My approach to teaching combines the socially engaged and inclusive characteristics of my research with a commitment to empirically validated pedagogical practices. In the classroom, my goal is to create an intellectually curious environment that encourages the application of critical thought to social and philosophical problems. I achieve this goal by using scholarship on teaching and learning as the basis for designing interactive learning activities that foster student interest while deepening student understanding. At the graduate level, I pay particular attention to student writing and professionalization, instilling skills that help graduate students succeed in their chosen careers.
Michigan State University
Lyman Briggs College
LB492 – Senior Seminar: “Designing the Briggs Experience”
| Syllabus Fall 2020 | Online due to COVID-19
For most of you, this will be your last HPS course in your undergraduate career. For some of you, it’ll be your last course ever. It seems appropriate then, that this course will be spent considering what you’ve learned, and how you’ve changed, since arriving at Briggs several years ago. The Briggs experience – if there is any single thing that can be called that – is supposed to be eye opening. Rather than just study science, one is supposed to learn about science’s place in the world, how science impacts our everyday life, and how everyday life impacts science. This education is supposed to change you. Has it?
We’re going to spend this semester thinking about how the Briggs experience has changed you, and how you can use your experience to influence the next generation of Briggs students. My hypothesis is this: student engagement in a class would be deepened if students had input into the class topics and content. I’m going to test that hypothesis, and you’re going to help. In this class we’re going to look at science and the public through your eyes. As students in this class, you will each design a Briggs experience for next year’s students. You will pick a topic, design the exercises, choose the readings, and write the commentary that they will receive in class when I teach one of my two sections of “Science and the Public” next year. I will be running an experiment: I’m going to compare student excitement and experiences in the course you design to the course that I design. My theory is that students will like yours better. My hope is that you will allow future students to build on your work: adding to the materials that you design, refining the content, and furthering your research. Perhaps even one day this will turn into a textbook that you have helped author. In that way, you might leave a lasting mark on the Briggs community.
LB321 – Science and the Public
| Syllabus Spring 2019 | Syllabus Spring 2021 (Online due to COVID-19) |
Students in this class will explore the role of values within the interpretation, methodology, and use of scientific findings, the ways various stakeholders that shape public understandings of science, and the feedback loop between the scientific community and broad publics. We will become immersed in a range of topics and texts that have emerged from various disciplines exploring how stakeholders lay claim to, interpret, and present “science”, and how audiences respond to and shape scientific findings.
LB133 – Introduction to History and Philosophy and Sociology of Science
The purpose of this class is twofold: First, this class will introduce you to fundamental concepts and methods in HPS, and second, it will help build writing confidence and skill. With regards to HPS we will explore questions like: What is science, and who practices it? What are science’s methodologies? How does the methodology of science create scientific controversies? Can more scientific information defuse a controversy? What role do aspects of controversies that are often seen as outside of science (race, gender, values, money) play in science and resulting controversies? Students will be encouraged to form their own opinions on how controversies should be handled and support their opinions with evidence and argumentation. With regards to writing, students will be encouraged to develop their own healthy writing practices through repeated writing practice. Students will learn to diagram arguments, address audiences, offer peer comments, and revise their work.
Department of Philosophy
PHL130 – Logic and Reasoning
This course focuses on the identification, evaluation, and construction of arguments. Students will learn how to assess arguments and how to identify common problems in reasoning. The training you receive in this course should help you to become a more sensitive critic of a variety of sources that you encounter on a daily basis and should provide you with tools to think more carefully and critically
STS197 – Biology and Society, January (“Jan-Plan”) 2017
| Syllabus | Course Evaluations |
From environmental crises to medical advancements and global food shortages, biology and the life sciences are implicated in some of the most pressing social issues of our times. This class uses the board game Pandemic Legacy to introduce and discuss these issues. We investigate how developments in biology have shaped and are shaped by society. In the first unit, we investigate the institutions and technologies that influence the modern life sciences, including the role of universities, governments, and public-private partnerships in the development of biology, as well as the selection of certain species or groups of people as “model organisms.” In the second unit, we explore areas of biology that have raised controversies about regulation and access, such as the GMO and vaccine controversies, and the role of race and social position in relation to access to medicine and media coverage of disaster. In the final unit, we examine how biological facts are used to answer the question of what it means to be human. The course aims to help students in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities develop the analytical skills needed to confront complex social issues involving the life sciences.
STS297 – Views of a Changing Planet: History and Philosophy of the Environment Through Film and Fiction, January (“Jan-Plan”) 2015
| Syllabus | Course Evaluations | Course Website |
Examples of Student Work:
Students in this class were asked to use the course material to construct their own narratives describing possible environmental futures. As an additional laboratory component of the course, students learned digital audio editing to turn their written narratives into podcast-ready audio performances.
Example of a student audio performance:
Example student narrative: “Boiling Point” by Sarah Leathe
How can we understand changes in our environment? How can we powerfully speak about those changes? Why do some narratives speak to us more than others? This class draws on history and philosophy as a background to answer these questions and to analyze how the future of our planet has been conceptualized in film and fiction. By engaging with narratives (told through various media including: film, speculative fiction, audio, etc.), this course allows students to think critically about the changing world and possible environmental futures. This discussion will be deepened by an investigation of the relationship between science, technology, and society, which both limit and promote certain directions of environmental change. We will explore how topics such as uncertainty, distributive justice, authority, and personal/national identity shape both our understanding of the environment and our narratives about it. By the end of the course, students will create their own narratives and will have a chance to publicly share that narrative using a digital medium of their choice.
University of Toronto
HPS211 – Scientific Revolutions II, University of Toronto, Summer 2014
This course examines scientific episodes from (roughly) 1800 to (roughly) the present from a broadly philosophical perspective. We review a number of case studies focusing on biology, geology, physics, technology, and climate science. We use this history to discuss theories of scientific change, as well as the metaphysics and epistemology of science. The class is designed to be accessible to scientists and non-scientists, and as such, the class will tend to focus on the broader implications of scientific practice, rather than the narrow interests of a particular discipline.
Phil120 – Introduction to Logic, 2007-2009 (six terms)
Want to know how to defeat your enemies with arguments? This course teaches the logical reasoning that forms the basis of good argumentation. We examine common fallacies to be avoided in reasoning, and introduce certain techniques for judging the validity of arguments. The course will employ syllogistic or Aristotelian logic, Venn diagrams, and truth tables. We also cover how to translate arguments into logical sentences and evaluate them using formal systems of propositional logic.