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Learning Commmunities Philosophy

Contact Person

Anne-Margot Lambers - a.m.lambers@rug.nl

Summary

Problems identified by the Faculty of Philosophy include insufficiently active student participation and a lack of group-building caused, among other factors, by the high numbers of individual programmes. Based on this analysis the Faculty aims to implement the following three sub-projects to introduce Learning Communities in the heart of academic teaching at the Faculty, i.e. the philosophical skills course units.

  1. Establishment of Learning Communities within the propaedeutic phase of the Bachelor’s degree programme in Philosophy, focusing on the Philosophical Skills learning pathway.
  2. Establishment of Learning Communities within the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes in Philosophy of a Specific Discipline, focusing on the Philosophical Skills learning pathway.
  3. Establishment of Learning Communities within the Research Master’s degree programme in Philosophy, focusing on the Philosophical Skills learning pathway.

Best Practices

The Faculty of Philosophy is a relatively small faculty with a strong community sense. However, philosophy is -or can be- a highly individualistic field, with a strong focus on individual reading, writing and reasoning.

In our Learning Communities for the first year of the Ba Philosophy, we aim to practice these and other philosophical skills in fixed groups of 15 to 20 students. During weekly philosophy 'practicals', students work on texts and assignments belonging to the courses of that term. Each group is tutored by a fixed practical teaches who helps students develop their reading, writing and argumentation skills through instruction, practice and feedback. They focus on interactive teaching. Peer review is a core activity for these practicals, teaching students to help each other improve their work. Students are assessed individually and outside the practicals, as part of the content courses. Practical teacher will therefore solely support and provide feedback, but will never grade.

The practicals provide students with a continuous and coherent academic skills programme, which is still consistent with the courses they follow throughout the year. They also encourage students to work together, to show unfinished work and to try new techniques.

Our focus for improvement lies in the integration of the content courses and the practicals, as finding sensible assignments that assess both skills and knowledge can be quite a puzzle. Another focus point is the differentiation of the materials, because the levels of the students' philosophical skills varies widely. To accommodate these different levels is a complex task, especially in group settings.

Last modified:16 March 2017 1.24 p.m.
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