Teaching Portfolio

(PDF copy)

1  TEACHING STATEMENT

2  TEACHING EXPERIENCE

2.1 Instructor, Florida State University

2.2 Teaching Assistant, Florida State University

2.3 Guest Lecturer, Florida State University

2.4 Guest Lecturer, University of Colorado

2.5 Teaching Assistant, University of Colorado

2.6 Recitation Instructor, University of Colorado

2.7 Workshop Instructor, Apple Store

EVIDENCE OF TEACHING EFFECTIVENESS

3.1 Quantitative Course Evaluations, Florida State University

3.2 Qualitative Course Evaluations, Florida State University

3.3 Quantitative Course Evaluations, University of Colorado

3.4 Qualitative Course Evaluations, University of Colorado

3.5 Quantitative Teaching Observations

3.6 Qualitative Teaching Observations

3.7 Teaching Workshops Offered

3.8 Other Teaching Service

3.9 Formal Teaching Training

SAMPLE COURSE MATERIALS

4.1 Courses I am Prepared to Teach

4.2 Courses I Can Teach with Advance Notice

4.3 Introduction to Philosophy

4.4 Cognitive Science

4.5 Philosophy of Science

4.6 Philosophy of Mind

4.7 Environmental Ethics

1  TEACHING STATEMENT

My primary teaching goals are to (1) improve students’ facility with arguments and evidence, (2) reveal the philosophical and scientific puzzles in students’ lives, and (3) counter-condition students’ misleading stereotypes about scholars.

Practicing with arguments and evidence. The more my students practice in class, the better they do on homework and tests. There are three stages of practice in all of my classes. Roughly the first third of every class is a guided discussion through real-world examples related to the assigned material. Students spend the next third of every class in small groups completing worksheets about the assigned material. In the final third of every class, groups share their worksheet responses with the class and get feedback from me, if applicable. Multiple regression finds that my students score higher on homework and tests by 33% of a standard deviation for every percentage of this classroom practice they complete—b = 0.33, F(1,36) = 3.9, p = 0.056—controlling for course section (Figure 1). Students’ mid-semester and end-of-the-semester course feedback aligns with this trend; all comments about classroom practice are included below without modification.

  • “I enjoy the class discussions. While I’m not very active in them, I do pay attention and gather lots of information.”
  • “Team assighnments are great, helps me understand better.”
  • “Class assignments were completed in groups, but then would be reviewed as a class which helped especially when I thought I knew the answer and I was either wrong or missing a key component.”
  • “I find the worksheets and the slide recaps to be extremely helpful.”
  • “I like how he ask if any body have a question on the worksheet he gives out.”
  • “I really like the in-class assignments. It allowed people to work in groups or on their own to find specific answers in the readings. But I believe a more effective method for learning philosophy are the in-class discussions, with the teacher leading the discussions based on the questions that are on the in-class assignments.”
  • “I do believe that the answers to the Team Based Assignments should be clearer at the end but then again he does ask if anyone has questions pertaining to the Assignment.”
Figure 1. Multiple regressions of performance on homework and tests on the percentage of classwork practice completed per course section.Figure 1. Multiple regressions of performance on homework and tests on the percentage of classwork practice completed per course section.

Everyday philosophical and scientific puzzles. Students are more likely to persist on difficult academic tasks when what they are learning has real-world and personal implications (e.g., Yeager et al., 2014). So every class ends with a real-world puzzle about what we will cover in the following class. For example, the class before we discuss the Duhem-Quine problem about falsifying isolated hypotheses, I ask my students to explain why my smartphone will not connect to campus WIFI. Students offer hypotheses and their peers tell me how I could falsify the hypothesis. Every time a student proposes that we’ve falsified a hypothesis, I point out that the hypothesis entails an auxiliary assumption, which introduces uncertainty about whether we falsified the hypothesis or the auxiliary assumption. Similarly, every class begins with a discussion of a real-world example related to the day’s topic. For instance, on the day that we discuss Kate Rawles’ “Conservation and Animal Welfare”, we reveal conservationism’s potentially repugnant implications by showing how it seems to recomend not only, say, deer culling, but also human population control. And when we discuss W.E.B. Du Bois’ value free ideal for science, we compare society’s relative comfort with scientific discoveries of medicine to society’s discomfort with scientific discoveries of weapons of mass destruction. Other intriguing real-world examples include, but are not limited to, racial bias, psychopathy, vaccination science denial, climate science denial, and sex robots.

Counterconditioning stereotypes. Students’ perceptions of scholars seem to be guided by stereotypes (e.g., Storage, Horne, Cimpian, & Leslie, 2016). This is clear from the first day of class when I ask students to imagine a scholar in the field that we will study—e.g., “Close your eyes and visualize a philosopher doing philosophy.” When I ask students to share what they imagined, I get classic stereotypes. “An old guy” says one. “With a beard,” adds another. “Yeah, in a toga!” yells someone in the back. To expand students’ representations of scholars in my fields, I present images of the scholars we encounter, but only when the images are counterstereotypic (e.g., Carol Cleland in the desert, Figure 2)—a.k.a., counterconditioning (Byrd, 2019). On the last day of class, we redo the exercise. This time students imagine “Kate Rawles on her bike, telling me about biodiversity at a rest stop”, “Heather Douglas talking to a room of scientists about values in science”, and “Liam Bright tweeting about philosophy and science.” There are also more personal representations—“I imagined myself…,” reports a woman of color— and more abstract representations—“I was thinking of someone relatable playing devil’s advocate about all of my intuitions”, adds the student that mentioned togas on day one.

Pictures of Carol Cleland doing field research in the desert, W.E.B. Du Bois in his office at Atlanta University, and Kate Rawles on an 8288-mile educational, bike ride through South America.
Figure 2. Carol Cleland doing field research in the desert, W.E.B. Du Bois in his office at Atlanta University, and Kate Rawles on an 8288-mile educational, bike ride through South America.

In sum, my courses are dynamic, interactive, and relevant. Also, my classroom activities are associated with improved student learning and with diversified representations of scholars in my fields. Course evaluations confirm this—e.g., students report that they are more interested in my courses, that they learn more from my feedback (p = .08), and that I communicate more effectively (p = .03) than other courses and professors in my department. Of course, teaching can always benefit from further experimentation and experience. Fortunately, I find teaching highly rewarding. So I would be delighted to have more opportunities to test new courses, instruments, and strategies. [Jump To Top]

2  TEACHING EXPERIENCE

In reverse chronological order.

2.1  Instructor, Florida State University (Tallahassee)

Summer 2019: PHI 2010, Introduction to Philosophy
Course description. Did you know that people who study philosophy made significantly fewer reasoning errors than others in various studies (e.g., Livengood et al., 2010), outperformed almost every other major on the GRE (e.g., APA, 2014), LSAT (APA, 2013), and GMAT (GMAC, 2010), were projected to be the top-paid humanities major in 2016 (NACE, 2016), and had a median mid-career salary of over $81,000 (WSJ, 2019)? So what do philosophy majors study? They study the kinds of things that we all care about. Career. What should (and shouldn’t) I do for money? What should I do with my time? My skills? Finances. How much does a good life cost? What should (and shouldn’t) I buy? Sell? What’s a fair wage? Facts. When can we trust people, institutions, test results, evidence, etc.? How? And why? What can’t we trust? Lifestyle. What should (or shouldn’t) I do with my body? What should (or shouldn’t) I eat? When is it ok, if ever, to harm other people? Politics. What institutions/policies/candidates should have power (if any)? How should we decide? Who cares? Relationships. What makes a relationship or friend or partner good? What makes them bad? Who gets to decide? Introduction to Philosophy will expose you to new (and hopefully better) tools for answering these questions. By using these tools you will think (and hopefully live) better. Specifically, this could should help you analyze and evaluate real-world problems, arguments, evidence, and/or principles. Of course, this requires lots of practice. So this class will require you to practice applying these tools to many problems and puzzles during class and after class.
Class size: 19 students (100% of enrollment capacity)

Summer 2018: PHI 2010, Introduction to Philosophy
Course description. See above.
Class size: 20 students (105% of enrollment capacity)

2.2 Teaching Assistant, Florida State University (Tallahassee)

Instructor of record in parentheses.

Spring 2018: PHI 2100, Reasoning & Critical Thinking (Michael Bishop)
Class size: 86 students

Fall 2017: PHI 2100, Reasoning & Critical Thinking (Michael Bishop)
Class size: 91 students

Spring 2017: PHI 3330, Free Will (Marcela Herdova)
Class size: 48 students

Fall 2016: PHI 2100, Reasoning & Critical Thinking (Daniel James Miller)
Class size: 114 students

Spring 2016: PHI 2620, Environmental Ethics (James “Jack” Justus)
Class size: 102 students

Fall 2015: PHM 2121 Social Justice & Diversity (Carmen “Mary” Marcous)
Class size: 140 students

Spring 2015: PHI 2620, Environmental Ethics (James “Jack” Justus)
Class size: 104 students

Fall 2014: PHI 2010, Introduction to Philosophy (John Roberts)
Class size: 98 students

2.3 Guest Lecturer, Florida State University (Tallahassee)

Instructor of record in parentheses.

Spring 2017: PHI 3330, Free Will (Marcela Herdova)
“The Illusion of Free Will: Daniel Wegner’s Argument”

Fall 2017: PHI 2100, Reasoning & Critical Thinking (Michael Bishop)
“Causal Claims & Arguments From Samples”
“Diagnostic Reasoning Under Uncertainty” or “When you test positive”

Spring 2016: PHI 2620, Environmental Ethics (James “Jack” Justus)
“The Institution of Property & The Commons: David Schmidtz vs. Elinor Ostrom”
“Intrinsic vs. Instrumental Value: Sagoff et al. vs. Justus et al.”

Fall 2016: PHI 2100, Reasoning & Critical Thinking (Daniel James Miller)
“Philosophical Thinking: Fast & Slow”

Spring 2015: PHI 2620, Environmental Ethics (James “Jack” Justus)
“The Institution of Property & The Commons: David Schmidtz vs. Elinor Ostrom”

Fall 2014: PHI 2010, Introduction To Philosophy (John Roberts)
“On Abortion: J.J. Thomson’s Thought Experiments and Their Implications”

2.4 Guest Lecturer, University of Colorado (Boulder)

Instructor of record in parentheses.

Spring 2014: PHIL 1400: Philosophy and the Sciences (Carol Cleland)
“Against Metaphysics: A.J. Ayer and subsequent logical empiricism”
“The Hypothetico-Deductive Method: From Popper to Duhem and beyond”

2.5 Teaching Assistant, University of Colorado (Boulder)

Instructor of record in parentheses

Spring 2014: Philosophy and the Sciences — Honors (Carol Cleland)
Class size: 10 students
Spring 2014: History of Science: Newton to Einstein (David Youkey)
Class size: 53 students

2.6 Recitation Instructor, University of Colorado (Boulder)

Instructor of record in parentheses

Fall 2013: Phil 1400, Philosophy and the Sciences (Carol Cleland)
Class size: 2 sections of 10 students (each)

2.7 Workshop Instructor, Apple Store (Boulder)

2012-2013 Getting Started with iCloud
Workshop description. iCloud stores all your music, photos, apps, and documents—and then wirelessly pushes them to all your devices so you can access your content from anywhere. Come to this workshop if you’d like to set up a free iCloud account and learn how to keep your devices up to date automatically—no syncing required. You’ll discover why iCloud is the effortless way to manage your content.
Class size: 4-10 people per workshop

2011-2013 Getting Started with iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch
Workshop description. If you’re just getting to know your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, this hands-on workshop is for you. Learn how to create and navigate through your Home screen. Discover how easy it is to sync media with your computer using iTunes. Explore Maps and find out how your device knows exactly where you are—even if you don’t. Manage your photos, use the cameras, get to know FaceTime, watch videos, visit the App Store, and check out the iBooks app. And of course, there’s iPod—the best way ever to listen to what moves you.
Class size: 4-10 people per workshop

2011-2013 iWork Tips and Tricks
Workshop description. Whether you’re at home, school, or the office, iWork makes it easy to create and share impressive documents, spreadsheets, and presentations on your Mac. In this workshop, you’ll learn how to use the advanced tools in Pages for writing and page layout. Features in Numbers make it even easier to create formulas and stunning one-click charts. And we’ll show you how to use the cinematic animations, transitions, and effects in Keynote.
Class size: 4-10 people per workshop

3  EVIDENCE OF TEACHING EFFECTIVENESS

3.1 Quantitative Course Evaluations at Florida State University

What follows is all student evaluation data about my teaching effectiveness for all of my face-to-face courses at Florida State University, starting with my average ratings compared to department and university average ratings (Table 1 below) and then the distribution of my own ratings (Figure 4 below).

Rating Scale

5 = Strongly Agree or Excellent
4 = Agree or Above Satisfactory
3 = Neutral or Satisfactory
2 = Disagree or Below Satisfactory
1 = Strongly Disagree or Poor

2018

PHI 2010-0001
Introduction to Philosophy

100% response rate

2019

PHI 2010-0011
Introduction to Philosophy

68.42% response rate

1. The course materials helped me understand the subject matter.

4.26

4.31

2. The work required of me was appropriate based on course objectives.

4.44

4.69

3. The tests, project, etc. accurately measured what I learned in this course.

4.17

4.69*

4. This course encouraged me to think critically.

4.53

4.69

5. I learned a great deal in this course.

4.22

4.46

6. Nicholas Byrd provided clear expectations for the course.

4.59

4.62

7. Nicholas Byrd communicated effectively.

4.67

4.62**

8. Nicholas Byrd stimulated my interest in the subject matter.

4.44

4.31

9. Nicholas Byrd provided helpful feedback on my work.

4.50

4.69

10. Nicholas Byrd demonstrated respect for students.

4.72

4.69

11. Nicholas Byrd demonstrated mastery of the subject matter.

4.69

4.62

12. Overall course content rating.

4.22

4.38

13. Overall rating for Nicholas Byrd.

4.56

4.77

Bold indicates better than department and/or university average.
* better than department average at p < 0.1.
** better than department average at p < 0.05.

The distribution of Nick Byrd's teaching evalution ratings.
Figure 4. Distribution of numerical ratings per teaching evaluation item and per rating level.

3.2 Qualitative Course Evaluations from Florida State University

Below are all answers to all optional questions on all my teaching evaluations at Florida State University.

What did you like about the course and/or instructor, Nicholas Byrd? Please give examples.

PHI 2010, Introduction to Philosophy, Summer 2018

  • “He makes everything easy and understandable and if you don’t understand something all you have to do is ask and he’ll try his best to help you understand.”
  • “His work ethic and his attitude towards the course”
  • “I like how he ask if any body have a question on the worksheet he gives out.”
  • “Great teaching style.”
  • “Nick Byrd is an amazing teacher.. I highly recommend taking intro to philosophy with him. Especially if you are new to philosophy and aren’t a fan of the subject. You will find yourself enjoying the class even if you find the concept of philosophy infuriating. This class satisfied my Ethics requirement. I really enjoyed Nick’s teaching style and his openness to everyone’s thoughts and idea’s. I am also very grateful for his clear expectations when it comes to writing papers. It makes it a lot easier to write when you know what the instructor is looking for. I also really, really, REALLY appreciate the text book being provided for us. It saved me a lot of money. I hope Nick never becomes one of those conceited professors that makes you purchase a $500 textbook just because he wrote it.”
  • “Mr. Byrd was a very nice teacher and obviously knew a great deal about the philosophy he was teaching.”
  • “he cares about the class and try to reach the students”
  • “Byrd is genuinely cares about his students understanding our subject matter.”

PHI 2010, Introduction to Philosophy, Summer 2018

  • “Fantastic professor, genuinely helped us learn effectively rather than feed us the material. Give this man a raise, he is in the top 3 best professors I have had in the last 5 years here.”
  • “Everything was straight-forward and the course was very interesting overall. He was very clear in his expectations which was shown right from the beginning through the syllabus.”
  • “I enjoyed this course much more than I thought I would because the way he taught this course stimulated my interest and it was clear what was expected of me.”
  • “He was a great teacher with a nerdy sense of humor.”

What aspects of the course and/or Nicholas Byrd’s instructional methods should be improved? Please give examples.

PHI 2010, Introduction to Philosophy, Summer 2019

  • “I do believe that the answers to the Team Based Assignments should be clearer at the end but then again he does ask if anyone has questions pertaining to the Assignment”
  • “None”
  • “Maybe up date his slides a little bit”
  • “Nothing”
  • “I wasn’t a big fan of the i clickers. Maybe it’s just because I have a small class, but I feel like the quizzes could just as easily been taken on paper. I also wish that when it came to the test, I had something else to study besides the Team Based Assignments. Only because sometimes I fear my Team Based Assignment answers aren’t always correct or explained in full detail. I would appreciate something more clear and definite to study when it came to tests.”
  • “I really like the in-class assignments. It allowed people to work in groups or on their own to find specific answers in the readings. But I believe a more effective method for learning philosophy are the in-class discussions, with the teacher leading the discussions based on the questions that are on the in-class assignments.”
  • “no not really”
  • “Nothing”

PHI 2010, Introduction to Philosophy, Summer 2018

  • “N/A”
  • “Towards the beginning, class assignments were completed in groups and turned in at the end of class. It was a bit difficult to see whether I fully understood the concepts or I was fooling myself. However, as the semester went on, class assignments were completed in groups, but then would be reviewed as a class which helped especially when I thought I knew the answer and I was either wrong or missing a key component. I would say for future classes to explicitly allot time to review assignments as a class. Also, an example of a great paper would have been helpful (not necessary, but helpful).”

Please list additional comments and/or suggestions.

PHI 2010, Introduction to Philosophy, Summer 2019

  • “Love his class”
  • “None.”
  • “nope”
  • “Love having Instructor Byrd his class is true an educational experience.”

PHI 2010, Introduction to Philosophy, Summer 2018

  • “Great class : )”
  • “Without seeing a rubric or example solution on test problems it is difficult to see that points aren’t just arbitrary assigned. It seemed like the tests where just shorter, faster essays. In my opinion tests and essays should like the “two halves of the brain”. Essays are for generating original thoughts (it is fair to take off points for clarity, concision, and creativity) and tests are for testing the knowledge and understanding of a student. In the case of tests, a student should indicate their knowledge by the means provided. If they succeed at indicating sufficient understanding but fail to do it in a concise, clear way, then they have still met the criteria of a test and should not be punished. Just because the knowledge is absent on the paper, doesn’t mean the knowledge is absent in the student’s mind. If this occurs often, it is an indication that the question (and the expectations of the question) are not clear to the student. It is unlikely a student would intentionally jeopardize their grade. If an innocent person is testifying in court, an attorney can make them appear guilty simply by asking them questions. And you wouldn’t fault the witness for answering these question to the best of their ability. I concede that it may be impossible to know whether a student misunderstood the problem but understood the material, or the student didn’t understand the material at all. However, tests can be designed to minimize this effect. One measure is to avoid asking more than one problem (prompt) per question. Much like an argument, the answer to a question can only have one conclusion. Scrutinizing a single response to two questions is much easier, because that response has to work much harder. Additionally, if there is one response per question there is less room for the answer to hide. In conclusion, I don’t really think the tests accurately measured my understanding and knowledge in the course. It may appear like they are effective, because it properly sorts who you think show the most promise and those you do not. To many, capital punishment appears effective, but is it effective if it condemns innocent people?”

3.3 Quantitative Course Evaluations at  University of Colorado (Boulder)

What follows is all student evaluation data about my teaching effectiveness for all of my face-to-face recitations at University of Colorado.

Rating Scale (unless defined otherwise)

6 = Highest

1 = Lowest

2013
PHI 2010-108
Philosophy and the Sciences
(38% response rate)
2013
PHI 2010-102
Philosophy and the Sciences
(10% response rate)
3. Rate the instructor’s effectiveness in encouraging interest in the subject.5.4**†5.0*
4. Rate the instructor’s availability for course-related assistance such as email, office hours, individual appointments, phone contact, etc.5.6*†6.0**††
5. Rate the intellectual challenge of this course.4.8*†5.0**†
6. Rate how much you have learned in this course.4.8*6.0**††
7. Rate the course overall.4.8*6.0**††
8. Rate the instructor overall.5.8**††6.0**††
9. Rate the instructor’s respect for professional treatment of all students regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status.6.0**††6.0**††
10. My class attendance was5.24.0
11. My effort given to this class was4.64.0
17. Pace material was presented
1 = too slow, 2 = slow, 3 = ok, 4 = fast, 5 = too fast
3.43.0
18. Grading for course level.
1 = too hard, 2 = hard, 3 = ok, 4 = easy, 5 = too easy
2.83.0
19. Course content was
1 = too easy, 2 = easy, 3 = ok, 4 = hard, 5 = too hard
4.24.0
53. Instructor made me think.5.25.0
58. Course was presented in an understandable manner.4.34.0
86. Is accessible to students outside of class:4.86.0
Bold indicates better than department and/or university average

* indicates top 25th percentile in department, ** indicates top 10th percentile in department

† indicates top 25th percentile on campus, †† indicates top 10th percentile on campus

shaded  indicates lack of data about department or campus

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3.4 Qualitative Course Evaluations from University of Colorado (Boulder)

Please offer constructive comments to your instructor regarding your experience in this course.

  • “Nicholas is incredible. Definitely was fully committed to helping students learn. Thank you The only think I would change is to try to make the study groups more required because the only way to make the readings come alive is to talk with others.” (PHIL 1400-108, Philosophy and the Science, Fall 2013)
  • “Nick did a really nice job of explaining the readings and coming up with questions for discussion. He was always well prepared and lead the discussions effectively. I always felt more prepared going into the lectures, writing papers, and taking quizzes after going to discussion.” (PHIL 1400-108, Philosophy and the Science, Fall 2013)

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3.5 Quantitative Teaching Observations

What follows are all quantitative teaching observation scores from guest lectures in chronological order from left to right.

Rating Scale

1 = not effective
2 = needs more emphasis
3 = accomplished
4 = accomplished very well

2015

Jack Justus

Env. Ethics

2016

Jack Justus

Env. Ethics

2016

Daniel Miller

Intro. to Philosophy

2019

Mike Bishop

Intro. to Philosophy

Organization: Overall Judgment4444
1. Presented introduction to the lesson.4444
2. Presented topics in a logical, well paced sequence.4444
3. Relates Lesson to previous material.4444
4. Summarized major points and left students thinking.3444
Presentation: Overall Judgment4444
5. Explained content with clarity, defining terms and concepts.4444
6. Used good examples to clarify important points.4444
7. Used visuals/handouts effectively (when relevant).4444
8. Varied explanations for complex or difficult material.4444
9. Spoke at an effective volume and speed.3344
10. Used gestures and moved in the classroom effectively.N/A344
Interaction: Overall judgment3444
11. Actively encouraged and responded to student questions.3344
12. Monitored student understanding.4444
13. Waited sufficient time for students to answer questions.4444
14. Showed enthusiasm about the content of the class.4344
15. Maintained command of the class.3444
16. Treated all students with respect.4444
Content: Overall Judgment3444
17. Presented material at an appropriate level for the students.3444
18. Presented material relevant to the purpose of the course.3444
19. Demonstrated command of the subject matter.4444
20. Inspired students’ interest in the material.3344

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3.6 Qualitative Teaching Observations

What follows is all answers to all teaching observation questions from Florida State University.

What were the instructor’s major strengths as demonstrated in this observation?

  • “Excellent hook at the beginning of class, and excellent visuals. Thorough coverage of the reading’s content.” James “Jack” Justus (2015)
  • “Truly superb powerpoint presentation with the material laid out extremely clearly, and in impressive depth. In terms of information conveyed on the screen, about as through and clear as it can get (more so than my own on average, I believe). Even keel disposition with respect to student questions / comments, and always respectful and patient.” James “Jack” Justus (2015)
  • “Nick’s lecture was excellent. He lectured on how two types of reasoning (“intuitive reasoning” and “reflective”) are related to the formation of deeply held beliefs. Nick focused primarily on beliefs related to philosophical topics, such as religion and ethics. He began with a light-hearted but stimulating anecdote illustrating how intuitive and reflective reasoning styles have played a role in the development of his own beliefs. He then invited students to critique an intuitive moral principle, by which he immediately elicited student participation and dialogue about their own reasoning. The examples used helpfully illustrated how different judgments tend to arise from different reasoning styles. Nick fielded questions and comments with competency and charity, capably guiding the conversation toward the lesson while affirming students’ insights along the way. The PowerPoint presentation was first-rate, serving as a useful road map for students but never overloading them with too much information. Nick’s tone was relaxed but engaging, and he was able to maintain students’ attention throughout. Nick’s lecture demonstrated both competency with the subject matter and careful preparation.” Daniel James Miller (2016)
  • “The atmosphere in the class was excellent. Students were attentive, thinking about the material, and offering their thoughts on the material in class. Nick has a nice classroom persona. It’s not flashy or hammy. It’s calm, clear, respectful, and serious. And as a result, that’s also the class’s “persona” as well. Nick knew the students’ names and this contributed to the healthy atmosphere in the class. The students behaved as if they felt understood and respected as individuals. The handout for the team‐based assignment was excellent. Nick had come up with examples for the students to think about that required them to not simply regurgitate the material, but to apply the material to interesting and sometimes tricky cases. Although it was fairly early in the semester and this was an intro class (and so it’s unlikely that the students had much experience with philosophy), Nick already had the students actively *doing* philosophy. This is impressive. The overall course (as represented in his syllabus) is thoughtful and well-organized.” Michael Bishop (2019)

What weaknesses were observed? What suggestions do you have for improving them?

  • “Pacing – sometimes it was not fast enough to sustain and catalyze interest. Long pauses – they can be effective, but need to be used sparingly and strategically. Sometimes the questions being asked were likely not clear to the students and sometimes the questions were too obvious, which quells interest. Along the same lines, don’t answer your own questions after you’ve posed them and been greeted with silence. After a few times you answer your before they do they learn by induction.” James “Jack” Justus (2015)
  • “The main weakness is noncognitive, but something that can enhance the uptake of cognitive material by students in the class. It can be derided as the “entertainment” aspect of teaching, but presenting things in a certain forceful way can help ensure students are as engaged as they can be. (Of course, this kind of presentation also creates greater risks on the part of an instructor.) That noncognitive aspect to teaching is something Nick should would on, and it is admittedly something that typically requires a lot of hours to acquire and perfect. But given Nick’s quick uptake in general, I have little doubt about his eventual mastery of this aspect of teaching.” James “Jack” Justus (2016)
  • “None.” Daniel James Miller
  • “Nick’s is not a “standard” intro course. It’s individual to Nick and his conception of philosophy. This sort of pedagogical ambition is admirable and worth encouraging. But it means that Nick has made some choices, sometimes bold choices, about his class. While I don’t think any of his choices are wrong, I do think that it‘s worthwhile to make explicit to Nick some of his choices so that he can think about whether to keep them or revise them. We spoke about a number of these choices. (One we all face: To what extent should we ask closed-ended questions, which tend to make discussion a bit more difficult.) But two choices I think are specific to Nick’s course and are worth mentioning here: 1. Discussing philosophical method early in an intro course is a bold choice. And there’s certainly justification for it. But doing this section at the end of the semester – or in an upper-level class – might be more useful to the students, as they’re likely to be better informed and better prepared for such a discussion. 2. The debate over rationalism and empiricism is, in my view, somewhat fuzzy. Besides there being disagreements about what these terms mean, some people take this debate to be an epistemological one, and others take it to be a psychological one. It can be very difficult to keep such an ungainly issue on track in an intro class. Nick did a very good job with this. But he might have been giving himself – and his students – a bigger challenge than is ideal in the first third of an intro class.” Michael Bishop (2019)

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3.7 Teaching Workshops Offered

Debiasing in the Classroom: Whether and how it works (Florida State University)
Workshop description. When it comes to implicit bias, there is good news and bad news. Sustained changes in implicit bias seem to require regular exposure to experiences that last more than just a few minutes. So, the bad news is that researchers will rarely change implicit biases with brief, one-shot experimental manipulations. The good news, however, is that we can probably reduce implicit biases over time by being more careful about whether and how we include people in leadership, decisions, departments, and instruction. This presentation and its take-home handout (1) reviews two methodologically strong debiasing experiments, (2) presents the qualitative results of an easy-to-use debiasing protocol for presentations and teaching, and (3) prompts discussion about how these findings apply to your work. This is the second part of the two-part Spring Conversation Series of the Diversity & Inclusion in Research and Teaching Organization.
Workshop size. 29 faculty, 34 graduate students, 18 undergraduates, 12 staff, 1 “other”
Workshop feedback. Below is all feedback pertaining to Nick’s presentation, unmodified.

  • “When Nick Byrd was talking about de-biasing I was mentally saying to myself – this is exactly what I was looking for in our teaching discussion group diversity presentation and didn’t get (not that I had a name for it at the time)! Something concrete and positive (i.e. ‘here’s something you can do’ rather than ‘avoid doing this.’)” (Faculty, Biological Science)
  • “Both presenters were excellent at navigating the space of being honest educators and accessible facilitators. They were friendly and relatable while not compromising the messages of the presentations. I very much appreciated this approach and think that it is more effective for workshops such as this where several people can come in feeling uncomfortable or nervous because of preconceived notions. – Grad student, music”
  • “The materials and discussions were helpful. I am super impressed! – Faculty, Communication and Information Studies”
  • “It was really enlightening to 1) admit to my own biases, 2) hear others’ biases, 3) learn tools for debiasing, 4) discuss how bias affects others, and 5) learn tools for communicating about 2 diversity promotion. – Grad student, Arts and Sciences, Biological Science”
  • “I thought the shorter thought exercises with brief group conversations were most effective *for this type of brief event.* – Faculty, Communication and Information Studies”
  • “My first time was a great time, so no criticism here! – Undergrad, Human Sciences, Family and Child Sciences”
  • “What I found helpful and liked best was sitting a table with people I did not know sharing their stories and experiences openly and without judgement. I felt like I had a deeper understanding of the topic and learned about how other people view bias. Well done workshop! – Staff, Nursing”

Experiments Are The New Armchairs: The IRB for philosophers (University of Colorado)
Workshop description. Experimental philosophy can take many forms. However, all of its forms seem to require approval from an Institutional Review Board (IRB). To the uninitiated, the IRB proposal process can seem daunting. In this workshop, I will complete a sample IRB proposal, offer tips (e.g., how to perform a statistical power analysis), and answer questions. If you follow along on your own device, then you could have most of your IRB proposal completed by the end of the workshop.
Workshop size. 1 faculty, 4 graduate students

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3.8 Other Teaching Service

Syllabi Showcase: “Introduction to Philosophy” by Nick Byrd, APA Blog (October 2019)
Description. The Showcase features a select number of syllabi. The goal is to highlight best practices in pedagogy. Philosophy instructors share their favorite syllabi, discuss how they developed it, and describe the thinking behind their pedagogy. In this post, we hear about Nick Byrd’s Introduction to Philosophy that employs—among other things—a free textbook, daily group-based activities, and concise writing assignments of just two to three paragraphs.

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3.9 Formal Teaching Training

PHI 5998, Tutorial in Philosophy Teaching (3 credits), Florida State University — Michael Bishop

Course Description. The aim of this course is to help you become a great teacher. This should raise (at least) two questions in your mind. Theoretical question: What is a great teacher? Practical Question: What do you have to do – if anything – to become a great teacher? The theoretical and practical questions are linked, of course. What you think a great teacher does has implications for what you think a great teacher is. What you think a great teacher is has implications for what you think a great teacher does. We’ll spend the semester bouncing back and forth between these questions. You will give and record two short lessons – one at the beginning of the semester and another at the end of the semester, lead a class discussion on (at least) one chapter from James M. Lang’s Small Teaching, compose a teaching portfolio, two sample syllabi, and samples of teaching instruments.

Eastern American Philosophical Association Conference, Teaching Hub, 2019, NYC
Evaluating Inclusion in Course Design and Syllabi

Program for Instructional Excellence Workshops, 2015 to 2018, Florida State University
Positions Outside of Academia
Engaging Students with Blogs, Wikis, and Social Media Tools
Open Access
How to Create a Teaching Portfolio
Faculty in a Research 1 University
Engaging Students with Social Media, Apps, and More
Preparing Cover Letters & Application Packets for Academic Positions

Program for Instructional Excellence Conference, 8/20-8/21, 2014, Florida State University
Academic Honor Policies
FERPA and Americans with Disabilities
Sexual Harassment-Retaliation

Graduate Teacher Program, University of Colorado (Boulder)
The Art of The 50-minute Lesson Plan
Understanding Different Teaching Styles
Managing Conflict in the Classroom
Holding Effective Office Hours
Case Method of Teaching: Participant-Centered Teaching
Finding Your Comfort Zone in Teaching & Learning
Applying The Problem Orientation Framework to and Environmental Studies Classroom
Evernote: Your Every-Where System for Personal Productivity
Getting Students to Go Beyond Google: Using Library Resources
Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Improve Student Discussion and Writing
Running Recitations & Labs
Understanding Classrroom Interactions Via Interactive Theatre
Getting to Know Desire to Learn (and Other Learning Management Systems)
Discrimination & Harassment
Honor Code & Teaching Ethics
Flipping the Classroom: Interactive Learning
Research Ethics & Working With Your Faculty Advisor
Preparing Your Teaching Portfolio
Goal Setting for Academic Success
Reading Writably and Writing Readably

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4  COURSE MATERIALS

4.1 Courses I am Prepared to Teach

Introductory-Level

  • Critical Thinking
  • Ethics
  • Introduction to Philosophy
  • Symbolic Logic

Intermediate-Level

  • Cognitive Science
  • Environmental Ethics
  • History of Science: Newton to Contemporary Science
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Philosophy of Mind

Advanced undergraduate or graduate level

  • Experimental Philosophy
  • Moral Psychology
  • Dual Process Theory

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4.2 Courses I Can Teach with Advance Notice

  • Applied Ethics
  • Causation
  • Epistemology
  • Introduction to Humanities
  • Metaphysics
  • Modern Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Psychology
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Political Philosophy

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4.3 Introduction to Philosophy

The following materials are for the most recent section of Introduction to Philosophy course that I offered (Summer 2019): syllabus, course schedule, grading rubric, sample paper-prompt, and sample in-class worksheet.

Course Overview

Did you know that people who study philosophy make significantly fewer reasoning errors than others? (See Livengood et al 2010 and Byrd 2014). Did you know that philosophy majors outperform basically everyone else on the GRE? Did you know that the median mid-career salary for people who major in philosophy is $81,000? Did you know that philosophy majors were projected to be the top-paid humanities major in 2016? Find out more about philosophy majors here. If you’ve never taken a philosophy class, here are some tips. Or maybe you already know about philosophy—e.g., that it’s relevant to what we often worry about:

Career/Vocation. What should (and shouldn’t) I do for money? What should I do with my time? My skills?
Finances. How much does a good life cost? What should (and shouldn’t) I buy? Sell? What’s a fair wage? Who gets to decide? How should we decide?
Facts. When can we trust people, institutions, test results, evidence, etc.? How? And why? What can’t we trust? How do we decide? How should we decide?
Lifestyle. What should (or shouldn’t) I do with my body? What should (or shouldn’t) I eat? How can we cause harm, if at all?
Politics. What institutions/policies/candidates should have power (if any)? How should we decide? Who cares?
Relationships. What makes a relationship/friend/partner good? What makes them bad? Should I marry? Who gets to decide?

Course Objectives

Discover philosophers’ tools. This class will introduce us to new (and hopefully better) tools for answering these questions. So, by learning these tools in class (and outside of class), then we could think (and hopefully live) better. Specifically, we could improve our ability to analyze and evaluate real-world problems, arguments, evidence, and/or principles. That is both good news and bad news—ask me about this in class some time.

Master those tools: Learning the tools of philosophical analysis and evaluation is not very difficult. However, applying these rules to new material without a philosopher’s guidance can be surprisingly hard. The best medicine seems to be practice. So, practice. And practice again (not just in the classroom). And make sure that at least some of your practice conditions mimic assignment and test conditions—e.g., write your answers with some kind of time constraint and without immediate access to the answers.

Course Materials

Course Grading

Your final grade is determined by various aspects of the course. Early assignments count less than later assignments so that someone can make common mistakes early in the course and still get an A in the course—assuming they learn from mistakes, of course. (You’re welcome.)

Bluebooks5%You need to turn in 2 large (8.5-inch x 11-inch) blue/green books during the first week. The campus bookstore sells them for less than $1.00. I will return one to you on each test days.
Paper 110%Two paragraphs—yes, two. In the first paragraph, explain the strongest version of an argument (that I select). In the second paragraph, explain what you think is the strongest objection to the argument.
Test 110%Multiple choice, short answer, and 1-2 paragraph answers in aforementioned Bluebook.
Classwork25%You will complete assignments in class—in teams, if you want. You will also discuss in class. If not enough people are participating in the discussion, then I can choose people at random. Classes can also include quizzes that can occur at any time.
Paper 225%Like Paper 1, but about a different argument (that I select) and with a third paragraph: what you take to be the strongest counter-response to the strongest objection to the argument.
Test 225%Like Test 1, but cumulative—i.e., anything from the course can be on this test. (Don’t ask me what you need to know. I would never encourage you to be ignorant of anything).

Rounding Up/Down

Final grade percentages will be rounded up/down as appropriate.(For instance, 89.5% will be rounded up to 90% and 89.4% will be rounded down to 89%.)

Grading Scale

Final grades for the course will be assigned on the following scale:

A92.5% to 100%
A-89.5% to 92.49%
B+86.5% to 89.49%
B82.5% to 86.49%
B-79.5% to 82.49%
C+76.5% to 79.49%
C72.5% to 76.49%
C-69.5% to 72.49%
D59.5% to 69.49%
F0% to 59.49%

Paper Feedback

I will comment on your papers using shorthand. The key to understanding that shorthand can be found in “Grading Shorthand: Quick, Consistent, and Constructive Feedback“.

Course Schedule

The average reading is less than 10 pages! (You’re welcome). So, you have no (good) excuse for not reading the assigned reading (at least once) before every class. (And yes: there is assigned reading before the first day of class.) If you are looking for ways to read faster, see “Text-to-speech for speed reading and more“.

Part 1: The Basics

Section 1: Read the Syllabus before class. During class, complete a Pre-test, do some myth-busting, and review the syllabus.
Section 2: Read Self-taught Logic, Unit 1 (to the end of Section 2) before class. During class, review the basics a class and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.
Section 3: Read Self-taught Logic, Unit 2 (to the end of the unit) before class. During class, go over the new material as a class and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.
Section 4: Read “A Right To Believe?” before class. During class, go over one part of the reading and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.

Part 2: The Method

Section 5: Read “Appealing to Intuition” before class. During class, discuss appeals to intuition as a class and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.
Section 6: Read “Armchair Science” before class. During class, discuss thought experiments as a class, and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.
Section 7: Read “An Experimental Philosophy Manifesto” before class. During class, discuss skepticism as a class and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.

** Paper
1 due (online and hardcopy). **

Part 3: The Facts

Section 8: Read pages 3-10 (“The Problem of Induction”) of The Logic of Scientific Discovery (Sect. 1, 3) before class. During class, discuss some history of science as a class and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.
Section 9: Read “Scientific Inquiry: Invention and Test” before class (available upon request). During class, discuss the logic of hypothesis testing and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.
Section 10: Read “An Experiment In Physics Can Never…” (a.k.a. “Physical Theory and Experiment“) before class. During class, discuss everyday cases of hypothesis testing and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.

** Test 1: Study your notes, in-class assignments, and ask about what is still confusing to you during class and/or office hours. **

Section 11: Read chapter 4 of Beyond Positivism: “A Problem-Solving Approach to Science…” (available upon request) before class. During class, discuss realism and non-realism about science as a class and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.
Section 12: Read “Historical Science, Experimental Science…” before class. During class, discuss smoking guns in historical science as a class and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.
Section 13: Read “Pure Science and the Problem of Progress” (Sect. 1, 3) before class. During class, discuss the pure-applied science distinction as a class and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.
Section 14: Read “Du Bois’ Democratic Defence of the Value Free Ideal” before class. During class, discuss trust in science as well as science in policy-making and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.

Part 4: The Good

Section 15: Read “Morality Is A Culturally Conditioned…” before class. During class, discuss arguments for moral relativism as a class and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.
Section 16: Read “Trying on One’s New Sword” before class. During class, discuss whether moral isolationism follows from moral relativism as a class and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.
Section 17: Read Part III, Chapter 4 of What Ever Happened To Good and Evil?“Does Ethical Objectivity Require God?” before class. During class, discuss the Euthyphro Dilemma as a class and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.
Section 18: Read “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” before class. During class, hear Peter Singer explain what you should do with your affluence and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.

** Paper 2 due (online and hardcopy) **

Part 5: The Future

Section 19: Read “Why Novel Prediction Matters” (Sect. 0, 3, 4) before class. During class, discuss predictivism and accomodationism as a class and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.
Section 20: Read “Conservation and Animal Welfare” before class. During class, discuss deer culling, human culling, intrinsic value, and instrumental value as a class and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.
Section 21: Read “Raising Good Robots” before class. During class, discuss Platonic, Aristotelian, and Parental models of robot morality as a class and then complete the in-class assignment in groups.

** Test 2: Study your notes, in-class assignments, and ask about what is still confusing to you during class and/or office hours. **

Course Guidelines

Discussion Guidelines

Discussion is crucial to your success in this class. First, a discussion is the closest thing to a review session that you will get in this class. So, if you can’t confidently answer something on an in-class assignment, then we should probably discuss it in class. (In case it wasn’t obvious; in-class assignments are the backbone of your class notes.)

Also, we will be covering some controversial and sensitive issues about which different people have different opinions. You will very likely disagree with other people in the class—including me—at some point in the semester. No need to be alarmed. Disagreement is common in philosophy. And discussing disagreements can be productive. Why?

In philosophy, what we believe matters less than why we believe it. Discussing our disagreement(s) often reveals why we believe what we believe. Of course, we can imagine a disagreement and corresponding discussion. That is, we can argue for positions that we do not actually hold and argue against positions that we do hold. (It’s pretty fun. You should try it.) In class, we have the benefit of discussing disagreements with real people! For instance, we can express disagreement with and ask questions about the reading, in-class assignments, or lecture material. Good things to mention in class discussions include:

  • Arguments for and against what we discuss;
  • Objections to those arguments;
  • Counter-objections to those objections;
  • Examples to accompany those arguments, objections, and counter-objections;
  • Questions about the meanings of terms/phrases from those arguments, objections, and counter-objections.

When you float a claim or view in class, I will probably ask you for a reason—e.g., an argument or some evidence. So, when you find yourself wanting to make a claim or disagree with someone else’s claim, feel free to think of some reason that our class would probably accept. More importantly, try to be courageous enough to admit when you cannot think of good reasons for your claim or your disagreement—it is perfectly acceptable to find ourselves in that situation so long as we admit it.

Writing Guidelines

In general, you should write in a way that a smart person who is not in our class will understand. More specifically, you should write clearly, cogently, concisely, and (if possible) creatively. Not sure how to do that? Find my advice in “How To Write A Philosophy Paper: 4 Criteria, 9 Tips“.

Course Policies

Electronics Policy

Aside from iClickers, electronics must be turned off and put away. You may use a computer/tablet/etc. for team-based assignments—e.g. so that you can search within each reading. But unless you have written permission from me, these devices must be put away during lectures and tests. Those who have permission to use such devices can lose permission if I find the laptops or cell phones distracting.

Make-Up Policy for iClicker Problems

iClicker assignments that are missed or entered incorrectly because

  • you have not purchased your iClicker yet (or you have, but you have not received it yet)
  • you have not registered your iClicker
  • your iClicker is not working (or you clicked the wrong button)
  • you lost your iClicker (or you forgot to bring your iClicker to class)

are not excused. It is your responsibility to overcome these problems. My responsibility is to point you to the website, phone number, and email address for iClicker support:http://support.iclicker.com, 866.209.5698 (M-F 9am-9pm EST), support@iclicker.com

The “I just need to pass!” Policy

Anyone who satisfies all the following criteria will be guaranteed at least a C in this class: (a) you hand in both papers on time; (b) you miss no more than one in-class assignment; (c) you put forth a reasonable effort on all work; (d) you score (on average) at least 55% on the tests; and (e) you don’t commit academic dishonesty.

Respect Policy

We will be covering some controversial and sensitive issues. We will probably disagree about some of these. Our goal is to express our disagreements in a way that respects the people with whom we disagree. Here are a few ways to do that.

  1. Listen to whoever is talking. Only one person should talk at a time, except during team-based classwork.
  2. Talk, one at a time, only after you are called on (except during team-based classwork). (I will call on as many people as time permits. You can also talk to me in office hours.)
  3. Disagree not by presuming that the person/view with whom you disagree with is silly, foolish, but by summarizing the “steel person” version of the view, the part with which you disagree, and your reason(s).
  4. Silence your electronics in class. Electronic noises are distracting and can cause unnecessary stress during quizzes and tests. Let’s be kind to each other by silencing electronics during class.
  5. Use electronics only for class-related activity: I’ve seen some weird stuff on smartphones, tablets, and computers during class—so distracting! Let’s be kind to each other by putting electronics under our seat, unless we are doing team-based assignments. And let’s use electronics only for class-related purposes.

Academic Integrity Policies

I take academic dishonesty very seriously, and I expect all students to abide by these ground rules:

  1. Team-based assignments. You can work with classmates on in-class, team-based assignments. (Note: you should feel no obligation to work with anyone. Working alone is totally acceptable.)
  2. Papers. You can work with classmates on your papers if you note who you worked with on the line below your name (e.g., “I worked with Marques Jones” …and Marques should write that they worked with you).
  3. Tests. You can study with classmates, but do not work with classmates on tests and quizzes.
  4. Anyone found guilty of engaging in academic dishonesty will be sanctioned in accordance with the university policy and will result in automatic Fail for the course.

Important Note #1: Failing to cite correctly and/or submitting your own work from other classes constitutes plagiarism according to the University’s Academic Honor Policy—even if accidental or unwitting.

Important Note #2: It is common for postgraduate schools (e.g., med schools, law schools, software boot camps, etc.) and employers to ask your alma mater if you committed academic dishonesty. So, plagiarism and cheating can haunt you long after you graduate.

The “Can you tell me what I missed?” Policy

If you miss some or all of a class, do not ask me to review what you missed. Simply read what was assigned (at least once) and complete the corresponding in-class assignment. Classmates can tell you about class discussion(s). We can discuss your questions about the reading and/or the in-class assignments in office hours.

Office Hours Policy

If you plan to attend office hours to get help understanding the material, then bring the relevant reading, your notes/flashcards (e.g., your completed in-class assignments), etc. If you have not completed the reading, taken notes, studied your notes, and practiced the material, then you do not yet need my help. You simply need to start reading, taking notes, studying, and/or practicing. Once you do that, I can (and am truly happy to) help.

The Pre-Grading Policy

The purpose of homework is to test how well you understand the material. So, no, I cannot read your paper before it is due and tell you what to change. That is what grading is for. (If you want to know the reason, re-read the first sentence of this policy again.) Of course, we can discuss the course material more generally.

The Cool-Down Policy

We can talk about a grade on any assignment or test a couple days after it is returned to you.

Late Policy for Homework Assignments

You can submit late homework assignments for full credit if you can provide a reasonable, documented excuse, such as a doctor’s note, for missing the deadline.  If you lack a reasonable, documented excuse, then you can still submit a homework assignment for half credit as late as seven calendar days after the deadline. You will receive no credit for homework assignments submitted more than seven calendar days after the deadline without a reasonable, documented excuse.

Last Day Late to Submit Late Work

With no exceptions, the last day to submit late work is the Monday of the final week of class by 5 pm.

The “But I am an A student!” Policy

If you argue or imply that your grade in this class is somehow determined by your grades in other classes, then you can expect only one thing from me: an incredulous stare.

The “Is there anything I can do to bring up my grade?” Policy

The assignments on the syllabus are easier than extra-credit and/or make-up assignments. For example, an extra credit assignment might be to explain a short book or a long book chapter (that I select) in your own words. On any extra-credit/make-up assignment, you write (at the top) which already-graded assignment’s grade will be replaced by the extra-credit/make-up assignment’s forthcoming grade. By submitting the extra-credit/make-up assignment, you are agreeing to the replacement grade, even if it ends up lower than the original grade.

The “Will you write me a recommendation letter?” Policy

I will write letters of recommendation for students that receive an A or A- in the course. I will consider arguments for making exceptions to this policy. Without exception, a letter must be requested ≥ two weeks before it is due.

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4.4  Cognitive Science

The following materials are for a Cognitive Science course: syllabus, course schedule, reading assignments, homework, and paper-prompt.

Course Descriptions

Much of the technology that you experience on a daily basis was developed by cognitive scientists: internet search algorithms, targeted ads, voice assistants, face detection, autonomous vehicles, etc. Of course, this technology was designed to help us answer questions about the mind.

  • Belief. Why do people believe what they believe? What changes peoples’ beliefs?
  • Bias. How are we biased? What causes biases? What reduces bias?
  • Language. How do we learn language? What can language reveal about our minds?
  • Habit. How are habits created? How are they unlearned? How do habits become addictions?
  • Perception. How do illusions work? How does it differ from hallucination? From perception?
  • Non-humans. How are non-human animal minds different than human animal minds?

Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary field composed of psychologists, neuroscientists, philosophers, linguists, computer scientists, and other academics. Fortunately, cognitive science research has already taught us a lots about the mind, the brain, the body, our relationship to our environment, and our relationships with each other. In this class, we will find mysteries about the mind and some theories that attempt to explain these mysteries. Then we will learn some cognitive science methods and collect some data about ourselves. In the final chapter of our journey, we will see what our data reveal about our own minds. So get ready to solve some mysteries!

Course Materials

  • All texts will be provided electronically
  • 2 Large Bluebooks (8.5” x 11”)
  • Writing utensil for in-class assignments
  • CodeCademy account (for Rstudio lessons)

Course Assignments and Grading

  • Bluebooks                    5%
  • Unit 1 Assignment      10%
  • Unit 2 Assignment      10%
  • Test 1                            10%
  • Unit 3 Assignment      15%
  • Test 2                            20%
  • In-class work               30%

COURSE SCHEDULE

Unit 1: A Mystery In Our Heads

  1. Newell’s (1973) “You can’t play 20 questions with nature and win
  2. Barto and Sutton’s (1998) “Chapter 1 Introduction” of Reinforcement Learning (2nd)
  3. Anderson and colleagues (2004)’ “An Integrated Theory of Mind
  4. Evans and Stanonich’s (2013) “Dual-Process Theories …: Advancing The Debate

Unit 1 Assignment. In the first paragraph, articulate (in your own words) what Newell thinks cognitive scientists must explain and how they must explain it. In the second paragraph, outline one of the three models of cognition (from readings 2-4). In the third paragraph, explain how the model from the second paragraph does and does not fulfill Newell’s demands of cognitive models.

Unit 2: Data & Mystery-Solving Tools

  1. CodeCademy’s Learn R: Lessons 1 through 2 (Turn in proof of completion)
  2. CodeCademy’s Learn R: Lessons 3 through 4 (Turn in proof of completion)
  3. CodeCademy’s Learn R: Lessons 5 through 6 (Turn in proof of completion)
  4. CodeCademy’s Learn R: Lessons 7 through 8 (Turn in proof of completion)
  5. CodeCademy’s Learn R: Lessons 9 through 10 (Turn in proof of completion)

Unit 2 Assignment: First, record yourself thinking all of your thoughts aloud as you complete a set of tasks (that I will provide). Second, trade recordings with a partner and answer the following questions about your partner’s verbal reports of the task: (A) What answer came to your partner’s mind first or most quickly? (B) If your partner changed their mind at any point, did their verbal report indicate that they were aware of a problem with their first answer or did they just stumble upon a better answer? (C) In the end, did your partner get the correct answer? Third, using the coding key provided complete the electronic spreadsheet with the appropriate codes for each of your partner’s responses. Fourth, submit all of these files—recording, verbal report answers, and spreadsheet.

Test 1. A test covering the conceptual issues from Unit 1 (cognitive models) and Unit 2 (e.g., statistical tests).

Unit 3: Solving A Mystery In Our Heads

  1. Jeekl’s “The inner voice”; Look at and prepare for Assignment 2.
  2. Ericsson’s (2018) “Capturing …Thought With Protocol Analysis”; Finish assignment 2
  3. Newstead and colleagues’ “The source of belief bias effects in syllogistic reasoning
  4. Frederick’s “Cognitive Reflection and Decision Making
  5. Szaszi and colleages’ “The cognitive reflection test revisited: exploring the ways…

Unit 3 Assignment: Download the the provided data (which is compiled from submissions of Unit 2 assignments): import it into Rstudio and test whether the codes for A and B predict the codes for C (using two sample t-tests). Put your syntax and output into a .txt file and add a paragraph explaining whether A and/or B predicted C. Submit the .txt file.

Unit 4: So what?

  1. Falk’s “Armchair Science
  2. Johnson-Laird’s “Deductive Reasoning”
  3. Johnson-Laird & Ragni’s “Possibilities as the foundation of…
  4. Nersessian’s “In the Theoretician’s Laboratory: Mental Modeling…

Test 2. A test covering the material from all units.

4.5  Philosophy of Science

Science has become something of a fad. By that I mean that lots (LOTS) of nonscientists are interested in it. Oddly, some of these people say things about science that are just false. For example, people often say that science “proves” or “disproves” things. If you take a careful look at science, however, you find that this just isn’t true. And even scientists seem to misunderstand science. They say things like, “we don’t need philosophy.” However, this claim is obviously self-refuting since the claim, itself, cannot be justified without philosophy. People also say that science describes reality, that science is objective, that there is a single scientific method, etc. These claims sound right at first, but they are difficult to defend. [Jump To Top]

The problem. We don’t seem to know what we thought we knew about science. So what can we say about science? To borrow a refrain from Carol Cleland: science works; Exactly how and why science works, however, is less clear. [Jump To Top]

The primary theme of this course is just that: how and why science works. When you finish this course, you will be familiar with crucial moments in science, a few puzzles about science, and a few potential solutions to these puzzles. More generally, you will understand why some arguments don’t work, how they are supposed to work, how to compose your own argument, how to make an objection to an argument, and how to respond to an objection to your argument. [Jump To Top]

Course Materials

  • LMS account: for announcements, assignments, and reading assignments.
  • University email address.
  • 2 Large (blank) Bluebooks (8.5” x 11”)
  • Writing utensil for in-class assignments

Course Assignments and Grading

  • Bluebooks                      5%
  • Paper 1                          10%
  • Test 1                             10%
  • Paper 2                          25%
  • Test 2                             25%
  • In-class work               25%
What To Read/Do Before ClassDuring Class
The Basics
SyllabusPre-test, Discuss, Q&A, Quiz?
Unit 1, Sections 1, 2, and 3 of Paprzycka’s “Self-taught LogicDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
The rest of Unit 1 of Paprzycka’s  “Self-taught LogicDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
How Should Science Work?
Ayer’s (1935) “Elimination of MetaphysicsDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Misak’s “Philosophy must be usefulDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Popper’s (1959) “Problem of InductionDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Hempel’s (1966) “Scientific Inquiry: Invention and Test”)Discuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Paper 1
Chapter 4 of Laudan’s (1991) Beyond Positivism:…Discuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Cleland’s (2001) “Historical Science, Experimental Science,…Discuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
But How Does Science Actually Work?
Baumeister et al.’s (1998) “Ego Depletion: Is The Active Self…?Discuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Gailliot et al.’s (2007) “Self-control relies on glucose as a…Discuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Class vote: Inbar & Inzlicht’s (2019) “Is Ego Depletion Real?” (podcast) or Friese et al.’s (2019) “Is Ego Depletion Real?” (article)Discuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Baumeister’s (2020) “Self-control, Ego-depletion, and Social Psychology’s…Discuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
StudyTest 1
Farrell’s “Still seeking omegaDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Baggott’s “What Einstein meant by ‘God does not play dice’Discuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
What About When Science And Society Have Different Goals?
Section 1 and 3 of Douglas’s (2014) “Pure Science and the prob…Discuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Longino’s (2004) “How values can be good for scienceDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Paper 2
Bright’s (2018) “Du Bois’ democratic defense of the value free…Discuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Sober’s (2007) “Evidence and value freedomDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Class pick: Elliot’s  (2017) “Rather than being free of values, good science…” or Byrd’s “The Bias FallacyDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?, Return Pre-test; Revisit Day 1 Discussion
Study for testTest 2

Final Grades Posted

Course Assignments

Bluebooks. Turn in 2 large (8.5-inch x 11-inch) blue/green books by the end of the first week. The campus bookstore sells these for less than $1.00. I will return 1 to you on each Test day.

Paper 1. Two paragraphs—yes, two. In the first paragraph, explain the strongest version of an argument (that I select). In the second paragraph, explain what you think is the strongest objection to the argument. (See “Writing Guidelines” and “Feedback Shorthand Key”.)

Test 1. A test covering material up to the time that test 1 is proctored. Multiple choice, short answer (One or two sentences), medium answer (a few sentences), and long answer (e.g., paragraph).

Paper 2: Like Paper 1, but about a different argument (that I select) and with a third paragraph: explain what you think is the strongest counter-response to the strongest objection to the argument. (See “Writing Guidelines” and “Feedback Shorthand Key”.)

Test 2. A test covering all material from the course. Multiple choice, short answer (One or two sentences), medium answer (a few sentences), and long answer (e.g., paragraph). (Do not ask me what will be on the test. I would never encourage you to be ignorant of anything.)

In-class team-based assignments. You will complete assignments during class—in teams, if you want. We will also discuss in class. If not enough people are participating in the discussion, then I can choose people at random. Classes can also include quizzes that can occur at any time.

4.6  Philosophy of Mind

We all have a folk theory about how our minds work: We believe stuff. We desire stuff. Some beliefs are true — others, false. Some desires are intermittent and weak — others, persistent and irresistible. Our behavior is the result of an interaction between our minds and our bodies …or so our theory says. [Jump To Top]

The problem. The finer details such theories are very difficult to explain. For instance, many of our assumptions about beliefs and desires lead to conclusions that we reject. And the relationship between mind and body often sounds mysterious. So perhaps our understanding of our minds is more limited than we realized. [Jump To Top]

This course reviews a few ways that we can understand minds and how they work. We will find that many of the proposals on offer are dissatisfying in some way(s). Then we will discuss what a satisfying account of the mind should be like. In the end, we will understand various theories about minds and explain the problems with these theories. More generally, we will understand why some arguments don’t work, how they are supposed to work, how to compose our own argument, how to make an objection to an argument, and how to respond to an objection to our argument. [Jump To Top]

Course Materials

  • LMS account: for announcements, assignments, and reading assignments.
  • University email address.
  • 2 Large (blank) Bluebooks (8.5” x 11”)
  • Writing utensil for in-class assignments

Course Assignments and Grading

  • Bluebooks                      5%
  • Paper 1                          10%
  • Test 1                             10%
  • Paper 2                          25%
  • Test 2                             25%
  • In-class work               25%

Course Schedule

What To Read/Do Before ClassDuring Class
The Basics
SyllabusPre-test, Discuss, Q&A, Quiz?
Unit 1, Sections 1, 2, and 3 of Paprzycka’s “Self-taught LogicDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
The rest of Unit 1 of Paprzycka’s  “Self-taught LogicDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Got mind?
Barash’s “Mind readersDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Descartes’ Meditation II in Meditations on First PhilosophyDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Paper 1
Descartes’ Meditation IV in Meditations on First PhilosophyDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Churchland’s “Neurophilosophy” pp. 1-22
Got computation?
Searle’s “Can Computers Think?Discuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Lande’s “Do you compute?Discuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Maley’s “Brains as analog computersDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
StudyTest 1
Got uniqueness?
Güntürkün’s “Computation Without CortexDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Buckner’s “Morgan’s Canon, meet Hume’s Dictum: Avoiding Anthrofabulation…Discuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Class vote: Barrett’s “Why… Dolphins Are Not Aquatic Apes” or Singer’s “All Animals Are Equal”Discuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Got freedom?
Strawson’s “Impossibility of Moral ResponsibilityDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Dennett’s “If I could Not Have Done Otherwise, So What?Discuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Pickard’s “Psychopathology And The Ability To Do OtherwiseDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Greene & Cohen’s “For the law, neuroscience changes everythingDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Paper 2
Glannon’s “What Neuroscience Can (And Can’t) Tell Us About…Discuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Wegner’s “Précis of Illusion of Conscious WillDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Kane’s “CompatibilismDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Kane’s “IncompatibilismDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?, Return Pre-test; Revisit Day 1 Discussion
Study for testTest 2
Final Grades Posted

Course Assignments

Bluebooks. Turn in 2 large (8.5-inch x 11-inch) blue/green books by the end of the first week. The campus bookstore sells these for less than $1.00. I will return 1 to you on each Test day.

Paper 1. Two paragraphs—yes, two. In the first paragraph, explain the strongest version of an argument (that I select). In the second paragraph, explain what you think is the strongest objection to the argument. (See “Writing Guidelines” and “Feedback Shorthand Key”.)

Test 1. A test covering material up to the time that test 1 is proctored. Multiple choice, short answer (One or two sentences), medium answer (a few sentences), and long answer (e.g., paragraph).

Paper 2: Like Paper 1, but about a different argument (that I select) and with a third paragraph: explain what you think is the strongest counter-response to the strongest objection to the argument. (See “Writing Guidelines” and “Feedback Shorthand Key”.)

Test 2. A test covering all material from the course. Multiple choice, short answer (One or two sentences), medium answer (a few sentences), and long answer (e.g., paragraph). (Do not ask me what will be on the test. I would never encourage you to be ignorant of anything.)

In-class team-based assignments. You will complete assignments during class—in teams, if you want. We will also discuss in class. If not enough people are participating in the discussion, then I can choose people at random. Classes can also include quizzes that can occur at any time.

4.7  Environmental Ethics

You might have a rough idea of what environmentalism is. For starters, it’s about the environment. More specifically, it’s about protecting the environment. That sounds about right. But what do we mean by ‘environment’? And why should we care about the environment? What about when we have to choose between protecting one part of the environment and protecting another part of the environment? Which part do we protect? How do we make the right choice? [Jump To Top]

The problem. It turns out that most popular environmentalists and conservationists didn’t explicitly answer these basic questions. Philosophers have tried to answer these questions, but with imperfect success. [Jump To Top]

In this course, we’ll review some environmentalists’ and conservationists’ implicit assumptions and consider problems with these assumptions. Then we will turn to more careful treatments of environmental ethics and consider the merits and demerits of each view. Finally, we will apply each view to contemporary and forthcoming environmental problems. By the end of this course, we will understand the terms used by environmental ethicists, some of the problems they try to solve, some of the solutions they offer, and some of the views that motivate their solutions. More generally, w will understand why some arguments don’t work, how they are supposed to work, how to compose our own argument, how to make an objection to our argument, and how to respond to an objection to our argument. [Jump To Top]

Course Materials

  • LMS account: for announcements, assignments, and reading assignments.
  • University email address.
  • 2 Large (blank) Bluebooks (8.5” x 11”)
  • Writing utensil for in-class assignments

Course Assignments and Grading

  • Bluebooks                      5%
  • Paper 1                          10%
  • Test 1                             10%
  • Paper 2                          25%
  • Test 2                             25%
  • In-class work               25%

Course Schedule

What To Read/Do Before ClassDuring Class
The Basics
SyllabusPre-test, Discuss, Q&A, Quiz?
Unit 1, Sections 1, 2, and 3 of Paprzycka’s “Self-taught LogicDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
The rest of Unit 1 of Paprzycka’s  “Self-taught LogicDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Sober’s “Philosophical Problems For EnvironmentalismDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
A dilemma
Leopold’s “The Land EthicDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Singer’s “All Animals Are EqualDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Rawles’ “Conservation and Animal WelfareDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Paper 1
Can we avoid the dilemma?
Shrader-Frechette’s “Individualism, Holism, and Environmental EthicsDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Varner’s “Biocentric IndividualismDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Russow’s “Why Do Species Matter?Discuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Thompson’s “Aesthetics and the Value of NatureDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Study for testTest 1
Another dilemma?!
Nelson’s “An Amalgamation of Wilderness Preservation Argu…Discuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Sarkar’s “Wilderness Preservation and BiodiversityDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Norton’s “Toward A Policy-Relevant Definition of BiodiversityDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Paper 2
Another one?!?!
Hardin’s “Tragedy of The CommonsDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Schmidtz’s “The Institution of PropertyDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Wilson’s “How Elinor Ostrom Solved One Of Life’s …DilemmasDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
What are we going to do about it?
Kelman’s “Cost Benefit AnalysisDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Shue’s “Environmentalism And International InequalityDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?
Singer’s “Famine, Affluence, & MoralityDiscuss, Team-based work, Quiz?, Return Pre-test; Revisit Day 1 Discussion
Study for testTest 2
Final Grades Posted

Optional additional readings

Course Assignments

Bluebooks. Turn in 2 large (8.5-inch x 11-inch) blue/green books by the end of the first week. The campus bookstore sells these for less than $1.00. I will return 1 to you on each Test day.

Paper 1. Two paragraphs—yes, two. In the first paragraph, explain the strongest version of an argument (that I select). In the second paragraph, explain what you think is the strongest objection to the argument. (See “Writing Guidelines” and “Feedback Shorthand Key”.)

Test 1. A test covering material up to the time that test 1 is proctored. Multiple choice, short answer (One or two sentences), medium answer (a few sentences), and long answer (e.g., paragraph).

Paper 2: Like Paper 1, but about a different argument (that I select) and with a third paragraph: explain what you think is the strongest counter-response to the strongest objection to the argument. (See “Writing Guidelines” and “Feedback Shorthand Key”.)

Test 2. A test covering all material from the course. Multiple choice, short answer (One or two sentences), medium answer (a few sentences), and long answer (e.g., paragraph). (Do not ask me what will be on the test. I would never encourage you to be ignorant of anything.)

In-class team-based assignments. You will complete assignments during class—in teams, if you want. We will also discuss in class. If not enough people are participating in the discussion, then I can choose people at random. Classes can also include quizzes that can occur at any time.