2014-15 Summaries of Fellows’ Instructional Units ☆

| July 3, 2015

Alison Bach

Instructor of English

Hudson County Community College, Jersey City, New Jersey

“Designing Writing Assignments to Activate Students’ Prior Knowledge”

This project introduced to faculty methods of incorporating students’ prior knowledge into the design of research and writing assignments and developed in three stages.  In the first stage, the instructor presented to 25 faculty colleagues in her department on her pedagogical project, which focused on the core concept of writing for a particular audience in first-year composition courses. In the second stage, building from strong faculty interest in improving students’ research papers, she participated in a roundtable for the college’s faculty development day, which was attended by sixty faculty members from across the college. At the roundtable she demonstrated how getting students to approach complex research assignments through the lens of “real world scenarios” can improve writing quality and engage non-academic understanding of subjects. The third stage of this project, planned for Fall 2015, will consist of a workshop for adjunct faculty on how they can use “real world scenarios” within their teaching.


Sue Behrens

Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders

Marymount Manhattan College, New York, New York

“Teaching (and Testing) Core Concepts”

This instructional unit introduced full and part-time faculty to the benefits of thinking more deeply about disciplinary core concepts, and the degree to which such core concepts relate to students’ prior knowledge. During a faculty development luncheon, Sue discussed her own exploration of core concepts in linguistics and offered examples of how she created “breathing room” during class for both students and instructor to explore these concepts and relevant pre-existing knowledge, ultimately uncovering the ways our linguistic realities both converge and diverge. She encouraged participants to reflect on their own disciplinary core concepts and how prior knowledge and facilitate and hinder learning.


Scott Carlin

Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Science

LIU Post, Brookville, New York

“MetroCITI: Enhancing Student Learning”

This project focused on the lessons that the instructor learned from his year as a MetroCITI fellow. With support from the Dean’s Office, the instructor was able to share his experiences and insights with a group of 42 faculty colleagues at LIU’s Spring Symposium for Faculty and Staff. The instructor began his project with the question: “Who are our students?” and then shared his experience from the past year with making an effort to learn more about his students and how this has led him to greater understandings of the knowledge and experiences that they bring to the classroom. The instructor drew from texts from the MetroCITI seminar such as Mike Rose’s Lives on the Boundary and Anna Neumann’s (2014) “Staking a Claim,” and other MetroCITI fellows’ pedagogical projects to explore how college teachers may guide students to a deeper understanding of and interest in academic disciplines, and the challenges that teachers may face as they seek to do so. The instructor plans on continuing this conversation by convening a group of campus colleagues in the 2015-2016 academic year.


Sara Danzi-Engoron, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences and Geology

Zivah Perel Katz, Associate Professor of English

CUNY – Queensborough Community College, Bayside, New York

“Building Connections through Our Teaching: Engaging Students’ Prior Knowledge”

With support from the service-learning office on their campus, the instructors created and delivered a forum for 10 faculty colleagues to think about how to engage the student body in the work of their disciplines. The instructors started by sharing data about the college’s student demographics, towards increasing understanding of who the students are. The instructors then presented passages from Mike Rose’s Lives on the Boundary as a basis for discussing the needs and perspectives of students. The passages from Rose’s text spurred much discussion from the audience about the challenges they face in their classroom, and the kind of institutional supports that instructors and students need in order to be successful. The instructional unit led to a discussion of developing a Faculty Inquiry Group on campus to offer more faculty forums and discussions on teaching and learning.


Sarah Hoiland and Kate Wolfe

Assistant Professors of Behavioral and Social Sciences

CUNY – Hostos Community College, Bronx, New York

“Exploring Teaching and Learning: The Highlands and the Swamp”

With support from their institution’s Center for Teaching and Learning, Drs. Wolfe and Hoiland hosted ten colleagues at a session that presented insights they have gained from MetroCITI. First, they provided their audience with a brief overview of their personal experiences in MetroCITI and what they learned from it, particularly the importance of taking time to examine and develop one’s pedagogy. Second, Drs. Wolfe and Hoiland shared quotes and passages from a few of the assigned readings to ground the workshop in critical issues surrounding liberal education in diverse, urban colleges and universities. Last, they led an activity in which the faculty audience identified one “swampy” area of teaching and learning and wrote it on a large piece of paper on the wall. Then, attendees walked around and wrote strategies they have utilized to address the swampy area. A robust conversation followed as Drs. Wolfe and Hoiland shared the contributions. The interactive activity received several positive comments from colleagues and the instructors felt that the faculty members learned new strategies and lessons to apply to their teaching. Each attendee received a copy of the PowerPoint and a typed list of the highlands/ swamp activity. Drs. Wolfe and Hoiland will both be presenting workshops with similar themes in the fall.


Eryn Klosko

Professor of Geoscience and Department Chair, Physical Sciences Department

SUNY – Westchester Community College, Valhalla, New York

“Exploring Ideas for Improving and Enriching Teaching in the Online Environment”

This project grew from the instructor’s concern about students’ learning in online courses, as well as strengthening the student enrollment in these courses. The instructor convened a group of 11 experienced online educators, learning specialists, and computer support staff on her campus to identify ways to better serve students in online courses. Three topics were covered in this meeting. The first topic, “creating a sense of belonging,” focused on how online courses can be spaces for students to demonstrate their backgrounds, experiences, and prior knowledge. The second topic, “student success initiatives,” involved discussion of online tools that helps students become aware of their classroom performance and help with their time management skills. Lastly, in the session on “making the course relevant,” the group identified and described ‘core’ ideas from their own disciplines. For example, in the science courses, a core concept would be an understanding of the scientific method. They also explored ways for group members to work on their core ideas throughout future semesters. The instructor hopes to continue this conversation in future semesters with a larger group of faculty colleagues and to develop workshops directed at helping faculty design online courses.


Petra Symister

Assistant Professor of Behavioral Sciences & Human Services

CUNY – Kingsborough Community College, Brooklyn, New York

“Discussing Core Concepts in Course Construction”

With support from her department’s Faculty Mentor Committee, the instructor presented to over 20 colleagues on the idea, discussed in MetroCITI, that core concepts are essential to students’ understanding of subject matter.  She aimed to convey that it is depth, not breadth, that is key to students’ learning.  The instructor presented a definition of core concepts, and then asked audience members to think about the core concepts in their own subject areas.  The instructor then presented on her MetroCITI pedagogical project – which illustrated a teaching unit she had developed around a core idea in social psychology, the fundamental attribution error. The presentation inspired several questions from the audience, for example, about students’ assumptions of the fundamental attribution error, particularly as students’ relate this core idea to the role of situational factors in making decisions and acting on them. This discussion led the instructor to re-evaluate how she may apply what she learned from carrying out her pedagogical project lesson next semester. For example, based on feedback, in the future the instructor expects to pose more questions to her students, which will allow her to gain more insight into students’ thinking of attributions. At the end of her presentation, the instructor was encouraged by the fact that several colleagues had started to think differently about their teaching and wanted to learn more about effective pedagogical practices. One new adjunct instructor said that he was planning to reorganize his introductory psychology class using core concepts as building blocks.