Transforming Awareness into Action: Student Created and Led Applied Theatre Workshops
Dr. Alexis Jemal, associate professor at Silberman School of Social Work – Hunter College, developed the first iteration of an MSW elective course, Critical Social Work: Bridging the Micro-Macro Divide, in 2019 and piloted the course in 2020. This class was and is grounded in her Visionary, Philosophical Artivist (theoretical and practice-based) framework to raise critical consciousness and then tap into radical imagination to convert that consciousness into action. Dr. Jemal, with her collaborators from the Masters in Applied Theatre program at CUNY School of Professional Studies, Brynne O’Rourke and Tabatha Lopez, revised the spring 2021 course to integrate applied theatre as the modality through which we bridge the micro-macro divide.
“Applied Theatre” is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of theatre and drama practices that are often socially engaged, politically inspired, and non-traditional in form, context and venue (e.g., teaching settings, the justice system, health care, the political arena, community development, and social service agencies). Applied Theatre can be a tool for Social Work – education, research, and practice. Continue reading →
The Macaulay Teaching and Learning Collaboratory (formerly known as the Instructional Technology Fellow/ITF Program) has deep roots in helping students explore and have agency over the technologies they encounter in their lives and academic works. As early adopters of open-source systems like our eportfolios, we have embraced teaching students about their digital footprints, privacy, and what it means to be both a consumer and creator of digital content. In March 2020, we were, of course, the mainline of support for our faculty switching to emergency online teaching. Working in community with each other in the TLC provided a solid base of knowledge for technical aspects of the work, but also a place to talk about the difficulties we, our students, and our faculty colleagues were facing in this suddenly changed world, especially as NYC took the hardest hits in the earliest wave of the pandemic. Well before the pandemic, we had already been engaged in conversations about supporting student-centered pedagogies and unpacking some of the terms that are commonly associated with honors education: excellence, rigor, elite–especially in the context of CUNY’s equity and access mission. Continue reading →
With the generous support of the Transformative Learning in the Humanities Initiative, the Roberta S. Matthews Center for Teaching and Learning ran a Pedagogy in Practice intensive from January 10-12, 2023. The 3-day practicum offered hands-on workshops that showed participants how to put pedagogical ideas to practical use in areas such as syllabus development, assignment design, student engagement, building classroom community, and more. Anti-racist pedagogies were emphasized throughout, allowing participants to gain an understanding of the breadth and depth of this approach. Participants who completed at least five of the six workshops received a stipend and certificate of completion. Workshop leaders also received stipends. The full description of all workshops offered can be found in the addendum below. Continue reading →
Shifting Mindsets Through Assessments: A Two-Part Dialogue
A TLH podcast project by: Carolina Julian, Jessica Nicoll, Luis Feliciano, and Theodore Kesler
As a group, we were curious about shifting assessment practices in our classrooms. Whether in psychology, math, early childhood education, or dance courses, we aligned in our goal to encourage students to take ownership of the learning. To this aim, we focused our energies into creating classrooms that foster deep listening, observation, responsiveness to our students, culturally-responsive teaching practices, self-evaluation opportunities, and co-construction of course content. We learned more about what each individual brought into the classroom–from names, to lived experiences, and areas of curiosity–and emphasized the need for our students to learn from one another and build a dialogic community through practical, active approaches. We also consciously structured our courses to include student leadership opportunities, through which students developed their capacities to ask “who has the power?”, and to take greater responsibility for their learning. Continue reading →
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.
“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.
On Tuesday, September 14th, we held virtual TLH Open Office Hours with the Mellon TLH Faculty Fellows. We had 11 participants, who shared their experiences with grading and ungrading (alternative forms of assessment).
Some of the challenges discussed included the tedium of grading in Blackboard; helping students understand how scaffolding works (and that missed assignments can snowball into weaker bigger-stakes assignments); guiding student decisions in co-created assessments; and, more generally, increasing student engagement and self-motivation.
Faculty also shared useful tips and strategies, such as:
talking students through HOW and WHY a given type of assessment or type of assignment works can help them understand the mechanics and gain a grasp of how syllabi and even institutions function–learn the unspoken rules and how to navigate them, an especially important skill for those who feel underprepared for college;
using group work (and peer review) to help extroverted students manage their speaking-time and help shier students open up (e.g., put all of the “extroverts” in one group and all the “introverts” in a different group);
asking students to set goals and learning outcomes for themselves at the beginning of the semester and, later, asking them to self-assess how close they came to achieving those goals (individual and/or collective) by the end of the semester;
making connections between the course content and students lives (e.g., ask students what they are most curious about).
I also presented a brief slide deck with some examples of ungrading, which you can view here.
Mellon TLH Faculty Fellow Michael L. J. Greer kindly shared some further resources with me after the workshop:
If you’d like to dive in further this semester, there is an #Ungrading Edcamp happening this November 4-6, 2021 (registration is free and the agenda will be informed by what participants are most interested in, so sign up and add your thoughts here).
The field of Library & Information Science is often downplayed within spaces of higher education. Librarians are frequently positioned as somehow different than “teaching faculty,” considered the real scholars and educators, with the Library at the margins. And in a way, it’s true that the cornerstone of information literacy instruction – commonly known as the ‘one-shot’ – is a challenge, different than a semester-long course immersion. Librarians are tasked with offering a single session within which students will do the following: Receive guidance on how to assess sources, identify a scholarly article, accord to the standards of academic writing, properly cite sources, and perhaps, hopefully, become energized by the zest of research. At least, this is what we aim for. Continue reading →
In our role as educators, we use assessments to measure student understanding and progress. The purpose of an assessment is to measure what our students can do, or know. If an assessment doesn’t accommodate the wide variability of our learners then they fail to do what they must by design: evaluate our students and provide us with vital information about their learning and our practice.
It is an essential part of our courses. It is therefore essential that assessments accommodate learner differences if they are to be effective. We must design our assessments with the diversity of our learner needs at the forefront. Continue reading →
This blog post is by Contributing Author Ian Singleton. Ian Singleton is an Adjunct Writing Instructor and a recipient of a Transformative Learning in the Humanities award for organizing an event in our Spring 2021 series on active and participatory learning.
Contract grading is an alternative assessment practice that can aid anti-racist pedagogy. Another practice is “A for All,” which effectively refutes any kind of assessment system whatsoever. What do students, specifically CUNY students want? I sought to organize a space and time for students to feel free to answer the question, “How do you want to be graded?” The question could be, “How do you want to be assessed?” or “How do you want to be judged?” Continue reading →
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