Teaching Philosophy

The First Lecture in Experimental Philosophy (print)
The First Lecture in Experimental Philosophy (print) by J Hinton is licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0

My teaching philosophy can be summarized in three keywords: Responsibility, action, reflection.

Responsibility. I find that defining the social contract is a fundamental condition for creating a successful learning environment. I take great care to establish the social contract from the very beginning when teaching a course, typically even before the first session, by sending students an e-mail reminding them of the overall aim for the course (which is also stated in the course catalogue) and specifying my expectations and readings for our first session.

I make an effort to create a safe learning environment encouraging students to try out new and original ideas inspired by course readings and class discussion. During the first session of a course and rearticulated throughout the course, I am careful to tell students that I take their competences seriously. This means that I expect them to be prepared, to show op on time, and to participate actively in class activities. In return they can expect me to take responsibility for the overall design of the course and for making clear the link between learning objectives, teaching activities and exams.

I take the students and their development seriously and believe in challenging them. It is my experience – as a teacher, course coordinator and Head of Studies – that students are willing and able to achieve a lot in a single course as long as we are willing and able to align course objectives, course planning and examinations and to explain to them how and why we do this.

Action. The best learning outcome is typically achieved by active engagement. I make clear from the beginning that I expect students to contribute actively to the course. I define a clear goal from the activity and make explicit how any given activity adds to their ability to honor the objectives of the course.

Reflection. Critical reflection is essential for research and education. Teaching in a strong political science department such as the Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen, calls for a particular focus on critical reflection. The students have the intellectual capability and work ethic to achieve a high level of reflection, and we should help them unleash their potential. Also, a number of our graduates typically end up serving in some of the most influential administrative and political positions of Danish society. This calls for a strong focus on ethics and reflection that can help guide them in these positions.

At the University of Copenhagen, I have worked continuously with my colleagues to ensure that the ability to reflect critically is written into curricula and course aims and descriptions. I have worked keenly to put these principles into practice, e.g. by taking the lead in creating cluster group seminars with students and lecturers discussing term paper drafts.

To be sure, reflection is not just something which is promoted with particular efforts a couple of times per semester. Reflection demands students to engage with the curriculum and the empirical cases on which this is applied on a day to day basis. Students engage actively, when they feel secure in the teaching environment. A shared understanding of responsibility and action is hence necessary to promote these important competences in our students.

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