Purpose of Teaching

Developing Curriculum with Students

This weekend I attended and presented at the North American Association for Philosophy & Education conference outside of Chicago. As always, it was great catching up with colleagues, and I was grateful for the invitation to comment on Kevin Gary’s excellent book, Why Boredom Matters: Education, Leisure, and the Quest for a Meaningful Life.

A highlight of the conference was learning about the exceptional work being done at the Center for Ethics & Education at UW-Madison. A group of undergraduate students, led by Harry Brighouse and Carrie Welsh, discussed an open-source curriculum project they’ve been working on together. In addition to suggesting that SLU faculty make use of the curriculum (I’ve taught Sexual Citizens previously, and highly recommend the book and the curriculum the center developed to teach it), I think we can also learn two very important lessons from their work.

  1. I love how the Center for Ethics & Education sees undergraduates as partners in curriculum development. Working with juniors and seniors to create realistic cases and dilemmas that help first and second year students engage with ethical and philosophical issues related to campus life has two key benefits. (1) It gives students ownership of the curriculum, and (2) it helps us faculty stay connected to issues and problems that our students care about.
  2. Projects like this remind me how much potential there is to create shared open-source instructional resources. When I think about the increasing cost of textbooks, I think colleges and universities can do more to create free resources for grades 6-12, we can also work together to create free resources for commonly taught intro and other courses.

To close, I wonder what it would look like if each department at SLU used part of its senior seminar (or analogous course) to re-conceptualize activities, assignments, and readings in intro courses. What would it look like to utilize the skills in social media our students bring with them, asking them to create “trailers” for our courses or our majors? Many of our seniors become extremely passionate about our fields of study, and I think there is room to channel this passion into learning experiences that challenge and engage our first-year students. I am appreciative of the Center for Ethics & Education at UW-Madison for exemplifying what this might look like.

If anyone is interested in talking more about this, please just reach out!