I began teaching at the college level in the Extension Division at Brown University in 1970. I was working on my Ph.D. at Brown but had a fellowship, not a teaching assistantship.
When I was full-time at Brown (between 1968 and 1971) teaching was not a focus. I offered courses in Ethics and Introduction to the History of Philosophy in order to get some teaching experience before I hit the job market.
My first full-time academic position was at Gustavus Adolphus College. Having never taken a course in teaching, with only my self-designed Extension Division experience, I mostly modeled my teaching after the best teaching I had experienced as an undergrad at Hamline (Thurman Coss, Joe Uemura, Kent Kreuter, Winnie Fisher) and as a graduate student at Brown (Rod Chisholm). Beyond my role models, I made it up as I went along, learning on the way. I learned a lot of philosophy at Hamline and Brown; I figured out how to teach at Gustavus.
My approach to teaching is straightforward: study original sources (in translation if not originally in English), explicate the material in class (having students bring their books and follow along in class), ask questions of students – expecting answers – to deepen interpretations and explore ideas from more than one perspective, and provide lived experiential connections to the ideas, hands-on where possible. Everything said in class is open to both interpretive and evaluative questions, and professional jargon is avoided where possible, explained where unavoidable.
In Philosophy of Art students have to attend a live performance and review it from the aesthetic perspective of Plato, Aristotle, or Nietzsche, based on readings and class discussion, and they have to go as a class to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, select a piece from the collection, and review it from the aesthetic perspective of Kant or Berger. Always they have to close with their own reasoned reaction to the assignment.
In my First Year Seminar on Human Rights, beyond reading, writing, and discussion we view film, visit a human rights advocacy organization, attend a play with a human rights theme, and serve a meal to street folks at the local Dorothy Day Center, keeping journals to record reactions and reflections.
My January term course, Ethics and International Development, includes a week on campus doing background study, two weeks in the rural interior of Jamaica working on school construction with locals through Operation Classroom, and a final week back on campus to complete reflective writing and presenting individual project results to the group. I also have taken students to England to study theater, attending a dozen performances during January, plus visiting Oxford for lectures on aesthetics and drama.