Teaching Portfolio

Teaching Statement

I have five aims when teaching philosophy: 1) To impart knowledge of philosophy, 2) to develop in my students the ability and desire to think critically, 3) to teach students to become virtuous adults, 4) to help students develop skills that will allow them to accomplish what they need in order to succeed in the world, and 5) to empower my students.

In order to achieve these aims, I begin each semester with the assumption of mutual trust and respect. I also convey to my students that they constitute a learning community and, as such, I encourage them to help each other learn throughout the course of the semester. I also expect my students to be prepared for class, to complete their work on time, and to ask questions when they need help. In return, my students can expect me to be a virtuous teacher. I try my best to present my students with accurate information, am open and honest about my mistakes (making sure to correct them in a timely manner), and am not afraid to admit it when I do not know an answer to a question (although I may suggest a path or strategy for finding the answer).

During class, I employ the Socratic method in my lectures, along with diagrams, in order to draw out the relations between various concepts and organize them in a way that will allow students to understand that these concepts are not beyond their reach. I provide students with a broadly outlined handout in order to help them keep track of my lectures. The contents of the handouts are briefly stated (without much detail), and students are encouraged to add their own notes during lectures. I have used a variety of assignments and testing methods, including new media assignments (e.g., online blog posts and 3-D printer game making) and game play (e.g., “Real World” Monopoly), in order to reinforce my teachings and to encourage students to see how what they have learned applies to their practical life. I am also enthusiastic about incorporating new approaches in my teaching, such as integrative, experiential, and service learning methods.

I provide my students with detailed instructions and clear grading rubrics in order to let them know exactly how their grades are in their hands and what they can do to improve them if they chose to do so. I provide my students with a significant amount of feedback on their writing assignments, which is intended to help them correct any conceptual errors, develop the ability to clearly convey their thoughts to others, to challenge them to resolve any inconsistencies in their system of beliefs, to help them understand the various possible implications of their views, and to take their thoughts further into related areas of concern.

When a student experiences difficulties with fulfilling my expectations, I strive to understand the underlying circumstances or context of the situation. I try my best to work with the student in order to get them back on track. I offer students some general advice as to how they might succeed in my class, and when additional help is sought, I work with the student in order to help them overcome these difficulties. Yet I firmly hold that, especially at the post-secondary level of higher education, each student is ultimately responsible for their own education. I provide each student with information, methods, and encouragement, but it is up to each student to learn and apply them; and I explain to them that if they are willing to put forth the effort to do what they need to do in order to achieve what they want to achieve in my class, then I am willing to work with them in order to help them achieve it. Finally, I take into consideration the various ways in which my students as a whole are responding to my policies and assignments, and I make any necessary adjustments so as to help encourage them to achieve the course’s learning objectives.

In regard to the contents of my courses, I take into consideration the aims and ethos of my department and institution. I understand it to be my duty to assist in fulfilling both the department’s and the university’s mission, and I strive to do my part. I seek to challenge my students by selecting readings that some might find to be a bit advanced. For example, I have taught David Hume’s An Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism, and Friedrich Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals for an introductory ethics course. Although some students are a bit intimidated at first, they soon find that—with my guidance—they are able to understand and appreciate these readings. I endeavor to help my students achieve not only what they believe they are capable of achieving, but what I believe they are capable of achieving.

I also typically structure my courses around a selection of primary texts, and I organize them both historically and topically. The history of philosophy is an important aspect of our discipline. It reflects not only the traditions of our discipline, but also the discourse in which these traditions are embedded. In understanding its history, we gain further insight into an author’s intentions, goals, and the specific challenges that they aim to overcome or address. Understanding the history can also help us locate or identify future problems or challenges that ought to be addressed in order to move us beyond our current state of knowledge.

I also like to keep in mind that I am helping students build a foundation for conceptualizing the whole enterprise of philosophy as a discipline, and perhaps also a foundation for their future as a philosopher. It is with this consideration that I feel the greatest weight of my responsibility as a professor of philosophy. So, I strive to help my students build a firm foundation that is also deep and wide in breadth. I aim to present the canons of our discipline with a balanced perspective, high-lighting their achievements and failures from a critical, analytic, feminist, and multicultural perspective. I am, however, also committed to the value of all disciplines and am careful to make sure that my students understand that not everyone needs to be a philosopher nor should everyone want to be a philosopher, and there is much that philosophy can offer to those who would rather pursue an alternative career path.

I also take the initiative to achieve better teaching and learning results, take advantage of new technologies to do so, and I seek to improve current working practices, especially in regard to increasing a department’s, as well as the general discipline of philosophy’s, diversity and inclusiveness. Over ten years of teaching experience has taught me that the lack of an appropriate role model is one of the biggest factors keeping minority students from achieving their fullest potential. Many students require a person they can relate to, who they can trust to learn from, and who can provide them with the proper encouragement to succeed. I therefore practice an inclusive teaching style that aims to encourage students to voice their perspective and to consider other voices and perspectives. This does not also entail that every voice or perspective has a legitimate claim to truth, and I work with my students to help them understand why.

I also believe that it is a disservice to minority students to hold them to an alternative standard of quality compared to non-minority students. Although it is true that minority students are often disadvantaged by the consequences of being a minority, educators harm students in general by expecting and accepting work of lesser quality from disadvantaged students. What we ought to teach students in general is that given unjust conditions, students must take advantage of the opportunities that are intended to help them overcome these conditions, and regardless of their status in life one must work and strive in order to flourish.

Finally, as a minority philosopher, I have learned to gain the respect of both minority and non-minority students. I realized that as a minority professor, I am not simply a role model for minority students. I am someone who might be able to bridge the divide between minority and non-minority students. I can do so not only by facilitating communication between minority and non-minority students, but also by being an example of someone to whom non-minority students can relate. This belief, along with my dedication to increasing diversity within the discipline of philosophy, is what motivated me to establish the first all undergraduate chapter of Minorities And Philosophy (MAP) at Clemson University, and to encourage cooperative efforts between Clemson’s MAP and its Philosophy Club.

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(Lecture audio files, course handouts, etc.) 

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Course Proposals


Other

Course Syllabi










Hinudism

Philosophy of Sex
(YouTube video I use for class)


History of Modern Philosophy/Mind

(YouTube video I use for class)

(YouTube video I use for class)