Statement on Teaching Philosophy (actual document)

Statement of Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy is inseparable from my teaching practice, which is best expressed as the engagement with a series of problems. A ‘problem’ is not defined in terms needing a ‘solution’, but is an arrangement of the world that forces students and myself to think anew. On the one hand, the content of teaching – the knowledge, philosophies and modes of scholarly practice – serves as an infrastructural set of tools to enable class groups, such as seminars or tutorials, to isolate, define, engage with, and explore problems. On the other hand, a singular ‘problem’ is itself a form of virtual infrastructure that enables those involved in the pedagogical event to assemble a bridge between thought (Ideas) and the unthought of thought (the ideological, libidinal and affective dimensions). My teaching practice is therefore organised around presenting a series of problems and knowledge-based tools to work towards assembling a bridge in the movement between the thought and unthought.

My teaching practice is scalable. Depending on the level of ability some students require more or less of this infrastructure. For example, a first year student requires more infrastructure than a postgraduate student. The teaching practice is scalable, firstly, because students of various levels of scholarly aptitude are carrying out the same practice of engaging with problems. Yet, a first year student may be very capable of isolating problems or some other core practice of the ‘problematic’ method (definition, engagement, and exploration). Advanced students need fewer infrastructural components, not because they necessarily know more, but because such students are capable of assembling their own infrastructural tools. The second scalable dimension of the problematic teaching practice is that advanced students are encouraged to acquire skills to assemble their own infrastructure. As such, the problematic teaching practice does not produce disciplinary acolytes; rather, success is achieved when students are capable of a relative autonomy of thought.

My teaching practice is adaptable. One of the problems faced by a young academic is the casualized terrain of academic employment and I have often inherited or taught in courses that were not of my design or even in areas that push the boundaries of my research expertise. This has forced me to learn along with my students. Obviously, I already have some sense of the content and the pedagogical context, but I carry out the same practice as my students of isolating, defining, engaging with, and exploring problems that have been, in part, selected by others. Even when I select the course content a similar process occurs. Every class is a pedagogical event that both distributes student/teacher relations (which may or may not coincide with correlative subjectivities) and can build bridges between the thought and unthought across respective scholarly capacities of those implicated in the event.

My teaching practice is powered by enthusiasm. Kant described enthusiasm as a modality of the sublime that requires an enlarging of the power of imagination to think an Idea. From a post-Kantian perspective, the affects that circulate within a teaching environment can extinguish or increase such a capacity. The two positions frame a tension between the affective contours of the teaching environment and the power of Ideas expressed in discourse. My task is to modulate this tension to productive outcomes for students in two basic ways.

Firstly, by bringing my own enthusiasm to a teaching environment the affective composition of the unthought shifts and becomes more easily accessible. ‘Difficulty’ is not a problem, but a challenge that demands an affirmation and reconfiguration of one’s capacities. I endeavor to lead by example and expect this effort of my students. Secondly, by highlighting the problematic character of set readings students can gain a sense of more than just the knowledge of a text, they can grasp the movement of the argument and the power of Ideas to engage with problems. There is a danger in such an intensive mode of pedagogy; not all classes are a success, and on some days the affects of enthusiasm are in short supply from me or students.

In general, my teaching is a philosophical practice that seeks to inspire students to accept the burden and challenge of engaging with problems while at the same time continually reassessing my own capacities.