Category Archives: Events & Notes

Event Recap: Adventures in Ungrading: The Community College Experience

During this interactive roundtable event, five TLH Faculty Fellows – Jennifer Corby (Kingsborough Community College), Nicole Kras (Guttman Community College), Grace Pai (Guttman Community College), Dusana Podlucka (LaGuardia Community College), and Midori Yamamura (Kingsborough Community College) – shared their experiences of implementing ungrading in their courses. They were joined by 10 of their students who discussed how ungrading has helped and/or hindered their learning process.  

The event, which was attended by 84 participants, began with an introduction to how ungrading is a student-driven approach that emphasizes feedback, assessment and reflection of the learning process over scores, mastery of skills, or standardized outcomes. The fellows collected student definitions, opinions and reflections of ungrading through a survey form taken by 52 students (see slides and booklet of student reflections). 

The five Fellows then shared examples of ungrading across various disciplines. Professor Corby shared how she gave options for “choose-your-own adventure” activities and had students complete self-assessments in her Introduction to U.S. Government & Politics course. Professor Yamamura’s Global Contemporary Art students attended 8 asynchronous events that were part of the UnHomeless NYC exhibition she organized; students worked on group reflections and held consultations with her to help them incorporate their reflection of ungrading in their final papers. For her Civic Engagement in a Global Society first year experience (FYE) course, Professor Pai implemented a system of self grading, peer grading, monthly learning journal entries, an end-of-semester individual grade conference, and most importantly – student-created rubrics on major assignments where students discussed what makes for a quality assignment submission before creating a rubric with definitions and points for weighted categories as a class. Students in Professor Kras’ Human Services Fieldwork and Integrative Seminar course ​​submitted weekly written, audio, video, or visual art reflections – alongside creating their own self-grading criteria connected to the purpose of the assignment. Finally, Professor Podlucka discussed how she focused more on providing student feedback on weekly reading responses, in addition to feedback on the process of writing a staged research paper for her Social Psychology course.

Ten student panelists (listed below) then shared their experiences and perceptions of being ungraded. Following are some examples of student responses.

What I liked is how we get to speak about this with the professor during her office hours. It was such a good feedback experience. We could talk about our assignments.  We could talk about what we are doing right, which way is the right way, which way is the wrong way.  That was a new way of learning. The grading system, when you get a good grade, you don’t exactly know why.  When you don’t get a good grade, we still can’t ask why. We just know we didn’t do good and that’s it. In this, we literally had a step-by-step guide from the professor where we are going wrong and what we have to do.  It was less pressure for both the professor and the students. Learning was fun with this system.  

I would say it helped my learning process because it enabled me to reconsider power dynamics in the classroom.  Something to consider in grading is like why is the professor doing the grading, why doesn’t my input matter? I feel like ungrading tackled that and empowered me to seek out feedback, using it more effectively, prioritizing it so I can learn from it and improve. So that’s one of the biggest outcomes I’ve retained and I’m really thankful for it.

We’ve done projects before like based in math which isn’t my strong suit, but when it comes to ungrading, we actually made the rubric for it.  We could say my strong suit is this, may not be this but I need to put effort towards it.  It was a give and take relationship where we could say what we wanted to put effort in, what we thought was important. The might seem small in the eyes of a teacher but whatever you think is important, you can say I want this to reflect in my project.  You don’t really see that in my other classes.  It’s invigorating.  Maybe you spent hours on one small thing and you are finally getting recognition for it.

While students overwhelmingly expressed positive experiences with “ungrading,” there were also identified challenges and concerns noted from both faculty and students. One student shared, “I also don’t really like grading myself because I feel as though there’s always room for improvement.  I feel like who do you think you are?” Faculty and participants in the chat shared concerns with implementing this approach in larger courses, on how to communicate this novel way of thinking about grading to students and colleagues, and how to align this practice with university grading requirements.   

Student panelists

  • Nabeela Hashim, Kingsborough Community College
  • Elias Goldstein, Kingsborough Community College
  • Caroline Sorial, Kingsborough Community College
  • Holliday Senquiz, Guttman Community College
  • Deborah Bereket, Guttman Community College
  • Lishon Vesprey, Guttman Community College
  • Miyoko Wong, Guttman Community College
  • Brenda Quinio, LaGuardia Community College 
  • Jessica Carranza, LaGuardia Community College
  • Stephanie Tapia, LaGuardia Community College

Read the event transcript (PDF).

Event Recap: Liberation Literacies Pedagogy: At the Intersection of Language, Race, and Power with Dr. Jamila Lyiscott

In her workshop on April 5th, Dr. Jamila Lyiscott, aka, Dr. J, began by thanking all those who made this event happen, as the quest towards justice cannot be taken for granted. We were then put into breakout rooms for a short activity, with the following instructions:

1. Choose a ‘whistle-blower’

2. Answer the question, “should multiple literacies be allowed in classrooms?”

3. You are only allowed to use two syllables or less for the duration of the conversation

4. If this rule is broken, the ‘whistle-blower’ should make an obnoxious sound

In the reflection afterwards participants discussed how the limitations robbed their motivation to speak, but not because they had nothing to say. Dr. J shared how this exercise helps to reveal how harmful education spaces can be: enforcement of “standard” language norms turns faculty into “whistle blowers” robbing students’ motivation, while also preventing enforcers from hearing students. To combat these linguistic constraints, Dr. J pointed to the liberatory capacity of languages and the cultural practices of people of color in particular. She noted how she includes a unit in all of her classes on the cipher, sharing a poem of her own, “The Art of the Cipher,” on bringing liberatory practices into the classroom, asking at one point, “how many students do we label illiterate by societal standards?”

Dr. J discussed code-switching as a continuation of colonial violence, requiring a certain language in order to be validated within the classroom and other institutions. She referenced the work of Dr. Geneva Smitherman and Dr. April Baker Bell who both highlight language as a site of cultural struggle, a marker of social mobility. 

Dr. J then played a clip from Glamour,Uzo Aduba Never Liked Her Name,” where Uzo explains she asked her mother to call her Zoe because no one can say Uzoamaka, and her mother replied that if they can say other names (e.g.,Tchaikovsky, Michelangelo, Dostoyevsky), they can pronounce yours. Here Dr. J emphasized how our classrooms are not neutral spaces, and if we don’t intentionally work toward racial equity and healing, we are holding up social injustice.

Dr. J asked participants to reflect on the complicity they have in the institutional rewarding of Eurocentric knowledge and language practices. She outlined how liberation is different from inclusion in that it is about systemic change, breaking down oppressive logics, not reforming a broken system, not just having people of color doing the same work that upholds oppression. She discussed how the case of George Floyd and the media’s focus on underlying health conditions and intoxicants is another example of racist literacy practices; sharing literacies and language is not just about words — they contain cultures and histories.

She continued with suggestions on how to put liberation literacies into practice, including challenging paradigm principles, divesting from racist logics, and demanding participatory action and institutional alteration. It means pushing back against impulses to demand students of color perform whiteness to gain success: “Standard language is the language of people in power, it is not the language of power.” 

Dr. J read the poem “(Untitled)” by Brian Yoo, written in response to Texan lawmakers suggesting Asian people adopt easier names. The event then moved to a lively Q & A portion, with discussions on how to best support students so they can develop their voices and identities while being honest about how the world and the university institution operates, while working collectively to dismantle it.

Join us for two upcoming public TLH events organized by the Spring Faculty Fellows!

Adventures in Ungrading: The Community College Experience

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022 @ 4-5PM EST

RSVP and speaker bios here

What are your students actually learning from your course? Are your students intrinsically motivated to deepen their learning and content knowledge, or extrinsically motivated to play the game of getting a good score and grade? “Ungrading” is a growing movement in higher education that critically questions the conventional grading system and traditional forms of assessment. Ungrading focuses on supporting and deepening individual student learning by challenging commonly used practices like learning outcomes, rubrics, grading on a curve, and participation grades. Join us at this interactive roundtable event to learn how five CUNY Mellon Transformative Learning in the Humanities Faculty Fellows are implementing ungrading across a range of disciplines in their community college courses. The Fellows will illustrate how practicing ungrading promotes the collaborative nature of teaching and learning, students’ active role in learning process, and making learning accessible, meaningful and relevant to all students. You will also hear from a student panel sharing their perceptions and experiences of being ungraded.

Accessibility: We will have ASL interpreters and live CART captioning for the event.


“Light Bulb” Moments in the Humanities Classroom

Wednesday, May 11th, 2022 @ 1-2:15 PM EST

RSVP and speaker bios here

What does a transformative moment in the classroom look or sound like? In this event, five Mellon TLH Faculty Fellows from different CUNY campuses will each present examples of active learning from their courses, sharing the work of their students and engaging student voices in this interactive workshop. Through the disciplines of German, Geography, Music, Spanish, and Fashion, we will demonstrate how collaborative pedagogy helps us build a sense of community in the classroom and beyond. 

Accessibility: We will have ASL interpreters and live CART captioning for the event.

Join us for “Liberation Literacies Pedagogy” with Dr. Jamila Lyiscott

Liberation Literacies Pedagogy: At the Intersection of Language, Race, and Power

April 5, 2022 at 4-5:15 PM ET via Zoom

Privileging mainstream forms of language and literacy in schools not only under-prepares students for our predominantly multiethnic, multilingual, globalized society, but it also perpetuates a narrative of deficiency and marginality for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Drawing on Dr. J’s ongoing research, personal experiences navigating multiple varieties of English, and her work engaging hip-hop, spoken word, and media for learning, this workshop problematizes traditional notions of what it means to be “literate” in our society and offers tools for disrupting racial/social inequity through attention to language, culture, and race as ideologically interwoven in our classrooms.

RSVP here [opens in new window]

Please note this event will not be recorded, however an event recap will be posted here on the TLH blog.

Accessibility: We will have ASL interpreters and live CART captioning for the event.

Jamila Lyiscott, aka, Dr. J, is an aspiring way-maker, a community-engaged scholar, nationally renowned speaker, and the author of Black Appetite. White Food: Issues of Race, Voice, and Justice Within and Beyond the Classroom. She currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Social Justice Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she is the co-founder and co-director of the Center of Racial Justice and Youth Engaged Research. Dr. J is most well known for being featured on TED.com where her video, ‘3 Ways to Speak English,’ has been viewed over 5 million times, and for her commissioned TED Talk, ‘2053’ in response to the inauguration of the 45th occupant of the white house. She has delivered keynotes and workshops at 100s of institutions throughout the nation where she works closely with youth, educators, and communities towards racial healing, equity, and justice.

RSVP here.

Event Recap: Anti-Racist Pedagogy Workshop, Part 2

In the second workshop of this two-part series, Dr. Chavez focused on practical anti-racist teaching tools and methods for the writing classroom, many of which could be applied in other disciplines as well.  Dr. Chavez opened the workshop with powerful self-reflection exercises for participants, then shared active methods to involve students in the learning process as co-learners and collaborators. Throughout the workshop Dr. Chavez provided a wealth of resources for further reading. The event concluded with a Q&A session that included contributions from students at New York City College of Technology, CUNY. Since the workshop, several attendees have shared excitement about applying these critical strategies in the classroom, and continuing the conversation with others.

Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Dr. Chavez is an award-winning educator with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Iowa. She is the renowned author of The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom. Dr. Chavez currently serves as the Bronfman Creativity and Innovation Scholar-in-Residence at Colorado College. 

To learn more about Dr. Chavez’s work and to contact her, visit her website.

Join us for an Ungrading Workshop with Jesse Stommel

Ungrading and Alternative Assessment: An Interactive Workshop

March 21, 2022 @ 4-5:30 PM EST

RSVP here

“Ungrading” means raising an eyebrow at grades as a systemic practice, distinct from simply not grading. It does not mean loss of “rigor” but, rather, means reconsidering the assumptions that underlie grading. The word is a present participle, an ongoing process, not a static set of practices. Too many of our approaches to grades treat students like they’re interchangeable and fail to recognize their complexity. Can we imagine flexible approaches to assessment, pedagogies which center intrinsic more than extrinsic motivation, encouraging and supporting learning, rather than policing behavior? We need to write policies, imagine new ways forward, for all students, including those already marginalized or facing exclusion. In this workshop, we’ll examine the foundations for our pedagogical approaches, consider the history of grades, examine the bias inherent in many of our standardized systems, and explore methods and approaches for designing assessments that push back against traditional notions of grading. The workshop will balance presentation with activities and discussion.

The workshop will not be recorded, however we will post an event recap on our blog following the event. While the methods discussed within the workshop are immediately related to transforming the humanities, they are also broadly applicable outside the humanities in STEM fields, and beyond.

Accessibility: We will have ASL interpreters and live CART captioning for the event.

Reflections on Women Rewrite America: Transformative Learning in the Humanities Series

This post was written by Sarah L. Hoiland, Associate Professor of Sociology, Hostos Community College, María Julia Rossi, Associate Professor of Modern Languages and Literature, John Jay College, and Ria Banerjee, Associate Professor of English, Guttman Community College

Introduction

In late May 2021, our Women Rewrite America series ended and we wanted to provide a way for our participants to contribute to the Transforming Learning in the Humanities (TLH) Blog. What did our fellow readers get out of reading three novels in the last three months of an exhausting academic year? One would have to be crazy to volunteer to write a reflection in the summer, but several of our participants enthusiastically did just that and submitted their reflections.

Gita Pai points out the importance of “hearing voices” as a form of authorial activism common to authors Yaa Gyasi, Valeria Luiselli, and Kiley Reid, and one that is critical to a peoples’ history. For Anne Connor, the experience was personal, and provided space to “read emotionally,” something not often afforded to academics. Astrid Lorena Ochoa Campo pointed out the fun and refreshing aspects of reading and discussing at the end of her first year in a tenure-track position. Doctoral candidate Sonia Adams submitted pedagogical materials including one activity that examines Homegoing within the context of the global #BlackLivesMatters Timeline on her campus.

Book cover, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi Book cover - Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli Book cover - Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

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Anti-Racist Pedagogy Workshop with Felicia Rose Chavez, Part I (Event Recap)

The TLH Team smiling with Dr. Felicia Rose Chavez on Zoom

On February 8, 2022, TLH hosted part one of a two-part workshop on Anti-Racist Pedagogy: Adapting Our Teaching Habits, led by Dr. Felicia Rose Chavez. There were over 230 attendees! 

The workshop focused on introspection and reflection within the topic of anti-racism in the academy. Dr. Chavez led active self-reflective exercises and emphasized the importance of co-creating curricula with students. The second workshop centered on tangible teaching tools.  During both workshops Dr. Chavez shared a powerful vision for transformation! 

Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Dr. Chavez is an award-winning educator with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Iowa. She is the renowned author of The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom. Dr. Chavez currently serves as the Bronfman Creativity and Innovation Scholar-in-Residence at Colorado College. 

To learn more about Dr. Chavez’s work and to contact her, visit her website.

Announcing Our New Pedagogy Co-Leaders and Anti-Racist Workshops by Felicia Rose Chavez

TLH Pedagogy Co-Leaders, Dr. Javiela Evangelista (Left) and Dr. Jason Hendrickson (Right), are joining us this Spring 2022 semester to lead the Mellon TLH Faculty Fellows’ Seminars in collaboration with TLH Faculty Directors Dr. Cathy N. Davidson and Dr. Shelly Eversley. Drs. Evangelista and Hendrickson return as alumni of the Fall 2021 cohort to bring their vision and anti-racist, transformative pedagogies to the program this year. 

Dr. Javiela Evangelista, New York City College of Technology, African American Studies

An anthropologist, Javiela Evangelista engages in public and collaborative research that counters inequalities in the Caribbean and the African Diaspora. Her book manuscript provides an ethnographic analysis of the largest case of mass statelessness in the western hemisphere, the contemporary denationalization of Dominicans of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic. Her research has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Center for Place, Culture, and Politics (CUNY), Mahindra Humanities Center (Harvard University), SSRC and PSC-CUNY. Evangelista’s work appears in National Political Science Review and Interdisciplinary Team Teaching: A Collaborative Study (Palgrave). She has developed multiple open educational resources, as well as courses, including The Heritage of Imperialism. A Futures Initiative Faculty Fellow (Spring 2022), Evangelista co-developed and will co-teach Black Diasporic Visions: (De) Constructing Modes of Power with Dr. Carla Shedd at the Graduate Center, CUNY. The course culminates in a public project. Ph.D., Anthropology (Graduate Center, CUNY). MA, Institute for Research in African American Studies (Columbia University).

Dr. Jason Hendrickson, LaGuardia Community College, English

As a faculty member at one of the most culturally diverse institutions in the country, Dr. Hendrickson works to educate students, staff, and faculty on issues of equity and justice. At the college, he serves on the President’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (PAC), and co-leads the Faculty and Staff of Color Collective (FSOC). In addition to teaching, his work at the college focuses on enacting institutional change as an advocate for student, staff, and faculty voices. He has also served as the Faculty Chair of the college’s annual Black Lives Matter Summit, bringing together local high schools with the college community for interactive workshops and guest speakers. Dr. Hendrickson’s scholarship and pedagogy combine literary analysis with contemporary issues of social justice to foster connections between the past and the present. He most recently published on equity in higher education and the intersection between vernacular language and justice in Paule Marshall’s early works.

Upcoming Events: Anti-Racist Pedagogy Workshops by Dr. Felicia Rose Chavez

Join us this February for a Two-Part Virtual Workshop Series focused on Anti-Racist Pedagogy: Adapting Our Teaching, hosted by Dr. Felicia Rose Chavez, author of The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop on Tuesday, February 8, 2022 and Wednesday, February 16, 2022 @ 4-5:15PM EST.


RSVP here.

Creating Communities of Care in our Classrooms – Event Recap and Recording

This 1-hour interactive, peer-to-peer workshop featured four Mellon TLH Faculty Fellows, Lara Saguisag (College of Staten Island), Jason Hendrickson (LaGuardia Community College), Reiko Tahara (Hunter College), and Cheryl C. Smith (Baruch College). It was an opportunity to have an honest dialogue with students and colleagues about some of the experiments the fellows have been doing to create communities of care in their classrooms. Presentation titles are: “Students Perception of Care in the Classroom” (Saguisag); “Language as (Em)Power(Ment)” (Hendrickson); “Student-led Classrooms as a Practice of Care” (Tahara); and “Poetry as a Practice of Care” (Smith). After the the presentations (10min each), the rest of the hour was spent hearing from participants and engaging in student-centered discussions about creating learning communities of care.

Watch now:

Creating Communities of Care in our Classrooms

This 1-hour interactive, peer-to-peer workshop featured four Mellon TLH Faculty Fellows, Cheryl C. Smith (Baruch College), Jason Hendrickson (LaGuardia Commu…