Philosophy Education Research

Inclusive Philosophy Classrooms

When considering how to make philosophy more inclusive, many think of the need to broaden the canon of philosophy and of adding diversity to reading lists that often predominantly feature Anglo, hetero, non-disabled, white males. The readings for a course not only shape the academic content of the course and provide a narrative, but also suggest to students which perspectives are regarded as valid in the discussion. To this end, the readings are important to consider when designing a course. However, inclusive pedagogy is more than diversity in readings. It involves reflecting on the learning environment that students in your course will experience and participate in. As such, when designing a course and assessment time should be spent reflecting on the classroom experience, and how each choice impacts and shapes the learning environment. My research focuses on arguments for inclusive classrooms, as well as designing strategies for inclusive classrooms in philosophy that go beyond the reading list and how to train new instructors in inclusive classroom strategies. While working for Western’s Teaching Support Centre in graduate school, I developed a research interest in international student experiences, and the cultural norms and expectations of North American classrooms. I am also interested in applying the literature from SToL on cultural inclusivity to the context and norms of the philosophy classroom.

In addition to my research in this area, I am a workshop facilitator for the American Association of Philosophy Teacher’s Seminars and Workshops on Teaching and Learning.

Public Understanding of Science

In light of recent scientific controversies, such as the debates surroundings climate change, GMOs, vaccines, and fracking, the scientific community has called for an increased public understanding of the relevant scientific issues. New research suggests that rather than developing one’s knowledge of scientific facts, the goal in developing scientific literacy should be to develop one’s understanding of the nature of science and the scientific process. Given that understanding the nature of science is a critical component to philosophy of science, my research interest is in finding approaches that include philosophy in both public-directed science communication, and in science education in schools. I am particularly interested in exploring ways to include philosophy of science as a core component to undergraduate and graduate science programs.

In previous talks I have given (and in a paper in preparation), I utilize a distinction from the education literature between Teacher-Centered versus Learner-Centered styles of teaching in order to argue for a change in framing of the public scientific literacy issue. Then, I examine what philosophy can offer to the discussion, arguing that in the science education curriculum, there is a need to incorporate: 1) a larger emphasis on critical thinking skills found in philosophy classrooms, and 2) components of history and philosophy of science. I suggest that when one understands and can think critically about what scientists do, how they come to conclusions, and how they create and support their arguments, it allows the individual citizen to have a sense of self-ownership of science and scientific practice, particularly to those who may consider themselves to be “non-scientists”.

K-12 Philosophy & Science Outreach

Part of the Rotman Institute of Philosophy’s vision is to promote public engagement and philosophical reflection on scientific issues. During my time as a graduate student, I established an outreach program that introduces critical thinking skills, and teaches students how to apply them in the context of science. Through these activities, we aim to bring a better, broader sense of ownership of science, particularly to those who consider themselves to be “non-scientists”. By increasing exposure to philosophy in their K-12 education, we also introduce students to the philosophical toolkit sooner. The earlier we encourage students to think critically about science in their day-to-day lives, and about their relationship with science, the more likely they are to grow up to be more scientifically literate citizens. I am in the transition process of informally writing up my experience developing K-12 program and activities in this context, as well as some of the activities designed.