instructor rarely, if ever, lectures. Instead of sitting passively and taking notes, students will work on exercises related to course content, but also designed to exercise and develop philosophical skills and critical thinking abilities. This will sometimes be done individually but more frequently together in small groups. Membership in the groups will be randomized to help students prepare for professional life, where persons are often thrown into groups of strangers and given a common task to perform. While students work, the instructor will answer questions that students have, offer advice, and supply coaching to help students complete the tasks. This approach is student-centered. The assumption of this approach (in this class at least) is that the skills students work on in the course of completing the assignments are at least as important than the information they happen to be about. Conversations and questions on this model tend to be driven by students' needs rather than what the instructor thinks the most interesting features of the course content might be. Lectures happen only if there is a practical need for them (e.g. for orientation or training purposes) or if student desire for them is sufficiently high.

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that's more like it

What all this means for you, the student, is that you can expect to be actively engaged and, yes, actually working at every class meeting you attend. While this is a good deal more work than you may be used to doing in a classroom environment, you will also find that you are less bored, and that the work you do outside of class to prepare for our meetings is more valuable. Rather than merely turning it in for evaluation, you will actually use it in class to complete the work of our meetings and to prepare for other assignments as well.

In short, in this class you won't learn what philosophers have said so much as you will learn what philosophers do. And you will learn what philosophers do in the most direct, efficient, and effective way possible—by actually doing it yourself.

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