American Literature, American Learning Recap 2/3

Feb 3, 2016—Class Agenda


(1) Table Tents with your name

Recent research, even of very small classes, shows that students often go a full semester without knowing one another’s names.  We’re going to make sure that students not only learn from texts, from books, from history, and from the professor, but that they also learn from one another.  This is a very active class, and we will be using many tools that architects, managers, designers, artists, and others use to visualize complex ideas, relationships, narratives, and learning.  That means giant post-it notes, and small ones, colored pens and so forth.  (I sometimes joke that if a graduate class doesn’t look like a kindergarten on the first day, we’ve set the theory bar  too low.)   The idea is to create a new kind of blueprint for learning.


(2) Introductions:   3 minutes total.  

Introduce yourself to the person next to you, 90 seconds, and vice versa. We’ll go around the room and each person can then introduce your partner to the class.



  • Congratulations to Graduate Center President Emeritus and University Professor William Kelly on his recent appointment as Mellon Director of the New York Public Library.  This is a proud moment for CUNY and a great one for NYPL and the City of New York. For our class, however, we will be missing a legendary co-professor.   Since the syllabus was originally shaped to encompass specializations of both Professor Kelly and Professor Davidson, we will be revising the course (as indicated in the email sent to every student) to focus more on “American Learning” and to emphasize pedagogy and pedagogical methods.
  • Futures Initiative Fellow and doctoral candidate in English Danica Savonick is assisting in our course.   We will be introducing the class members to an array of online tools.  If you have any problems or questions, please address those to Danica.
  • Rationale for the course: virtually every infrastructure, feature, and assessment mechanism of modern higher education was invented between 1865 and 1925 so, in terms of innovation, modern higher education has inherited a problem;
    • Judged by equality, higher education exacerbates rather than ameliorates social inequality so, in terms of equity, higher education has inherited a problem.
    • If both innovation and equity are legacy problems in higher education, we need to find ways to change higher education.
    • If we are going to re-inspire the public faith in higher education, we also must also redesign higher education as a public good. [The case of Flint, Michigan and the powerful eloquence of environmental scientist Prof Mar Edwards of Virginia Tech is instructive.]
    • But . . . it can be frustrating feeling as if we are part of a huge, unchangeable system and the one thing we do know is that there are things we can change on a personal level—in the classes we teach and in our interactions in the world. Student-centered learning is also a great tool for social action and social organizing. It is a way of orchestrating participatory democracy and action. We have much research that shows that it is the best way of fostering innovation AND equity together.
    • That is the method we will study in the course and we will use, even as we are learning more about the history of higher education and reading in the literature of learning.
  • Structure  of the course: Student-Designed Syllabus Assignment, Collectively-Designed Course based upon a foundation of carefully designed and curated research, well constructed (rather than ad hoc) group learning experiments (“scaffolding” for project-based research).
  • Tools: Danica.   C-Box, HASTAC, Zotero.   Assignment this week is to leave a comment on the HASTAC site and for one or two people to blog on the C-Box site and for everyone to leave a comment there.   The CBOX forum is where the readings are to be found. The public CBOX site is where you will blog. Additional readings related to the course (which you may find useful in building your own syllabi) are on Zotero.
    • Blogger sign up sheet for the semester
    • Everyone blogs once. 12 students, 8 blogging spots. Some weeks will have two bloggers—you can co-author or each write a blog. Students can decide to comment on one or the other.
  • Questions?
  • Inventory:  A Method for  Understanding the Human Resources, Talents, and Capabilities in the Group (and areas where students can lend support and expertise to one another)
    • Three Things You Hope to Gain/Learn From Your Classmates—write these on index cards and on giant post-its.
    • Three Things You Know You Can Offer To the Course   Please attach your initials on post its and put on things you can offer to your classmates
  • Class Constitution:    To be continued next class   (Methodology:  understanding the assumptions rarely articulated about what a course is and how each member will contribute to the class)
  • Exit Ticket:  A Method for Discerning Remaining Issues, Questions, Points of Interest and Excitement (an excellent technique for small groups or larger lectures–more effective than a pop quiz, attendance, as it helps to structure the next course and offers constant formative feedback to the students and the professor).
    • Three things you didn’t understand, want to pursue more, are curious about from today’s class.   Sign your name and hand in card on your way out.See you next class!   Thank you for your participation.   This isn’t a class. It’s a movement towards the best possible forms of learning and teaching.



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