As part of its Core Curriculum, Notre Dame requires every student to take two philosophy courses: an introductory course and (beginning in 2018) a more focused second-level course either in Philosophy or Catholicism and the Disciplines. Since 2016, I’ve served as our department’s Director of the University Philosophy Requirement (DUPR). As a department we are committed to thinking strategically about how to make introductory and second-level courses more rigorous and meaningful for the students who take them. And since 2015, our majors and minors in Philosophy have grown 60%. Here are some current Philosophy Department teaching initiatives that I lead, working closely with our DUS (Alex Jech) and our teaching teams. Feel free to contact me for questions or resources.
- We research best practices in humanities education. For example, with a $806k grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Engaged Philosophy Group is running a major project designed around best practices for teaching philosophy as a way of life.
- We run a monthly Philosophy Pedagogy Workshop for faculty and PhD students. The Workshop discusses best practices in course design, assessment, curriculum planning, and ethical issues in teaching — always with an eye towards specific insights for philosophy faculty. Beginning in 2019, we are also offering a half-day bootcamp for graduate instructors which introduces new teachers to best practices for syllabus and lesson design.
- I approve the syllabi for new graduate instructors, based on the guidelines we teach in the pedagogy workshop.
- I help graduate students and faculty develop new courses for the Core, working closely with our Director for Undergraduate Studies. This includes the Introductions to Philosophy through special topics, God and the Good Life, the Examined Life seminar, and the Gateway seminars for sophomores considering a major or minor.
- I mentor our advanced PhD students as they design second-level courses around topics they are passionate about. Examples include Groups: What They are and What They Can Do (Chan and Finocchiaro) and Community Engaged Teaching: Religion, Identity and Social Justice (Finley).
- We also do program evaluation. In Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 we conducted a pre-course/post-course study of every Notre Dame student taking a version of Introduction to Philosophy, looking at the effect of different formats of Intro on students’ interest in philosophy as an academic subject and as a life pursuit. We are also investigating which demographic factors, if any, predict a student’s experience in a first philosophy course.
- We build TAships and RAships for qualified undergraduates. We’ve started the GGL Fellows program for undergraduates committed to leading philosophical dialogues and serving as peer mentors. And the EPG regularly hires 3-4 undergraduate RAs.
- Philosophy’s efforts are part of a University-wide commitment to innovative and effective teaching. I’ve served on the Provost’s Learning Initiative, Provost’s Ad Hoc Committee for Academic Advising and the University Committee for the First Year of Studies. And along with members of the EPG, I give many presentations to other universities, foundations, community groups and Notre Dame alumni about the importance of philosophy education.