Teaching Philosophy and Course Design Methodology

I think it’s important to get students engaged with philosophy. As an instructor, I demonstrate why philosophy is valuable both as an intellectual activity and as a tool to solve problems in everyday life. Fortunately, the core skills of philosophy are very useful in almost any academic discipline and in many non-academic jobs and activities. Being able to think critically, evaluate claims, and express yourself clearly are advantageous skills in life. The challenge, as I see it, is to get my students to recognize the value of philosophy.

I’m an advocate of using active learning techniques combined with integrated course design to engage students and help them reach the learning outcomes of the course. Integrated course design is a methodology that focuses on making a course in which each component of the course is consistent with and supportive of the other components. For example, if I have a particular activity I want to use, I should be able to explain how that activity fulfills the learning goals of the course, and how my assessment model will measure the success of the activity. Using integrated course design methods helps make sure that every component of my course helps students achieve our shared learning goals.

Active learning techniques are useful for engaging students with the course material. The easiest way to use active learning techniques in the classroom is to get students to apply their knowledge to solve problems. For example, after teaching my students the first formulation of Kant’s categorical imperative I break them into small groups to discuss how Kant’s theory would apply to a contemporary problem like physician assisted suicide. After they’ve had a chance to discuss the problem, I ask them to write down their answer and exchange it with another group. After the exchange, I have each group discuss the answer they received from the exchange. Finally, I have one member of each group give a brief summary of the group’s discussion.

When designing a course, I find it helpful to imagine a student asking two questions about each component of the course:

1. Why are we doing X?

2. How are we going to learn X?

If I can’t answer these two questions, then I throw the idea away and think of something different. I always want to be able to explain why any component of my course is valuable. What learning goal does the activity or assignment I have in mind accomplish? Similarly, I think its important to explain to students how my teaching methods work. If I’m using an activity, I want to be able to explain why it’s a good way to learn the concept or theory I’m trying to teach.

Lead TA Work

In the 2014-2015 academic year I was the Lead TA for the Philosophy Department. In this position I was responsible for designing and facilitating monthly training workshops for teaching assistants (for a full description see Western’s Teaching Support Centre). I facilitated a total of eight workshops, including two micro-teaching sessions. I’ve included a list of my workshops below with links to the PowerPoint presentations I used during each workshop. I’ve also included the teaching assistant handbook I wrote for TA’s in philosophy, which expands upon the content in my workshops.


  1. Being a TA in Philosophy at Western
  2. Effective Grading and Feedback
  3. Teaching Students to Read and Write Philosophy
  4. Micro-teaching Session
  5. Active Learning in Philosophy Tutorials
  6. Classroom Management Strategies
  7. Philosophy Course Design
  8. Micro-teaching Session


Philosophy Teaching Assistant Handbook