Student-Centered Pedagogy Class Recap

Mapping the Futures of Higher Education

Session Plan – March 10 – Student-Centered Pedagogy

415-615 pm

Room 9206; Livestreamed at


Group 2: Student-Centered Pedagogy

Michelle Gabay (Kingsborough) Developmental English

Danica Savonick (Queens) English

Hallie Scott (Brooklyn), Art History

Photo: Lisa Tagliaferri


 A workshop for innovative classroom practices focusing on collaboration, crowdsourcing, and experiential learning. What does peer learning look like across disciplines? What are the risks and rewards of a student-centered classroom? Join the Futures Initiative seminar, “Mapping the Futures of Higher Education” and members of the student-centered pedagogy group for a workshop on bringing peer learning techniques into the classroom.


  • Ranciere, Jacques. “An Intellectual Adventure.” The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991.
  • Rogers, Carl R. “Questions I would ask myself if I were a teacher.”
  • Davidson, Cathy. “Project Classroom Makeover.” Now You See It. New York: Penguin, 2011.

Discussion questions

  1. What student-centered approaches to learning do you use in the classroom?
  2. What questions and concerns do you have about student-centered pedagogy?

Optional additional reading

HASTAC – The Pedagogy Project

Photo: Lisa Tagliaferri


WEEK 6 (March 10)  AGENDA  

Learning objectives: 1) Develop your understanding of student-centered classrooms and decentered teachers 2) Design a student-centered activity for your class 3) Crowdsource best practices

Introductions (5 min.)

Brief CUNY history – Open Admissions and Collaborative Learning (5 min.)

    • 1965-1970 two main factors leading to open admissions
      • Increased government aid for underprepared students
      • Political pressure from community: black and Puerto Rican students shut down South campus of City College to demand that the school reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the New York City Public school system
      • It is estimated that at City College the class size increased from 20,000 in 1969 to 35,000 in 1970
      • Influx of students who may not have gone to college otherwise
Photo: Lisa Tagliaferri


  • What modes of teaching will work best for these students?
  • Adrienne Rich (1972): “It seems to me that one of the basic concerns of any program must be to try to help entering students discover a new relationship to learning. The most thoughtfully prepared, witty or provocative lecture cannot do this (and I heard some of all three during the semester….) As I listened, and as I observed students’ ways of listening or non-listening, and as I talked later with students in my own classroom and heard questions raised that had gone unspoken in the lectures, I became more and more convinced that although the lecture as art form and social event may still have a place in the university, the first needs of our freshman are for something else—for a kind of classroom in which students find themselves having to learn for themselves, and to teach each other, more than they have ever been asked to do. The value of this is not merely to “increase participation” but to break, once and for all, the modes and patterns which 12 years of public or parochial education have left as their legacy. When he/she can get rid of that legacy, the student can approach the lecture or the textbook or any other medium with an entirely different relationship. He will no longer accept it passively as an agent acting upon his mind, but as one of many materials on which his mind can act.

Group discussion of readings–live tweeters welcome #FuturesEd (20 min.)

  • Check out the Storify from our live-tweeters and virtual participants
Photo: Lisa Tagliaferri


Class breaks up into small interdisciplinary groups. Each member has a role. Inspired by Larry Michaelsen’s Team Based Learning approach (20 min.)

  • Individual free write: How do you learn best in a field outside your comfort zone? (3 min.)                                     Members reflect on their best learning strategies and think of techniques that have worked best for them. The aim is to inspire instructors to implement a variety of approaches, in order to reach a diverse group of learners.
  • Group discussion prompt: How can you address the techniques and/or concerns that emerged in the free write in your teaching? (10 min.)
    • To think of ways to bridge learning gaps through discussion among peers and brainstorming ideas to better enhance the learning experience for our students.
  • GroupRoles:                                                                                                                                                                                                            Larry Michaelsen’s approach suggests students form permanent groups throughout a semester. The role each member plays keeps students present, makes them accountable for their participation and preperation and motivates them to prepare for each lesson. Reading assignments become very important because they are the only clear opportunity for students to receive information in a traditional way and will find themselves relying on their group members to pull their weight and help work through issues that come up regarding the material, unit and objectives. Additionally, students are given a chance to test out and practice various skills that they may not have otherwise experimented with
    • Reporter – reports back to class
    • Recorder – takes minutes
    • Manager – time-keeper, stay on task
    • Researcher – someone who can Google things


Photo: Lisa Tagliaferri


Field Notes from the classroom (20 min.)

  • Adapted from Rebecca Moore Howard, “Collaborative Pedagogy.” A collaborative assignment should be one that is best accomplished by a group rather than an individual.
    • Labor-intensive
    • Requires multiple areas of expertise (“collaboration by difference”)
    • Synthesis – bringing together divergent perspectives
  • High-stakes examples: Danica’s class website activity
  • Low – medium stakes
    • Student-designed rubrics
      • Teaches students to think about how we evaluate and assess
      • Gives them a sense of ownership over the project
      • An exercise in providing specific examples to support claims
    • Peer review
      • Student quizzes are open book, open note, open friend: Even when they ask a partner for an answer they have to judge/determine whether it is better than the answer they came up with on their own
    • Blogs and student-led discussion
      • Blogs as a rehearsal of class discussion – students do much better at in-class discussion when they’ve already practiced it on the blog
      • Digital literacy – teaching them how to be respectful and offer constructive criticism
    • Collaborative homework notes using Google Doc
      • Example of crowdsourcing – teaching students that we can break up a big task into smaller components, and take better notes by all contributing
      • Creating a useable resource that they can then refer to back
Photo: Lisa Tagliaferri
Photo: Lisa Tagliaferri
  • Strategies for participation: conversational moves activity
    • Discussion strategies (session leaders put these on slips of paper and had participants draw them from a bag)
      • Contribute something that builds on or springs from what someone has said. Be explicit about how you are building on that person’s thoughts
      • Ask a q or make a comment that encourages someone to elaborate on what they have said
      • Ask a cause and effect question
      • Make a comment that zooms out to the macro level and draws together the big themes 
  • Student-Centered Course Content
    • Crowdsource course content by having students generate texts/works/concepts in relation to a topic or theme. Incorporate these into your syllabus, assignments, class discussions, lectures, etc.
    • Invite students to present their research/work from other classes at points where it connects to your course content.
    • Use instagram or Tiki-Toki as platforms for students to generate and aggregate content. Tiki-Toky is also great as a review tool.
  • Student-Generated Review Guide
    • Students work in groups to create review materials on different topics and then teach them to the class.
  • Students Draw: Visual Literacy
    • Students draw pictures to help solidify meaningful/important/inferential moments in a text. Students present illustrations on the board. Class gathers to discuss each image and match the image with the textual moment. This strategy can be applied across disciplines as a way to reinforce theories, reinforce terminology, activate a visual comprehension of abstract scientific concepts and familiarize students with the dimensions of a complex musical composition or anatomical features.
  •   Student-Centered Negotiations (to encourage preparation, and develop active and engaged learning practices)
    • Students discussion generates reading and study strategy list. As a class, vote on most effective practices and commit to use them throughout the semester.
  • Free-for-all Annotating Exercise
    • Present text on smart-board. While one student read aloud (slowly) other students are free to approach the board to annotate the text however they’d like. Before moving to the next paragraph, instructor facilitates a whole group discussion about the annotations.
  • Student-Generated Quiz
    •  Students construct three (or more) quiz questions grounded in current class material. Students exchange questions and answer questions. The content of the quiz questions and the answers that one student provides offers the instructor insight into the students understanding of the content and their depth of knowledge of the material. In order for students to come up with a question, they need to feel confident in their knowledge of the answer.
  • Quick-Fire Research Challenge
    • Post a topic or prompt to a forum thread or blog and ask students to engage in a quick research practice (using Google, Bing or Yahoo). Provide 3 basic requirements like: 1) Name the source:                                                                                                             2) Briefly discuss findings                                                                                                             3) Link the source
Photo: Lisa Tagliaferri


Think-pair-share (10 min.)

  • What student-centered activity can you bring into your class?
  • Call out for help

Explain homework (5 min.)

  • Post a blog reflecting on your teaching philosophy. Be as idealistic or pragmatic as you choose.
    • How do you situate yourself in the classroom?
    • Why do you teach?
    • What do you want your students to get out of your classes?


Photo: Lisa Tagliaferri


Follow-up Class: Tuesday, March 17 

  • Report-backs: what activity did you try? How did it go?
    • Make a mind-map of what kinds of student-centered pedagogy instructors used
        • Crowdsourcing
        • Experiential learning
        • Group work
        • Interest-driven
        • Peer review
        • Collective annotation
        • Blogs
        • Student-led class discussion



  • Group work for lecture strategies 
    • What makes a good lecture? What are effective strategies for combining lectures and student-centered learning?
    • Review roles: recorder/reporter/researcher/manager
  • Our collaboration process
    • Mind maps–>individual outlines–>collective lesson plan
    • Designing our first class took way longer than it would have taken one of us individually, but by spending so many hours working on it, it turned out infinitely better than what any one of us would have done alone
    • Spending so many hours planning a version of our first session that we would all feel proud of made it much easier to plan our second class
  • Pedagogy statement share
    •  Participants had responded to these prompts ahead of time
      • How do you situate yourself in the classroom?
      • Why do you teach?
      • What do you want your students to get out of your classes?
    • Pass your statement to the left. Read it to yourself, highlight or circle one sentence that moves you, and write at least one comment or question. Pass to left.
    • End: read your favorite sentence from the one you’re holding.

Read our statements of teaching philosophy here


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309