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Teaching

I have taught the following courses in the Bachelor of Arts at the University of Newcastle, Australia:

1000 LEvel

  • The World's Great Thinkers I (semester one 2015-17) investigates the thought and influence of a range of highly influential ancient and pre-modern philosophers.  
  • World Religions (semester one 2011-2018) introduces the principal features of the world's major religions through reference to key events, characters, beliefs and related phenomena. 
  • Religion in Film (semester two 2012 and 2014) introduces a sampling of global cinema in order to help students to begin to interpret their visual styles, narrative constructions, historical contexts, and salient religious themes.

2000 Level

  • The World's Great Thinkers II (semester two 2015-17) investigates the thought and influence of a range of highly influential modern philosophers.
  • Comparative Religion: Judaism, Christianity and Islam (semester two 2013-15) investigates the inter-religious and civilisational points of comparison between Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions over their complex histories. It explores the academic methods necessary to comparative studies of religion. 

3000 Level

  • Debating the Big Ideas (semester two 2016-17) builds on the introduction to the foundational areas, themes or questions in philosophy, and the methods of study that are typically employed by them in order to debate contemporary issues.
  • Modern Religious Thought (semester one 2015-17) examines the development of the philosophical understandings of God, the gods, and transcendence in the modern period. Students will investigate the key writers on the subject who have contributed to major changes in a variety of religions today.
  • Religious Ethics (semester one 2011-12) analyzes a variety of approaches to perennial ethical issues such as the problem of evil or theodicy
  • Jewish Thought after the Holocaust (semester two 2014) explores a range of key Jewish thinkers who have provided influential responses to the Holocaust over the course of the twentieth century. 
  • Religion in the Secular World (semester two 2012-13 and 2015) investigates the new and persistent visibilities of religion in secular societies with reference to key philosophers and political theorists.

4000 Level

  • For students who complete the B.A. degree with high levels of proficiency, the fourth year Honours degree provides a chance to write a 15-17,000 word research thesis, enhance their methodological competencies and pursue a directed study of their choice. I've taught the B.A. Honours Methodology course, led directed studies on figures such as Derrida, and supervised a number of commendable theses on topics such as: Buddhist and Lacanian Desire (2017); Mad Max: Fury Hope (2017); Origen’s Midrash Pesher (2016); Kant in Rawls (2013); and, Law and Ethics in Bonhoeffer (2012).

Between 2008 and 2010, I taught the following courses in the Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in the Religions and Theology Department at the University of Manchester, England:

  • Introduction to Religions and Theology B.A. Core Course
  • Introduction to Christianity
  • Making Sense of Jesus Christ
  • The Return of Religion in the West
  • Religion and Political Life M.A. Core Course
 

Approach

My courses aim to help students develop the skills necessary to enter into great intellectual debates of the past in order to think for themselves. Such skills are embedded in the marking rubrics I use to assess students' ability to critically interpret, argue cohesively, as well as engage primary and secondary sources of evidence. Classrooms can become tolerant spaces of deliberation when such skills are prioritized.

Typically, I organize course materials around key thinkers. I find that this helps students to empathize with people who developed some of the most important ideas in history. Some courses concentrate upon ancient to medieval thinkers such as Avicenna, Maimonides or Anselm. Others investigate modern thinkers such as Kant, Nietzsche, Derrida or Arendt. In each case, studying their interventions in the debates of their times informs students about how to face today's intellectual challenges. 

We live in complex information cultures that benefit from the empathetic and reflective habits of mind that humanities degrees promote. We may have tremendous power to access information through the search engines built into our digital devices, but information does not inevitably lead to meaning and understanding. It seems to me that Immanuel Kant's enlightenment challenge, sapere aude [dare to be wise], remains ever out in front of us.


Student Feedback

The average student rating of all of the courses that I convened which were surveyed at the University of Newcastle was 4.44 on a 0-5 scale. The average student rating of all of the courses that I convened which were surveyed at the University of Manchester was 1.61 on a -2 to 2 scale.