Excellent Student Contributions

As I report in my teaching statement, I developed a method that allows students to draw on the creative skills they anyway have and bring them to bear on the class discussion. On this page, you find a selection of the fine work students came up with. All of it has been added after obtaining prior consent from students. [I will update it as more permissions to share students’ work come in…]

Here is how the method works:

Stage 1: students find, and then post to the week’s discussion board, passages from the assigned reading that strike them as particularly suitable for transferring their contents to a different medium.

Stage 2: students pick a passage provided by another student and transfer its content to a different medium of their choice. They may provide visualizations such as illustrations or cartoons, but everything is fair game, including poems, songs, or art work .

Stage 3: students provide constructive comment on responses to their own initial posts – everyone else is of course invited to join in.

I have used this technique in my online classes in Germany and a modified version during an online recitation session I held while serving as Teaching Assistant for the 2016 Intro to Ethics course. Note that it doesn’t matter if illustrations are not always fully accurate in terms of how well they capture the concepts they are intended to illustrate. Typically, the ensuing comments bring out further questions and provide clarifications where needed.

From my online class on Theories of Causation (Germany):


This video serves to illustrate the idea of a creatio continua – God causes everything that happens at every given moment. The topic came up as we discussed regularity theories of causation and the question whether our idea that physical events can bring about other physical events might be due to an illusion. Manoel da Silva Pinto, the student who authored this amazing contribution, produced this video from 270 photos he took and in doing so went far beyond what I had hoped to see.

Manoel da Silva Pinto also provided the following cartoon to visualize an example provided in Phil Dowe’s 2004 paper Causation and Misconnections. The example serves to illustrate, and cast some doubt on, the idea that causation is a transitive relation.


Another student, who wishes to remain anonymous, wrote and recorded a poem, which was supposed to capture the deterministic idea that God has pre-ordained every event in advance. Below, you find the text (including my translation) and – in case you want to practice your German or just read along – the recording the student made available. Incidentally, the student thoughtfully emphasized that he did not intend this poem to hurt anyone’s religious sensibilities and that he merely wished to illustrate the implications of  a fully deterministic  world view.


From my online recitation session associated with 2016 Intro to Ethics:

James Choice

This graphic above illustrates the distinctions William James draws between different aspects of choice in “The Will to Believe.” Thanks to Megan C. Forziati for allowing me to share her work!

Absolutism vs. Empiricism

Absolutism vs. Empiricism in James

This graphic was submitted to illustrate the differences William James thinks obtain between absolutists and empiricist ways of thinking. In their responses, students focused (and rightly so) on how the stance of Absolutist Two was to be construed and asked whether it would have to be modified to better capture the distinction James was drawing attention to. Thanks to Andrew Willner for allowing me to post his work!

[more to come]

Bring me back to the teaching section, please.