Inspired by Lorgia García Peña’s book, Community as Rebellion: A Syllabus for Surviving Academia as a Woman of Color, our group (Karanja Carroll, Tara Coleman, Alexis Jemal, and Erica Roe) elected to explore community-building as our public knowledge project. The purpose of this project was threefold: 1) We aimed to center for the voices of our students. 2) We wanted the project to build community through the discussion of community building and the sharing of community-building strategies. 3) We wanted to create a repository of community-building techniques, suggestions, critiques, and offerings. The project consisted of creating an Instagram account for people to post their responses to questions and organizing a virtual launch on zoom on 12/6/22, 4 – 5 PM. Continue reading
Our event (fellows Alcira Forero-Pena, Ted Gordon, Bertie Ferdman, Jessica Yood and Lori Ungemah) pulled CUNY alumni from BMCC, Baruch, Guttman, and Lehman to serve on a panel entitled “From the Classroom to the Workplace: CUNY Alumni Speak on their Experiences” and was held via Zoom on Thursday, December 1st, from 4-5pm. We wanted to hear from students how their educational experiences across CUNY campuses had informed/translated to their professional lives. Given the many conversations on the value of a college degree in the “real world,” we were curious what the students had to say about their time in our classrooms and in our colleges, and how they could reflect on their time at CUNY. Continue reading
On Dec. 1, 2023, Transformative Learning in the Humanities (TLH) hosted a Zoom panel discussion on “Community Inside and Outside of the Classroom” featuring student perspectives on learning with TLH Faculty Fellows Sarah Pollack (College of Staten Island); Sharon Jordan (Lehman College); Joseph Cáceres (Graduate Center); and Lynn Lu (CUNY School of Law). Each faculty fellow shared methods they used during the semester to empower students to share ideas, work together, and facilitate conversation and mutual learning. Students from each course shared their perspectives on the meaning and value of community in relation to their classrooms. Continue reading
On Wednesday, November 9th TLH hosted the event Voice and Vulnerability in the Transformative Classroom with Kiese Laymon. Fall 2022 Pedagogy Co-Leader Virginia Diaz introduced TLH to the over 200 attendees, and TLH Faculty Co-Director Matt Brim then introduced Laymon.
Senquiz, a TLH Student Advisory Board leader, asked Laymon how to teach history that’s still happening. He responded that he does not know the full answer, but emphasized the importance of asking about what violence means to your students before bringing trauma into the classroom. He critiqued the perspective that we need to protect students from violence, instead sharing that we should get their experience with violence into the space and then move forward from there. Continue reading
On Wednesday, October 12th TLH hosted the Zoom workshop “Respect the Process: Examining Our Social Justice Perspectives in the Classroom” with Dr. Bettina Love. TLH Faculty Co-Director Dr. Shelly Eversley introduced Dr. Love, and shared her quote, “Education can’t save us, we must save education.” This set the tone for the event, as Dr. Love shared how we must transform our classrooms into sites of healing.
Dr. Love shared a quote from James Baldwin’s 1963 speech, “A Talk to Teachers,” in which he articulated how antiracism will be met with resistance as we are in a revolutionary situation. She discussed how many students come to us in “survival mode,” highlighted in her book We Want to Do More Than Survive, and revealed how we must heal and enlighten them, that this must happen before learning can occur. Continue reading
by Kelsey Milian Lopez
This recap was originally published on the Futures Initiative blog.
On Wednesday, September 7th at 3:00 pm, CUNY and collegiate-wide affiliated participants gathered at CUNY Graduate Center’s Skylight room to discuss Cathy N. Davidson and Christina Katopodis’s new book The New College Classroom. In-person tickets were sold out. With nearly 400 attendees over zoom, this turned out to be one of CUNY’s biggest in-person events since the beginning of the pandemic. Both the CUNY Chancellor and GC Provost stayed for the entire event.
On June 7th TLH held its Summer Institute with the 2022-2023 Faculty Fellows.
Grace Handy (TLH Research Assistant and Librarian) kicked off the institute by introducing TLH leadership with one fun fact about each. You can read more about TLH staff here. Faculty Co-Directors Shelly Eversley and Matt Brim then shared their pedagogical biographies—how and why they arrived here as teachers. This is a great warm up exercise for students, who can submit answers to the prompt “How and Why Did You Come to Be Here?” on a Padlet for all to see and read or in conversation with peers on the first day of class (see example from one of Matt’s class). In addition to sharing their stories about why they became teachers—Matt learning how to teach vis a vis Poor Queer Studies and Shelly embracing love in her classroom to teach with “radical openness”—and what it has been like to teach at CUNY during the pandemic, Shelly emphasized that to choose to love one’s students is a political act and fosters an environment of belonging, value, and care in which the best kind of learning can be made possible.
Next, it was the Faculty Fellows’ turn to share in a low-stakes collaborative, community building exercise facilitated by Christina Katopodis (Associate Director of TLH) using Mentimeter. Shelly and Matt asked the fellows to share their visions inspired by the “ecstasy” and “teaching and learning without limits” bell hooks discusses in Teaching to Transgress (pp. 201-208). The prompt for the entry ticket was, “In your classes, what makes possibilities happen?” to which the fellows could respond up to 5 times each. Below is the word cloud of their responses.
On 11 May 2022, Emily Ripley (Queens College), Abby Anderton (Baruch College), Nerve V. Macaspac (College of Staten Island/Graduate Center), Oriana Mejías Martínez (LaGuardia Community College), and Lisa Marie Anderson (Hunter College) shared their experiences of transformative moments in their classroom. They presented examples of active learning from their courses, sharing the work of their students and engaging recentering student voices inside/within the classroom.
IMAGE ABOVE: Students exploring material culture objects from the Queens College Fashion and Textiles Collection in their History of Fashion course. IMAGE SOURCE: Emily Ripley.
With the words and concepts of Audre Lorde and Felcia Rose Chavez in hand, Ripley began the process of reimagining the traditional history of fashion lecture course. The goals were to work towards creating a fully active learning environment, to disrupt the Eurocentric focus of the History of Fashion in the West, and to allow the class to take part in an upgrading project. Across the semester she cracked open the professor/student barrier by establishing an open dialogue with her class, interspersed with regular group think-pair-share moments to involve everyone. A method of investigating material culture objects was refined within the classroom. Students also gained agency by writing questions for the test, and many experienced a new, revelatory understanding of their own learning processes. The professor learned firsthand what particular testing methods were most accessible for her students with learning disabilities, and through discussions with her class, developed a new way to flip the structure of this traditionally formatted course.
IMAGE ABOVE: One student project focused on Florence Price, a Black female composer whose work is receiving renewed interest in concert programs across the US. By exploring her work for String Quartet, the student analyzed Prices’ unique musical idiom and some contemporary performances of her work. IMAGE SOURCE: Abby Anderton
Anderton discussed various digital story-telling tools, including ReadyMag and StoryMaps as a way of making less well-known historical figures audible. She shared her students’ work on composers like Florence Price, Clara Schumann, Alma Mahler, and Charles Ives. Digital story-telling platforms empower students to tell the narratives that are important to them.
IMAGE ABOVE: Students of Urban Geography at CSI used mapping, photo typology, and virtual reality (VR) during field work at the North Shore of Staten Island in examining the differential politics of memorialization, public space and gentrification, and rules of place in New York City’s “Forgotten Borough.” IMAGE SOURCE: Nerve Macaspac
Macaspac presented student-centered projects that activate the students’ sense of place through mapping and spatial ethnography of parts of New York City using a combination of analog (i.e., hand-drawn maps, mixed media, etc.) and digital technology (i.e., virtual reality, video, sound recordings, etc.).
IMAGE ABOVE: Clockwise, the first shows a picture from Madres de Plaza de Mayo; a community and political movement asking for the disappeared-detained people from the Dirty War. Second picture shows a Central American map and pictures of flooded terrain and drought force people from those lands to migrate. Third picture shows an image from La Masacre de Ponce; people are running/escaping. Fourth picture show five images of women from Colombia, three of them on the top; political figures, and two at the bottom; socio political movements made of women against feminicide and supporting abortion rights. IMAGE SOURCE: Oriana Mejías Martínez
Mejías Martínez presented about the opportunities that recentering students’ knowledge in the classroom brings to the class content and experience.
She follows Professor Ofelia García’s scholarship on translanguaging due to broader experiences that these practices foster and develop on language integration and safe space in the classroom. As a result, students were able to choose and work on oral presentations about relatable issues that make historical events even more present at this moment.
IMAGES ABOVE: Top: Some of the artists from Prof. Anderson’s class playlist of music with German lyrics. Below: When reviewing difficult grammar topics, peer instruction led most students to choose the best answer. IMAGE SOURCE: Lisa Marie Anderson.
Lisa Marie Anderson talked about three transformative moments that helped to build community in a first-semester German course. (1) Compiling a course playlist of music with German lyrics introduced students to vocabulary and culture, and also helped them appreciate how much they had learned to understand in just a few weeks. (2) A semester-long virtual study abroad project showed students that they could already use German websites to do things like find a place to live, shop online, and navigate a new campus and a new city. (3) Using metimeter.com and peer instruction to review the midterm exam gave students a low-stakes, anonymous, collaborative way to engage in self-reflection and self-correction.
TLH Faculty Fellows
Emily Ripley (Queens College) is an artist and a fashion historian, director of the Fashion and Textiles Program, and curator of the Queens College Fashion and Textiles Collection. She teaches courses in the history of fashion, fashion and material culture, contemporary dress experiences, fashion and film, and fashion sketching.
Abby Anderton (Baruch College) is a musicologist who teaches topics in music history from Classicism to New Music.
Nerve V. Macaspac (College of Staten Island/Graduate Center) is a political geographer, cartographer, and filmmaker. He teaches courses in Urban Geography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). His classroom projects can be viewed here: https://geospatialcsi.commons.gc.cuny.edu/
Oriana Mejías Martínez (LaGuardia Community College) is an Adjunct lecturer and teaches Spanish language and culture. Currently a PhD. Candidate at Latin American, Iberian and Latino Cultures program at the Graduate Center.
Lisa Marie Anderson (Hunter College) teaches German language, literature, and culture at all undergraduate levels. She is also a co-founder of ACERT, Hunter’s center for teaching and learning.
One of the spring Fellows public knowledge projects was a podcast and manifesto, organized by Michael L. J. Greer (Brooklyn College), Gisele Regatao (Baruch College), Rebecca L. Salois, (Baruch College) and Casandra Silva Sibilin (York College). The Fellows were joined by twenty students in a conversational podcast on ungrading. The conversation revolved around the following key questions: How does/could/should grading work at CUNY? What does grading mean to students? How do they perceive the concept of ungrading? What do they think of the ungrading practices they have experienced so far? Eight of the students asked questions and engaged in the conversation verbally, and the remaining twelve students participated in the written manifesto after reflecting on the conversation that took place during the podcast recording. The result is an engaging recording where students and professors discuss their experiences of ungrading, and explore the function that grades have played in their own lives. Students think about the virtues and potential downsides of ungrading at CUNY, discussing their fears, hopes, joys, and frustrations. The professors weigh in on questions students have around the value of ungrading, and the podcast ends with a brainstorm on how students might participate in creating a CUNY without grades. The collective manifesto that accompanies the podcast declares a vision for what a CUNY without grades would look and feel like. The podcast, manifesto, and a list of resources on ungrading are compiled in the website Imagining a CUNY Without Grades.
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.
- 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