Event Recap: Voice and Vulnerability in the Transformative Classroom with Kiese Laymon

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.

Another Student Advisory Board leader, Renois, asked: how do you teach these tragic race-related events to people of different races? Laymon responded that he doesn’t know the answer to. He noted it demands an exquisite amount of time with each student to do this, in office hours. Laymon’s thoughtful responses and generous admittance of failure showed the importance of acknowledging that we all fail. He shared that we should ask our students, “how can I better love you today?” 

The Zoom chat erupted with comments of feeling validation and identification with what Laymon shared as a teacher and a wealth of love and support for his candor, with messages like, “I am completely blown away by your gut-wrenching honesty and humbleness.” Then we turned to some questions from the audience. In his answers, Laymon highlighted the significance of checking in with students about their needs and what makes them feel happy, full, and safe. We should be honest about times faculty have created spaces that are harmful to students, he said, and know when and how to put boundaries into place. He spoke on rethinking the role of professors as leaders and placing the agency on students to spark deep conversations and to create. In a moment of real vulnerability and humility, Laymon admitted to not having the energy to “go there” or start the fire in the classroom anymore, though, he believes, students do deserve professors willing to do so. The Q&A session ended with Laymon reflecting on his written work, and not his work in the classroom, as his primary means of sharing opinions. In the meeting with the Student Advisory Board following the event, the students thought about Laymon’s theories of revision and being the “student you want to be,” and acknowledging that that can change over time and given external circumstances. 

Changing the Frame from “Service” to “Leadership”

As we conclude our Fall 2022 Faculty Fellows Seminars, TLH Faculty Co-Directors Shelly Eversley (Baruch College) and Matt Brim (College of Staten Island) are asking us to think about how to translate what we’ve done at TLH into lines on our CVs/resumes.

Leadership is Leadership

TLH talks about the faculty fellows as “leaders in their fields” in the original language of the Mellon grant. You might take another look at the grant language and TLH Annual Reports to see how others frame what you do as transformative, as leadership.

I have some thoughts on how to use TLH methods to transform a CV or resume, especially for alt-ac jobs. I’m happy to share a link to my alt-ac resume (opens in new tab) which looks very different from my academic CV (opens in new tab). What they have in common are headings that change the frame from “Academic Service” to “Academic Activities and Leadership” or “Academic Community Leadership.” This language is more empowering and active, and avoids the gendered associations, assumptions, and biases about “service.”

Quantify Accomplishments and Impact

One big tip I’ve picked up from folx in industry is to quantify my accomplishments wherever I can. For example, I’ve tried to word a bullet under my TLH title in a way that I’m able to showcase the impact of my work as a Postdoctoral Research Associate:

“Organized and facilitated the training of 4,000+ faculty, staff and students in antiracist, inclusive teaching practices and active learning, which has impacted an estimated 32,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Mentored 150+ faculty at all ranks, representing over 20 unique disciplines across 21 of CUNY’s campuses in effective, democratic digital pedagogies while they taught remote, hybrid, and in-person courses.”

I’m in the humanities, so I’m more accustomed to thinking about quality over quantity. While quality is important, so is impact. I got to these numbers by taking advantage of Zoom’s ability to track the number of participants on calls; tracking the number of campuses our fellows are from and what disciplines they teach in; and post-event surveys asking attendees how many students they are currently teaching. Quantifying impact goes beyond the scope of one person’s job application. Keeping our program self-assessment in mind throughout our 2 years of operation has made this kind of tracking possible (one of our team members thought to create a post-event survey; another thought to ask attendees how many students they teach), and having these numbers handy shows potential investors the value of our program.

There’s another way to show impact: listing the range of roles in the institution (e.g., “faculty, staff, and students”); the types of pedagogy (e.g., “antiracist, inclusive teaching practices and active learning”); and modes of instruction (e.g., “remote, hybrid, and in-person courses”). These, too, quantify/measure breadth and depth to some degree.

List Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) and Open Educational Resources (OER) as Publications

Include links on your CV/resume to digital projects, op-eds, blog posts, Manifold and Pressbook editions, CUNY Academic Works contributions, and more. One faculty fellow said, “My group is developing a project for manifold. That can be listed as a publication. It is also allowing me to learn to use Manifold, which I can put under professional development and, more importantly I think, allowing me to think about ways I might use Manifold in future classes.”

How to Talk about TLH According to TLH Faculty Fellows

Co-Directors Eversley and Brim asked the fellows this week to describe TLH in ways that would translate to a CV or resume. This is what the fellows said:

  • Cross-college collaboration on pedagogical innovation, antiracist curriculum strategies, creating equitable student learning experiences across different academic disciplines and 2-year and 4-year campuses
  • Having a dedicated time and space to think about the [name your profession] as a humanitarian discipline helped me transform my approach to teaching into a community effort that looks beyond the classroom
  • Promoting student critical thinking and awareness of the society around them while enabling them to become content creators and experts teaching the world.
  • CUNY-wide public knowledge project on transformational teaching
  • Pedagogical innovation to support retention, access; public humanities projects; broadening what the humanities means and does; scholarship and research in teaching and learning for diversity, access, inclusion, antiracism
  • Assessment, evaluation, and improvement of curriculum and pedagogy
  • Grounding work in social justice and implementing pedagogy that highlight collaboration and community building as a way for students to advocate for themselves as well as members of their respective communities
  • Opened up CUNY students to the possibility of impacting the world in non-traditional, more positive, ways
  • Cross disciplinary teaching and learning for the public academy
  • Worked to empower students to actively participate and take greater possession of their course material
  • Develop practices to foster student investment, equitable assessment practices, and transformational learning outcomes
  • Created public knowledge for CUNY as a selected TLH Faculty Fellow
  • Organized and facilitated the public knowledge project, “_______,” a virtual edition / podcast / professional development workshop with [#] faculty in attendance who together teach [#] students at CUNY.
  • Led students in creating a public knowledge project about the role of active learning in promoting educational success
  • Co-authored “_________” on the pedagogy blog for Transformative Learning in the Humanities, a three-year innovative teaching initiative at CUNY supported by a $2 million grant from the Mellon Foundation.
  • Contributed to the creation of an open education resource that was part of a student-led initiative where students produce a podcast episode that focuses on the lived experiences of CUNY students with political and societally contentious issues that are often considered taboo.
  • Implemented anti-racist and flipped pedagogical practices in my teaching through guidance from/collaboration with the TLH.
  • Support the development of syllabi and other pedagogical practices that conscientiously contend with coloniality and racism in our society.
  • Collaborated with a transformative collective of CUNY faculty who are leaders in their fields, representing over 20 unique disciplines across 21 of CUNY’s campuses in effective, democratic digital pedagogies while we taught remote, hybrid, and in-person courses.
  • Engaged in active self-assessment of pedagogical practices and collaborated with TLH fellows across various areas of expertise to create a public podcast on shifting assessment practices.
  • As part of the Mellon-funded, CUNY TLH initiative, I contributed to collaborative projects with students and faculty that explored community building in the classroom as a way to move toward liberatory education.
  • Working with MFAs in Pedagogy this semester, I’ve witnessed the impact beyond the course itself, as pedagogy students describe their own transformation as teachers; they comment on the resources I have brought to them from TLH, add their own notes to what I present from the TLH seminars and speaker series; describe their change in use of syllabus and assessment, etc.
  • Prioritized accessibility, diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially when…. teaching / creating and publishing Open Educational Resources (OER) / organizing a workshop / participating in committee work …
  • I bring [#] of years of experience collaborating on diverse and inclusive teams working toward social justice in education

Thank you to all our Fall 2022 faculty fellows for contributing to this extensive list!

More Resources

TLH Librarian Grace Handy pulled together a list of additional resources on translating academic skills to resumes: 

  • Christopher L. Caterine. (2020). Leaving Academia : A Practical Guide: Vol. Version 1.0. Princeton University Press.
  • Lesiuk, M. (2013). “Small bets” and the PhD process: Alt-Ac careers for humanities PhDs. English Studies in Canada, 39(4), 17+.  https://doi.org/10.1353/esc.2013.0048
  • Montez, Noe. (2018). “Strengthening Job Prospects Within and Beyond the Academy.” HowlRound. 
  • Kelsky, Karen L. (2015). The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning Your Ph.D. into a Job. New York: Three Rivers.
  • Rogers, Katina. (2020) Putting the Humanities PhD to Work: Thriving in and Beyond the Classroom. Durham: Duke University Press.
Definition of Ableism by Talila Lewis

Resources for Practicing Anti-Ableist Pedagogy

On Saturday, November 5, 2022, I had the privilege of conducting a pedagogy workshop at the American Studies Association conference, with my esteemed TLH colleagues and mentors, Cathy Davidson, Shelly Eversley, Christina Katopodis, Javiela Evengelista, and Jason Hendrickson. 

Anti-ableist pedagogy is a topic we’ve taken up in our TLH seminars over the past two years as another way to promote equity in the classroom. Anti-ableist pedagogy isn’t just about accessibility—making sure that all of your students can access and understand materials you use for teaching and that they can participate equally in the classroom—it’s also about recognizing and critiquing the harms caused by ableism in society and in our educational systems. It’s about accepting disability as part of human diversity and a positive identity marker, as opposed to a deficit, a reason for pity, or a justification for low expectations. Anti-ableist pedagogy is about radical acceptance of intersectional identities, unconditional respect, and a commitment to making everyone feel that their contributions are valuable. 

In the workshop, we borrowed an exercise from Dr. Jamila Lyiscot, who led a TLH workshop last year. The rules of the exercise were to first choose a whistle-blower or gatekeeper to enforce the requirement to only speak with words that have 2 syllables or less. The question was, “please describe your research (or work).” One of our participants reported being so preoccupied with following the rules that they completely missed out on the content. This simple yet powerful exercise can demonstrate how people who learn differently or English language learners might be missing the most important parts of the conversation. 

Turning to theory as another entry point into understanding ableism, we also explored models of disability, or the way that we conceptualize disability. The most commonly cited models are the medical model (defining disability as an impairment in the body in need of a cure) and the social model (defining disability as a social construction due to society’s failure to adapt to disabled bodyminds). While these models are necessarily at odds with each other, a universal model acknowledges that we have to acknowledge and accept different forms of impairment as a part of the human experience, while reforming the way that society responds to disabled people. Part of undoing the long history of oppression of disabled people starts with considering that disability is not unusual and it’s not a fixed state of being (anyone can become disabled at any time). Instead of creating separate spaces and policies for “accommodating” people with disabilities, we should be working to adapt our social environment to include everyone.

From there, we turned to defining ableism. For me, the dictionary definition falls short in describing the range of insidious behaviors towards disabled people that have been normalized by society, or the use of ability itself to undermine people based on other parts of their identities. Here, I turn to the work of activist, Talila Lewis, who concisely defines the term: 

“A system that places value on people’s bodies and minds based on societally constructed ideas of normality, intelligence, excellence, desirability, and productivity. These constructed ideas are deeply rooted in anti-Blackness, eugenics, misogyny, colonialism, imperialism and capitalism.

This form of systemic oppression leads to people and society determining who is valuable and worthy based on a person’s language, appearance, religion and/or their ability to satisfactorily [re]produce, excel and “behave.”

You do not have to be disabled to experience ableism.”

a working definition by Talila “TL” Lewis*; updated January 2021

In taking a critical look at our built and social environments, it’s not hard to find areas where this system of placing value on individuals has been used to create structural inequalities for disabled people in our society, a fact that is especially apparent in our education systems. This can be taken literally when looking at architectural barriers or information barriers, or figuratively, when considering policies and rules that subtly (or not so subtly) discourage disabled students from succeeding.

In addition to talking about how disability is defined and the harms of ableism, we ended with some ways to practice anti-ableist pedagogy:

  • Learn more about disability history and ongoing struggles for access to all parts of society. For example, much of the built world has been improved by disabled activists through what is known as the curb cut effect
  • Voice your support within your institution for spending money on structural access and information access. Accessibility is often an afterthought, given attention only when it becomes a problem, and deprioritized in budgets. 
  • Strive to create accessible learning environments through Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
    • Understand that accessibility is often a negotiation between competing needs and therefore a process. Strive for an adaptable environment that can accommodate the people in your classroom.  
    • Consider giving everyone the most commonly requested accommodations (usually extra time for assignments and tests). This takes away the stigma associated with requesting disability accommodations and helps all students.
    • Work with your campus accessibility office to make sure your course materials are accessible (text that is computer-readable is also flexible to accommodate people with a variety of vision disabilities and can be used with annotation tools that benefit neurodiverse students as well).
    • Add an accessibility statement to your syllabus to signal to students that they can talk directly to you about their access needs. Be open to suggestions for improvement. Talk about disability and access as a normal part of the college experience.  
  • “Crip” the curriculum, or incorporate disability into readings and course content. Question ableism in literature and media, social policies, or other topics. 
  • Most importantly, practice “radical acceptance” of everyone for who they are (and meet them where they are). 

Other resources from the session: 

Our slides

Padlet asking participants WHY and HOW can the classroom be a radical space for antiracist action? 

Small Axe/Acts (brainstormed with session participants) 

Additional Suggested Readings on Anti-Ableist Pedagogy:


Transformative Anti-Ableist Pedagogy for Social Justice, by 2021-2022 TLH Faculty Fellow, Dusana Podlucka

Anti-ableist pedagogies in higher education: A systems approach, by Juuso Nieminen and Henri Pesonen 


For a good primer on disability, I recommend Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to Be an Ally by Emily Ladau.

For more theoretical approaches to disability and intersectionality, see Disabled Futures: A Framework for Radical Inclusion by Milo W. Obourn and The Minority Body: A Theory of Disability by Elizabeth Barnes

Recap of Respect the Process: Examining Our Social Justice Perspectives with Dr. Bettina Love

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. Dr. Love shared her practice of creating a healing classroom, including spending up to the first half an hour of class checking in with students, making sure they feel safe and asking for consent to discuss heavy topics, thus pointing to the importance of teaching and engaging with hard content in a way that is conducive to healing, instead of just creating awareness about Black trauma: “Nothing can happen if they don’t feel safe.” In addition to checking in with student wellbeing, Dr. Love made clear to us that teachers must check in and be okay as well to create such an environment. She discussed heavy topics such as school integration, making clear that such a movement is not over: schools are more segregated now than they’ve ever been since Brown v. Board. Dr. Love highlighted the importance of our interconnectedness and our humanity: abolitionist education is about seeing the humanity in people. She also discussed the sanitizing of civil rights leaders, such as MLK, who was staunchly anti-capitalist, discussing his work with the Poor People’s Campaign. She then emphasized the need for a revolution of values, as material conditions have not changed, though now we have buzzwords being used in DEI initiatives: it’s not about inclusion, we must see Black people as integral to our structures and society, because they are. Classrooms should be spaces to imagine and freedom to dream, she asks that we teach through a lens of Black Joy where we celebrate Black folx. Dr. Love ended her talk with a recording of the poem won’t you celebrate with me by Lucille Clifton.

The question and answer portion saw a lot of engagement and appreciation for Dr. Love’s talk. Someone asked about moving beyond DEI work, and Dr. Love shared that we must investigate our institution’s relationship to the police, and where our universities get money from and what they spend money on: who’s tenure track, who’s adjuncting? Equity means action, DEI is just professional development to support the institution’s brand. 

Dr. Love shared these tools to support healing in the classroom:

  • Check in at the start of class 
  • Prepare a safe space to learn 
  • Understand students’ lives
  • Faculty – Check your ego 
  • Create due dates around students’ schedules/lives
  • Mandatory fun & self care
  • Play and be creative
  • Don’t show Black trauma & death – respect people’s lives
  • Faculty – Be well
  • Faculty – Do no harm
  • Create a community that holds you accountable

Creative Commons Workshop Recap

On Thursday, October 6th, TLH’s Research Assistant and Librarian Grace and CUNY Scholarly Communications Librarian Meg hosted a workshop on Creative Commons licenses for the Fall TLH Fellows. They shared a brief introduction to Creative Commons, which provides a standardized way to share work and grant permission for others to use your work, relevant for TLH Public Knowledge Projects, different academic works, and creative content more broadly. There are several different CC Licenses, (some allow for remixing works, some require noncommercial use, some require the same license be applied) and it’s best to review all the options and decide if a CC license is appropriate, and which is best for your given project. Important considerations include licenses cannot be revoked or changed, and you can specify how you want others to credit you. Meg emphasized it is important to communicate to students that they automatically own the copyright to their work, and from there can decide how and if they want it shared. Grace discussed how it’s important to be clear with students and collaborators on how work will be shared, and to choose together the right license before making a project public, whether it be on CUNY Academic Works, CUNY Academic Commons, or other spaces. Fellows brought interesting questions related to their own past collaborative work, and the group parsed out the differences between public domain, fair use, and Creative Commons. Meg emphasized how granting public permissions to share work can determine what maintains relevance long-term by nature of being allowed to be copied and disseminated. While librarians are not lawyers and copyright in practice is largely shaped by different court case decisions, it is helpful to discuss with librarians and research your rights to your work in order to make informed decisions on how to best share it. 

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

Continue reading

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.”

2022 TLH Summer Institute Recap

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. 

This transitioned into a deep listening exercise led by Pedagogy Co-Leader Jason Hendrickson: the fellows were put into breakout rooms with 2-3 people and took turns speaking without interruption for 2 minutes (with a timer set). While one fellow spoke, the other(s) focused on being silent but active listeners. The prompt was, “What is your educational/pedagogical biography or genealogy? How did you get here—how did you arrive here as a teacher?” Following this deep listening exercise, the fellows reflected on the experience of deep listening in a metacognitive activity using Jamboard: 

Fellows also reflected on the exercise in the Zoom chat, some sharing it was too short as they had more to share and connect on with their partners. Next, Jason talked about why deep listening matters and reflection as a means to self-discovery. Then we stopped for a 10-minute break. Meanwhile, Grace played part of a podcast on (Re)Mapping Knowledge created by some of the Spring 2022 Faculty Fellows as their public knowledge project. 

After the break, Jason led us in a Creative DNA exercise inspired by Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit, asking us, “How do we find and bring our creativity into our work and life?” Jason shared a clip from The Five Heartbeats and his own creative process: he often finds “valuable thoughts from music, movies and the trash,” which he then can put together and revise. Then we all engaged in five minutes of writing practice, responding to these prompts: 

  • Describe your first creative successful act. 
  • When you work, do you love the process or the result? 
  • Who regularly inspires you? (And why?)

These reflections were just for the Fellows to have for themselves. Next, Shelly shared the reason why we choose these particular books for this year’s TLH curriculum, “to creatively think about how we teach,” and introduced the fellows to Bruce Mau’s 5-Minute Manifesto exercise adapted for teaching at CUNY with the vision of transforming CUNY and higher ed more generally. The fellows worked in a collaborative Google Doc in batches to respond to various writing prompts and begin to construct a collaborative manifesto—one that we will return to at the beginning of the seminars in the 2022-2023 academic year. One fellow described it: “The interface looks kind of like a bunch of worker bees collaboratively/concurrently building a rainbow colored colony!” 

Afterwards, Shelly and Matt reflected on the activity and TLH’s mission for the coming year and beyond. Shelly has used this manifesto activity with her students, and fellows in the 2021-2022 cohorts likewise used this activity in their classrooms (read an example collaborative manifesto project here). Some fellows also shared their thoughts and contributions aloud:

  • Trusting students is most important
  • We can lead our students to do the same thing to share their thoughts
  • Revision means to see it again, re-doing and re-learning is important to our students and ourselves
  • We are learners and always learning
  • Instead of talking about success and failure, we should rethink the meaning and process of learning itself
  • We could think more about how to inspire students to believe themselves rather than focus on their grades and homework 

During the break, Grace shared two slides about TLH’s impact at CUNY and beyond in the first two years of the grant. 

We then played a short, inspiring video by Cathy N. Davidson (Founding Faculty Co-Director of TLH) who talked about the efficacy of active learning in the classroom and her reasons for starting with pedagogy, especially why she uses an anti-hierarchical model in her classroom: to make higher ed more equitable, just, and inclusive. Christina then led a follow-up activity, asking fellows to respond to this question in the chat: “What language do you use to introduce students to anti-hierarchical teaching methods? How are you thinking about upending hierarchies in your own classrooms?” Some responses included:

  • Co-production of knowledge
  • Understanding the classroom as a community
  • Students’ own grading of their performance
  • I use language influenced by Freire, hooks, and Zinn, as examples
  • I ask my students to create a Community Agreement and then ask them for help to improve the whole class
  • Talking with students about standardized English in classrooms and academia — and how languages are hierarchized in these contexts
  • I like to start with a literacy map that traces their important literacy events in life. Then we reflect and discuss them. A question I pose is – did your map reflect standardized testing or a grade?
  • One of the first things I do to show (if not explicitly tell) is to respond to the same introductory discussion prompt I give them (thinking of hooks here — “I do not expect to…share in any way that I would not share” p. 21)
  • Developing own questions and converting them into students’ own assignment
  • I begin by telling them that no person is illegal
  • Peer revision, students teaching one another
  • I have students do three reflections. In the first, they answer the question “How do you define history.” They return to the question at the midterm and the final. There is not a right or wrong answer—they track how their own ideas develop.
  • Tying the learning/knowledge to our everyday lives and critically interrogating our own positionalities

Before breaking into small groups to begin brainstorming potential public knowledge projects inspired by anti-hierarchical transformative teaching methods, Christina introduced some of the logistics about how the projects work. Examples of prior projects on TLH blog: https://transform.commons.gc.cuny.edu/ The fellows then broke out into their public knowledge project groups and worked collaboratively on Jamboard.

Jessica Murray (TLH Director of Digital Communications) followed this activity with an explanation of how TLH uses CUNY Academic Commons groups to facilitate communications between fellows and their cohorts. The main site is Transformative Learning in the Humanities. Grace then shared an example CUNY commons website that one Spring 2022 fellows group created with their students as their public knowledge project—a good example of the versatility of the platform and how it supports collaboration. After Christina answered some questions about the public knowledge projects, the fellows went back into their groups to share syllabus and teaching ideas and discuss how they can practice student-centered, empowered teaching and learning in the coming academic year.

Incoming Pedagogy Co-Leader Virginia Diaz made several announcements about upcoming events in TLH events. The institute was a great opportunity for the Fellows to meet and connect, and begin thinking through their collaborations on transformative teaching and active learning.

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!