Steve Gardner

School of Philosophy, Monash University

1. What course (or courses) did you use PI in?

Title: PHL1010 God Freedom and Evil

Year level: First year

Description: An introduction to philosophy of religion, with an emphasis on argumentation and critical thinking concepts.

2. What is the format of the course?

11 lectures, each repeated, over 1 semester, with weekly tutorials, shared with the other half of PHL1010 (Life, Death and Morality)

3. Did you use PI in lectures, tutorials or both?

In lectures only.

4. How many questions did you use in a typical class?


5. What voting mechanism do you use?

Eg. clickers (electronic response system), flash cards, show of hands.

Flash cards.

6. What are your main goals when using PI in class? What do you hope to achieve?

1. To get students engaged, thinking and interacting with each other and the material during the lectures.

2. To make the lectures more interesting and fun, and thereby promote better retention of the lecture materials.

7. What kinds of question do you use? What kind of questions are most effective?

Multiple choice questions. The best questions are ones which clarify the application of a concept.

8. What benefits do you think there are in using PI in your classes?

The students respond very positively to it, as evidenced in their responses to teaching evaluation surveys. I think it does improve engagement with and understanding of the material.

9. What disadvantages do you think there are in using PI in your classes?

It slows me down; it is not in general possible to cover the same amount of material.

Not all the course material necessarily lends itself well to this kind of treatment. In the early part of the course, where many new concepts are being introduced, it’s very effective. Once the concepts are bedded down and attention turns to detailed argumentation, it’s not always easy, or perhaps desirable, to try and shoehorn a discussion of (e.g.) Hume on the argument from design into the PI format.

10. How do your students respond to using PI?

See above.

See the student evaluations for this course.

11. What do you think are the biggest challenges to using PI effectively?

Finding ways of using the format effectively with more nuanced material.

12. What advice would you give to someone thinking of using PI in their teaching?

It’s certainly worth considering as a teaching technique, particularly where one of the aims is to provide students with mastery of a set of concepts they are to use in thinking about problems arising in an area of inquiry.