Assignment Hack-a-thon and OER Focused Inquiry Group at the Graduate Center’s Teaching and Learning Center (TLH CTL Project Recap)

The CUNY Graduate Center’s Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) supports GC students’ in developing knowledge of the fundamental elements of college instruction and helps new and seasoned instructors craft critical and caring pedagogical approaches for teaching at CUNY. In a recent TLC survey, GC graduate students indicated the need for more support for teaching, and specifically pointing to the challenge of sourcing materials to use in their courses. During Spring 2023, with the support of the Transformative Learning in the Humanities Initiative, the Graduate Center Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) developed two projects to support graduate students’ engagement with inclusive pedagogy and open educational resources.

In February, the TLC hosted an “Assignment Hack-a-thon” that invited GC student instructors to participate in an event that blended workshop, collaborative working session, and community gathering. During the Assignment Hack-a-thon graduate students discussed inclusive and student-centered teaching methods, and reflected on how they have enacted these practices in their courses. Attendees then conducted a peer review of previously used assignments. When “hacking” their assignments, attendees worked together to explore ways to: make assignments more relevant for CUNY students, use educational technologies to make low stakes assignments more engaging, and alter assignments to embrace multiple ways of learning and creating knowledge.

Attendees’ reaction to the event was positive, and many graduate students reflected on the benefits of thinking through their pedagogy with peers. Following the event, hack-a-thon attendees crafted new versions of their assignments, and shared them with the TLC. These openly-licensed assignments have provided the foundation for the TLC’s new Assignment Library, a collection of materials developed by CUNY instructors for CUNY instructors. Event attendees are excited about the library and many have met with TLC staff to provide preliminary feedback on the Assignment Library website.  The Assignment Library will continue to grow with ongoing support from the TLC and we hope it will become a valuable resource for all instructors teaching across the CUNY system.

The support from the TLH also facilitated graduate student engagement in a Focused Inquiry Group (FIG) to curate disciplinary Open Educational Resources (OER) collections. After a short application process, six participants were selected to develop collections of teaching materials that could be used in a variety of courses in their discipline. The FIG participants have met several times this semester to begin developing their projects, and will receive support over the summer to complete the collections. Elvis Bakaitis from the GC Mina Rees Library, who has also worked with several of the FIG participants in the past, attended our second FIG meeting to share their expertise on open licenses and sourcing open access content (thank you, Elvis!). The collections will be available in the Fall 2023 and will focus on the following topics:

  • Community Organizing and Social Work,  Jamie Borgan
  • Ethics, Critical Thinking, and Feminist Philosophy, Yingshihan Zhu
  • Evolution and Behavior & Comparative Animal Behavior, Jennifer Savoie and Lyndsay Hage
  • Marking Gender in Spanish: A Guide for Language Learners, Silvia Rivera Alfaro
  • Teaching Environmental Psychology Critically (TEPC), Erin Lilli  

Sourcing  and creating open materials requires significant time and effort, and these disciplinary collections aim to ease the labor burden for graduate students and adjuncts who are seeking to teach with low or no cost materials, while also cultivating more discussion and collaboration around teaching within the GC’s academic programs. The TLC is working with the FIG participants to identify departmental partners to help publicize these resources and support their continual development and in doing so, build institutional support for teaching with accessible and open materials.

The Spring 2023 projects supported by the TLH created opportunities for graduate students to receive support for developing teaching materials, and allowed the TLC to guide students in making these materials open to all instructors teaching at CUNY. Both projects lay the foundation for current and future students to access and contribute openly licensed materials that foster inclusive and accessible pedagogical approaches in CUNY classrooms. 

Laurie Hurson, Assistant Director for Open Education  

Image Credits: Images were taken by TLC Staff and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Public License.

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