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More Pedagogy October 31, 2008

Posted by Andy in Idea History, pedagogics, philosophy.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The past couple of days I’ve been reading up on Kant and sorting my life out a bit. I’ve discovered that both Mill’s Utilitarianism and Kant’s second Critique on Librivox, so that makes good preparation and teaching tools.

I’ve also been thinking a little about teaching techniques. I get three hours (which in Norwegian terms means from quarter past to the hour, so three times 45 minutes effectively) of teaching in a row, and feel it would be a bit much to fill all that time with lectures each time. So how to split it up? And this will be with about 45 students in a tiered lecture theatre, so I can’t just get them to stand up and vote with their feet on ethical issues…

The options so far are:

  • cases they can go away and work on in groups (but then, how do they present their findings?)
  • texts they can analyse
  • calculations: for Utilitarianism, use the hedonistic calculus; for Kant, analyse some potential rules according to the formula of the categorical imperative.

Then I need a few things to spice up the lectures with. I have a few elements that can be well founded pedagogically:

  • time line: use the Platonic background to bring out Kant and Mill’s theories of the soul (i.e. the source of goodness, that steers one’s potential)
  • anecdotes: it turns out Kant almost married twice, but he spent so much time working out how reasonable it would be that one married someone else and the other moved away from town! There’s lots more of course, especially on Mill. Need to read his Life maybe.
  • music: Nick Cave’s People they ain’t no good to set up the problem of goodness and people
  • film: Groundhog day to present Nietzsche’s new formulations of the Categorical Imperative.

But I haven’t looked through the teaching objectives systematically yet, so I should probably do that before I do any more concrete planning.

The other gadget I’m planning on using is combining my powerpoint with a sound file of any lecturing I do so students can hear and see the lecture afterwards should they so desire. This is a brilliant idea (not mine), but I get a little nervous of the technicalities…

More later!


1. threescore - October 31, 2008

So many good ideas here, and so many lovely short words : )

Time is your greatest enemy, and a good teacher knows exactly how many minutes/tasks they have left before the class leave. Ideas which capture the student imagination will make you popular, but they must be watertight if you are to convince hardened colleagues. Start thinking about lectures down the line so that all the good ideas don’t get used up at once.

Loved the hedonistic calculation and Kantian formula analysis, but I am in part a mathematician, so always felt I would have wanted to do that kind of thing in the past.

Mainly I would suggest knowing what you want them to take away with them, and what you want them to have understood before the next session. Good ideas are a great start. Asterisked reading lists are also invaluable – I always check what the student’s point of view is in my teaching and whether they can access what I am saying and apply it.

All the best for the lectures though; very exciting!

2. augustinian - November 1, 2008

Well, you know me: no friend to monosyllabicity!

Thanks for these comments. I’m gonna have to take a more detailed look at the learning outcomes and so on I think. Fortunately, I’m only teaching this class for two weeks, so I don’t have to worry about exhausting my stock of interesting activities!

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