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of Teaching Philosophy and Self-Analysis

As a philosopher of science, my goal is to expose the underlying presuppositions that
structure important scientific practices and institutions of lifein short, to think about what we are
doing and why. Indeed, it is from this perspective that I approach teaching in the history and
philosophy of science. I see myself as the inspiring educator; asking students to critically reflect on
their activities when engaging in, or studying a particular topic, and in doing so, hope to enable
them to understand themselves and their motivations more clearly. By encouraging them to ask
at whatever levelmany of the questions the philosopher of science asks, I strive to actively engage
them in the process of inquiry and challenge them to increase understanding of what they are
doing. As the curious and self-reflective practitioner, I also hope to instruct by example, by
exploring my own philosophical interests throughout my teachings and demonstrating how to
adapt to new challenges, environments, and problems.
How does it all connect? My central goal for my students is for them to develop the capacity to
work at the intersection of different fieldsto see how different ideas and frameworks hang
together and ultimately inform one another. As a philosopher of science, the skill of
interdisciplinary study is essential. By providing students the opportunity to learn by making
connections between ideas and concepts, I challenge them to deepen their learning experience, as
well as enable them to build their own interdisciplinary pathway by choosing reflective writing
assignments, discussion questions, and creative final projects which make sense to them. As a
result, content is often rooted in life experience, giving an authentic purpose for learning and
connecting it to a real world context. I teach interdisciplinary study in two primary waysthrough
in-class activities that demonstrate the synthesis of ideas, and authentic assessments.
I use a diverse range of in-class activities to inform interdisciplinary study, such as active
lectures, student-led discussions, group work, in-class reflections on contemporary music,

television, film clips, impromptu speeches on weekly news stories, and dramatic re-enactments
such as scientist on trial. This is especially helpful for encouraging students to explore topics
across a range of subject boundaries in a way that can lead to greater creativity. For example, while
teaching CLLC L210: Philosophy of Satire during the fall of 2014a seminar I designed and was
selected to teach through a highly competitive process for the Collins Living-Learning CenterI
developed an in-class activity based on my own interdisciplinary research1 to help students create
their own satirical ideas. To begin, I have students consider the following questions: where does the
satirist (e.g. The Daily Show, John Oliver, The Onion) find their ideas? What is the primary
motivation for their work? What arouses the satirists attack? These questions are important, for if
we can learn what motivates those who create satire, it follows that we may learn how to create
satire ourselves. It turns out that the primary motivation for satire is resentment: a defensive
response of anger, fear, or other negative feelings toward something which is perceived to be in
violation of social norms. For example, the satirical show Seinfeld expresses resentments in
numerous characters made into humorous categories of what one shouldnt do, e.g., The Slow
Talker, The Fast Talker, The Close Talker, The Double-Dipper, The Double Parker, The Re-
gifter, The Anti-dentite, The Baldist, and the infamous Soup Nazi. To help students fully
understand this, I divide them into groups of 2-3, and have them discuss their own resentments, or
resentments they perceive others to have. Drawing on those resentments, students come up with 1-
3 ideas each for satirical characters, and share (or perform!) them with the class. By teaching
students one creative techniquedrawing from resentmentsfor developing satirical content,
students learn to generate a number of original, interesting ideas in a way that makes connections
between their own personal experiences and various topics. Students also come to appreciate how

1 Zautra, N. (2013, July). Resentment in Satire. Paper presented at the 25th International Society for Humor
Studies Conference, Williamsburg, VA.

this technique may generalize to other forms of creativity, be it for writing in other literary forms,
generating scientific questions, or developing business strategies, which helps them to develop
transferrable skills of critical thinking and synthesis that are applicable to future learning
Each in-class activity is purposefully designed to support my next interdisciplinary teaching
approach; authentic assessments. With authentic assessments, students are asked to perform real-
world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills. I adopted
this pedagogical strategy following my participation in the 2014 Course Development Institute
offered by the Center for Integrative Teaching and Learning. In contrast to traditional assessments,
authentic assessments are created with the goal of helping students to develop into productive
citizens capable of performing meaningful tasks in the real world that they will encounter once they
graduate. To illustrate, in lieu of assigning a traditional 5-page analytical essay for the midterm
project in the Philosophy of Satire course, I opt to assign an 800-word opposite the editorial page
(op-ed) on a topic of the students choice. For the assignment, students are expected to utilize their
knowledge of doing philosophy taught earlier in the course to construct a concise philosophical
arguments surrounding a topic in the news they would deem appropriate for satire. Rather than
satirize the topic, however, students are asked to take a more direct approach in the form of a
traditional op-ed piece, as per The Op-Ed Project2. Students submit their assignment for peer
review, to me, the, instructor, and, most bravely, to a real news outlet of their choice. Some students
shoot for the moon, submitting their op-ed pieces to the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal
op-ed columns. Others take a different approach, submitting to local papers such as The Herald
Times, their local newspaper back home, or online news sites like The Huffington Post or Slate.
Sadly, none of the students work is typically published in any major news source on the first go

2 For more information, see http://www.theopedproject.org/.

aroundbut publication isnt the end goal. The goal is the intellectual journey of focusing ones
thinking, developing analytical writing and the synthesis of ideas, and sharing ones own point-of-
view with the real world through the authentic op-ed assignment. As a result, a class of
undergraduates may be transformed into contributing members of society of whose individual
ideas have a chance to be heard, and to shape society and the world.
What do you think, and why? In addition to the goal of becoming interdisciplinary thinkers and
public citizens, I hope students will acquire concrete philosophical tools, such as critical reading
and thinking skills that allow them to interpret, analyze, and assess arguments from a variety of
perspectives. To accomplish this, I guide students on how to read and thinking philosophically. For
example, when teaching students in HPSC X200: Scientific Reasoning, COGS Q240: Philosophical
Foundations of Cognitive Science, and HPSC X100: Disordered Minds: The History and Philosophy of
Psychiatry (a course of my own design based on my Area of Specialty and dissertation research), I
teach students how to read each assigned paper, fragment, or book three times. First, I encourage
them to read generously, i.e. to see what the general issues and central concerns of the author(s)
are. Second, I instruct them to read sympathetically. I show the students how to make sense of the
writing, and how to understand the motivations for each move and conclusion. Third, I tell them to
read critically (but only on this third reading). I teach them how to locate parts in the discussion
where assumptions are being made, and how to make them explicit. I encourage them to ask under
what circumstances each assumption would be a reasonable one. I teach them how to develop their
own view about each assumption and conclusion in the piece, and about the significance of the
central concerns of the author. Finally, I ask them to determine whether the conclusions follow
from the premises. With the above strategy, students learn how to provide an articulate and
sympathetic version of the motivations and conclusions of a readingone that the author would
recognize and accept. Being able to provide such an interpretation of a reading, I explain to my
students, is a prerequisite for developing any and all interesting critiques of the authors views.

To further develop students philosophical toolkit such that they may construct their own
arguments, take a stand on important issues, and relate the ideas from philosophical readings to
their own lives, I draw on my background in bioethics to teach students how to actively engage in
ethical dialogues. By focusing on ethics, students can learn the tools of philosophy in a way that is
readily accessible and relevant to their daily lives. To illustrate, as the recipient of the prestigious
Jesse Fine Fellowship from the (recently retired) Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and
American Institutions at IUB, I had the fortunate opportunity to design and teach my own course
that incorporates a significant ethics component. With the support of the Poynter Center and my
home department, I developed and taught HPSC X100: Animal Research Ethics with the highly-
engaging ethics bowl format. An ethics bowl combines the excitement and fun of a competitive
tournament with an innovative approach to education in practical and professional ethics for
undergraduate students. Recognized widely by educators, ethics bowls have received special
commendation for excellence and innovation from the American Philosophical Association, and
received the 2006 American Philosophical Association/Philosophy Documentation Centers 2006
prize for Excellence and Innovation in Philosophy Programs. Former Ethics Bowl students consider
this one of their most important college activities and one that they carry forward into their
professional and personal lives. The format, rules, and procedures of an ethics bowl all have been
developed to model widely acknowledged best methods of reasoning in practical and professional
ethics. In using this format for the course, students learned to articulate effectively, argue
persuasively, and think critically about moral judgments of animal research ethics in in way that
appeals to their interests. By taking part in the ethics bowl process, the students in Animal Research
Ethics successfully demonstrated their ability to (1) understand the facts of the case, (2) articulate
the ethical principles involved in the case, (3) present an effective argument on how the case should
be resolved, and (4) respond effectively to challenges put forth by the opposing team as well as the

panel of expert judges that included myself, IUB ethics bowl coach Joe Bartzel, and former IUB
psychology doctoral student Cole Rodman.
What does it all mean? While experience has significantly helped me develop as an educator, my
approach to teaching and learning has undoubtedly been informed by directing the same kind of
philosophical methods and questions I implement in my classes on to the subject of teaching itself.
What does it mean to be a good teacher? What is the purpose of a lecture? Why am I using this in-
class activity? What do I achieve as an educator when I assign this type of essay? To enlarge the
content and elevate the intellectual level of my courses, my department and, in turn, my students,
myself along with fellow doctoral student David Rogers developed the History and Philosophy of
Science Pedagogy Reading Group. The group developed out of our mutual need to create a safe and
supportive informal setting for graduate students to discuss teachingone that was not merely a
gossip circle for graduate students to complain about undergradsso that we could exchange
ideas, assist each other, and become better teachers. Weve met weekly since the beginning of fall
2015, and continue to meet on a regular basis. Were currently comprised of around six or seven
regularly-attending members in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine
who read new literature on pedagogy, attend each others classes for informal peer review, and
support one another as we experiment and grow as aspiring academic professionals. I can honestly
say I would not be the teacher I am today (and hope to be tomorrow) without this self-organized
community of graduate colleagues.
How can we do better? Following the completion of my first solo-teaching experience with HPSC
X200: Scientific Reasoning during my first year as a doctoral student, I received a manila envelope
containing my first set of student course evaluations. To my delight, I received nothing but glowing
reviews. Even the supposedly negative comments were cast in a positive light (e.g., I wasn't a
huge fan of the course material, honestly. The instructor was great, but its (sic) not a course I would

ever willingly take again.) I thought, Wow, these course evaluations are great! Im the greatest
teacher ever! This is how course evaluations will always be, right?
Oh, how I was wrong. It turns out each new course you teach presents a new set of students and
a new set of challenges. Teaching a course of your own design (of which I have now taught three) is
a whole other animal, for not only do you have to develop and select your own activities,
assignments, and assessments, but you must construct the very conceptual and instructional
foundation on which your course is built! Through teaching a brand new course every semester
except during spring 2015, I have made every effort to utilize constructive feedback from student
evaluations to improve my teaching. For example, following the teaching of Philosophy of Satire, it
was brought to my attention in the student evaluations that leaving the second half of the semester
open to revision, and at-times wavering on whether to include this or that reading, made
preparing for the course difficult. Subsequently, I have made it a point to make strong choices in my
assignments and teaching, while still remaining flexible, such that students who appreciate a set
plan and a teacher who can guide them through the course will be accommodated.
Second, following the teaching of HPSC X100: Animal Research Ethics last spring, a course that
was by far one of the most challenging to organize given the new ethics bowl format, a few students
expressed concerns regarding the organization of the format leading up to the ethics bowl in their
student evaluations. Genuinely concerned and hoping to improve as a teacher, I reached out to a
few students and solicited additional feedback over the summer. One bright student in particular,
Christina Sluka, was extremely helpful in this regard, writing up a two-page formal evaluation of my
teaching, of which I put into practice when teaching EDUC X152: The University Experience:
Engagement, Critical Thinking, and Problem Solving. Topic: the 1970s this past summer, as well as
my current teaching assignment, COLL P155: Public Oral Communication. Overall, my course
evaluations tend to be positive, and I am proud the quality of teaching I have developed. Going

forward, Ive learned that one of the best ways to improve upon my teaching is develop a strong
professional connection with my students.
How can I contribute? By promoting interdisciplinary study and the development of
philosophical skills in my courses, and through self-reflection on my teaching inside and outside of
class, I strive to contribute to the intellectual growth of my students. One experience in particular
where I came to see tremendous student growth came when I was selected to teach for the 2016
Summer GROUPS Program through the Student Academic Center (SAC). Instructors selected for the
GROUPS program are considered to be among the universitys top doctoral student instructors, and
are expected to possess substantial expertise in the teaching of critical reading and thinking skills,
experience working with diverse student populations, and evidence of strong teaching background
(particularly pertaining to collaborative learning and small group instruction).
For the GROUPS program, I had the privilege of teaching EDUC X152: The University Experience:
Engagement, Critical Thinking, and Problem Solving. Topic: the 1970s to 14 incoming freshman
student athletes: 11 male football players, and 3 female field hockey players. The course is designed
to help new students acclimate to the IU Bloomington campus as they learn to meet the academic
demands of college. The challenge of teaching this particular population of hard-working students
with unbelievably busy athletic schedules what they need to know to succeed in college, while
simultaneously getting them to think philosophically about big picture questions was one of the
most rewarding teaching experiences of my career. This was further confirmed during informal
office hour meetings, when asking each student whether they saw a difference between the course

they were taking and their high school courses, they all exclaimed just how invigorating this course
was for them (e.g., I recall one student, Jonah Morris, saying, You actually make us think! This is
hard! But I like it!). It is my hope that by continuing to teach, and striving to improve my teaching, I
can continue to promote intellectual growth in my students for many years to come.