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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

Matthew Dougherty


The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Matthew Dougherty, instructor of Philosophy, for encouraging students to think critically about their beliefs, and for creating an engaging atmosphere in which dialogue about those beliefs can be held.

Matthew currently teaches two sections of PHIL 1304: Morality & Justice, including approximately 40 students each. The general goal of his teaching practice is to get the students to develop critical thinking; however, he also endeavors to support students in developing a better sense of the kind of life that they would like to live.

Matthew designed PHIL 1304 to get students motivated and engaged in the dialogue that constitutes moral philosophy. He describes his general approach as one in which he presents a particular view of morality from the history of philosophy, and then encourages students to engage critically with the arguments for and against that view. In addition, Matthew aims to create a safe learning environment so that students feel comfortable expressing their ideas, and provides structure to each lesson by preparing a number of questions or problems to discuss. At the same time he encourages the students to take these discussions in whatever direction they think is most relevant to their lives. Matthew facilitates this empowering and critical form of discussion because he believes that these strategies make the Morality & Justice class especially easy for students to become invested in. He explains that in class, students are trying to decide how to live, which is a task relevant to everyone.

Matthew’s students describe him as an “engaging and enthusiastic teacher.” One of his students commented, “He is always very engaging and knows exactly what he's talking about.” In addition, the safe learning environment fostered by Matthew is appreciated by his students: “He makes everyone in the class feel comfortable enough to say whatever they want to on a topic. He goes out of his way to make sure that all of the students that want to say something have a chance to speak.”

Matthew, as a recent graduate of Virginia Tech's philosophy program, attributes his success as a novice teacher to his mentors both at Virgina Tech and his undergraduate institution.

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