Category Archives: Teaching Resources

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A Free Printable Bookmark from the “Philosophy for Children Workshop: Anti-Racist Conversations at Any Age”

At the Philosophy for Children Workshop on Thursday, April 22, Prof. Cheri Carr (LaGuardia Community College) with her students Jesus Benitez and David Ortiz, talked about how inclusive thinking begins with how we treat our children. Between ages 2-5, children internalize racial bias and display attitudes similar to adults. By age 12, many children become set in their beliefs. Caring and invested educators and parents can unintentionally perpetuate anti-Black racism by promoting a colorblind approach to race stemming from their discomfort navigating conversations on race. Not talking about race reinforces racism in young children; talking about it encourages the development of positive attitudes and skills needed to advocate for racial justice.

This is why the Philosophy for Children initiative at LaGuardia Community College partnered with the CUNY Fatherhood Academy and Transformative Learning in the Humanities to create an interactive workshop for CUNY parents and educators of young children that centers issues of race. Workshoppers engaged in an open, supportive conversation about how we can foster racial justice through our relationships with children. Engaging in philosophical inquiry is a powerful way to give children the space they need to ask difficult questions and process complex ideas. And it’s up to us to create those spaces for them.

Prof. Carr, along with her co-organizers Benitez and Ortiz, created a printable book mark so parents and educators could have a little reminder of some of the basic principles of this pedagogy.

This free, printable bookmark is shared with permission from Prof. Carr, who is Associate Professor & Philosophy for Children Internship Director, in the Humanities Department at LaGuardia Community College.

“The Power of Reading and Writing: How English Courses Paved Career Paths,” a TLH Alumni Talk event

This blog was written by Contributing Authors Ilse Schrynemakers and Beth Counihan, collaborating professors at Queensborough Community College.

An alumni talk, “The Power of Reading and Writing: How English Courses Paved Career Paths” was hosted by Drs. Ilse Schrynemakers and Beth Counihan (English department, Queensborough Community College).  Over 30 attendees listened to the stories of courage, determination, and success from the QCC alumni panelists. A general overview of the challenges faced by current undergraduates during this pandemic, and the need for connection with those “who have been in their shoes,” began the talk. This was followed by the host conveying various panelists’ anecdotes about life and work. These anecdotes—such as once working as an au pair in France–were a way to break the ice as well as underscore that not all career paths go in a straight line.  In fact, sources of inspiration are all around us.

The first panelist Jully Vanegas, who is now pursuing in a bachelor’s program (in Health Sciences) at Stony Brook, graduated during the pandemic. Jully emphasized the gradual steps towards her goals. Jully explained how each English course made her more empowered to tackle another academic challenge. As an adult learner, who is raising a family far from her native country, Jully credits success to seeking assistance, whether by talking with professors or using the tutoring services. Jully lost family members from COVID, and attendees were inspired by her courage, candor, and accomplishments.

The next panelist, Nadir Durrani, studying for his MA in English at Queen’s College, also works at Queensborough as a writing tutor for CUNY Start. He painted a picture of how his life has taken many turns and emphasized the power to reinvent ourselves with hard work and focus. Nadir coached students on “working smart” and encouraged them to seek out tutoring and other supports.

Our third panelist, Jessica Schuler, shared stories via video, since she started working as a bookkeeper on the same day as the talk. Like Jully, she credited the nurturing environment at QCC with making possible her present-day success. Jessica implored students to seek out campus opportunities, such as the QCC Fed Challenge Team, of which she was a part, while herself an evening student.

Our final alumni panelist, Christina E. Davis, spoke about the transformative powers of critical thinking, reading books, and sharing our ideas in writing. Christina is working towards a bachelor’s degree in Speech Therapy at Queens College, while being a full-time Mom. Christina’s staunch, enthusiastic devotion to her own education, and the possibilities available as a result, were important messages for our current students.

While the panelists shared their stories, attendees could read more about the alumni’s individual journeys:

Presentation slide: Meet Christina Davis along with some personal details. Presentation slide: Meet Jessica Schuler along with some personal details. Presentation slide: Meet Nadir Durrani along with some personal details. Presentation slide: Meet Jully Vanegas along with some personal details.

Lastly, QCC’s College Transfer Resource Center team, Renee Rhodd and Susan Madera (herself a Queensborough graduate) then shared the basics of the transfer process for current Queensborough students. The event concluded with their timely practical steps for realizing dreams, and the panelists all attested to their helpful guidance.

Even though we were all separated from each other, in our little Zoom tiles, the panelists lifted everyone’s pandemic-weary spirits.  Their persistence, resourcefulness and love of learning shine a bright light on the whole purpose of higher education: to develop the skills and tools to choose one’s life path, and as panelist Christina Davis said, to reveal the “true interconnections with humanity.”


Drs. Ilse Schrynemakers, an assistant professor, and Beth Counihan, an associate professor, both teach in the English department at Queensborough Community College.

Understanding and Building Collective Efficacy

This post was written by Contributing Authors Tim Leonard and Leigh Somerville

The purpose of this blog post is to provide a brief overview of the concept of collective efficacy and share some practical examples of what it can look like in the classroom setting. As well, we provide several open-source documents that may be helpful in reflection and instructional planning. 

What is collective efficacy? In short, it is when a team of individuals share the belief that, through their combined efforts, they can overcome challenges and positively impact student achievement and success.

Collective Efficacy Overview:

Collective self-efficacy “represents a group’s shared belief in its joint capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to provide given levels of attainment” (Bandura, 1997, p. 477)

“Collective efficacy is not simply the sum of the efficacy beliefs of individuals. Rather, it is an emergent group-level attribute that is the product of coordinative and interactive dynamics.” (Bandura, 1997, p. 477)

Collective efficacy often focuses on groups of teachers building the belief that they can work together to impact student achievement despite the challenges students may face in their lives inside and outside of school.

Collective Efficacy at Work: 

In our classes, we believe that we are part of a team with all of our students to work towards success for all. This can take place through the development of a community that supports a foundation of efficacy both directly and indirectly. 

What does this look like in practice? It can be different for each educator. In Professor Somerville’s classes, it means consistent group work in which each member has a stake in collective learning. For example,  It means including students in the writing process through class-generated editing sheets. It means asking students to self-generate lists of questions about the course in individual sessions and then creating a FAQ for the entire class. 

Collective efficacy includes the use of roles and assignments, individual meetings with students throughout the semester, and recognizing, highlighting, and activating the knowledge and life experience that each student brings to the classroom throughout the semester as tools of engagement.

In Prof. Leonard’s class, the first two sessions are integral in making connections. Aside from typical introductions, students are asked to consider sharing their stories ie. where have they been, where they are now, and where they are going. As well, rooted in the work of Richard Elmore and inspired by the process of instructional rounds, individual meetings are scheduled, and using this  Student Intake Form as a guide, student information is collected to help guide future interaction, deepen connections, and allow the instructor to make connections to areas of student interest and need. Regular group work with flexible grouping options also helps to build and maintain this community and fosters a shared sense of obligation to one another in order to help everyone find success.

We build the foundation that supports efficacy both directly and indirectly. One way we do this is through direct instruction in Motivational Theory and Growth Mindset. Through the study of motivational theory, students are able to reflect and clarify motivation, this allows them to understand what drives them so that they can leverage this for success in coursework. As well, in understanding motivation, they are able to also find value in coursework as it relates to their goals which contribute to the expanded conception for growth mindset as presented above. 

While much of the research on this topic has been conducted at the K-12 level, we believe that collective efficacy has great potential for implementation in post-secondary work, specifically at the community college level.  Building a sense of shared responsibility in the classroom can help students to feel a genuine sense of purpose. The principles of collective efficacy help students to feel more connected to their coursework, professors, peers, and the college community as a whole.

Tim Leonard holds a doctoral degree in Education with a concentration in Instructional Leadership. He has taught reading to students of varying ages and has engaged teachers in experiences to examine their instructional methodology. As an instructor of courses in literacy, reading, and critical thinking, Professor Leonard is focused on student growth while providing individualized experiences that students can leverage for success in future coursework. He is particularly interested in: fostering dynamic, student-centered learning communities, conceptions of motivation, student reading motivation, developing student autonomy, and student perceptions of success in college and beyond.

Leigh Somerville has taught at the college level for nearly 15 years. She teaches English as a Second Language, Critical Thinking, and Co-requisite classes. Prior to joining the faculty at BMCC, she taught at Queens College and Columbia University. She is particularly interested in finding new approaches to the editing process in academic writing, helping students to develop better reading habits outside of the classroom, and the use of collective efficacy within a higher education learning environment.

Further Reading:

The Power of Collective Efficacy

What Drives Collective Efficacy?

Collective Teacher Efficacy

Sources:

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.

Autoethnographic Pedagogy Zine

On March 17, CUNY Professors James Lowry, Nerve Macaspac, and Cynthia Tobar led a workshop on “Autoethnographic Pedagogy: Student Expertise and Learning in Community.”

CUNY serves a diverse student population, including first generation scholars, undocumented immigrants, students living below the poverty line and students from communities historically excluded from higher education. All CUNY students have unique lived experiences and knowledge, but our teaching does not always recognize and value the expertise already present in the classroom. At the same time, many opportunities for meaningful pedagogy are missed because of traditional delimitations around the classroom and the institution of the university.

This workshop invited CUNY’s teachers working in the arts, humanities and social sciences to consider how self and community can become sites of learning and sources of knowledge. The three CUNY faculty organizers presented examples of teaching practices that center students and their communities and then participants worked in breakout rooms to share or develop their own autoethnographic teaching methods, culminating in a crowdsourced handbook of teaching exercises that we proudly now share with CUNY and the wider community.

Read their zine, Autoethnographic Pedagogies, by clicking the link below:

The zine is a compilation of autoethnographic teaching methods for open access distribution, and it exemplifies the power of collaborating across CUNY campuses and disciplines.

James Lowry is an Assistant Professor of Information Studies at Queens College and the Director of the Archival Technologies Lab.

Nerve Macaspac is a geographer, film-maker, and an Assistant Professor at College of Staten Island and Graduate Faculty at the Graduate Center.

Cynthia Tobar is an artist, activist-scholar, oral historian, archivist, and an Assistant Professor and Head of Archives at Bronx Community College.

Considering Accessibility & Equity in Assessment Design

As educators with the City University of New York, we know that our learners come to our classrooms as unique individuals. They bring with them diverse experiences and backgrounds. 

Assessment and Learner Variability 

In learning environments, individual variability is the norm, not the exception.” UDL and Assessment | An Introduction to UDL and Assessment

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. 

Equality vs Equity

Equality implies giving everyone the same thing, whereas equity implies giving everyone what they need.  How can we consider these needs when designing assessments for our courses and how can doing so support equity and access?

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework that was developed by a US research group CAST that educators can use to design learning experiences to meet the diversity of needs for all of their learners.  

Some may perceive that the UDL approach applies to or only supports learners with special needs; however, as educators, we want to ensure that our teaching is accessible to all of our students. ‘So how can we support the needs of all learners and make learning equitable?’ 

The UDL framework suggests that educators provide learners with multiple means of engagement, representation, and action & expression in order to accommodate learner variability. In this way, they can meet the needs of all learners by giving each learner the things they need to be successful. 

Multiple Means of Engagement 

We support our learner’s persistence and motivation by making sure we are aware of and remove obstacles to our learner’s attention, and connection with content. 

We support our learner’s engagement by considering ways to provide learners with:

  • Autonomy 
  • Optimization of individual choice
  • Relatability/Relevance
  • Value
  • Authentic community

Students who find participation to be challenging often feel more secure contributing when they are able to share their thoughts and ideas anonymously. This example from AnswerGarden allows learners to build knowledge together about how they perceive history. Other tools used to support anonymous contribution to group discussion are Mentimeter or Nearpod

Allowing learners choice of topic supports engagement by optimizing choice and enhancing student’s sense of autonomy. John Spencer stated on his blog that, “research should feel like geeking out”. Invite your learners to feel excited about what they are learning.

Multiple Means of Representation

Attend to learners’ differing needs in how they perceive content by representing content in a variety of formats and emphasizing important features and relationships.

We support our learners by providing:

  • Multimedia representation
    • Audio
    • Video
    • Text
    • Illustrations
    • Modeling/Simulations  

Tools such as Padlet pictured on the right, allow us to share articles, infographics, podcasts, videos, and more for courses. Learners can comment and even contribute their own texts to the collection. Providing multiple representations for how learners access content that meets student needs.

Other ways to curate content with your learners and provide multi-media representations for course content are Wakelet, and Google Keep.

Content that clearly identifies and draws attention to important features and relationships using bolding, underlining, highlighting, bulleted, and/or numbered lists.

The presentation of this lesson provides learners with headings, bolded text, bulleted and numbered lists, and visual supports for each section. Formatting content in this way supports learners in understanding content and making connections

The presentation of this lesson provides learners with headings, bolded text, bulleted and numbered lists, and visual supports for each section. Formatting content in this way supports learners in understanding content and making connections. Mayer’s Multimedia Principles provides additional guidance on clearly representing content for learning.

Multiple Means of Action & Expression

How might we provide our learners with choice as to how they show what they know? 

We support our learners by providing:

  • Choice 
  • Support

For this assignment learners used a tool called Book Creator to represent their exploration of a topic of their choice within the theme of Language. Students were able to draw, write, add multilingual content, record their voices, and embed video and other multimedia to support their work.

 Assessments must be designed with the needs of all learners if they are to be effective.

Consider the principles of the Universal Design for Learning framework when creating assessments and design with the diversity of our learners in mind. 

Feel free to contribute your own ideas for how you design accessible and equitable assessments to this Padlet.

Making Public Contributions to Knowledge

Openly exchanging teaching resources is how I learned to teach. I owe a debt of gratitude to colleagues who shared generously: they emailed me their syllabi, explained what a “fishbowl” or “Think-Pair-Share” is, and introduced me to Reacting to the Past. Now after a decade of teaching as an adjunct, I’m certain that one of the best ways to give back to the profession is to share a public contribution to knowledge about teaching.

This is a lesson for our students as well. Ample research shows that students write better when they know they are writing for a large public—whether that’s a publication on a class blog visible only to peers or a professional peer-reviewed journal (see Prof. Danica Savonick’s “Write Out Loud“), a paper delivered at a student or professional conference, a presentation at a local club or community group, a poster at a university symposium, or in any other venue beyond the classroom (see Laken Brooks’ IHE piece on service learning). Writing for an authentic audience increases student engagement in a real-world process where conventions and rules must be adhered to and deadlines must be met.

At Transformative Learning in the Humanities, we’re excited to be co-sponsoring over 70 active, participatory learning events at CUNY this Spring semester and one thing every event organizer will be producing is one public contribution to knowledge. I cannot wait to see what teaching materials, works of art, podcast episodes, sample assignments, and alternative assessments they share with the CUNY community. So many of us could use some inspiration right now.

Where to get started

In addition to creating the teaching materials or other public contributions themselves, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with Open Educational Resources (OER) and Creative Commons licenses. You might browse some of CUNY’s OER, the collections in CUNY Academic Works, and register for OpenEd CUNY using your CUNY email address. You could also reach out to your local CUNY librarian.

We’ve created a TLH Group on OpenEd CUNY where we will share our faculty members’ public contributions to knowledge. You are welcome to join the group to contribute OER directly or, if you are not able to register because you don’t have a CUNY email address, you are welcome to share your contribution with us via email and we’ll post it for you. Over TLH’s three-year grant period, this group will become a growing repository for sample lesson plans, assignments, syllabi, and other OER materials that TLH faculty and students want to share with others.

Types of contributions

You might write a short, 500-word blog post about teaching (see TLH Faculty Director Shelly Eversley’s recent blog post) or about a reflection on the TLH event you organized (see “Open TLH Event Recap” as an example). Make sure at the bottom of your post that you include the Creative Commons license (e.g., scroll to the bottom of our “Teaching Resources” page).

You could stage a socially-distanced public performance, share a sample assignment on OpenEd CUNY, create a group on HASTAC, write an op-ed, collaboratively curate a CUNY Manifold edition, upload a teaching demo or webinar to YouTube, build a public website (or give a community website a makeover), record a podcast, collaborate with colleagues to develop a team-curated Twitter account, make a Zine, develop an app to catalogue Zines…and if that’s not enough, here is a list of inspiring projects from 2019-2020.

The world is your oyster but you also want to make sure your contribution is manageable, so if you haven’t yet begun to take on a larger digital project, then share a PDF of a detailed lesson plan, assignment, or alternative assessment method or write a blog post with some valuable teaching tips. In the pandemic, time is pressurized in strange and unpredictable ways, so the most direct and practical contributions may very well mean the most to those teaching and learning right now.

Course Planning: On Feeling Seen and Heard (Part One)

While I’m looking toward the new semester, I’m thinking about how I might be the kind of professor who inspires.  My most impactful teachers were the ones who made me feel smart; they stimulated my curiosity, they seemed to take all of my ideas (even the far-out ones) seriously, and they encouraged me to think rigorously.  As I follow their examples, I try to foster communities of learning in which students feel seen and heard.

2020 was/is a nightmare.  And its 2021.  We all know the many reasons why.  Yet, in all this, students are still showing up to college.  They’ve got their reasons; and, hopefully, some of those reasons include their dreams.  Our students will inherit this earth; my ambition is to assist them as they develop the skills they will need to create a future that sees them, hears, them, and empowers them.

In my class preparations, I’ve been re-visiting classics like the “Combahee River Statement,” Freedom Dreams:  The Black Radical Imagination, and Poetry for the People: A Revolutionary Blueprint.  And in search of my own critical creativity, I’ve been exploring new works like Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ Undrowned:  Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals, May Joseph’s ghosts of lumumba, and Felicia Rose Chavez’s The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop.  If the expectation is that students become lifelong learners, then their teachers should aspire to the same.

“The map to a new world is the imagination, ” so my teaching plan is to embrace this possibility.  Next semester, one of my courses is an interdisciplinary seminar in Black and Latinx Studies. This will be my first time teaching it, and I am excited!  Its ultimate learning goal is a researched project: I wonder what kinds of questions will animate the students, how will they conceptualize their projects, and what will our co-created syllabus look like?  I’ve written them a letter.  Our first meeting (on Zoom) is a few days away.  My plan is to begin by practicing listening.  I will ask them to think about freedom, of three desires, one simple, one ambitious, and one outlandish.  We’ll go, two by two , into break out rooms and listen to another person’s dreams.  Think-Pair-Share.  As an exercise in structural equality, it affords Total Participation.  When we come back together, we’ll share some more on a whiteboard.  I hope in this first day each person in our virtual togetherness feels seen and heard (even if they choose to keep their cameras off).  From there, we will start building.

What is Ungrading? An Interview on Contracts and Peer Evaluation

For anyone interested in ungrading, contract grading, and peer-to-peer evaluation, Aaron Blackwelder of “Beyond the Curriculum” has done a great job interviewing Cathy Davidson and Christina Katopodis about their chapter in Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (And What To Do Instead), edited by Susan D. Blum (West Virginia University Press, 2020). We discuss such things as Carol Dweck’s idea of “growth mindset” and how ungrading focuses on learning process not just learning as a product. We talk about how, by having a contract based on all assignments in a course, a student can plan in advance. Not every student, we’ve found, wants an A; in a busy semester, they might not be able to do all the workload in a course and be happy to contract to do enough of the work to earn a B. (That kind of mature, careful planning allows the student to be in control, to not simply “flake out” of assignments and look irresponsible when they are simply not able to do the A-level workload during a time when, for example, they are juggling jobs or family responsibikities.) The podcast offers concise advice and how to’s and summarizes some of the research in this area: https://podcasts.google.com/search/beyond%20the%20curriculum Aaron is interviewing all the authors in this fantastic book. Bonus: If you listen to the podcast, Aaron gives you a code for 30% off buying this lovely, accessible, smart “how to” book.

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. 

Most importantly, the model works. As reported in a 2017 Inside Higher Ed article by Jennifer Goodman, through trial and error, the flipped classroom model “boosts passing rates to 80+ percent.” The article tells the story of McGregor and instructors at Hunter and Lehman who experimented with the method.

As Professor Alex Berrio Matamoros from CUNY Law School explained in a slide presentation at the 2012 CUNY IT Conference, the flipped classroom helps students at every stage of learning, whether they need individual attention or want to delve deeper into information. It also helps instructors by taking some pressure off the clock (to cram a lecture and skills development into a short class period) and allowing more time for active and engaged learning. He uses a combination of searchable videos, podcasts of the same lectures (to offer students another media option) and slide decks.

There are many ways to apply the flipped classroom model, including in K-12 and to organize professional conferences (and unconferences). You can also read a case study of applying the method to library-business collaboration published on CUNY Academic Works by Madeline Cohen from Lehman College.

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).

Participatory learning is founded on the idea that everyone deserves to learn and everyone deserves an education that supports their potential. Every student has a right to succeed. Participatory learning is structured for student success and empowerment, which means including our students in the learning process (e.g., co-creating a syllabus and learning outcomes). Finally, participatory learning reinforces a self-reflective method by engaging students in metacognition, a process that tasks learners with critically reexamining traditional modes of teaching and learning.

Unlike lecturing, which uses a top-down model of information distribution and treats students as passive recipients of knowledge, the research shows that active learning enhances the absorption of complex ideas through application. Carl E. Wieman, Nobel Laureate in Physics 2001, recommends getting rid of all lectures. As summarized by Wolfgang Huang in his Lindau article on Wieman: “Simply put, the idea behind active learning is that the brain needs to exercise continuously to form new neural connections, which strengthen decision-making and in doing so rewire the brain. Passively listening to lectures does not help the brain to exercise, actively thinking about right or wrong explanations and paths to follow does” (Wolfgang Huang).

When given the chance to participate, we all learn better. The research on the value of 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 (participatory learning by another name) improved student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics, from test scores to retention and applicability (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, equity, equality, diversity, and inclusion were factored into the study.

For some ideas on the practical application of participatory learning methods–active learning activities you can use today in your classroom–read Cathy N. Davidson’s Active Learning Toolkit or Christina Katopodis’s “Active Learning Activities You Can Use in Your Classroom Now” and more on the Progressive Pedagogy HASTAC Group.