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Making the connection Joined-up first courses in Philosophy Dr. Matthew Carmody and Dr. Paul Sheehy Richmond-upon-Thames College 1 P.

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Presentation on theme: "Making the connection Joined-up first courses in Philosophy Dr. Matthew Carmody and Dr. Paul Sheehy Richmond-upon-Thames College 1 P."— Presentation transcript:

1 Making the connection Joined-up first courses in Philosophy Dr. Matthew Carmody and Dr. Paul Sheehy Richmond-upon-Thames College 1 P

2 The claim (FC)Introductory Philosophy courses start at the same place –regardless of level. (OP)Development of the appreciation of the depth and connections of philosophical questions – especially pressing for level 3 students (AS/A2). (NP)Response of university departments to the growth of Philosophy A-level – nuisance, accommodation, opportunity? ClaimThe need for better resources to foster philosophical understanding and practice aligned to an emphasis on first undergraduate year as a transitional one. 2 P

3 The context  AS/A2 candidates (source: AQA):  Undergraduates Single honours Philosophy 2002 – 1,000 to 1,200 in (source: UCAS) YearASA ,4461, ,3362, ,7503,016 3 P

4 The Old Problem Three issues: how to…  …enable students grasp the substantive material (the depth issue).  …appreciate connections (the breadth issue).  …manifest pedagogic sensitivity to different abilities (the differentiation issue). 4 P

5 The role of the AS/A2 syllabus  Some promise in addressing both depth and breadth.  The new AQA A-level has an interesting format.  In the first year, students study topics (Free Will, Tolerance, Persons), thus plunging them straight into appreciating a proper philosophical problem…  …instead of introducing topics through a general history of philosophy or under broader headings (e.g. Epistemology, Metaphysics).  In the second year, however, students do encounter a range of issues under one of those traditional headings: Philosophy of Mind, Epistemology & Metaphysics, etc. 5 M

6  Advantages: students not bewildered by complexity, topics can be (and have been) chosen to pique interest and give a sense that philosophical topics are still ‘live’ rather than of purely historical interest.  Philosophers are (typically, at least classically) people who did not concern themselves with an area (Metaphysics, Ethics) but with a broad set of questions.  Disadvantages: shift at A2 of the big themes invites a compartmentalised picture which prevents all but the brightest students grasping the interconnectedness of the issues (too big a leap). The role of the AS/A2 syllabus 6 M

7 Resources…(and teaching)  Syllabus based texts – Nelson Thornes multi-authored; Michael Lacewing;  General introductions – Greetham…  Web-based support…  …Nelson Thornes developing a de facto VLE 7 P

8 …resources  Decent, but…  … tied to syllabus content or more narrow than a comprehensive introduction.  Sequential text that doesn’t make links to other areas of philosophy clear.  Extension material relegated to small cartouches (which jostle for space with small biographies of philosophers) and end-of-section questions which do not receive answers.  (By answers in this context, we mean suggested ways in which could respond to questions designed primarily to stimulate reflection: e.g. does one become freer by becoming more knowledgeable?)  Answers can be used for self-study, class-based discussion and also help teachers – especially in conjunction with web-based support. 8 P

9 …on-line  Again, good content in reasonably friendly format…  but one needs to be careful to draw a distinction between making available on- line materials, summaries and exercises and producing genuine interactivity.  Much of the on-line support is pretty passive - it's just more text, perhaps carved up a bit differently. 9 P

10 Improved resources RESOURCES to address breadth, depth and differentiation :  Have less skewed ratio of central and extension material  Exposure to (fragments of) original texts…  …which may be commented on to expose argument structure  Range of media: youtube, journals (RJP), flowcharts. RJP  Genuine teacher-student and peer-peer interactivity 10 M

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12 Breadth  Maps (interactive visual topology) to convey relationships so that the interested student can jump around – horizontal links. 12

13 Scepticism Russell Wittgenstein DescartesBerkeley Moore Mill 13

14 Breadth  Content and structured questions (describe/explain/assess) to illuminate how the subject you are studying relates to other topics in the area. –Describe which features of personhood are necessary for moral responsibility. –Explain how the concept of the God of Classical Theism appears to remove the possibility that we are free beings. –Explain the connection between Classical Empiricism and indirect theories of perception. –Assess whether an animal could have any sense of beauty. –Assess whether art has a moral function. 14 M

15 Bridging  Biographies of philosophers which highlight their ‘achievements’ under subject headings (subject, of course, to the key proviso that divisions are not to be given too much depth). 15 M

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17 Depth  A single resource – text and website – links most introductory material to progressively more demanding and difficult content – vertical links.  Provide links to original material:  With commentary  Without commentary  Provide further textbook material:  Text clearly layered to handle different abilities  Questions: describe, explain, assess 17 M

18 Interactivity  On-line content and summaries linked to on-line assessment opportunities  Forums and platforms for students to ask questions and post own work  Use of internet to promote a classical conception of philosophical practice…  … and vehicle for assessment for learning  Other stuff: Links to videos of lectures. Finding connections to popular culture: fatalism and film trilogy Final Destination; scepticism & Matrix; games. 18 M

19 New Problems  New problem #1: how to accommodate students with a good philosophical grounding in the 1st year of university study.  New problem #2: how to take advantage of the cohort of interested, motivated, knowledgeable students with A-level Philosophy. 19 P

20 Issues arising  Universities not demanding Philosophy A-level. Perception of the quality of teaching?  Not enough stretch/repetition for students with good A-level.  Differential starting points. Unlike the other traditional academic subjects…  …and the Old Problem remains for any introductory course.  General worry about A-levels as a mere means of accumulating enough points. 20 P

21 Options 1. Catch up year (like Physics, Dentistry)? Not attractive. 2. Don’t study it before university (like Law)? Not a good idea – since it is well taught at A-level, students increasing because they like the subject, would help universities if students have got some stuff under their belts. 3. Require students to do A2 (like History)? Will miss a lot of people out. 4. Summer reading? But how do we check? Could also widen differences if good A-level students do summer reading too. 5. Presupposition of A-level (or equivalent) study aligned to recognition of the first year as transitional. 21 P


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