I think therefore I am… online

Thursday 31 January 2008

What am I and what is reality? Does God exist?  Do animals have moral status?

The answers to such fundamental questions at the heart of philosophical debates in religion, ethics and metaphysics will soon be available at the click of a mouse – thanks to a new online initiative at the University of St Andrews.

Philosophers at the University have created the unique distance-learning course specifically for school teachers.  The development is the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at supporting the study of Philosophy at secondary school level, for both teachers and pupils of the subject.

The first group of twelve teachers to take the course, hailing from the Isle of Lewis to Dumfries, will arrive in St Andrews this weekend (Saturday 2nd February) for an initial residential course, thereafter will continue the programme via cyberspace.

While Philosophy is an integral part of the secondary curriculum in Europe, it remains a relatively new addition to the Higher syllabus in this country.  More and more schools in the UK are introducing the subject however and there are currently around 140 secondary schools in Scotland which offer the Higher.  Despite this there remains a gap in teacher training provision, with no secondary teaching certificate for Philosophy as a specialist subject.

As a direct result, the new online distance-learning Philosophy course was developed by Teaching Fellow Dr Lisa Jones, who is also Director of Outreach for the Department of Philosophy at St Andrews.  A keen supporter of Philosophy in schools, Dr Jones has been organising outreach events for local schools since she arrived in St Andrews in 2004.  She said,

“Following two successful years of outreach initiatives for both pupils and teachers of Philosophy we decided to develop the online course because we found that teachers were still very apprehensive about teaching the subject at Higher level.  We were already engaging with teachers from all over the country and have not just the academic knowledge but also the technology in place for online learning.  By hosting the programme online, teachers working full-time all over the country can take part.”

Teachers will be given the opportunity to study four modules involving elements of philosophy such as ethical issues, reasoning and knowledge, mind and reality.  Learning entirely from internet-based resources, including online lectures and live events, subjects will also include the study of the history of philosophy, taking in thinkers such as Descartes, Hume, and Kant.

Crucially, credits from the course will earn teachers professional CPD (Continuing Professional Development) hours – as part of the McCrone agreement, all teachers must complete 35 hours of development in their own time – as well as fulfill GTCS (General Teaching Council for Scotland) requirements.

The programme was set in motion when Dr Jones received a `call for help’ from a teacher at local secondary school, who said it was `absolutely essential’ for a programme of this type to be introduced.

In addition to the new course, the University already hosts outreach events and special study days twice a year for aspiring philosophers and teachers from all over Scotland.  Next week (Friday 8 February) it will host a visit of 130 S5/6 pupils and 20 teachers – the annual Philosophy Study Day is thought to be the biggest Philosophy outreach event of its kind in the country.  The department also offers special one-day masterclasses and has even provided a Visiting Teacher to a local school.

“Interest in the subject in this country is certainly growing,” Dr Jones continued.  “Philosophy teaches a range of transferable skills in critical and analytical thinking and we are finding a great deal of enthusiasm in both teachers and students who take part in our programmes here.  Our latest course has been designed not just to meet the necessary GTCS requirements, but to provide support and inspiration to teachers across the country.”

The new online programme is supported by the Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Philosophical and Religious Studies and begins this weekend.



For further information visit www.st-andrews.ac.uk/philosophy/pops/index.html   or contact Dr Lisa Jones on 01334 462489, email [email protected]


Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Gayle Cook, Press Officer on 01334 467227 / 462529, mobile 07900 050 103, or email [email protected]
Ref:  Philosophy online 310108
View the latest University press releases at www.st-andrews.ac.uk

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