Springfield, Ohio – When Wittenberg University Professor of Philosophy Don Collins Reed realized he had an opportunity to provide a philosophy major with experience collaborating on research for a professional journal, he invited Riley Stoermer, class of 2008 from Springfield Ohio, to co-author the paper with him.
"People don't usually co-author papers in philosophy," Reed said. "That is much more common in the physical and life sciences and in the social sciences." However, Reed said his professional research follows the work of social scientists more than of philosophers, so he followed the social science practice.
The editor of the Journal of Moral Education asked Reed in 2004 to consider serving as guest editor for a special journal issue to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Lawrence Kohlberg's (1958) doctoral dissertation, and he agreed. The proposal was developed during 2005, finalized in 2006, and the work with authors occurred in 2007-2008. Six professors, including Reed, contributed academic articles for the volume, and Reed was then charged with writing an overview of their work.
"The overview reviews the contributions of each paper to the goal of beginning to articulate an integrated, multi-level model of moral functioning (the neurological/psychological/social/cultural processes involved in human morality)," Reed said. "Riley was my faculty aide. In that position she helped with some of the editing tasks I had as guest editor."
Near the end of the project, Reed invited Stoermer to collaborate with him. Their work on the overview began following Stoermer's graduation from Wittenberg on May 10, 2008.
The work was intense, as they worked against a tight deadline for more than three weeks – day after day – on the phone and e-mailing back and forth. Stoermer said the reading was difficult, graduate level, and she remembers her primary goal was to keep her head above water.
"Dr. Reed sent me the articles to read. We discussed them, and we each wrote an overview to find common ground looking for the ‘big picture,' a thread to connect them," Stoermer said. "I took clues from him and tried to find something in each article.
"Each of the six professors had different theories, and we looked for similarities. For instance, how we learn morality – one author believes we learn through biological factors while another attributes it to cultural factors," Stoermer added. "We collaborated and wrote what we found into a 20- to 30-page Microsoft Word document with the similarities pieced together like a puzzle."
"She wrote portions of the overview, and we discussed them, and I wrote portions," Reed said. "I drew the piece together at the end from the writing each of us had done."
The experience was incredible for her, both personally and professionally, Stoermer said. She also helped find bibliographical references for some of the authors, including Reed and her own findings.
"I actually had a say in project," she said as Reed finished writing the final overview and gave it to her to critique. "He told me to tell him if I found any inconsistencies, anything he should fix. He took my opinions seriously. I had never been involved in anything of that scale. I felt validated as someone in the philosophy field, for someone of his stature to take my opinions seriously."
Volume 37, Number 3 of The Journal of Moral Education was published in September 2008. It includes pp. 417-428, "Towards an integrated model of moral functioning: an overview of the Special Issue (Don Collins Reed and Riley M. Stoermer)," an editing experience that provided an exceptional beginning to the career of a young philosopher.
Stoermer currently attends graduate school at the University of Durham, in the United Kingdom, where she will earn a master's in philosophy.
Written By: Phyllis Eberts