Category Archives: Student-Centered Pedagogy

Teaching Resources from TLH Fellows Asrat Amnie and Anita Cheng

TLH Fellows work to foster equitable, creative, student-centered pedagogical methods throughout CUNY. We’re delighted to share these resources developed by fellows, Asrat Amnie (Hostos Community College, Fall ’22) and Anita Cheng (Hunter College & Brooklyn College, Fall ’21) that address the use of educational technology in the classroom.

Universal Design for Learning: Fostering Neurodiversity, Equity, and Inclusivity Through Educational Technology

Pulling Distance Learning Tools Into In-Person Classes

New College Classroom: Changing Ourselves, Changing Our Classroom, Changing the World! (Event Recap)

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.

Left to Right: Cathy N Davidson, Chancellor Felix Matos, Christina Katopodis, GC Provost Steve Everett.

You can watch the full event recording here and view slides here

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Fellow Project: Singing in a Strange Land

Organized by Glenn McMillan (Medgar Evers College) with his students. 

In this recorded forum, students discussed an opera arranged by Professor McMillan and the importance of black music around the world, especially for nonmusic majors and lovers. McMillan led a discussion about why Negro Spirituals were so important to the founding of jazz, gospel, and hip hop, and music’s important role in the Civil Rights movement. The forum highlighted student projects on “Soul Train,” “Women in Jazz,” and “Has Gospel Music Changed?” and concluded with some closing remarks on “Four Little Spirits,” and then students were given an opportunity to ask Prof. McMillan about his work. 

Glenn shares on the project, “Stressing unity between the sacred and the profane allowed the students him to embrace all aspects of African American culture, and jazz, blues, and gospel performers. These student based projects combine the music of today with the historical significance of the Middle Passage.  Students share their academic experiences from the global community representing all aspects of musical life.”

Fellows Project: Engaging Thoughtfully in Public Discourse: An Examination of Unconscious Bias

Organized by Sarah Bishop (Baruch College), Susan Kuhn (Queens College); Victoria Perez-Rios (John Jay College), and Amy Traver (Queensborough Community College). 

Unconscious bias is a human reflex to make assumptions about people that aren’t necessarily true. This tendency affects society as a whole, limits our understanding of others, and holds us back from achieving the best possible outcomes across all fields of discipline, ranging from business to sociology, communication to criminal justice. As educators in the liberal arts, the four of us were interested not only in the effect of this phenomenon in our respective fields, but also how it affects our classrooms, our students, and our communities. We wanted to study this in partnership with our students, in the hope and belief that real change is possible when deeply rooted in thoughtful and inclusive educational practices.

As teachers, we recognize that true learning takes place when knowledge is absorbed, engaged with, and applied. We undertook this process together with our students through a series of structured, scaffolded learning opportunities. On April 1, we attended a book talk via Zoom, sponsored by the University of Buffalo Gender Institute, featuring Jessica Nordell, author of The End of Bias: A Beginning – The Science and Practice of Overcoming Unconscious Bias. In our individual classrooms, we continued the discussion as it pertained to our disciplines, and then invited students to produce short videos of themselves sharing some of their unconscious bias experiences or learning outcomes. Our ultimate project was a one-hour, student-led live panel discussion on this topic, with a supporting student audience, held at John Jay College on Thursday, April 21.

The local television show presented here represents a compilation of the taped student panel discussion (including audience participation) and the video uploads. The content is entirely driven by the concerns and voices of our students at Baruch, Queens, QCC and John Jay. They share personal stories and reflect on how unconscious bias affects them in their families, neighborhoods and perspective careers. The show was edited, produced and directed by John Jay graduate student Masha Wickramasinghe. We professors, having ignited the discussion, are now audience members learning from our students.

Our CUNY motto states “The education of free people is the hope of humanity.” All of us involved in this project have learned a great deal about unconscious bias, and we believe the conversation has only started. We hope you enjoy learning more about this too, and that from this hope blooms change. Enjoy the show!

*A link to view the TV Show is forthcoming, it will be added to this blog post this June!

Fellows Project: (Re)Mapping Knowledge

Organized by Kimberley D. McKinson (John Jay College of Criminal Justice), Tatiana Nuñez (Graduate Center and City College) Micheal Rumore (Baruch College) and Stefanie Wess (Lehman College, Hunter College and Queensborough Community College).

(Re)Mapping Knowledge is a student-faculty collaborative podcast project that showcases the creative scholarship of CUNY students and also serves as a critical pedagogical tool for the wider CUNY community. Featuring the creative scholarship and storytelling of CUNY undergraduate students, this four-episode podcast series highlights innovative and radical pedagogical approaches as well as the possibilities that emerge from incorporating student-produced and student-centered knowledge in the classroom.

Drawing on the writing and research of student-scholars, episodes 1-3 of the project highlight different pedagogical approaches to (re)mapping knowledge in the classroom. Episode 1 interrogates the relationship between self, community, language, and textuality. Episode 2 discusses classroom strategies for confronting the coloniality of literary traditions. Episode 3 uses student autoethnography to center embodied knowledge as decolonial pedagogy. Episode 4 of the project features a moderated conversation between the three Faculty Fellows on the themes, teaching tools, and strategies illuminated in Episodes 1-3. In this way, Episode 4 not only serves to frame Episodes 1-3 but also serves as an accompanying teaching tool in its own right, including a discussion of innovative approaches to teaching and reading canonical texts.

(Re)Mapping Knowledge provides CUNY students and teachers the opportunity to problematize the notion of the canon and also allow for meditations on the radical ways in which knowledge can be produced by students in the classroom. The episodes capture student scholarship in a rich way. As a pedagogical tool, (Re)Mapping Knowledge provides an example of how faculty can embrace podcasts as a means by which to embrace different sensorial teaching tools that can complement more traditional written texts.

TLH Fellows Project: Creating Across Communities

For our TLH community-facing project, we created a shared site for our classes on the CUNY Academic Commons, centered around the concept of “writing with and for a community.” Each of our courses has a two sub-page on the site: one of which gives an overview of the course and some background, and another of which has blog posts by students, usually with contextualization by faculty members. Then students from other classes read these blog posts and commented on them, sometimes even creating new imagery or artwork in response. In this way, we hoped to foster an intercampus conversation about space and place.  

Notions of audience, place, and identity–as well as the use of images–are woven through our courses. Carrie Hall’s Composition II course (NYCCT)  focused on how students can best choose and produce in a genre to reach a particular audience. Marta Cabral’s class, Art in Elementary School Education (CSI) learned  how to teach art to third and fourth graders. Erica Richardson’s students in Literatures of the Harlem Renaissance (Baruch)  blogged  about a trip to the Met. In Belinda Linn Rincon’s class, Latinx Street Literatures (John Jay) students watched and blogged about the film La Ciudad, often including images in their blogs. Dominique Zino’s class, Cultural Identity in American Literature (LaGuardia), read literature that address issues of dislocation/relocation, identity formation, and alienation and wrote blog posts about space and power.  

The project was, in many ways, a success: students gained a great deal from seeing what is happening on other campuses, and it made their projects feel more real to have a live audience for their blog posts. Carrie Hall’s class had the option of writing a unit with a fourth grade audience  in mind, and the respondents, Marta Cabral’s class, were in training to be fourth grade teachers which allowed for  vibrant visual feedback. It was also a great benefit also to have a variety of course levels so that beginning writers could see what upper level students are doing, and upper level students could take on a mentorship role and reflect upon how far they’ve come.  That said, we did also have our struggles.  Much of these had to do with scheduling and planning; we struggled to find anyone to assist with web design and needed to do it ourselves. Also, because we didn’t have our project in play until well into the semester, we didn’t have time to seamlessly plan in a way that would best benefit the project and the students. That said, this is the type of project all of us would be happy to do again with the benefit of experience.  

While the public-facing project is mostly the website itself, we will culminate the project early next week with a brief online discussion between the five of us about the website and the benefits and difficulties of intercampus collaboration. 

“Money, Power, Respect,” a TLH Faculty Fellows’ Project 

I have been working on a Creative Collaboration with four other faculty members on a project. We created an Instagram account where we can showcase our students’ ideas about money, power, respect, and education. The account handle is @money_power_respect_cuny

Students are awarded modest TLH student scholarships for producing related scholarship selected for inclusion on the @money_power_respect_cuny Instagram account. Content included on Instagram relates to the topics: money, power, and respect in relationship to education. We encouraged participants to be as creative as they like. The content could be a picture, video, visual representation, or personal reflection about money, power, respect, education. The content could be specifically about one of these topics, some of the topics, or all the topics.  

Some guiding questions for students’ content creation: 

•    What does money, power, and respect mean to you?  
•    What does money, power, and respect look like, sound like, feel like? 
•    How does education lead to having or losing money, power, or respect? 
•    What do you want to teach our followers about money, power, or respect? 
•    What do you want to teach them about CUNY? 

Reflections on the Project 

Working with my colleagues from across CUNY campuses was so rewarding. While we didn’t have as much student participation as we hoped for, it was still a great experience to brainstorm and come up with a way to engage students with a topic they find interesting. Initially I posed the invitation to students in my class and only got one student to participate. The instructions were sent via email and posted in Announcements on the EDU280 class Blackboard. I opened the invitation to the entire SEEK population and got another submission from a student who was not enrolled in my class. Both submissions were included on the Instagram account. I believe there was little participation because students were working on midterms and then went on Spring Break. Moving forward, I’ll propose a similar project in my courses but will work on it in class as a community.  

“Light Bulb” Moments in the Humanities Classroom: An Interactive Workshop Recap

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.

Website screenshot showing five student group projects

The Museum of Us: Student Projects from Arts in NYC at Baruch College

TLH Faculty Fellow Cheryl Smith (English, Baruch College) teaches a course called, Arts in NYC, which is a humanities seminar for first-year students. The final project for the course was a group curation project of an online exhibit around a theme of their choice. Their exhibits are gathered together in what the students chose to call “The Museum of Us.”

Professor Smith tells us,

“This project was profoundly shaped by our work together in the TLH Seminar—our discussions and readings. I see the focus on empathy, care, creativity, voice, and representation emerge in these projects. I’m proud of the work my students did and grateful I could provide a space for nurturing it; I think they were genuinely proud of their work, too. It’s been a long, hard semester for many of us, and it’s so nice to end on this kind of positive note.”

You can view the student group projects on their website (opens in a new window). Projects are titled, “Plugged In: The Playlists of the Pandemic,” ‘“I”dentity,’ “Baruch 25 Student Journal: New Beginnings,” “Pandemic-Centric Inclusivity,” and “Tranquility in a City that Never Sleeps.” Thank you, Dr. Smith and students for sharing your impressive work from the semester!

Exploring Bravery in the Classroom

Bravery is not often discussed in the classroom, but it takes a certain amount of bravery to overcome fears that students and teachers may feel. How are supportive and inviting classrooms cultivated to help students overcome their hesitation to participate?

On December 2, 2021, TLH hosted this 1-hour interactive panel discussion with four Mellon TLH Faculty Fellows, Heather Huggins (Queensborough Community College), Alyse Keller (Kingsborough Community College), Susan Phillip (New York City College of Technology), and Tom Zlabinger (York College). In the first part of the event, each panelist shared their unique experiences and expertise cultivating bravery in the classroom followed by open dialogue with attendees, which was not recorded.

The presentations incorporate feedback on the topic from Huggins, Keller, Zlabinger, and Phillips’ students, and provide a breadth of perspectives and ideas for how to encourage courage. Thank you all for organizing this thoughtful and thought-provoking event.

Bravery in the Classroom

On December 2, 2021, Transformative Learning in the Humanities hosted this 1-hour interactive panel discussion with four Mellon TLH Faculty Fellows, Heather …