Three points are at the core of my approach to teaching and learning:

  • Class as a space for thinking in the company of others
  • Active learning and peer collaboration
  • Priviledge feedback over grading
  1. I take a philosophy or humanities class to be an opportunity to cultivate what Hannah Arendt called thinking in the company of others, that is, taking into account others’ points of view when trying to understand a topic or situation.[1] I acknowledge the diversity of students in my classes: they have different personal and academic interests, and often come from different social and ethnic backgrounds. I try to leverage this diversity for critical learning, by encouraging them, for instance, to share their disciplinary perspectives or their social and racial experiences growing up.
  2. I believe that students’ true learning depends on their active engagement and that classmates are collaborators in the learning process. I entrust students with the first stage of the learning process, namely, acquaintance with information. In a General Logic class, for example, I ask them to experiment at home, on their own, with the easy exercises of a new section. I would then devote in-class time to deepening the understanding of texts, questions, and ideas.

    I think of classroom-learning as a collective enterprise requiring peer collaboration, which in my classes often occurs as teamwork. Scholarship on teaching and learning (SoTL) has shown that teamwork is a type of cognitivescaffolding. Working together helps students understand better, for instance, when they explain the author’s ideas to classmates. It is also a great way to have students participate, since students who are hesitant to speak in front of the whole class find it easier to talk in a small group where the stakes are lower.
  3. I use a feedback-centered model of evaluation, instead of excessive reliance on grades, as the primary tool to accompany students in their learning process: acknowledging their progress and letting them know of opportunities for improvement. To this end, I prefer short assignments because, in my experience, feedback proves most effective in small amounts and in tandem with further activities that provide the opportunity to incorporate it.

[1] As outlined in my article: Arango, A. Tomar en cuenta, pensar en compañía, ampliar la mente: Sobre el sentido de la enseñanza de las humanidades. (Taking Into Account, Thinking in Company, Enlarging the Mind: On the Sense of Teaching Humanities). Revista de la Escuela Colombiana de Ingeniería, 53, 2004.