Create and Encourage Intensive Philosophy Communities for Underrepresented Populations

Mathematician Philip Uri Treisman found, after studying the work habits of students, that working in a community atmosphere could reduce the achievement gap in calculus courses:

Our idea was to construct an anti-remedial program for students who saw themselves as well prepared. In response to the debilitating patterns of isolation that we had observed among the Black students we studied, we emphasized group learning and a community life focused on a shared interest in mathematics. We offered an intensive “workshop” course as an adjunct to the regular course. . . . [W]e provided our students with a challenging, yet emotionally supportive academic environment.

. . .

The results of the program were quite dramatic. Black and Latino participants, typically more than half of all such students enrolled in calculus, substantially outperformed not only their minority peers, but their White and Asian classmates as well. . . . Many of the students from these early workshops have gone on to become physicians, scientists, and engineers.

This research provides a good reason to try to develop a deep sense of community in your classroom. But you may not have enough time to create the sort of intensive workshop environment Treisman did. One existing program that can serve as such a community is PIKSI, which you should support and encourage undergraduates to apply for. You may also consider encouraging your department or school to set up such a program for the students at your school.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s