How good teaching can substantially transform students’ lives is something I have experienced first-hand. I know that requiring rigour must be accompanied by the belief that anyone can produce valuable arguments. My teaching is marked by pursuing rigour in and openness to my students.
I have been involved with teaching for eight years, having taught a variety of courses and students from many backgrounds. I have experience teaching Applied Ethics, Ethics, Modern Philosophy, Philosophy of Science and Moral Psychology. I am also prepared to teach Business Ethics, Critical Thinking, and Introduction to Philosophy courses. The first teaching role I had was supervising a Moral Psychology project at the University of Sao Paulo in 2012. One student decided to continue to work on the project during the next year, long after his course obligations ended. At the University of Oxford, where I was trusted to build my own syllabi from scratch, I taught a wide range of students and classes. I have taught Modern Philosophy for three years to students working towards degrees in philosophy and economics. Some of these students decided to progress to graduate school in philosophy after my course, sought my assistance and were successfully admitted. In 2016, I taught Ethics to a group of underprivileged high school students who wished to apply to the University of Oxford. In 2018, I taught Philosophy of Science to Oxford and USA exchange students from a wide range of science majors, as well as Ethics and Applied Ethics to philosophy students. In 2019, I was hired to write history of philosophy chapters for a high-school textbook. These diverse experiences, coupled with presenting my research to a wide range of audiences, enable me to fine-tune my teaching to a variety of students. In 2020, I prepared a Business Ethics syllabus to philosophy and business students with feedback from Harvard Business School’s faculty. To my dismay, the class was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Applied Ethics Classes
In Applied Ethics, my students cover some of the major debates in the field, balancing a focus on specific issues with explaining general principles within the field. These cover topics such as end of life scenarios in healthcare, responsibility towards the poor, technological enhancement, climate change, digital privacy, disability, and extinction risks for humanity. Students are made aware that any philosophical field requires a detailed reading of the source material and high standard of rigour in arguing, which some might be unacquainted with. I teach them that the effective solution to these difficulties is to aim for simplicity. With these factors in mind, once I lead them through the major points of the readings, I give them the freedom to express their impressions, doubts, and arguments. Indeed, I choose readings that reaffirm that one can rigorously argue for many kinds of positions. For example, readings for climate change include both Sinnott-Armstrong arguing against individual obligations and Kagan in favour of individual action. During the debate, I make sure their arguments and disagreements are made clear, this leads to not only better arguments but to understanding the many intricate sides of an issue. Splitting large classes into smaller discussion groups which then share their thoughts with the class can be useful here. Students choose three to four classes in which they have to submit an essay about the class and are required to take an active role in the debate. I pay full attention to questions, views and arguments during class, provide extensive written feedback to their essays, and encourage them to meet me during generous office hours. I am proud that not only their final essay evidence their views were refined, but teaching evaluations suggest increased trust in rigorous and civic debate between opposing views.
You can find a past Syllabus for Applied Ethics here.
Early Modern Philosophy, Philosophy of Science and Business Ethics
I take a similar approach in Early Modern Philosophy, Philosophy of Science and Business Ethics. In Modern Philosophy, instead of orienting each class around issues, I focus on a source material by some of the period’s major exponents (such as Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Hume and Locke). In Philosophy of Science, I dedicate at least two classes to different approaches to each foundational issue such as the problem of induction, demarcation and scientific realism, and then include more recent topics such as solutions to incommensurability. I guide students through a detailed reading and expect their essays to display an accurate understanding of the source material. In Business Ethics, I planned to introduce students to the field’s scope, normative foundations, and leading approaches. Then, each class would concentrate on a specific question. Are corporations persons? Who owns them? Is price gauging ethical? What is false advertising? Readings offer different approaches to each question. Regardless of the class, students have met my expectations, exhibiting an accurate and thorough knowledge of several key concepts as well as displaying a reasonable ability to argue and defend claims in a rigorous and structured form.
In my anonymous teaching evaluations (available in full here), all students considered me an effective class leader, respectful and encouraging. Nine out of ten considered I stimulated interest and provided helpful comments on essays (the remaining were neutral). I was never given a negative rating on any of the eleven evaluative criteria.
Students’ most frequent comment in my qualitative evaluations was on the high quality of essays’ feedback, with three fourth of students saying my feedback was "detailed", "insightful" or "interesting". Most students also commented very favourably on class discussions. One Applied Ethics student wrote that discussions were “always very interesting and simulating (…) honest, open and relaxed. This made me feel very comfortable in expressing my thoughts. (...) Joao used our different arguments to offer possible counter-arguments. Thus, discussion felt very constructive". One Ethics student wrote that "I found it most helpful when students were talking past each other and Joao suggested what the real disagreement was or where the conflict lay. It helped the discussion be more productive". Another Applied Ethics graduate student wrote "A great tutor who helped revive my interest in practical ethics".
These evaluations and propelling some students to graduate school in philosophy bear witness that my teaching is engaging, welcoming and thorough with feedback. They motivate me to continue fostering achievement in future students through valuing rigour and openness.