CTLgrads Learning Communities

CTLgrads Learning Communities are interdisciplinary three-part series on teaching and learning topics, designed and co-facilitated by CTL Senior Lead Teaching Fellows. By participating in these deeper multi-session discussions of the teaching literature with other graduate student instructors, you will develop new frameworks to innovate your teaching.

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Learning Communities

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Spring 2018

Leveling the Playing Field: From Inequality to Inclusivity in Assessment

Students learn differently, but we tend to assess them all in the same way. How can we account for this difference, yet retain consistency across our assessment practices? In this Learning Community (LC), we will situate inclusive assessment strategies in the tradition of both inclusive teaching and pedagogies of liberation, while stimulating discussion of the latest inclusive assessment practices in higher-education classrooms. To do so, this LC is organized around the three key stages of the assessment process: design, grading, and feedback. Conversations run from 2 – 3:30pm on Mondays January 29, February 12, and February 26 in Butler 212, and are led by Evan Jewell (Senior Lead Teaching Fellow, Department of Classical Studies) and Luciana de Souza Leão (Senior Lead Teaching Fellow, Department of Sociology).

Inclusion by Design: Strategies for Inclusive Assessments: In learning environments, individual variability is the norm, not the exception. In this session, we will go over strategies to design assessments that take student diversity into account, while enhancing learning opportunities for all students. Register here.

Unpacking Inequality in Grading: How can we build equity into grading? In this session, we will discuss the multiple ways in which grading can create and reproduce inequality among students, and practice easily actionable strategies to grade in more equitable ways. Register here.

Making Feedback Count: Inclusive Feedback Mechanisms: How can feedback be more inclusive? In this session, we will discuss how both graded and ungraded feedback delivered in a variety of ways can provide equitable and actionable feedback for different types of students, while not becoming a burden for graders. Register here.

Provocative Teaching and Social Media

As technology is increasingly central to student learning, as well as how faculty share their expertise with the general public, the classroom has since come to include digital spaces — chiefly, social media. Join this Learning Community to explore the benefits and risks of employing social media as a pedagogical platform, including: the instantaneous sharing of ideas; opportunities for thoughtful conversation among the instructor, students, and the world; and the enormous room for controversy. In essence, amid the ambiguous concept of “academic freedom,” what norms shape teaching with social media? Conversations run from 2 – 3:30pm on Mondays February 5, February 19, and March 5 in Butler 212, and are led by Victoria Wiet (Senior Lead Teaching Fellow, Department of English and Comparative Literature) and Niki Kiviat (Senior Teaching Observation Fellow, Department of Italian).

Freedom to provoke? Defining academic freedom: This first session establishes a framework for interpreting professional norms by unpacking the concept of academic freedom as a guideline for research and teaching. What exactly is academic freedom, and how has the concept developed over time, with special respect to technology? We will begin to discuss various perspectives on what academic freedom constitutes, and how graduate instructors and non-tenured faculty are affected by these debates. Register here.

Academics v. the public: Case studies in digital engagement: This second session explores the professional norms that emerge as we move from theory to examining specific case studies, both at and beyond Columbia. Together, we will come to recognize the call for a more updated policy on academic freedom by analyzing illustrative case studies of academics engaging the public through social media while navigating the confusing nexus of freedom of speech and academic freedom. Register here.

Practicing the “rules” of engagement in social media: Our third session allows participants to generate their own case studies of teaching practices: how social media could enter their classrooms, and what professional values those practices foster. As participants experiment with social media practices applicable to their respective research and teaching, they will recognize first-hand the nebulous boundary between the traditional classroom and digital spaces. Despite our expertise, are we truly free to tweet? Register here.

Moving Learning Online - Flipping Classrooms and Online Instruction

In this learning community, we will explore what it means to move learning onto online environments, the pedagogical opportunities associated with this change of teaching venue, and the practical implications of teaching online. Starts Monday, Mar 19. More details coming soon. 

Past Programs

Fall 2017: Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning, Metacognition

Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning

It is both a virtue and a challenge of the liberal arts system that our classes are composed of students pursuing a variety of majors with varying levels of preparation in our particular field. How can we motivate students who enter our classroom with different learning goals than we might have for them? How can a greater awareness of teaching and learning practices in other disciplines inform and improve our teaching? Led by Senior Lead Teaching Fellows Liz Bailey (Chemistry) and Alex Fabrizio (English), this three-part series provided readings, discussion, and strategies for thinking beyond disciplinary approaches to help you diversify your own teaching and better engage students with different backgrounds. Conversations ran from 2 – 3:30pm on Tuesdays October 17, October 31, and November 14 in Butler 213.

Disciplinary Assumptions: This first session cultivated our interdisciplinary awareness as instructors. As a group, we discussed and compared our discipline-specific assumptions, expectations, and teaching practices. We began to consider how we can reinvigorate our own teaching practices through connections and cross-pollinations.

Cross-Disciplinary Techniques: This second session focused on engaging the diverse students in our classes by considering varying student expectations and definitions of success. During the session, we identified transferable skills across the curriculum, such as writing and visual awareness, and explored how these skills can be fostered in our own classes.

Your Interdisciplinary Classroom: In this final session, we workshopped specific ideas and lesson plans that incorporate the ideas of interdisciplinarity developed in the earlier sessions. We encouraged participants to bring in new ideas for lesson plans; in addition, we examined model lesson plans and provide feedback.

On Metacognition: Owning Our Learning

The reflective component of pedagogy is critical for both teachers and students, but it is often neglected in the classroom. This learning community focused on how metacognition can be effective in maximizing our teaching and learning skills. Metacognition is an active learning technique involving thinking about one’s own thinking. Thus, metacognitive practices empower students and teachers alike to take ownership over learning. Led by Senior Lead Teaching Fellows Braden Czapla (Mechanical Engineering) and Almu Marin-Cobos (LAIC), this three-part series addressed the many roles metacognition assumes in a learning environment. Conversations ran on October 2, October 16, and October 30 in Butler 213.

How People Learn: #HackingMetacognition: For the first session, we unpacked the meaning of metacognition. We focused on the research surrounding metacognitive learning, such as the benefits of self-reflection and giving students agency over learning, and what happens when students are lacking in self-awareness of their own knowledge.

Take a Stand: Metacognition in the Classroom: The second session delved into the use of metacognitive practices as teaching tools. Short classroom roleplays were used to demonstrate how they may be used in classrooms of all disciplines.

The Doppelgänger: Projecting your Teaching Practice: The third session explored how metacognitive practices can be used to better communicate our approach to teaching and how to craft a virtual persona. In particular, teaching statements were discussed.

Spring 2017: Learning Communities
Activist Pedagogy in the Trump Era

For better or worse, the 2016 election brought sensitive issues into our classrooms to unprecedented degrees. For the next four years, how can we help our students across disciplines grapple with–and remain conscious of–ongoing political conflicts in the Trump era? This three-part series will address strategies for graduate students who are interested in exploring innovative pedagogies inspired by activist-scholars in their classrooms and beyond.  

The first session will explore methods for consciousness-raising in the classroom, particularly within the confines of departmental and curricular constraints. The next session introduces participants to innovative pedagogies inspired by activist-scholars like bell hooks, Augusto Boal and Paolo Freire. Participants will come away with concrete tools and assignments useful for classrooms across disciplines. In our final session we will workshop materials for the job market, focusing on how to frame your own politically conscious pedagogy in teaching, diversity and mentoring statements.

Columbia International: Cultural Diversity Among Teachers and Students

National and cultural origins shape the norms and expectations that we bring to the classroom, and can inflect styles of classroom interaction, learning practices, and shared understandings of grading and feedback. Understanding these differences is key to establishing a shared framework for successful learning. In this learning community, participants will meet for a three-part series to explore the benefits for student learning that arise from an instructor’s ability to draw on a diversity of knowledge and experience in the classroom, and to assess the challenges that arise for teachers in preparing their classes while avoiding hasty assumptions regarding shared prior knowledge. Teachers of all class formats (content classes, language classes, etc.) and nationalities are invited to join, contribute to, and benefit from the insights shared in this Learning Community.


Fall 2016: Inclusive Teaching

Role Play and Inclusive Teaching

Friday, October 28 

Concepts, Challenges, and Strategies
Tuesday, November 1 

Uncovering Perspectives
Tuesday, November 15

Location: Butler Library, see registration links for specific locations

We know that making our classrooms more inclusive provides better learning outcomes overall, but how do we put an inclusive teaching philosophy into practice? This three-part series follows the CRLT Players’ performances (pictured) on October 27. The post-show conversation on October 28 will reflect on issues raised during the shows. The next session will consider concepts, research, and challenges related to implementing inclusive teaching. The series ends with a session focused on considering creative ways of incorporating role-playing in class to uncover, broaden, and deepen multiple perspectives.

For more information, contact Senior Lead Teaching Fellows Sahar Ullah (MESAAS) and Ben Hansberry (Music).

Addressing Race and Gender Bias in the Classroom

Defining Inclusion
Wednesday, November 2 

Devising Strategies
Wednesday, November 9 

Measuring Inclusion
Wednesday, November 16

Location: Butler Library, see registration links for locations

This is a divided time in the US, but it doesn’t have to be a divided time in our classrooms. What is an inclusive classroom and how can we create one? In this three-part series, participants will tackle issues related to implicit bias and diversity in the classroom, and come up with strategies to overcome challenges of inclusion. Participants will engage in discussions and activities focused on race and gender inclusion in their own classrooms, develop strategies for creating a better learning environment, and learn to assess and track their own classroom inclusivity.

For more information, contact Senior Lead Teaching Fellows Franziska Landes (DEES) and Hadas Aron (Political Science).


Any questions? Email CTLgrads@columbia.edu.