At a Glance


  • Humanities

Instructional Level

  • College & CEGEP


  • 345-101-MQ Knowledge

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Group
  • Whole Class

Type of Tasks

  • Presenting
  • Experimenting & conducting inquiry

Technical Details

Class size

  • Small (20-49)


  • Multiple class periods (2-3 classes)

Instructional Purpose

  • Application & knowledge building
  • Assessment & knowledge refinement


The aim of this activity is to help students better understand the rationalist concerns about the use of our experience and senses to gain accurate knowledge. This activity gives students the opportunity to experience a concept we have discussed theoretically in class and to understand the problems of relying on our senses and observation for information

This activity, which takes place in one 2 hour class, employs the Active learning strategy of Inquiry-Based Learning.  It is done after we have looked at some of the concerns between the rationalists and the empiricists about the reliability of experiential knowledge.

Working in groups, students participate in experiments for each of the 5 senses. The experiments are designed to show them that the information gained that way might be unsure and therefore unreliable. Students work rotate through the different stations, one for each of the 5 senses, so that they can experience them all.

Instructional Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Apply the knowledge gained in class on theoretical philosophies to a reflection on the lab experience
  • Discuss how our senses can mislead us
  • Explain the differences between the rationalists and empiricists philosophies based on the results of the experience
  • Elaborate on the impact of our senses on the knowledge we gain

Workflow & Materials


Activity Workflow

View on CourseFlow

Contributor's Notes

Jen Mitchell

Jen Mitchell

Vanier College, Montreal

  • Helps students better understand the problems of knowledge gained from our senses
  • Gives a more active class activity. By this point we have done a lot of heavy analysis and theoretical work on complex philosophical ideas. This class makes for a lighter session and often helps with student motivation in the course
  • This session does require some prep work to get the labs set up. It is important to come to class early to get things prepared, and give yourself enough time afterwards to take everything down.
  • It is important to give students some context for why they are doing this activity, letting them know what you want them to take away from it. I often encourage them to use these experiences as examples for their explanations on their exams
  • Try to check in on the groups as they are working on each station to make sure they know what to do. Usually, the hearing and touch stations need a little more explanation on what to do. The touch station also often takes the longest so students don’t always have time to finish. As long as they get through some of it to get the idea, it’s good enough


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