photo by Lauren Manning
The term ‘universal design’ was coined as an architectural principle for designing buildings to be accessible to as many different groups as possible. Making a space accessible to one group often opens it up to other groups in ways an architect might not have imagined. I apply the same principle to my research and teaching.
Below are a few examples of how I incorporate visual, audio, and interactive elements to create a space that is open to diverse learning preferences. I apply the same principles to make my classroom open with respect to race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and other differences whether visible or not.
Teaching at the Gallery
One way I've incorporated visual elements in my teaching is by holding a class at the Yale University Art Gallery.
I took my epistemology class to discuss intuition in reference to Picasso’s Mother and Child (First Steps) and a late Rothko piece. Above and beyond incorporating visual elements this served as a unique change of scenery that made that class session stand out for students:
“The art gallery section was neat! I'm not sure everyone knew what to make of it, but it was great to switch things up and it was cool to think about how what we’re studying can intersect with other subjects” (from an anonymous, mid-semester evaluation).
“Evan was fantastic! Sections with him were great. I especially enjoyed the day we traveled to the YUAG—it was a little unconventional, but made me realize the class could be fun and interesting. He had a good way of explaining concepts and a good way of leading discussion. Thank you!” (from the end-of-semester online evaluation).
This is a screenshot from TruthMapping, an online tool for organizing and testing arguments. I use argument mapping software to create an interactive environment for students to reconstruct and analyze arguments that we are discussing in class.
To begin, I give students a list of key claims in separate boxes. Students work in small groups to physically rearrange the claims into conclusions and their supporting assumptions. We then discuss the advantages of reconstructing the arguments in different ways, and finally students are asked to criticizing the argument by identifying any assumptions or inferences that might be called into question.
To the left is an example reconstruction of Plato's function argument at the end of Republic Book I. Click the image or click here to view the full reconstruction, and feel free to vote on whether you think the argument is sound!
I have used similar argument diagramming techniques in my research. To the left is a diagram of the argument in Gorgias' Helen.
I use these diagrams to quickly and efficiently communicate similarities in the ways that Gorgias structures his arguments. Click the picture to the right for the full set of diagrams, where you can see how Gorgias repeatedly employs arguments with multiple polylemmas nested within one another.
This is an interactive presentation I use to introduce new audiences to philosophy, 'What Makes a Philosopher?'
I use figures from ancient Greece, some more familiar than others, as concrete examples to help the audience reflect on their own associations with philosophy. At the same time I showcase some of philosophy's main tools by distinguishing related questions and testing rival theories against intuitions.
These are visualizations I created to show Plato's use of the term 'hypothesis' in his dialogues.
Here I have displayed the eight dialogues that use the term most frequently. Previous scholars researching 'hypothesis' in Plato have focused on the Meno, Phaedo, and Republic, but these visualizations make particularly salient how they have left out the dialogue that uses the term most frequently and has the greatest number of uses from beginning to end. My own work fills this gap by giving an in-depth analysis of 'hypothesis' as used in the Parmenides.
The first diagram was created using the online Voyant tools suite. It displayed in reverse order from lowest frequency to highest, with overall number of occurrences reported on the right. Voyant is a simple and visually appealing tool for text mining that I share with my students as well.
I created the second, more accurate diagram with the programming language R. Bars indicate a single occurrence, and the x axis is scaled to the number of words in each dialogue. I learned to program with R through one of Yale's Digital Humanities Lab workshops. Click the image to link to the workshop archive.
Logic Changed My Life
Last but not least, a song I play for my first-order logic students: 'You Changed My Life' by the Thermals. Learning logic makes you hear love songs in a whole new way.
I'm always looking for new ideas as well. I would love to hear any anecdotes or advice you have about incorporating similar principles: email@example.com