My mission as a teacher is to enable my students to learn joyfully, read carefully, think clearly, and write well.
One of the many virtues of a liberal arts education is that we can learn to think about problems from a variety of perspectives and using a broad range of methods. Each discipline in academia has its particular ways of thinking through problems and eclectic fields like political science often meld a variety of approaches from other areas.
Because my own intellectual influences come from a wide swath of sources I try to give my students a sense of how they might synthesize many different modes of thinking. I often find myself looking at the very same problem through the eyes of a philosopher, an economist, a lawyer, a psychologist, a computer scientist, a theologian, a neuroscientist, and even a political scientist. While much of my formal training is in analytical thinking of the scientific sort, I find that I am far more excited by synthetic processes that are more akin to the ways of an artist.
Mary Ann Belenky and her colleagues empirical study of methods of knowing identified a set of epistemological tools that people use in understanding their world and making decisions. My ambition for my own work is to bring in each of the epistemological tools available to me from formal reasoning to intuition and being a member of a community of knowers. Similarly, I strive to encourage my students to cultivate their many kinds of knowledge processes and to develop the multiple intelligences that they possess.
How to Make An Argument There is a classic set of formal tools for argumentation that all college students ought to have handy. I present a set of tools for making inductive and deductive arguments. I also include a list of common logical fallacies.
IRAC One of the most powerful tools in a lawyer's mental toolkit is the use of the Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion (IRAC) method. The ability to identify critical issues, apply the salient rules to those issues, and draw valid conclusions is an invaluable skill. In this handout, I provide a series of examples to practice IRAC with.