Designing a Philosophy Course for Relevance

My first semester as lead instructor of a philosophy course, I taught for laughs. I’d suffered through some painful core requirements as an undergrad, and my greatest fear was that my students would leave my course feeling like the material was completely irrelevant to their lives. So I treated short presentations in class like stand-up routines, and I thought of all kinds of quirky ways to get students involved. The strategy worked, in a way. There was never a dull moment in class, and the students told me every week how much they enjoyed showing up. But midway through the class I realized that I’d implicitly equated entertainment with relevance. When I tried to get the generally lively students to engage with course content the room went quiet. And on my end-of-year reviews, I repeatedly saw variations of a double-edged compliment: “This was one of my favorite classes, but I didn’t learn much philosophy.”

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About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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