Russell Marcus

Scaffolding for Fine Philosophical Skills,” by Associate Professor of Philosophy Russell Marcus, was recently published online in the journal AAPT Studies in Pedagogy from the American Association of Philosophy Teachers.

“Inspired by learning theory from psychologists including Lev Vygotsky and Jerome Bruner, many instructors are interested in scaffolding their writing instruction,” Marcus said.

“Scaffolding is supposed to provide students with incremental tasks to help develop skills. But teachers often confuse short tasks with simple ones, taking assignments to write short papers before writing long ones to be sufficient scaffolding.”

Marcus said his work analyzes complex philosophical tasks into fine-grained activities such as writing simple precis of arguments, illustrating abstract arguments concretely, or ranking the strengths of various arguments.

“These tasks, both individual and cooperative, are not just shorter but simpler, and so can more successfully exemplify core principles of scaffolding and more effectively help students to develop transferable writing and critical thinking skills,” he argues.

He noted that this article is tightly connected to both his writing instruction and his team-based learning, which he has developed in his Philosophy 122W: Infinity, Philosophy 203: Modern Western Philosophy, and other courses.

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