Student-Centered Pedagogy Class Recap

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


  1. This is a marvelous summary. Thank you. It was a magical session.

    The final photograph is of myself and Michael Josefowicz, @Toughloveforx , the person I write about in the chapter on aging and the Internet in NOW YOU SEE IT. I began following Michael on Twitter because he was just so darn smart. He seemingly read everything interesting on higher education, filtered it, and passed on to his followers the best url’s. He became my teacher in this area. I DM’d him one day and found out who he was, a retired fine printer, working partly for Xerox. “Toughloveforx” was originally a blog, Tough Love for Xerox, in which he protested Xerox’s poor treatment of some of its employees and retirees. On Twitter, the name was shortened to the rather sinister sounding Toughloveforx. But Michael is anything but sinister. He is devoting his retired years to self-education and educating others, including in Kolkutta. I had never met him before he came to our Open Session. He had a wonderful time and it was great to meet him and he is a fine symbol for open learning, lifelong learning, tireless learning, and how the internet can be used for learning and community and connection. Thanks for this terrific photo, Lisa.

  2. Cathy,
    As has been true since we first met at twitter tennis, you are too kind. Ever since I was born in 1946, I felt I was at the “leading edge” of the boomer generation. I bring it up to support what you wrote in Now You See It. A still under appreciated resource for society as a whole is the cognitive surplus of the boomer generation. I retired about 10 years ago. It took me years of playing with first blogs and then twitter to get in the groove.

    An inflection point came when a person of stature found the time to Notice me. It somehow sent the message that amazingly I had some kind of gift. I learned the unique thing I can bring to the table is NOT about being clever or smart. It’s about the in principle unique combination of the people and experiences in my life. Everyone has exactly that gift. At the end of the day we are all World Class Experts in ourselves.

    My suggestion is the greying of the well educated population – longer active lives – is a untapped resource for the future of education. That group is the embodiment of the “sharing economy.”

    You should know that I was selected as the “Researcher” in my group work. People also want to do how much fun that would be for me, if it comes to pass in reality. I know it can all be done through twitter with some G+ thrown in from time to time.

    Shortest story is thank you and the class for the work you are doing.

  3. Dear everyone at ‘Mapping the Futures…’,
    First, let me thank you again for sharing the link opportunity to your open session. And thank you for this excellent summary! The conversation was pretty amazing to follow from afar!

    While this is absolutely NOT the first time I have found shared links to live streams, I marvel each and every time I do – at the kind of connection – and learning – this sort of thing enables. Humor me just a little while I try to explain: So, I don’t really recall when/why I started following @CathyDavidson on Twitter (I should probably admit to being mostly a curator aka lurker). Fast forward to NOW YOU SEE IT – more reason to keep up with the Cathy’s work and HASTAC, etc….I am work on my campus to help others see the potential of connection, and sharing, and collegiality – of the sort that I experience (on Twitter) daily. (My ‘official’ job is director of learning technologies on my campus).

    I have made connections – and friends – and developed relationships with colleagues via Twitter that are in some cases closer than relationships I have here with colleagues on my local campus. This kind of network is difficult to describe, let alone understand when encouraging others to engage in similar ways. I get: “How do you have time for Twitter?” I reply: “Why don’t you make time for Twitter?”

    What is my point?

    YOUR sharing has extended far beyond the room you were in. YOU shared, I shared. Other there virtually have shared. ALL have learned as a result…not just those of you physically present in the session. The ‘conversational moves activity’ alone has been shared now countless times (thanks Amy and Pamela for the write up!). I’d be so curious to know precisely how far your reach has extended.

    What if? What if everyone in higher education treated their work – especially the critical importance of gracious, generous sharing – into the ‘open’. What if the ‘scholarly dissemination’ duty was enacted in this entirely new way? What if this was the norm rather than the novel?

    Mapping the future? Yep. You guys are showing us the way.
    Thank you again and I (and colleagues here) will be watching for what comes next.
    With continuing gratitude,
    Cindy Jennings

    1. Cindy,

      You made a camera shy grad student quite proud of herself, her group members and their effort to share what they love with others. Thank you!
      Some of my colleagues and I have discussed “open classrooms” for interested faculty members to drop in and observe or participate in a running class. Unfortunately, finding the time to drop by has not been easy– but, it’s been an on-going discussion for a long time. Alternative options, like livestreams, Twitter, Instgram are becoming more and more exciting because people are really using these mediums to share, since sharing in traditional ways may not be practical or possible.
      Shared learning experiences are slowly becoming part of my core philosophy. Instagram, for me, has ignited interests, inspired travels, taught me history and introduced me to some wonderfully interesting and smart people, who have been key players in my ongoing learning process. This whole experience, of being part of Mapping the Futures, designing this student centered lesson and sharing it, linking my own classes to the site, has been, on too many levels to even compartmentalize, educational, progressive and accelerating, through the most non-traditional methods. As long as we all participate and continue to generate inspiration, the sharing will go on.

      Thank you for your kind words.
      Michelle (Kingsborough, Developmental and Freshman English)

  4. Cindy–thank you for this really wonderful, generous, inspiring comment. I know the students in the class will be absolutely thrilled. Thank you for taking the time. I actually once wrote a blog called “Lurkers Welcome!” ( We all learn in different ways, and lurking is a good one. Participation and feedback like this comment above are even better. Thank you.

  5. I’m not sure where to post my blog about my teaching philosophy, but I figured I’d post it here in response to this wonderful recap that you’ve provided. Here goes:

    This week, in one of the classes I am taking as a student, the professor asked the room a basic but profound question: “Why are you here in this room?” This is something I ask my students in the first class of the semester, usually eliciting responses along the lines of “I need this class to graduate” or “the time worked with my schedule.” With the question being posed to a roomful of graduate students, however, the room was mostly silent.

    It’s almost too big of a question to answer off the cuff in the classroom if you really want to get to the bottom of it. And yet it’s too important not to try to answer for ourselves. Why are we interested in our subject? It’s as important to ask ourselves this as teachers as it is as students, and anyway, we’re always already both teacher and student.

    I teach because I like to learn.

    When I was a kid, I used to pretend that I was a teacher and I would “play school.” I had a grade book and seating map designed for my classroom and I invented names for all of the students–including an alarmingly large class size even for the late 1980s! I don’t know if I had any ideas about teaching other than having a grade book and a seat map, but I do remember that I always looked up to my teachers and found the classroom safer and more fun than recess or the cafeteria. The classroom has usually been a place of freedom and discovery for me, and this is what I would like for my students to experience in my classes as much as possible. It’s also important for me that what happens in my classroom doesn’t start and stop there. Ideally, students gain relevant skills for the rest of their lives as well, whether that’s improved writing or recognizing the importance of showing up.

    I hesitate to say that I am “real” with my classes, because I’m not being “fake” at other times. But thinking about how I situate myself in the classroom and about the reading for this week that encourages teachers to take the risk to be real with their classes has made me realize that I’m not always “real” 100% of the time and that that’s ok. I’m still figuring out this balancing act.

    I think I prefer to focus on transparency rather than “realness” in the classroom. I am constantly trying to make connections between course requirements, class discussions, and the reading material. I am big on explaining the “why” in my classroom to the class.

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