In this year’s ACERT Teaching Scholarship Circle (TSC) we read and discussed Cathy N. Davidson’s book The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux. In her book, Davidson argues that university educators must substantially change how we teach in order to help our students succeed “in our age of precarious work and technological disruption.” Through our reading and discussion of her book, we analyzed and critiqued her transformational vision for higher education in America, and drew lessons for how we support students at Hunter and how, in Davidson’s words, “we can educate students not only to survive but to thrive amid the challenges to come.”
The TSC met from 2-3:30 pm in HE 819 on Thursday, January 16th, Tuesday, January 21st, and Thursday January 23rd. The TSC attracted over 20 participants.
In our introductions and group activity, we raised a number of relevant questions about the meaning of “new” in the phrase “new education” and came up with the idea of drafting a list of innovations that we would like to propose for Hunter, which would support both students and faculty. Many participants expressed curiosity about the future role of technology in the classroom or challenged the validity of standard exams. Everyone seems to be working toward inclusive and student-centered pedagogy, but the question remains as to whether more systematic and systemic changes are possible.
There are several angles from which have discussed technophobic and technophilic approaches, from the policies we enforce in our classrooms regarding the use of cellphones, to the way we can make students aware of how social media and technology in general perpetuate various forms of social inequality. We have mentioned efficient uses of technology, such us online modules we can use to make up for cancelled classes, or online discussions that allow shy students to participate better (while drawbacks include the loss of human interaction in courses taught entirely online).
A leitmotif of the discussion on the second day was the labor of teaching classes in which each student is given adequate feedback. Increased resources, especially in terms of remuneration and time would be necessary to change some of the dynamics we witness at Hunter and elsewhere, both for students and faculty. ACERT is doing an incredible job at helping faculty, but Lisa Anderson, Professor and Chair of the German Department, reminded us that we should all advocate for more professional development opportunities in our own departments. As for students, Trudith Smoke, Professor Emerita of English, suggested that they should all be treated as honor students.
Before our last meeting, we created a Google Doc with two questions:
- What kind of support do Hunter students need the most? (see the answers here)
- What kind of support do Hunter faculty need the most? (see the answers here)
Participants answered these two questions on the shared document. Members of the group and ACERT overall will continue to address some of the needs listed in the Google doc and offer programs where and when possible.
Finally, in the third meeting we discussed the tips presented at the end of Davidson’s book. We realized that some of those strategies are not very “new,” but they can be extremely effective and help give the students more agency.
We would like to say thank you again to those who participated in this TSC.
James Cantres & Stefania Porcelli