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From Maps to Apps: Introducing Students to Argument-Mapping (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/11/2020 - 4:50am in

In the following guest post*, Chad Mohler, professor of philosophy at Truman State University, describes a cool new argument-mapping app he has created and shares a special offer with Daily Nous readers.

From Maps to Apps:
Introducing Students to Argument-Mapping in the Physical and Digital Realms
by Chad Mohler

Longtime Daily Nous readers may recall earlier posts (herehere, and here) about argument mapping. There are many studies that offer empirical confirmation of the cognitive benefits of argument-mapping: see a few listed here, along with studies mentioned in the Daily Nous posts. The studies suggest that argument maps can help individuals improve in their critical thinking and in their understanding of the arguments they encounter throughout their lives.

Learning to map arguments, though, is not a skill that comes quickly or easily to most people. The kind of intensive, reflective practice needed to become good at it can be discouraging to students approaching argument-mapping for the first time. In my Introduction to Philosophy classes, I’m sensitive to that potential for early frustration. To help counter it, I introduce students to mapping techniques in a gradual way. In this post, I’d like to describe some of the practices I’ve used to ease students into argument-mapping.

The following is one such practice. Long before students have to extract from a text an argument to map, I get them used to assembling argument maps using sets of premises I provide them. In an in-class activity I call an argument “map-a-thon,” small groups of students lay out pieces of paper and colored string to create maps of a line of reasoning presented in some textual passage. Each claim associated with the reasoning is on its own sheet of paper, and different colors of string indicate whether parts of the argument structure either support (green) or challenge (red) other parts. During the exercise, I give students an unordered set of these claims, and I circulate around the class and offer tips to students as they attempt to arrange the papers in the proper way to construct an argument. They are, in essence, putting together an argument jigsaw puzzle. An image of part of such an argument map is included below:

As a next step at introducing argument-mapping to my students, I provide my students with the ability to do electronically what the map-a-thon allows them to do with physical objects. Using technology to construct argument maps has the following key advantage over map construction on paper: it allows students easily to edit the claims they use in their maps and to move them around (on a screen) to reflect the structure of an argument. Argument-mapping software also affords students the ability easily to share maps with each other and with their instructors in order to receive useful feedback.

Unfortunately, software solutions for argument-mapping are frequently unwieldy and often get in the way of students assembling maps. I wanted to provide students with a mapping experience that emulated the map-a-thon as much as possible. Not finding such a piece of software that could provide such an experience, I decided to make one myself. I have some experience as an iOS developer, and I set about creating an app. The result is ArguMap, which is the first iPhone / iPad app uniquely tailored and optimized for the creation of argument maps.

When designing ArguMap, I strived to ensure that the technology recedes to the background as much as possible. The touch interface of ArguMap maximally emulates physical interaction with objects. ArguMap users can move claims around on the screen just as easily as physically arranging pieces of paper in the map-a-thon. ArguMap also allows its users easily to group claims together to show how they jointly (rather than independently) provide reasons in favor of (or against) other claims. ArguMap makes that grouping of claims as easy as dragging the claims onto each other. Claims can be ungrouped just as easily, by dragging them out of a group. With simple drags and taps, ArguMap users can additionally quickly connect or disconnect parts of a map. As a result, trying out different lines of reasoning is as easy as arranging cards on a table.

With thicker or thinner connecting lines, ArguMap can also show how some claims offer stronger or weaker reasons in favor of (or against) other claims. In addition, individuals can easily provide feedback on the various parts of a map using collapsible virtual notes. Commented-on maps can then be shared with their creators via email, text message, Apple’s Classroom software, or other sharing mechanisms. This is great, for instance, for teachers to provide feedback on student work or for students to offer peer reviews of each others’ maps (which is especially useful in remote learning contexts).

Below is a screenshot showing various parts of the ArguMap interface:

Here is a 30-second video clip of ArguMap in action:

My Introduction to Philosophy students have really enjoyed using ArguMap to construct their argument maps, and I am eager to share the app with you. ArguMap will be available publicly in the App Store beginning November 25, 2020; it runs on all iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches running iOS 14 or later. It is free to download and can be used forever as an argument map viewer. Users have access to a free 30-day trial of the app’s powerful map-editing functionality. A one-time in-app purchase of $8.99 unlocks those editing features for use beyond the trial period. Discounts of 50% are available to educational institutions who purchase 20 or more licenses via the Apple School Manager program.

I am pleased to be able to offer a promo code, redeemable for a free copy of ArguMap, to each of the first 50 Daily Nous readers who email me with their request for such a code. You can find out more information about ArguMap at its website. I am also happy to answer any questions you have about ArguMap or, in general, about my use of argument-mapping in my Introduction to Philosophy courses. You can email those questions to me. Happy mapping!

Discussion here also welcome.

The post From Maps to Apps: Introducing Students to Argument-Mapping (guest post) appeared first on Daily Nous.

The problem with accessibility checklists

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 19/11/2020 - 6:39pm in

Accessibility checklists are increasingly becoming offered as ways to improve inclusivity in Higher Education. However, they rely on the presumption that those delivering education and thus using them have no accessibility needs of their own. Moreover, in seeking to codify what counts as inclusivity, many students’ requirements get overlooked. In this post, Dr Kelsie Acton … Continued

We Still Have Work To Do

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 08/11/2020 - 8:36am in

Joseph Biden has defeated Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

Thank you, fellow 75 million Americans who voted for Biden and Kamala Harris. Trump is [negative adjectives of your choice] and we are very fortunate to be removing him from the presidency. I shudder at what the country might have looked like with another four years of him at the helm—as it is we have much to repair and recover from.

Trump’s defeat is worth celebrating, and I hope you all* get to do a little bit of that this weekend.

Four years ago, when Trump won, I asked: “What should we do? By “we” here, I mean we in our capacity as members of the community of professional philosophers.

This question remains a live one, and for many of the same reasons. Trump will not vanish from the political landscape, and neither will his followers. Over 70 million Americans voted for him—more than in 2016—and presumably many of these people did so because they like him or think he has been doing a good job, and not simply because they don’t like Biden or Harris or the Democratic Party.

In response to that question, I identified three elements of what came to be called “Trumpism” that I thought philosophers were particularly well-suited to address. They are still on the list:

1. Lack of respect for expertise. One glaring hallmark of Trump’s campaign is his apparent lack of respect for expertise, and the concomitant belief that the relevant questions are simple and their answers easy. The confidence with which he expressed his detail-less assurances that he could offer “tremendous” solutions to problems it was quite clear he did not understand ought to have been a bright warning sign. Philosophers are in the business of showing how the apparently simple is really quite complicated, once you think about it. This point is applicable across nearly every domain, especially governance and the various political, economic, and social challenges that governments address.

2. Inattention to sense. Is it that people don’t know when what they’re hearing doesn’t make sense? Or do they not care? Or do various cognitive biases interfere with people’s understanding of what makes sense? Yes, yes, and yes. Philosophers have long placed careful reasoning among their pedagogical goals. We need to do a better job of that, though. And we need to take up the task of motivating rationality. We academics—philosophers, especially—don’t generally need to be motivated to try to think rationally, but we are not normal. Additionally, we need to incorporate into our courses findings on the biases that interfere with proper reasoning, along with debiasing strategies.

3. Focus on the visible, rather than the important. Part of Trump’s success was owed to his ability to paint challenges as conflicts, and then foster solidarity with potential voters against their “enemies.” Yet the construal of these conflicts works by drawing attention to superficial and ultimately unimportant differences, and ignoring underlying and more important similarities. Insofar as philosophers teach others to look below the surface, and to not take things simply as they appear, they have a role to play in undermining some divisive appeals. Merely drawing attention to the pervasive role of chance or luck in everyone’s life can get students to be more thoughtful about the kinds of problems governments tend to address.

The intervening years have made clear that many other things need to be on such a list. I’ll mention one more,:

4. Constricted imaginationMuch of the cruelty (racism, xenophobia, etc.,) Trump exemplified and encouraged seemed to be facilitated by a lack of thought about the question of what is it like to be (or be in the position of) the people who were the targets of that cruelty. Learning more about what the lives of others different from you are like, learning how to take those perspectives seriously, and learning about the epistemic hurdles we face in doing these things are undertakings philosophers and other academics can help with, with the goal that disputes involve more understanding and less dismissiveness.

I leave it to commenters to add other items to the list.

To be clear, the idea is not that better philosophical education will eliminate political disagreement. It won’t, and we shouldn’t want it to, anyway. Rather, the hope is that it will improve political disagreement, and get people to be more thoughtful. We have our classrooms, we have more opportunities for public-facing work and outreach than ever before, and now we have one less obstacle. Let’s get back to it.

But let’s raise a glass first.

* Yes I know some readers of this post will have voted for Trump. Perhaps they can be happy to be rid of a certain degree of non-partisan problems Trump exemplified.

P.S. Look for a “Philosophers On” post about the election this coming week. Here’e the one from 2016.

The post We Still Have Work To Do appeared first on Daily Nous.

Counting Participation in the Philosophy Classroom

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/10/2020 - 11:28pm in


teaching, teaching

Do you grade your students on their in-class participation? How do you do it?

This was the subject of a post here five years ago. The topic resurfaced in an email I recently received from a philosophy professor and associate dean looking for good practices on the topic, and it seemed worth revisiting. He writes:

We’re currently looking at various assessment regimes we’ve come across that involve significant weightings for active student engagement in classroom discussion and other interactions, and how these can be designed to accurately and fairly assess the acquisition of philosophical skills and dispositions (of the kind philosophy programs commonly claim to be developing in their students). If such assessments require attendance as an obvious baseline, it’s the quality of participation that is being assessed rather than attendance as such. We’re looking for assessment transparency but without overthinking it, or tying it up with unhelpfully burdensome rubrics etc. it would be very interesting to see what other philosophers (and/or philosophy departments) do in this area.

It would be helpful to hear about whether you grade student participation in your philosophy class, how you do it, what steps (if any) you take to make sure you’re doing it accurately and fairly, how significantly a student’s participation grade factors into their overall course grade, and so on. How, if at all, have you modified your practices in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and in light of the accompanying increase in online teaching?

Additionally, if you’re aware of any empirical studies on the correlation between class participation and the quality of student outcomes in terms of knowledge retention and understanding, the development of core philosophical skills competencies, or overall student experience, please let us know about them.

Related: “Did I Miss Anything? On Attendance

The post Counting Participation in the Philosophy Classroom appeared first on Daily Nous.

Moving beyond the talk: Universities must become anti-racist

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/10/2020 - 5:55pm in

In 2016, Dr Akile Ahmet wrote a piece for the LSE Impact Blog entitled ‘We need to speak about race’: Examining the barriers to full and equal participation in university life’. Nearly five years on, she reflects on the state of Black and minority ethnic representation and inclusion in Higher Education. She finds that whilst … Continued

On teaching anticolonial archives

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/10/2020 - 5:50pm in

What does exploring decolonisation mean, look like and feel like In the classroom? And how does one think of this in relation to both the curriculum and pedagogy? Sara Salem takes up these questions as she reflects on designing and delivering a course at LSE on anticolonial archives. She takes readers through the contents of … Continued

If university campuses close, can everyone learn from home? What happens when the home becomes the classroom in India  

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/09/2020 - 4:59pm in

The reorganisation of work lives bought about by the pandemic has also been met with a reorganisation of domestic space as the site where work now takes place. For Higher Education, this means that homes have now become classrooms. However, the fundamental premise of successful online education is the access to both electricity supply and an … Continued

Florida to Allow Philosophy Majors to Teach Social Sciences in Public Schools

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/09/2020 - 7:15pm in

The Florida Department of Education has proposed amending a rule governing what kinds of degrees people who teach social science classes in the state’s public schools must have.

The rule in question, “Specialization Requirements for Certification in Social Science, Grades 6-12” (6A-4.03321) currently states that social science classes in public schools in Florida must be taught by someone with a degree major of social science, social studies, history, political science, geography, sociology, economics, or psychology. The proposed change would add philosophy to that list.

[Dana Hargrove, “Arcadia ii-viii”]

National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate WUFT reports:

The change is long overdue, said experts in the field. They describe misconceptions by critics who fail to understand that philosophy majors consider questions more broadly and creatively. “They imagine people sitting on mountains and uttering cryptic sayings or something,” said Gene Witmer, undergraduate coordinator for philosophy students at the University of Florida…

“Frankly, philosophy not being included was a historical oversight,” Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said in an email…

Social sciences [in Florida public schools] typically include courses in psychology, sociology, political science, philosophy, or economics. Such courses are not offered in every Florida [school]. 

The proposal is expected to be enacted later this month. It is currently up for public comment; there will be an official hearing on it next Wednesday.

The post Florida to Allow Philosophy Majors to Teach Social Sciences in Public Schools appeared first on Daily Nous.

Jessica Krug and Racial Identity Theft

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/09/2020 - 9:00pm in

In this episode, Neil, Natalia, and Niki discuss the racial dissembling of historian Jessica Krug. Here are some links and...

Read More

Tenured & Tenure-Track Profs: Take the Summer Off from Teaching (guest post by Ted Shear)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/09/2020 - 8:30pm in


Summer, teaching

In the following guest post*, Ted Shear, lecturer in philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder, suggests a way that those with secure positions in academia can help out their more vulnerable colleagues during this time of increased economic insecurity.

[sand castle by Calvin Seibert]

How Can Permanent Faculty Help Protect Grad Students and Non-Permanent Faculty from Impending Budget Cuts? Take the Summer off from Teaching¹
by Ted Shear

Departments and Universities across the country are grappling with many deep uncertainties about the future. There is no doubt that decreased enrollment and further cuts in public funding will mean budget shortfalls. But the depth of these cuts and precisely what operational consequences will follow remains murky. This is partly because so many of their determinants are the domain of various administrative bureaucracies and, even with healthy shared governance, they are not readily visible to individual faculty members. I’ve heard many of my professor friends express their concern about how graduate students and non-permanent faculty will be affected. While I do not wish to push the idea that institutional problems should or can be wholly addressed by the choices of lone actors, there are still some things that individual faculty members with permanent positions can do to help avoid making the situation worse for more vulnerable members of their communities. The purpose of this post is to suggest one thing that they can do.

In short, my suggestion is that when you receive the annual e-mail asking whether you would like to teach this Summer, decline.

Don’t misunderstand, I am aware that for those that normally take on these assignments, this will mean a sizable drop in expected pay. This is not a trivial matter. Those who choose to teach in the Summer under normal circumstances often do so for good reasons: perhaps they are the sole breadwinner in the family with their spouse normally taking on caregiving responsibilities for children or other family members; perhaps they are working hard to repay left-over student debt; perhaps they are helping financially support members of their family. These are all personal matters which are well outside the purview of appropriate topics of discussion amongst their colleagues. There are good reasons why permanent faculty take these assignments and I certainly don’t wish to diminish them.

Assistant professors in philosophy make roughly $60,000 a year depending on location or whether their institution is public or private. This may sound like a lot of money to graduate students or those in non-permanent positions, but it’s really not—especially for those with circumstances like those mentioned above. Teaching a short Summer course can mean a considerable boost to this income. At my own institution, CU Boulder, T/TT faculty are subject to the “3/9ths Rule” permitting a maximum of 1/3rd of annual salary to be earned by teaching outside the normal academic year. This means, for example, that a professor making $60,000 stands to earn up to an additional $20,000 for Summer teaching. While a single Summer course doesn’t reach this maximum (I was unable to locate an exact number), that’s a big difference. It would be understandably hard for anyone to pass up such a bump in salary. So, I reiterate that I am not intending to understate the personal sacrifice required by my proposal. While I’m certain that there are permanent faculty members who genuinely cannot afford to give up this extra income, I suspect there are many more who really could make do without it this year. What I am asking is for those of you who can manage to consider the relative harm to your colleagues and students caused by not having the opportunity to teach during the Summer.

Graduate students are being rushed out the door as departments try to reduce their tuition burdens. In at least one case I’m aware of, a student (at another institution) was told by their department only this week that they are expected to finish within the year even though they previously agreed with their adviser that they would wait another year and, as such, had not yet begun preparing their job market materials. This sort of thing is unconscionable under normal circumstances, but it’s even worse in the present circumstances where the job market barely exists. When that student defends their dissertation later this year, it would be tragic if their department were not able to give them work during the Summer because a permanent faculty member chose to teach. There are also many international graduate students who may rely on Summer teaching to maintain their visas—a concern exacerbated by the current administration’s chaotic shifts in their policies regarding international student visas.

The expected declining enrollment will also inevitably harm non-permanent faculty (like myself). Even in the normal academic year, there will be fewer courses left over after permanent faculty have received their teaching assignments. Although we are the least costly members of the faculty to employ (I receive $4,500/course in my position as a Lecturer at CU Boulder), we are also the first to be passed over when there are not enough courses to go around. Indeed, T/TT faculty, graduate students, recent graduate students, and Instructors are all given priority. Along with my fellow Lecturers, I am at the bottom of the barrel and will probably not be able to teach this Summer regardless of whether any permanent faculty opt to teach. I am actually quite proud that the Philosophy Department at CU Boulder (and likewise at my alma mater, UC Davis) supports their recent graduates as they navigate the job market by providing them with teaching. Still, I am sure to face hardship ahead as the true depth of the required budget cuts becomes clear in the coming weeks and I can only hope that I will be able to maintain my normal teaching load during the academic year. Although I am able to support myself without acquiring Summer teaching, the same is likely not true for many in my position. Many would be significantly harmed by a failure to procure a teaching assignment during the Summer.

While reflecting on these issues before I sat down to write this piece, I had considered proposing the introduction of departmental policies that prioritize graduate students and non-permanent faculty in the assignment of Summer teaching. Such policies have merit, particularly in their potential to overcome coordination problems, and deserve discussion, too. But I don’t want a policy debate to distract readers from a choice they can make themselves, now, that can make a difference.

To conclude, I know that nearly everyone’s financial situation will suffer from the economic decline caused by the pandemic and its impact on higher-education. As you think about what steps you might take to mitigate that personal cost, I hope that you will also think of the possible effects of your choices on other, more vulnerable members of your community.

¹ Thanks to Garrett Bredeson, Justin Caouette, Sophie Horowitz, Zak Kopkeien, Michaela McSweeney, Alastair Norcross, Abigail Pastore, Adam Sennet, Matt Shields, Colin Smith, Julia Staffel, and Alex Wolf-Root for their encouragement and feedback on this post.

The post Tenured & Tenure-Track Profs: Take the Summer Off from Teaching (guest post by Ted Shear) appeared first on Daily Nous.