Author Archives: Christina Katopodis

What is a “Flipped Classroom”?

In the “flipped classroom” model, currently used by CUNY Professors Donna McGregor and Pamela Mills in the Chemistry department at Lehman College, content explication is moved out of the classroom, which frees the teacher from delivering content via the lecture format. Instead, that content is ported to an at-home format (e.g., video instruction), and thus allows the opportunity to scaffold in-classroom learning through active learning strategies. In a sense, this model converts the real world into the classroom, because that is where the student will have the most engagement with the subject matter; meanwhile the classroom is where the student will engage with their classmates for a deeper exploration of what they have been learning outside the classroom. Continue reading

What is Participatory Learning or Active Learning?

The verbs in the names of these two typically interchangeable terms say a lot about them: this kind of learning is meant to engage students, to put them in the driver’s seat of their own education, to make learning active and participation-based, and to make education more equitable. Some of the core elements of participatory learning include community, collaboration, and social justice (Alfie Kohn). Participatory learning descends from genealogies in progressive education that go back to Montessori and Dewey, radical pedagogy (think Paulo Freire‘s dialogic methods and bell hooks‘ emphasis on the intellectual and spiritual growth of students), and a variety of contemporary, engaged pedagogies, including those inflected by social science (such as the work of Carol Dweck on fixed versus growth mindset). Continue reading

Call for Co-Sponsored Spring 2021 Events

Applications Invited for Faculty-Led Workshops, Feb 1 – May 1, 2021

Thanks to a three-year initiative supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, CUNY is embarked on a visionary program designed to support engaged, active humanities pedagogy and recognize the transformative power of teaching for CUNY’s diverse population of students.   

In Spring 2021, we dedicate our support specifically to showcasing and broadcasting the great work of our own CUNY faculty. Rather than turn to outside experts, we lead by honoring the practices and vision of CUNY faculty whose commitment to racial justice and equity are central. We believe that the inclusion of the insights and expertise of all CUNY faculty, including Asian American, Black, Latinx, nonbinary, people with (dis)abilities, and working classes, is crucial to the transformative practice of higher education.  Continue reading

Open TLH Event Recap

On November 20, 2020, TLH hosted a peer-to-peer workshop, “Open TLH: Sharing Tips for Getting to the Finish Line,” with over 30 attendees. TLH staff kicked off the meeting by introducing themselves as well as sharing their own tips for surviving this grueling semester.

Annemarie Nicols-Grinenko, Director of TLH, talked about running an effective Zoom meeting and her work to try to limit how many meetings she put on colleagues’ calendars. Shelly Eversley, Faculty Co-Director of TLH, shared her strategy for using Zoom’s whiteboard feature with her Baruch students (a strategy we used later in the event, as shown above). Faculty Co-Director Cathy N. Davidson shared a tip she took from Professor Jonathan Sterne to have students use study sheets for final exams (learn more here and here). Assistant Director Khanh Le shared his strategies for co-creating a syllabus with students: he allows students to help create the course syllabus by choosing some of the readings. Finally, Executive Director Christina Katopodis shared her strategy for planning final exams: students help create and refine questions for the final exam. Continue reading

Resources on the Efficacy of Active Learning

A recent study reminds us of the importance of active learning. This study reveals that student learning suffered during the switch to remote teaching earlier this year, but that small group activities helped to reduce this loss. See “The Power of Peer Interaction” by Colleen Flaherty, published by Inside Higher Ed on November 3, 2020.

The research on the value of active learning (or the term we prefer: participatory learning) is irrefutable. In May 2014, several scholars from a variety of STEM disciplines published a meta-analysis of 225 separate studies of different ways of teaching and learning. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), they argued that active learning improved student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics, from test scores to retention and applicability, or the ability to apply classroom learning to new situations. They write, “students in classes with traditional lecturing were 1.5 times more likely to fail than were students in classes with active learning.” A follow-up meta-study conducted in 2020, showed the same kind of results were even more evident if difference, equality, diversity, and inclusion were taken into account. Another showed equally significant improvements in learning and understanding for international students. One popular account of the PNAS study quipped that if comparative results had been this clear cut in a pharmaceutical study, traditional pedagogy would be taken off the market. Continue reading

RSVP for Open TLH on Nov 20 @ 1 PM

November 20, 2020 @ 1-2 PM

We are thrilled to invite you to our upcoming event, “Open TLH: Sharing Tips for Getting to the Finish Line,” a one-hour interactive workshop on Friday, November 20th at 1:00 PM. In this peer-to-peer workshop sponsored by the Transformative Learning in the Humanities initiative (a project supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation), participants will share strategies for the best ways to successfully close what we know has been a grueling semester for all. Bring your best ideas, challenges, successes (and fails). This event is about learning from one another. We’ll be breaking into groups to share our best tools and tips for success with one another—and beyond!

RSVP here.

Join the conversation in the TLH Group on the CUNY Academic Commons.

Resources for Teaching Online

Many educators this Fall 2020 semester, particularly those new to online teaching, are talking about how teaching during this global health crisis feels like teaching for the first time. Even those with many years of experience feel this way. Fortunately, colleagues around the world are sharing their online teaching resources. However, it can be hard to navigate this avalanche of advice and information mid-semester. To help you, we’ve broken up some of these tips and resources into categories below. You can also access more resources at the CUNY Innovative Teaching Academy. Continue reading

Press Release: CUNY to Transform Humanities Education with New Program of Innovative Teaching Methods

On October 15, 2020, CUNY published a press release announcing the launch of Transformative Learning in the Humanities (TLH), “an innovative faculty initiative that will help the nation’s leading urban public university reimagine teaching of the humanities in ways that make it more accessible, engaging and imperative to students, consistent with CUNY’s broad mission of building a more inclusive and equitable society.”

This $2 million grant from Mellon Foundation will support faculty professional development workshops focusing on the best ways to ensure student success. Continue reading


The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the City University of New York $2 million for an innovative new faculty training initiative that will help the University reimagine the teaching of humanities in more urgent, relevant ways designed to contribute to student success and to a more equitable society 

The gift, part of Foundation’s historic $10 million gift announced in August, will enable CUNY to establish and implement a program called Transformative Learning in the Humanities (TLH), which will engage humanities faculty who are interested in making their classes more participatory by capitalizing on the rich diversity and vast talent of CUNY students, with the ultimate goal of preparing students for a world that requires collaboration, communication, analytical reading and cross-cultural thinking.