Monday, February 21, 2011

Teaching Reflection (Baranger Award Application Materials III)

The third and final portion of the Baranger Award Application is the Teaching Reflection:
Please submit a brief (300 words) description of how your sample teaching material (submitted below) reflects your teaching philosophy. You may wish to address how this material is useful to students and/or how it contributes to student learning. Additionally, you might consider how you might revise the materials now that you have had an opportunity to use them in the classroom.

The sample teaching material I am providing is here.  My description of it is as follows:

I have provided a handout for a writing lesson that I gave in the course Introduction to the Philosophy of Science.  I believe that students should receive writing instruction throughout their studies.  At the same time, I cannot let a philosophy course turn into a writing course.  To balance those demands, I developed a lesson that aims to help students improve their writing as much as possible while only devoting a single session explicitly to writing.  This lesson focuses on three simple but powerful tips and gives those tips names so that I can refer to them for the rest of the term.

This lesson reflects lessons I learned while teaching test-prep courses, as I explain in my description of a teaching challenge I faced.  In particular, the lesson is structured so that the ideas are bite-sized and uncluttered.  In each of the three main sections, I begin by introducing the core idea of that section through an example.  I then use a series of additional examples to introduce a few wrinkles into that core idea.  Each example is there to make one simple point, and I resist the temptation to comment on an example beyond that simple point.  After the examples, I provide a few notes that sum up the points they are meant to illustrate, and then I restate the main point of the section.  The lesson is highly interactive, with students reading examples and suggesting revisions throughout.  It ends with a drill that gives students a chance to practice improving some bad passages drawn from actual academic writing.  The drill is essential because it allows students to start trying to apply the lesson to realistic cases while their peers and I are there to help them when they run into trouble.

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