teaching

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Philosophy Teaching & Learning Materials on Professors’ Websites

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/09/2022 - 10:50pm in

Individual philosophy instructors often post publicly available resources for students on their websites. Here’s a place to share them.

An earlier post collected links to various guides for students about how to write a philosophy paper, but there are a variety of other materials out there, including reading guides, tips on logic and argumentation, lessons on specific topics, subject summaries, instructional videos, thought experiments, and more. Such information could be useful to students and to other instructors, but it can be hard to find, so I thought it would be worthwhile to create a space to post links to these materials.

If you teach philosophy and have put learning materials on your individual website, please include a link to them and a brief description in the comments on this post. (And if you know of someone who has materials to share, please encourage them to do so.)

Teaching and Writing About Abortion in Idaho (and elsewhere?)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/09/2022 - 8:23pm in

Tags 

Abortion, teaching

“Academic freedom is not a defense to violation of law, and faculty or others in charge of classroom topics and discussion must themselves remain neutral on the topic and cannot conduct or engage in discussions in violation of these prohibitions without risking prosecution.”

That is from an email from the University of Idaho’s General Counsel to the university’s employees on the subject of the state’s abortion laws, particularly a 2021 law prohibiting the use of public funds for abortions. Much of the email concerns the impermissibility of university employees encouraging, performing, or contributing to the provision of abortions while at work. But the email also includes guidance on teaching about abortion.

Faculty are permitted, for example, to have “classroom discussions on topics related to abortion when limited to discussions and topics relevant to the class subject.” But during such discussions, there must be “instructor neutrality.”  The General Counsel writes:

Classroom discussion of the topic should be approached carefully. While academic freedom supports classroom discussions of topics related to abortion, these should be limited to discussions and topics relevant to the class subject. The laws discussed above, specifically including those addressing promoting abortion, counseling in favor of abortion and referring for abortion, will remain applicable. Academic freedom is not a defense to violation of law, and faculty or others in charge of classroom topics and discussion must themselves remain neutral on the topic and cannot conduct or engage in discussions in violation of these prohibitions without risking prosecution.

Many applied ethics courses include the moral and legal permissibility of abortion as topics, with the reading, presentation, and analysis of arguments for various positions. It is unclear how the analysis of such arguments can proceed in a way that is likely to strike interested observers as “neutral.”  So it is unclear how the General Counsel’s guidance is compatible with the academic freedom of instructors teaching these arguments, or with the academic freedom of instructors who are deterred from teaching about them for fear that the university will not defend them against charges of violating the law.

Further, according to the email, “Employees who wish to counsel, promote or advocate in favor of abortion must do so outside of the performance of their job duties and without use of any university resources.” Does this mean that faculty may not write papers or books in which they argue for the moral and legal permissibility of abortion?

It is a pity that the university administration did not write to faculty promising to defend their academic freedom. Instead, they promoted an interpretation of the law that threatens academic freedom, and in doing so, laid the groundwork for accusations that faculty who discuss the ethical and political dimensions of abortion knowingly violated the law.

Inside Higher Ed reports further on the story here.

UPDATE (9/30/29): The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) released a statement about the email from the University of Idaho’s General Counsel. An excerpt:

Under principles of academic freedom widely endorsed by the higher education community, college and university teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject. All decisions about curriculum, subject matter, and methods of instruction should be made by educators who have expertise in the subject. Any attempt to limit that freedom must be soundly rejected by the faculty, the administration, the board, and all who care about the core academic mission of the institution. Advising the faculty to “remain neutral” will certainly chill speech, but its vagueness is also problematic… The proposed guidance here is indefensible from the point of view of public health, public education, academic freedom, free speech, and even simple logic. It undercuts the university’s educational mission and discredits its reputation.

The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) published a letter it sent to the University. An excerpt:

It is true that the Idaho Code § 18-8705 prohibits the use of public funds to “promote abortion,” but construing that statutory language to require state university professors to “remain neutral on the topic” is a vast overreach and inconsistent with the requirements of the First Amendment. It is imperative that the University of Idaho not merely inform the faculty of the potential risks of teaching with such a law on the books but also strongly voice its objections to any such interpretation or application of the state law. The general counsel’s guidance sends a chilling message to every member of the faculty who must discuss difficult and controversial material relating to abortion as part of their teaching duties. The statute itself might not recognize “academic freedom [as] a defense to violation of law,” but the First Amendment is an overriding limitation on the power of the state legislature to impose such a restriction on classroom teaching in state university classrooms.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) also sent a letter to the university. An excerpt:

U of I’s sweeping policy directly contravenes the university’s legal obligations and impermissibly chills in-class speech by placing faculty in perpetual fear of punishment for their protected expression. It does not take a significant stretch of the imagination to see how the university’s guidance will adversely impact classroom instruction. For example, a political science professor publishing a public policy argument that abortion should be lawful will have
to self-censor to ensure the discussion is not perceived as being “in favor of abortion.” A philosophy professor interested in prompting his or her students to consider the arguments for restricting access to abortion may play devil’s advocate by arguing for such restrictions—a decision that would violate so-called “instructor neutrality.” Even a constitutional law professor’s discussion of past court cases pertaining to abortion is at risk of being perceived as
violating “instructor neutrality.” The university must defend—not erode—First Amendment rights on campus. It must begin by publicly retracting this unlawful policy.

Boston Review Philosophy Today

Agenda-Setting, Area-Defining, Influential Philosophy Textbooks

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/09/2022 - 12:31am in

Philosophy textbooks—anthologies or introductory-level commentaries—can take on roles beyond the pedagogical purposes for which they’re put together. Through editorial and authorial choices of inclusion and exclusion such works can define or clarify fields of study, canonize specific works, identify a subdiscipline’s central problems, and, depending on uptake, set the agenda for future work in the area.

In a post at his blog, Digressions & Impressions, Eric Schliesser discusses Readings in Philosophical Analysis, a 1949 anthology edited by Herbert Feigl and Wilfrid Sellars that, he says, “sets the agenda for the other textbooks [of the era], and simultaneously helps consolidate, roughly, what counts as analytic philosophy (or in modern philosophical analysis) and not.” The book was over 600 pages long, with 42 pieces in it (journal articles and book excerpts). (See this brief review of it in The Philosophical Review.) Schliesser also mentions (at the suggestion of Alan Richardson), Semantics and the Philosophy of LanguageA Collection of Readings, a 1953 volume edited by Leonard Linsky that while itself is “not the definitive canon” still “clearly anticipates much of the early canon of the philosophy (of language centered) proseminar.”

What are other examples of area-defining or agenda-setting or otherwise influential textbooks in philosophy?

I’d nominate Will Kymlicka‘s Contemporary Political Philosophy, the original edition of which was published in 1991 (an updated version appeared a decade later), which drew out a set of philosophical disputes and concerns that had emerged in political philosophy over the previous 20 years, and which—in part because (it seems) so many future political philosophers read it as students—would continue to be central to political philosophy, even as the discipline changed, for another 20. I’d be curious to hear if others in political philosophy agree.

Becoming a Better College Teacher

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 03/09/2022 - 1:26pm in

As I mentioned a while ago, the Center for Ethics and Education at UW Madison has a podcast, which we’re quite proud of and for which, frankly, I’d like to build the audience. Here’s a recent episode about becoming a better college teacher. It’s grounded in an essay I wrote for Daedalus in 2019, which is really just the story of how, possibly, I became a better teacher (and possibly I didn’t), and drew heavily on blog posts I’ve done at CT over the years [1]. I really like this episode: a recent (2020) UW graduate, Grace Gecewicz, who is now a middle school teacher, interviewed me basically trying to draw out some of what I say in the essay [2]. But about half way through the interview morphs into a conversation, in which she also talks about her own experiences, which are probably the most interesting part of the podcast. If you do enjoy it, recommend it to your friends.

[1] I was invited to write the essay, and was very anxious about it. There was the fact that it would be published in a journal that circulates much more widely than anywhere I normally publish. But it was more: how do you say that you think your entire profession is pretty bad at its main task, and tell the story of how you think you became better at that task yourself, without coming across as a self-righteous prig? You can judge for yourself how successfully I achieve that aim.

[2] Its not only one of my favourites. A student told me earlier this week that before taking my class a year ago she read the essay and decided I would probably be ok. She also told me that this episode is a favourite of her dad’s.

Conversation Starter: Teaching Philosophy in an Age of Large Language Models (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 31/08/2022 - 7:00pm in

Over the past few years we have seen some startling progress from Large Language Models (LLMs) like GPT-3, and some of those paying attention to these developments, such as philosopher John Symons (University of Kansas), believe that they pose an imminent threat to teaching and learning (for those who missed its inclusion in the Heap of Links earlier this summer, you can read Professor Symons’ thoughts on this here). In the following guest post, Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin (Sam Houston State University) responds to Professor Symons, offering his own view of the dangers LLMs pose as well as strategies teachers could employ to minimize them.


[“An ancient Egyptian painting depicting an argument over whose turn it is to take out the trash” made with DALL-E 2 by LapineDeLaTerre]

Conversation-Starter: Teaching Philosophy in an Age of Large Language Models
by Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin

It’s once again the time of year when those of us who teach philosophy are thinking about how to structure and deliver our courses. If you’re anything like me, your courses are writing-intensive; your course objectives include helping students improve their ability to think critically, analyze and construct arguments, and express all of this in writing; and you’re hoping that the tweaks and revisions you’re making to your syllabus will improve your own ability to make good on the promise of what a philosophy course has to offer.

I was in the thick of planning my fall courses, when I got a bit of a shock. In “Conversation-Stopper,” John Symons (Kansas) argues that large language modules (LLMs), like the relatively new and much-discussed GPT-3, “will change the traditional relationship between writing and thinking.” As the subtitle puts it, they’ll make us “less intelligent.” What’s more, Symons claims, “The LLM marks the end for standard writing-intensive college courses.” He expects us to see the effects clearly as early as this October. (As if we needed another reason to dread midterms!)

My heart skipped a beat. Hasn’t Silicon Valley done enough damage already?!

Then I thought carefully about what Symons was arguing and felt a lot better.

Thinking through why Symons’ pronouncement about the death of writing-intensive courses is premature has been a healthy exercise. For one thing, it has made me consider the structure of my courses and assignments in a way I haven’t done since early in my teaching career. For another, it has helped me to see that the worries he raises, and potential solutions to them, apply to a host of issues. My main contention will be that, despite appearances, it’s not really about LLMs, after all.

But let’s begin with a look at Symons’ argument. The heart of his case appears to turn on the novelty of what we’re now facing:

Students have long been tempted by services that write essays for them and plagiarism is a constant and annoying feature of undergraduate teaching, but this is different. The LLM marks the end for standard writing-intensive college courses. The use of an LLM has the potential to disconnect students from the traditional process of writing and research in ways that will inevitably reshape their thinking. At the very least, these tools will require us to reconsider the mechanics of writing-intensive courses. How should we proceed? Should we concentrate on handwritten in-class assignments? Should we design more sophisticated writing projects? Multiple drafts? 

(I’ll have something to say about why it’s unfortunate the concluding questions are merely rhetorical. But first, I want to explain what I think it is that really drives Symons’ argument. Teaser: it’s fueled by the collapsing of an important distinction. Read on, my friends.)

To his credit, Symons doesn’t shy away from considering the implications of what he’s arguing. He goes on to consider whether we should embrace the disruption and “realign our attitudes to writing,” but demurs, in part, because of his experiences, like those of many of us, teaching during the pandemic. Technological tools, such as Zoom, became the norm because they allowed for socially distant instruction—to the detriment of both instruction and society, it would seem. Symons concludes that the arrival of LLMs means that “it’s necessary for faculty to change the way we evaluate student written work in our courses and more importantly, to rethink the role of writing in education. … In the age of the LLM we will not be able to rely on written exercises to make the work of thinking happen. We will also find that writing skills which previously served as reliable signs of the virtues we associate with thinking can no longer do so.”

Let the disruption reign!

I don’t mean to be flip. I think Symons has called our attention to something important. It’s just not what he thinks it is.

I want to make it clear that I agree with much of what Symons says. For example, I agree that “writing can be an aid to thinking.” I also agree with him that it’s likely some students will pass off AI-authored essays as their own work (some likely already have). And I identify with his comment that “the advent of LLMs puts me right back in the position of being a novice teacher.” What I disagree with is Symons’ pessimism about the prospects of writing-intensive courses, and this for reasons having to do with that distinction I promised you.

There’s a difference between teaching someone to think and write and assessing what they’ve written as a measure of the quality of their thinking. It’s not always obvious how the two come apart, and they’re not entirely alien from each other. For example, effective teaching often involves assessment. But some quick examples should be enough to show that simply grading completed essays is not a reliable measure of student learning.

Suppose you have two students, Jack and Jill, and they each turn in essays that receive the same grade. Assume, as well, that there’s no cheating or bias or anything like that. They write the essays to the best of their ability; you grade them fairly. Even though they’ve turned in work of the same quality, you shouldn’t take this to demonstrate you’ve taught them anything, let alone the same things.

Consider a first scenario in which both students turn in A papers. But Jack came into your class with little to no experience writing this sort of paper, nor did he have much in the way of background knowledge about philosophy or arguments. He earned his A by paying attention and putting in a lot of work for your course. Jill, by contrast, had taken lots of philosophy courses before, received lots of writing instruction outside of your course, and basically phoned it in on this assignment. It seems safe to say that you taught Jack a lot and Jill nothing.

In a second scenario, both Jack and Jill earn Ds on their papers. Again, Jack came into your class with little to no relevant background; Jill came in with lots of prior coursework in philosophy. It’s entirely possible in this scenario that, once again, you taught Jack a great deal and Jill nada.

What these scenarios demonstrate is that when assessment is used to take a snapshot of a student’s skills and knowledge, it doesn’t tell you whether there has been growth. To do that, you need more than time-slice data.

And that brings us to October or, more precisely, midterms. It’s fairly typical in a writing-intensive course to assign more than one paper. The feedback (hopefully more than just a letter grade) on the midterm is formative in nature. Students can use it to improve on the final. And if we find ourselves in a third scenario, where Jack goes from a midterm C to a final A and Jill goes from a midterm A- to a final A, perhaps we can be reasonably confident that you’ve taught Jack something and Jill next to nothing. Sometimes assessment can help us to identify learning.

I’ll bet you’ve already sniffed out the ways that LLMs (or paper mills or cutting and pasting from the internet or whatever) could disrupt this. In a fourth scenario, in which one of our initial assumptions doesn’t hold, Jack earns a C on his midterm and then turns to an LLM to “write” his final essay, which receives a B+. An improved assessment outcome, in this context, isn’t a reliable sign of learning.

So far, we’ve seen that when writing is used as a mere means of assessment, it doesn’t help us much to track whether our students have learned anything in our courses. For this same reason, LLMs really do seem to pose a threat to writing-intensive instruction as it is sometimes practiced. This new form of cheating exploits a lack of familiarity with the thinking that a student’s writing is supposed to evince.

But LLMs shouldn’t concern those who use writing (also) as a tool for teaching the sorts of skills that are typical of philosophy course objectives, such as argument articulation and analysis. There are a host of familiar teaching strategies we can employ in our classrooms to help our students learn these skills and help ourselves become familiar with their progress in doing so.

Let’s revisit Symons’ rhetorical questions. Should you, as a conscientious teacher of a writing-intensive course, require Jack and his classmates to do all of their writing by hand in class? This would eliminate the threat of using an LLM to cheat. Should you require Jack and his classmates to write multiple drafts? As many of us who already do so are aware, it’s a red flag whenever a student turns in a paper that is so radically different than any other written work you’ve seen from them before. But while multiple drafts and in-class exercises may be ways to prevent students from gaming the system, many readers are likely thinking that they’re untenable solutions. Who has class time to devote to allowing students to pen entire essays under your watchful eye (or wants to “go full surveillance” on them)? Who has time to give constructive feedback on mandatory rough drafts?

The good news is that in-class writing and multiple drafts don’t need to be time-sucks. You can assign students a short in-class writing prompt, have them put their names at the tops of their papers, collect them at the end of class, and simply use them as a means of taking attendance. Of course, you can also read what they wrote, or what some of them wrote, to find out if they were grasping the material or constructing the argument well or whatever. But none of this has to take much time, and these sorts of activities can do double-duty—attendance tracker and learning prompt rolled into one.

Who says you need to be the one to read and provide feedback on that rough draft? Have students provide feedback to each other using a rubric you’ve given them (perhaps the same one you’ll use to grade the final version). This can be done during or between class meetings, and it can be done in-person or online. Again, the benefits are multiple: there are opportunities to learn both in the giving and in the receiving of feedback. They can turn in their rough draft and peer comments along with the final version of their essay.

Sure, these may be among the best practices when it comes to effective writing instruction. But how are you going to make sure they don’t have an AI “write” their rough draft for them?

Try using templates to scaffold out your writing assignments. Instead of having students workshop rough drafts, have them workshop an initial outline formed from filling in sentence stubs on a template you’ve provided. You can even integrate templates more thoroughly into your course. Provide them with templates to use as guided notes to structure their understanding of the readings—or better, have them construct templates like this for each other. Filling out sentence stubs isn’t the same as writing an essay, but it can be one building block with which to erect a polished paper. And the beauty of templates is that they have a built-in structure. For a student like Jack, it can be enormously helpful to have repeated practice writing within the confines of a template. The essay then becomes a means of expanding on what he’s learned through doing about how to structure an argument, as opposed to an opaque request to produce a piece of writing modelled on what he’s been reading all term.

Now, I don’t pretend that teaching techniques like scaffolding, templates, and peer feedback are surefire ways to eliminate the threat LLMs appear to pose. For one thing, they won’t eliminate the possibility of someone submitting an AI-generated manuscript to a journal for review. Perhaps this is (part of) what the creators of GPT-3 had in mind when they raised the prospect of its being used for “fraudulent academic essay writing.” But I do think the wide array of available techniques for teaching writing should make all of us philosophy professors sleep a bit better at night. Perhaps we’ll need all of that rest, since we’ll have realized we can’t simply assign essays and grade them if we want to make sure our students are actually learning from us.

Symons notes that teaching occurs in “embodied and meaningful social contexts.” I’d add that effective teaching occurs in such contexts over time and involves a certain type of relationship between student and teacher. And I’d like to thank Symons for starting a conversation that helped me to think through our craft like a novice.

A typology of research questions about society

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/08/2022 - 11:03pm in

One of the things I really like about my job, is that I have been appointed on a chair with the explicit expectation to advance interdisciplinary collaborations between ethics and political philosophy on the one hand, and the social sciences (broadly defined) on the other. I’ve been co-teaching with historians, taught some courses that were open to students from the entire university, have been giving guest lectures to students in many other programs including economics, pharmacology, education, and geosciences; and I co-supervised a PhD-student in social work. I’ve written an interdisciplinary book on the capability approach, and have co-authored papers with scholars from various disciplines. So interdisciplinarity is deeply engrained in much of what I do professionally.

But while I love it enormously, interdisciplinary teaching and research is also often quite hard. One of the challanges I’ve encountered in practice, is that students as well as professors/researchers are not always able to recognise the many different kind of questions that we can ask about society, its rules, policies, social norms and structures, and other forms of institutions (broadly defined). This then leads to misunderstandings, frustrations, and much time that is lost trying to solve these. I think it would help us if we would better understand the many different types of research that scholars working on all those aspects of society are engaged in.

Thus, I’ve worked on a typology of different types of questions that can be asked in this area, discussed it with a range of colleagues who are based in other disciplines, and came up with the following (paper can be read open access here):

  1. conceptual research
  2. descriptive research
  3. explanatory research
  4. interpretative research
  5. evaluative research
  6. prescriptive research
  7. predictive research
  8. research developing visions
  9. methods, frameworks and other supportive research

As I write in the paper, I invite others (including students!) to revise and improve this typology, and am hoping it will be of help to anyone navigating an interdisciplinary context in the social sciences, and perhaps even for courses that discuss what interdisciplinarity entails.

Teacher, Bureaucrat, Cop (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 09/08/2022 - 7:00pm in

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teaching, teaching

“We can free ourselves up to pursue a wider range of educational goals when we see that fairness is not an absolute demand for all classroom life, but only one goal among many. And sometimes, we can trade away some degree of fairness in the pursuit of other goals.”

The following is a guest post by C. Thi Nguyen, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Utah. It is part of the series of weekly guest posts by different authors at Daily Nous this summer.

Teacher, Bureaucrat, Cop
by C. Thi Nguyen

I was teaching a first-year “great books” seminar, doing the Tao Te Ching. During the class discussion, I asked my students to imagine what a truly Taoist school might be like. They said: there would be no central authority figure. There would be no grading. Students could pursue whatever paths interested them. There would just be resources available for them to explore, to play around with. I asked them why our educational system wasn’t like that. They said: it must be because our educational system was more about evaluating them, getting them to fall into line, then about actually helping them grow and develop.

They were getting super excited. Then one of my students said: “Professor? Could we do that? Could we just do whatever final project we wanted?” The whole class was vibrating with enthusiasm. My syllabus had the usual final term paper programmed in, but the students were boiling over with other ideas. An animation student wanted to animate some of the poems we’d read; a women’s studies student wanted to write a feminist updating of “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”.

And I froze. Because how the hell was I supposed to grade this stuff fairly? I didn’t want to just point-black refuse, but how in god’s name could I issue meaningful grades to an animated movie, a critical paper, and a film script? We’d been extolling the virtues of creativity and open-mindedness, originality and adaptability, and here I was about to embody the bureaucratic authoritarian. I was about to tell them: “You cannot do this thing that you love and are excited by, that actually integrates with your life path and goals. Because I could not grade you fairly.”

So I let them design their own final projects: whatever format they wanted, so long as it engaged with the class material in an interesting way. I had them pitch me their ideas, and we negotiated a project that would satisfy both of us. And what I got was completely amazing. About a third of the students did the standard term paper. The rest went wild. I got a short film, and a podcast about Homer’s concept of heroism. A ceramicist tried using traditional Japanese ceramics methods that she’d never used before, and kept a diary, informed by Japanese aesthetics texts we’d read. The women’s studies student gave me a (sharp, hysterical) screenplay updating the Wife of Bath, called The Wife of Wall Street.

Was this a teaching success or a teaching failure? What the students gained here was the ability to integrate what we were doing with their own career paths, their own animating values. They got to exercise their creativity and their intellectual autonomy. What I lost was the ability to grade with anything like perfect fairness. And I came out thinking not that fairness was entirely unimportant, but rather that there was a complex tension here, a trade-off between different values—and that in the past, I had unthinkingly gone all-in for fairness and left other pedagogical values on the wayside.

Then I remembered a thought that had been implanted in my head way back in grad school. I’d been in the “how to teach” class for first-time teaching assistants. One of our faculty was talking about the purpose of grading. They said: “Imagine that you’re grading. You give both Dennis and Kate a B on their first papers. But after you’ve sent out the grades, you realize you’d made a mistake. On further inspection, Dennis’ paper is actually worse than Kate’s; he actually deserved a B-. Now their second papers come in, and both Kate and Dennis improve a bit on their second paper. Now what grade do you give them? If you value fairness, you should give Kate’s paper a B+, and Dennis’ second paper a B—the grade it deserves and that’s in line with the grades for the rest of the class. But then you won’t be performing another vital function of grading. You won’t be signaling to Dennis that he has improved; you won’t be visibly rewarding his increased effort and skill. Fairness here asks you to give him a B, but many of our other educational goals say you should give him a B+. So what should you do?”

I expected them to say: give Dennis the B, because you’ve got to be fair. But what they actually said was: “Well, it depends a lot on the specifics of the situation. But, in many circumstances, the right thing to do is give Dennis the B+, because the educational signaling function of grading is often more important than strict fairness.”

This blew my mind. Because I had never actually separated out those two functions before. There was just this one edifice in my mind: grading. And the presumption was that grading always had to be maximally fair, that that was what the whole thing was for.

So here’s what I’ve been thinking: the job of a class instructor actually encompasses a number of separate functional roles. Privately, I call these functions “teacher”, “bureaucrat”, and “cop”.

The function of teacher is to educate and improve their students. To give them knowledge, grow their skills, charge up their critical thinking, train their intellectual virtues—anything like that.

The function of bureaucrat is to fairly evaluate the students. It is to offer some relatively objective assessment and ranking.

The function of cop is to enforce the rules. Perhaps the kinder way to put it might be that the cop functions to maintain the current social order. Though, in some cases, the way to maintain the social order is to inculcate a sensibility of pure obedience to the letter of the law.

(This isn’t a claim about everything it is to be an actual bureaucrat, or an actual cop. These are just my internal labels to help me think through my different job functions in the classroom.)

These functions often conflict. And then we have to weigh them against each other. And my worry is that sometimes, we educators act unthinkingly. We teach the way we ourselves were taught, and don’t think about the actual function of our inherited pedagogy.

This has been on mind recently, because the pandemic forced a rapid transition to online teaching; many of us had to make implementation decisions which revealed our actual priorities. I got to watch professors, who taught about Foucault and control—who preached about the dangers of the surveillance state—turn around and go full surveillance. When it was time to start administering tests at home, in the Zoom era, they said yes to every bit of eye-tracking technology, used every bit of surveillance they could take their hands on. The damage that heightened surveillance did to the environment of trust—and the whole dense emotional life of education—was far less important, it seemed, then making absolutely sure that nobody cheated.

Along similar lines: lately, I keep seeing teachers march in the streets against the tyranny of the cops, and then, in their own classrooms, go full cop. ACAB in the streets; cop between the sheets.

This can include open authoritarian bullying, but it also includes much milder-looking, but more pervasive, choices. For example: spending significant resources, in a general education class, on teaching and enforcing proper citation style. In many classes, absolute obedience to the details of a particular citation format becomes a basis for grading decisions.

Does this serve any deep educational function? At the intro level, rarely. It’s not a skill that the vast majority of our students actually need. (You might think that making students cite a page number in texts helps them learn a certain detail orientation, but there’s a big difference between that, and, like, getting all your punctuation right in proper MLA citation style.) Where does the obsession with citation style come from? More than one composition teacher has suggested to me that it comes from the drive for objective grading. It is incredibly hard to justify, in a bureaucratically defensible way, a grade based on creativity or incisiveness of a student paper. But a grade based on obedience to a set of explicit rules is objective and unimpeachable—and easy to process at volume.

More importantly: for a student not headed into the academy, a significant emphasis on proper citation style communicates an underlying value of obedience for obedience’s sake. Because, for most of our students, citation formats are a useless piece of knowledge. Proper citation has no relationship to their interests—professional or personal—and no relationship to the development of general intellectual or critical faculties. It’s just a bunch of rules that we enforce, not because it’ll actually help the student, but because they’re the rules. And students know this, deep in their hearts. They know that they’re bowing down to a set of irrelevant norms, because that’s what they have to do to get the grade. When we push this stuff on our students without any heed to the educational function, we’re being cops.

The difference between the bureaucratic function and the teaching function is subtler. The core question is: to what degree does the process of fair evaluation serve the goals of education?

Fair evaluation is not the only goal of an educational system. You could have an educational system without comparative evaluation. Each student could submit a piece of writing to me, and I could tell them their strengths and weaknesses. I could suggest ways for them to improve. I could help my students become engaged, more interested, reflective, more careful thinkers. I could even tailor my suggestions to their goals and interests. None of this requires a fair comparison between students.

This line of thinking has opened up all sorts of new possibilities in my teaching. For one thing: I started writing these open-ended, funny final exam questions in my intro classes. The questions have a lot of room built in for student improvisation. Like: “Choose any two philosophers we’ve studied and stage a debate between them about the value of Instagram culture.” Or: “Choose any philosopher we’ve studied and say how they would redesign the educational system.” Students often leave the final exam delighted; I hear them arguing about the ideas in the hallways afterwards. Students tell me they didn’t know a final could be fun.

The benefits are clear to me. Students get to exercise their creativity. They get to feel intellectually autonomous, to integrate material with their own interests. And they get to leave the class—sometimes their only humanities class—with a sense that this kind of humanistic, philosophical thinking is alive, delightful, and applicable to their actual lives. But, to accomplish all of this, this style of exam trades away a bit of fairness.

Which is not to say that the exam is aggressively unfair. I can still get a good sense of whether they understand the material vaguely or deeply. But it is quite difficult to make precise comparisons between students because the task is more open-ended. When they get to choose any philosopher from the class, or, say, pick any law to rewrite from according to their choice of political theories, they can end up in every different places. The freedom in the task lets students select, or stumble into, tasks of varying difficulty. In this case, for me, the trade is worth it. I care more about giving my intro students, as their last taste of philosophy, a chance to exercise some creativity and intellectual autonomy, than I do about perfectly precise grading.[1]

Why did we need these precise comparisons anyway? It’s useful, here, to consult the history of our modern, standardized grading system. According to the historians, our modern system of grading was set up to perform a few different functions. One is motivational: the clarity of grades gets students to work. (Although, as many have noticed, it often motivates them to narrowly pursue only those things which will advance their grade.) But the main interest driving the grading system is informational portability. Grades transfer information quickly between contexts. This transfer can have some educational function. Educators can use it to sort students into different classes based on past performance, and do impact studies on educational interventions. But a dominant use for standardized grading is for employers. Much of modern grading arose around during the creation of systems of standardized certifications, designed for employers to quickly sort through pools of potential employees.

This tension between fairness and education shouldn’t be reduced to something so simple as, “Who am I serving—the student or the employers?” (Though, I admit, that reduction is awfully tempting.) The real point here is that issuing fair evaluations is just one particular function among many, for the instructor. Though fair evaluations have some educational use, they are not the end-all and be-all of education.

I could open up the final assignment in that honors seminar precisely because that class wasn’t intended to teach the skill of rigorous argument or careful writing. It was intended to expose students to the riches of “the great books”. So in that context, opening up the final project made sense. I’m not saying that we should never give standard final assignments—the decisions depend a lot on the specifics of the situation. I’m just saying that there are sometimes reasons to move away from the demands of fairness, and the standardization it enforces. The real point is: fairness is only one of our functions. We can free ourselves up to pursue a wider range of educational goals when we see that fairness is not an absolute demand for all classroom life, but only one goal among many. And sometimes, we can trade away some degree of fairness in the pursuit of other goals.

It’s important to be clear about which functions we are serving, and to be deliberate in making the trade-offs. And there’s a big decision point coming. My Twitter feed is full of professors and teachers freaking out about the coming of GPT-3. Clearly, some students will start to cheat using automated paper-writing. People are proposing responses that involve going full surveillance state. They have proposed making students write their papers with eye-tracking software on, or writing all papers in controlled and secure environments, like testing centers.

These choices serve the functions of the bureaucrat and the cop—but not, I think, the teacher’s. Because the environment they are suggesting—an environment of surveillance, paranoia, and profound distrust—is deeply hostile to some of our subtler educational goals. It is hard to turn in a creative expression, to really reflect on your values and world-view, if you have to write your essay in a single session in a monitored testing center under a camera’s baleful eye. Going full surveillance may catch some cheaters, but at the expense of providing a richer, more supportive educational environment for the rest of our students.

It is tempting, when faced with decision points like this, to just default to worrying about fairness. Even for those who deeply wish to be teachers, it is so easy to go full cop or full bureaucrat. It can seem inevitable. In our educational culture, the demands of fairness are often presented as paramount. But we actually have a choice—between policing our students, and teaching them.

[1] Rima Basu does something even more profound. She offers students a choice between a more traditional academic writing in her classes, and a “public writing” track, where students output op-eds, blog posts, and even podcasts. Yet another case where offering more educational integration with students’ interests is in tension with the goal of perfectly fair evaluations.

The Philosophy Special (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/08/2022 - 6:30pm in

“I suspect I’m not alone among philosophers in finding colloquia almost universally frustrating: the speakers are more interesting than the conventional talk allows them to be…”

The following is a guest post by Kieran Setiya, Professor of Philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It is part of the series of weekly guest posts by different authors at Daily Nous this summer.


The Philosophy Special
by Kieran Setiya

My colleague Steve Yablo once described teaching as “standup with low expectations.” He had in mind, I think, the undergraduate lecture. It has the form of the comedy special or Edinburgh show: holding the attention of an audience for 50 minutes with nothing but words. Anticipating boredom, students can be grateful for the feeblest of dad jokes. Steve is much funnier than that—as though a standup comedian had the philosophical firepower of Bertrand Russell.

It’s not just philosophers who see a connection here; it happens the other way around. In a 2015 interview, the fabulous Moshe Kasher was asked what he would have been if he hadn’t been a comedian. “I wanted to be, at one point, an academic,” he replied. “But I started to realize … what I wanted was the part where you teach, and that’s just comedy.”

Now, it isn’t comedy, exactly, but they do have things in common: not just the battle for attention, but the balance of ideas and entertainment, the power of crowdwork or audience interaction, the moments of improv. Of course, there are differences, too: there’s a curriculum to cover when you teach, with new material each class, and standups rarely use handouts—though they sometime use slides.

In some ways closer to the standup special is the colloquium talk: the same material, practiced in advance and delivered to different audiences, roughly an hour in length. But as a rule, few colloquia are very much fun.

There are exceptions. In his Presidential Address to the APA in 1985, Rogers Albritton packed in an awful lot of zingers:

No doubt we’re free as birds. … But how free are birds?

Feed line, punch line, then a topper:

Let no bird preen itself on its freedom. There are cages. There are tamers of birds.

There are plenty more like this: Albritton is a Borscht Belt Wittgenstein. Some of his best arguments are jokes:

I don’t see (do you?) that my freedom of will would be reduced at all if you chained me up. You would of course deprive me of considerable freedom of movement if you did that; you would thereby diminish my already unimpressive capacity to do what I will. But I don’t see that my will would be any the less free. … Suppose I am chained up so that I can’t walk. … Do I have reason to think not only, “They’ve chained me up!” but, “Good God, they’ve been tampering with my will!”?

Albritton is an exception to the rule, then; Yablo is, too. (Feel free to mention others in the comments.)

Perhaps it’s appropriate that the colloquium talk is not a standup set, and is not primarily about fun. After all, the common form does not imply a common purpose. One is meant to inform or convince, the other to entertain.

Yet there’s no inherent conflict between informing or convincing and entertaining. Some standups give what are, in effect, comedic lectures—I am thinking of Mark Watson and Josie Long, or more recently, Hasan Minhaj and Hannah Gadsby.

And there’s a sharp contrast in how far professional standups adapt themselves to the form—how far they think about what it can do and how to do it well—and how far professional philosophers think about the form of the philosophy colloquium. When we do not simply read a paper, we extemporize on a handout or slides that summarize our main points; there is little comedy, or suspense.

Comics sometimes talk about the form of what they are doing as they’re doing it. My hero Stewart Lee is a master of this:

Now this show is called “Carpet Remnant World.” … It was supposed to be about idealized notions of society and how we behave as collective groups… But I’ve been a bit busy with one thing or another. It’s not really worked. So, but what I will do is about five minutes from the end … at about 10:00 … I will repeat the phrase “Carpet Remnant World” over some music and that will give the illusion of structure.

And big laughs down here, for that, people down here. The people who bought tickets first, they’ve seen me before. They’re going, “Of course there’ll be content and structure. We’ve seen him before. This is a comedic double bluff. Ha-ha,” right? But up there, there’s a lot of people they don’t really know what they’ve come to … and they’ve been whispering all through it up there, in the top bit there. Like, “Is this who you wanted to see? It seems like an aggressive lecture.”

When philosophers talk about the form of the colloquium, we often conclude, plausibly enough, that it’s discrepant with its purpose: an hour-long monologue is not the best way to communicate an intricate line of thought. There is a strong case to be made for a read-ahead format in which the reasoning is put in writing.

I suspect I’m not alone among philosophers in finding colloquia almost universally frustrating: the speakers are more interesting than the conventional talk allows them to be. I tend to be impatient for the Q&A, a form much better suited to its purpose—like a roomful of hecklers, but they have to raise their hands, and the speaker has to invite the heckle. Even better, I think, is the conversation at the after-colloquium dinner, when more informal questions can be asked. (It was partly missing this under lockdown that inspired me to start a podcast.)

So the situation is not good. What can we do to improve it? There are two questions here. First, what other formats should we try? We rarely have panel discussions in philosophy, but they can be freewheeling and fun. We rarely have one-on-one debates, or structured Q&A, like a talk show, in which one philosopher interviews another before opening things up to the audience. Why not experiment with these formats, among others?

The other question is what to do with the colloquium talk if we hold its format fixed. What philosophical projects are best suited to the hour-long special? Should colloquium speakers tell more jokes? Should they do more crowdwork? Should they err towards the sorts of claims and arguments they wouldn’t make in print—taking advantage of the intimacy of the venue, as a comic might try new material in a club?

What would it be for philosophers to think of the colloquium as intellectual performance art?

Intergroup Dialogue in the Philosophy Classroom (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/07/2022 - 6:30pm in

“Over 70% of our students… reported being more likely than before to listen to someone who held an opposing viewpoint…”

The following is a guest post* by Wes Siscoe (University of Cologne, University of Graz) and Zachary T. Odermatt (Florida State University. It is part of the series of weekly guest posts by different authors at Daily Nous this summer.

Intergroup Dialogue in the Philosophy Classroom: Helping Students to Have Productive Conversations about Race and Gender
by Wes Siscoe and Zachary T. Odermatt

If you’re reading this blog, we don’t need to tell you that there are a number of challenges to allowing undergraduates to have a class-wide, free-for-all conversation about the philosophy of race or the philosophy of gender. Nevertheless, ongoing dialogue is an important part of doing philosophy, making it a priority to teach students how to discuss even the most challenging of topics. In order to help students build the necessary skills to have constructive conversations about race and gender, we used an Innovation in Teaching Grant from the AAPT to create a course centered around weekly dialogue groups. In this post, we will describe the structure and format of our dialogue groups, explain how they were able to overcome some obvious challenges, and provide you with the resources to create dialogue groups in your classes.

Students have a number of fears when discussing controversial issues like race and gender. Many of our students were concerned that they would accidentally say something racist or sexist, while others worried that they would be the targets of racism or sexism. One promising method for confronting these fears is intergroup dialogue—sustained, small group discussions with participants from a variety of social identities. In 2008, a group of nine universities set out to explore whether intergroup dialogue could help students have conversations about race and gender, a project known as the Multi-University Intergroup Dialogue Research Project. What they found was that intergroup dialogues helped students improve their communication skills and grow in empathy and understanding, helping them to overcome their fears of being seen as racist or sexist or being the targets of racism or sexism.

In order to incorporate the lessons learned from the Intergroup Dialogue Project, we designed dialogue groups that emphasized student leadership and a strong sense of community. To begin with, we gave students ownership over their dialogue groups. The groups, each of which had 20 students, met once a week for the duration of the semester and were supervised by TAs. The first day of dialogue was dedicated to students creating their own group norms, the ground rules that would guide their discussions throughout the semester. Potential norms included the following:

  • Charitable Listening – Always assume that group members mean well when they share, and allow them to clarify if they feel that have been misunderstood
  • No Generalizing – No reasoning about others using generalizations, either positive or negative
  • Names Stay, Ideas Leave – Continue discussing interesting ideas outside of the classroom, but do so without attaching participants’ names to stories or beliefs

After the first day of dialogue groups, during which students chose their group norms, the dialogue sessions were facilitated—not by faculty or TAs—but by the students themselves. Students were assigned a partner along with a day that they would lead the discussion, creating a decentralized power structure that gave the students the primary role in creating a productive conversation.

In order to further build a sense of community, each session began with an ice-breaker activity to help students get to know one another on a more personal level. These activities were designed both to encourage familiarity and camaraderie as well as prompt thoughts and ideas that would be relevant to the subsequent discussion. To allow the sense of community time to develop, discussion topics at the beginning of the semester should be kept fairly non-confrontational. For instance, a helpful early semester discussion-starter might be, “What is a positive aspect of what you see as masculinity?” as opposed to, “What makes someone a man or a woman?” Discussion topics like these allow students to practice following the group norms without diving into the most difficult issues right at the outset.

Here are some of the most promising results from our course. In the post-course survey, over 80% of students agreed that they were more comfortable discussing issues surrounding race and gender than they were before, with only 5% saying they were less comfortable, while over 70% said that they are now more likely to initiate similar conversations outside of class. Over 70% of our students also reported being more likely than before to listen to someone who held an opposing viewpoint regarding issues of race or gender, while only 4% said that they were less likely to do so. Here is the full breakdown of how the groups affected the comfort levels of dialogue participants:

If you’re interested in adding dialogue groups to a class covering the philosophy of race or the philosophy of gender, then here is everything you need to get started. Feel free to download all of the rubrics and documentation, modifying them as necessary!

  1. Scheduling your Dialogue Groups – How you schedule your dialogue groups will depend on how many students you have. If your class has less than 25 students, then you can simply make one class session a week into a dialogue session that includes all of the students. If you have more than 25 students, then you should consider creating multiple dialogue groups. In our case, we had 120 students, so we created 6 dialogue groups that met once a week, with each TA leading 1-2 dialogue groups. If you do not have TAs, you can still create multiple groups by staggering when and how often they meet. If you have 40 students, for example, you can have a 20-student group meet each week, rotating which group meets, or you can schedule both groups each week, having them meet back-to-back.
  2. Creating Group Norms – The initial dialogue session was led by the course instructor or TA, explaining the structure and goals of the dialogue group. As a part of this session, the instructor or TA also led the students through the process of choosing their own discussion norms. Students might not be immediately familiar with what qualifies as a helpful group norm, so sharing a number of examples is often a good way to get started. See this link for more guidance on creating group norms, along with a full list of example norms.
  3. Assigning the Lesson Plan – At the initial dialogue session, students were randomly assigned a partner and a day that they would lead the discussion. Several days before their assigned discussion group, they turned in a lesson plan that included dialogue activities and discussion questions (here is an example of the lesson plan that one pair of students created). In order to help them create effective lesson plans, students were provided with this rubric, this list of possible dialogue activities, and feedback on their lesson plans, making revisions to their initial lesson plan before they ultimately led the group discussion.
  4. Grading the “Presentation” – Students also received a grade for how well they led their dialogue group. Along with earning points for revising and executing their lesson plan, they earned points by creating a sense of community on their discussion day—arriving early to greet everyone, encouraging everyone to participate in the conversation, and asking effective follow-up questions. The rubric that we used to grade dialogue leaders is here.

Maybe you’re not convinced yet that dialogue groups are the way to go, so before we close, we’d like to address a couple of concerns. First of all, having weekly dialogue groups takes away from instructional time, raising the possibility that such groups will prevent students from mastering the course content. Not a lot of research has been dedicated to this issue, but what has been done suggests that dialogue groups might add to, not detract from, student learning outcomes. When compared to large lecture courses, for example, intergroup dialogues did not detract from student mastery in a course on the sociology of race and ethnicity. This could be because dialogue groups are a form of active learning, giving students a chance to use concepts that they have been learning in the classroom.

Secondly, by adopting the dialogue format, the instructor relinquishes a fair amount of control over what students say, raising the concern that dialogue groups open the door to hurtful and demeaning comments. This is an important concern, and demonstrates why it is essential to have an instructor or TAs oversee the discussions. While they are not there to lead the group, the TA or the instructor has the final say on what does and does not qualify as constructive conversation, playing an important role in helping students feel comfortable enough to share their own thoughts and experiences. For a full description of our dialogue groups, along with the pedagogical considerations that went into designing them, see our forthcoming paper in Teaching Philosophy, or feel free to ask away in the comments!

[top image: detail of string art by Ani Abakumova]

Seeking Feedback on “Good Practices Guide” – Part 2

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 11/05/2022 - 8:00pm in

Tags 

policies, teaching

This is the second of several posts soliciting comments on a draft “Good Practices Guide” for advancing diversity in philosophy.

The first in the series, published on Monday, concerned practices regarding sexual harassment, caregivers, and staff-student relationships.

This post includes the sections on conferences (and other events) and teaching. As before, suggestions, criticisms, and comments are welcome.

Good Practice Policy: Conferences and Events

1. When chairing a session ensure that the discussion is welcoming and inclusive.

a. Ensure that nobody contributes without permission and that no member of the audience interrupts others, is aggressive or rude, or takes up too much time of the discussion

b. Allow for a break between talks and Q&A sessions in order for participants to gather their thoughts and/or to have time to attend to their different needs.

c. Carefully select the order in which you call on questioners. Keep in mind that beginning the Q&A session with a member of an underrepresented group often leads to a more inclusive discussion.

d. Encourage the participation of those who are more reluctant to speak (e.g., graduate students, or people sitting in the back)

e. Do not allow questioners follow up questions if others have not been given a chance to speak or limit to one follow up.

2. As a member of the audience, be respectful of the speaker and the other people in the room.

a. Keep questions short. If you want further clarification or wish to expand on your point you may do so with the speaker in private after the talk or over email.

b. Try to ask constructive questions that will help the presenter. Set a respectful tone by thanking the presenter and acknowledge points made by previous questioners.

c. Try to read the room to assess whether your question will benefit the discussion.

d. Do not dominate the discussion—ask only one question per question and make that question as short and concise as possible.

e. Be mindful of your body language and what it signals.

3. Organizers should make every reasonable effort to make the conference as inclusive as possible.

a. Departments should ensure that this policy is available to staff and students who are organizing events in a permanent format (e.g., intranet, handbooks) and that they are aware of it.

b. Departments should, on a regular (e.g., annual) basis, monitor the proportions of members of under-represented groups at conferences and seminar series organized by colleagues within the department, and, if significant imbalance emerges, take steps to strengthen their policies.

c. When drawing up a list of potential invited speakers, take reasonable steps to ensure that sufficient representation (see also Implicit Bias).

d. Where possible, consult the members of underrepresented groups on your list before fixing the date of the conference, to ensure that speakers are not just invited but will actually attend.

e. Organizers should ensure that members of all groups are treated equally as speakers on publicity material and the conference program (e.g., to avoid the situation where a male speaker is described as ‘Professor in philosophy at …’ but a female speaker, also a Professor, is described as ‘teaches philosophy at …’; or where the male speaker’s title (Dr, Prof.) is included by the female speaker’s isn’t).

f. Where possible try to include local scholars.

g. Signal willingness to accommodate scholars with disabilities or other particularized needs.

i. Provide in the call for papers/conference announcement information such as what kinds of accommodations you will be able to provide in order to enable and encourage scholars to attend.

ii. Whenever possible, do not require participants to disclose their needs as that can make them feel that they are a burden on the conference organizers.

iii. Ensure that they are made to feel at ease to ask questions about accommodations.

h. Ensure that the venue of the conference is accessible and that there is staff to assist people with disabilities.

i. Ensure that speakers and attendees know whom to contact to address any questions or needs that may arise.

j. Ensure there are sufficient breaks within the day, and stick to the announced schedule for these breaks.

k. Be aware of implicit biases when thinking of who to invite.

i. Chances are that the first people that come to mind will be people without historical disadvantage.

ii. Consider invitations to junior and less well-established philosophers from underrepresented groups to avoid holding these philosophers to higher standards  (e.g., women must be famous, but not so men). See the Up Directory for possibilities.

l. When possible, offer funding to members of underrepresented groups and those with specialized needs. Underrepresented groups may well be at lower-prestige institutions and/or in lower-ranked jobs. They may therefore have less access to institutional funding. If you cannot fund all speakers, ask bigger-name speakers whether they can fund their own travel (they can always say no), freeing up resources for less well-known speakers.

m. Offer free registration rate for a companion assisting an attendee with a disability and abide by all other ADA policies.

n. When possible, have a quiet room for rest. This is important for a range of disabilities and for participants who have medical needs or are breastfeeding etc.

o. Investigate whether the provision of childcare facilities for the duration of the conference is possible.

i. Many universities have day care facilities on or near campus, which may be able to offer a day rate for conference delegates.

ii. For larger conferences, if campus facilities are not available consider hosting the conference at a hotel that offers childcare and babysitting services.

iii. Consider setting aside funding to subsidize the use of childcare facilities by delegates.

iv. Be mindful of who is and who isn’t asked to care for children (see Implicit Bias).

p. Encourage speakers to make their material accessible to all participants and make sure you know how to operate equipment in order to help speakers.

q. If there is food served, make sure to collect information about any relevant dietary restrictions of conference participants.

Good Practice Policy: Teaching

The aim of these practices is to make teaching effective and inclusive. With this aim in mind the following guidelines focus on classroom dynamics and management in order to foster a sense of community in the classroom conducive to learning and critical and creative thinking in the class. Consider suggesting some or all of the following.

1. Aim to increase the diversity of authors included in syllabi. Consult resources but also colleagues and the students themselves for suggestions.

2. Departments should ensure that those involved in teaching know about the workings of implicit bias. Information about and discussion of implicit bias should be included in any training or induction sessions run by the department for staff, including teaching assistants.

3. Make the aims of each class clear at the outset. Set the tone for a collaborative, creative and inclusive class.

4. Whenever possible, get students to introduce themselves. Try to remember their names (with correct pronunciation) and preferred pronouns and expect their classmates to do the same.

a. Consider having students fill in questionnaires about pronouns, disabilities and questionnaires to make the process easier for students.

b. Allow students to opt out of divulging personal information they prefer not to share.

5. Treat students as individuals and not as representatives of a category, e.g., “LGBTQ”, “African.” Do not assume that the person’s place of origin, for example, makes them an expert on that particular place.

6. Seek participation from everyone and encourage those who are more hesitant. Give everyone a chance to talk.

a. Ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate in class.

b. Ensure that students understand how to participate in class discussion.

c. Make sure no one dominates class discussions.

d. If a student is more advanced, ensure to give other participants the background knowledge required to understand the discussion.

e. Encourage questions of clarification.

f. Jokes, thought experiments and examples should resonate with the whole class and not only a subgroup within the class. If that is not possible, explain them to everyone.

g. Try a variety of teaching techniques and classroom activities to stimulate class discussion and to encourage student participation in ways they are more comfortable with (e.g., some students struggle with speaking in front of the entire class but do well in small groups).

h. Consider how implicit bias may affect your interaction with students and try to be as just and equitable as possible – this includes time given to the students to talk in class but also the distribution of negative and positive feedback.

7. Encourage students to address each other thus fostering politeness and collaboration in class.

a. Encourage students to listen carefully to their interlocutor.

b. Encourage students to help each other in class to develop ideas, contribute their knowledge and so on.

c. Make sure that students are respectful and courteous.

d. Quickly address language that is insensitive, dismissive, aggressive or rude

e. Create an environment in which students can discuss their experiences and identities without being treated as though those experiences and identities define them.

8. Ensure that students are informed about available services for students (e.g., counseling, disabilities, studying support).

9. Ensure that all aspects of the class are accessible to everyone – for instance, that classrooms are big enough and accessible by wheelchair, that there are captions in videos, that extra time and private rooms are available for students that need them during exams.

10. Encourage feedback on the class and involve students in suggesting ways to improve it.

11. In graduate student placement, make every effort to familiarize your placement officer with issues that candidates from underrepresented groups or with disabilities face.

a. Meet early and often with students.

b. Actively encourage students to talk about these issues and try to find effective ways to address them.

c. Make sure that everyone is aware of protocols and responsibilities for reporting problems in these areas.

d. Consider creating a team of placement mentors covering a range of sub-disciplines.

e. Actively support students during their job search.

f. Maintain a collection of job search materials that is accessible to all graduate students.

g. Make available to students resources that can enable them to have effective electronic interviews. (e.g., rooms for interviewing with high speed internet connection)

h. Encourage students to become members of professional societies and consider making funds available to help subsidize such memberships.

i. Prove financial support to students who need resources to lessen the financial burden of the job market (traveling, dossier services, child care etc.)

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