My goal as a teacher is to create an intellectually curious environment that encourages the application of critical thought to social and philosophical problems while building argumentative reasoning skills. I enjoy the challenge of designing interactive activities that deepen student understanding. My two most recent courses, Biology and Society and Views of a Changing Planet, were designed specifically to explore novel student-centered pedagogical approaches.
A document summarizing all my course evaluations is available here: Course Evaluations
STS197 – Biology and Society, January (“Jan-Plan”) 2017
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
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.