Creating empowered thinkers.

That's been my goal as a teacher and mentor. Along the way, I've been lucky to have wonderful students, who have never failed to surprise and inspire.  

My courses are designed to cultivate skills
the skills that are used by actual scientists

I do this with a suite of ‘active learning’ techniques that are known to improve understanding, increase engagement, and support the most at-risk students. 
 

Learning is most effective and inspiring when it 
focuses on both the forest and the trees.

My students get experience with the nitty-gritty details of science. But they also engage with the grandest puzzles. How could we, as limited cognitive beings, possibly have access to the unobservable entities of mathematics, quantum physics, and religion? How do individual biases relate to systematic racism? Can new technologies make us smarter?

My courses are hard. But you'll learn – a lot.

You'll learn a lot of new content and a bunch of new skills. I think two anonymous student reviews put it best: ‘SO MUCH READING. But, truthfully, I am glad we were assigned so many, because now I feel as if I have a great expanse of relevant literature under my belt.’ And again: ‘He didn't make the class easy, but he made the work worth doing because it was intellectually stimulating and resulted in so much gained knowledge.’ So buyer beware: If you take my courses, you'll be forced to learn.
 

I teach an especially broad range of courses.

My research and training are multidisciplinary, combining psychology, philosophy, history, neuroscience, anthropology, linguistics, and more. This means I teach a wide (and fun) variety of courses. My advanced seminars cut across traditional disciplines and attract students from diverse backgrounds.

Here are some courses I've taught.
Past courses have covered statistics and research methods; philosophy of cognitive science; perception and conception; language, culture, and cognition; analogy and metaphor; 
gesture and multimodal communication; real-world cognition; philosophy of mathematics; and much more. 

Cognitive Foundations of Mathematics

This course is an introduction to the cognitive science of human abstraction, focusing on a paradigmatic case study: mathematics. At first glance, mathematics appears unique. With its objectivity, certainty, and abstraction, mathematics stands apart from other human practices – practices like religion, politics, or poetry. And yet it must rely on the same cognitive, biological, and cultural resources as any other activity: brains, bodies, practices, artifacts.

 

This poses a variety of puzzles. Are there “number” neurons in the brain? How is mathematics different from religion or poetry? How can we understand and reproduce Euclid’s proofs, despite the passage of thousands of years? If mathematics is a cognitive accomplishment, does that means it's subjective and culturally-relative? What is the role of gender, race, or emotion?

 

Our approach throughout will be resolutely naturalistic—grounded in the latest research in cognitive science (broadly understood)—and will treat mathematics as both a system of knowledge and a human practice. 

(Spring 2014, 2015. Enrollment = ~35)

Distributed Cognition

Cognitive processes extend beyond the boundaries of the person to include the environment, artifacts, social interactions, and culture. Major themes include the philosophy and history of cognitive science, the role of artifacts in human cognition,

and theories of socially-distributed, embodied, and extended cognition.

We'll ask whether your iPhone is part of your mind, whether computers make us smarter, and who, exactly, is responsible for scientific discoveries. 

By the end of the course, you'll have new theoretical tools for thinking about what cognition is and where cognition occurs; you'll have exposure to some of the cutting-edge empirical research on embodied, embedded, extended, and distributed cognition; and you'll be able to apply these skills and this knowledge to analyze reflexively the cognitive systems in which we’re embedded, including the American political system, the college classroom, and cognitive science laboratories.

(Fall 2015. Enrollment = 167.)

Analogy and Conceptual Systems

Humans are capable of incredible feats of conceptualization. We argue, write poetry, and dream about notions as abstract as justice, infinity, love, time. In this seminar, we’ll study the organization, production, and reproduction of these conceptual systems. We'll discuss mechanisms like conceptual metaphor, conceptual blending, analogy, and embodied simulation; explore the role of the body, things, and the world; and analyze abstract concepts as they appear in speech, gesture, text, material artifacts, and cultural practices.

This seminar has two major goals. The first is to survey cognitive approaches to the study of conceptual systems—as they are constructed and elaborated in real time, as they are grounded in and enacted by our bodies, and as they develop over historical time within a culture. By the end of this course, you should be able explain how various cognitive mechanisms contribute to the creation of meaning, and use these concepts to analyze real-world examples (e.g. poetry, marketing campaigns, comics, scientific reasoning, etc.).

The second goal is to develop our skills as scholars and cognitive scientists. As such, we will spend our time reading primary sources, learning how to discuss these authors in a generous yet critical way, and developing our ability to write, talk, and think about cognitive science.

(Summer 2012, 2013. Enrollment = 12 to 25.)

Research Methods

The official description: "Introduction to the scientific method. Methods of knowledge acquisition, research questions, hypotheses, operational definitions, variables, control. Observation, levels of measurement, reliability, validity. Experimentation and design: between-groups, within-subjects, quasi-experimental, factorial, single-subject. Correlational and observational studies. Ethics in research."

 

In other words: How do scientists think and what do they do? What about cognitive scientists? What is good science? What is bad science? What is evil science?

(Summer 2015. Enrollment = 36)

Experiences as a Teaching Assistant

I have been a Teaching Assistant for a wide range of courses, including: 

  • Language (Instructor: Rafael Núñez, Spring 2010; Ben Bergen, Spring 2012)

  • Cognitive Foundations of Mathematics (Instructor: Rafael Núñez, Spring 2010)

  • Distributed Cognition (Instructor: Ed Hutchins, Fall 2010, 2013; David Kirsh, Fall 2012)

  • Gesture and Cognition (Instructor: Kensy Cooperrider, Summer 2011)

  • Design and Analysis of Experiments (Instructor: Rafael Núñez, 2010, 2011, 2012)

  • An Uncensored Introduction to Language (Instructor: Ben Bergen, Spring 2013)

  • Minds and Brains (Instructor: Mary Boyle, Summer 2011)

  • Introduction to Computing (Instructor: Mary Boyle, Summer 2011)

  • Head Teaching Assistant, Department of Cognitive Science, UC San Diego (2012-2013)

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