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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.

Imagining a CUNY without Grades: A Podcast and Manifesto by and for CUNY Students

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.

Event Recap: Jesse Stommel’s Ungrading and Alternative Assessment Workshop

In his workshop on March 21st, Dr. Jesse Stommel educated participants about the history of grading and the practice of ungrading. Kaz Elpharin, a current student at LaGuardia Community College, began the event by introducing Dr. Stommel. 

Dr. Stommel emphasized that ungrading is not a static concept but an ongoing conversation and practice that should include students. He brought up the compassionate grading policies introduced during the pandemic, asking why they haven’t always been present and if they could be maintained. He brought in open questions such as why we grade, who it’s for, and what if we didn’t, while acknowledging the precarity of many professors and administrative constraints.

Dr. Stommel also gave background on bias in grading and how inclusive practices means designing classes for the least privileged. He shared how past negative experiences with grading and teachers often impact the relationship students have with their professors, and how discussing such realities and making assessments flexible and responsive can be reparative. He shared information on intrinsic versus extrinsic motivations, and how we can best support all students in learning instead of engaging in policing behavior, defining grading as a relatively recent technology. Dr. Stommel discussed the importance of context, that he doesn’t want all professors to simply use his forms of assessment in their classes, but instead open up a reflective dialogue on grading with their students. He ended the lecture portion insisting that effective education requires some necessary conditions, including equitable labor practices and meeting the basic needs of students, such as food and housing. 

Dr. Stommel then moved into a writing exercise, asking participants:

“Who do you teach? What do you know about your students? How are they changing? What do they want from their education? What barriers do they face?”

After participants shared their responses in a brief discussion, he gave another prompt, asking everyone to draft a “Dear Students,” message for the top of their syllabi, thinking about:

“What work do you value from your students? What will you contribute (as the teacher)? What does success look like in your class? How (as the teacher) will you know when you’ve seen it? What is the students’ collective role in constructing the course? How will you show care for your students? How will you show care for yourself?”

He shared a resources on basic needs syllabus statements and included an example of his own basic needs statement.

This led into another discussion and question and answer portion, so engaging that it continued after the event in an “Afterparty” conversation in a Google Doc created by Pedagogy Co-Leaders Javiela Evangelista and Jason Hendrickson.

Dr. Stommel was very generous in encouraging participants to share his ideas at future workshops. He shared his slides:

and included OCR enabled slides.

He also shared his workshop notes, which include an overview of the session and additional resources.

We’d also like to share the generative conversation that took place at the Q&A Afterparty.

If you’re interested in more events on ungrading and alternative assessment, the Spring 2022 Mellon TLH Faculty Fellows have organized an interactive workshop with their students on “Adventures in Ungrading” for April 27, 2022, at 4-5pm ET. RSVP here.

TLH Faculty Fellow-Led Events, Fall 2021

Join us for our three remaining TLH Faculty Fellow-led events for the Fall 2021 semester, which highlight the innovative work our Faculty Fellows are doing at their campuses and in collaboration with each other. Check out the registration links below for full details.

Imperialism, Education, and Resistance: Experiences from Puerto Rico, The Philippines, and The Dominican Republic
Wednesday, December 1 @ 6-7 pm (EST)
Online (via Zoom)
Register Here (opens in a new window).

Bravery in the Classroom
Thursday, December 2 @ 4-4 pm (EST)
Online (via Zoom)
Register Here (opens in a new window)

Community Access and Equity in Health Education
Guttman Community College
50 West 40th St.
Wednesday, December 8 @ 6-8 pm (EST)

And, in case you missed it, be sure to check out the recap and recording from our first Faculty Fellow-Led event on November 10, Creating Communities of Care in our Classrooms.