Category: Uncategorized

On your mark…get set…email?

One of my pet peeves as an educator is when instructors complain about students’ lack of email etiquette (though I know I have also been guilty of this in the past). Instead, like many other educators, I have stopped complaining about student emails, which are merely a product of unfamiliarity with the genre’s conventions. Just as I teach students how to write according to the conventions of academic writing as a genre (even as we critique and problematize these conventions), I have embraced teaching students to write emails as an opportunity to discuss the conventions of different rhetorical situations and strengthen their persuasive writing techniques. In this blog, I describe how I used a persuasive email competition to reinforce the semester’s lessons on rhetoric and incentivize strong student writing.

Some background: Initially, I shied away from teaching students how to write emails, worrying that it would emphasize the professional, careerist aspects of writing at the expense of critical thinking about language as a source of power. My classes aim to familiarize students with the structural nature of racism, sexism, and injustice, and I worried that, somehow, teaching students to write effective emails would undermine these lessons. Gradually, I came to realize, first, that learning how to communicate effectively in different rhetorical situations is necessary, whether you are running a major corporation or organizing a resistance movement. Second, I realized that demystifying the conventions of email writing (and cover letters), as I try to demystify the conventions of essay-writing, could make a small contribution to helping my students–many of whom are immigrants, working class, students of color, and/or the first in their families to attend college–get into the graduate programs, internships, and professions they desire.

In general, my courses emphasize collaboration: I help students develop the skills to successfully break down large projects, equitably distribute work, and collectively create a final project that is better than what any one student could have created on their own. Ask my students and they will tell you that I constantly talk about how collaboration is not natural — how, in fact, most of our education trains us to compete with one another — and how we must put deliberate effort into unlearning this individualism. However, I have also seen small-stakes competitions take students’ writing to a new level. This past semester, in my writing course on “The Purpose of Education” at Queens College, after four months of collaboration including a collaboratively-authored final project, I gave students a reprieve and assigned a small email-writing competition for students who had missed assignments earlier in the semester and were in need of some extra credit.

Read the full post on HASTAC.

Five Principles for a Dynamite Teaching Statement

Just because you have never written a statement of your teaching philosophy does not mean you do not have a philosophy. If you engage a group of learners who are your responsibility, then your behavior in designing their learning environment must follow from your philosophical orientation…. What you need to do is discover what [your philosophy] is and then make it explicit. – Coppola 2000, 1

If you want to write an explosive teaching statement that leaves your hiring committee in awe, there are at least five things you will want to consider in relation to your teaching and learning: introspection, impact, content, methods, and assessment. These five categories consistently appear throughout the many resources available to those writing a statement of teaching philosophy.

This blog is an overview of the insights generated during the Futures Initiative fellows workshop on statements of teaching philosophy, held on Wednesday, April 6. Critical contributors to this conversation include Cathy N. Davidson, Katina Rogers, Patrik Svensson, Frances Tran, Lauren Melendez, Mike Rifino, Kalle Westerling, Allison Guess, Lisa Tagliaferri, Fiona Barnett, and Michael Dorsch.

Read the full post on HASTAC.

Student-Centered Pedagogy Class Recap

On March 10, 2015, I co-lead a public workshop on student-centered pedagogy with Michelle Gabay and Hallie Scott. Read the full recap here.

Mapping the Futures of Higher Education

Session Plan – March 10 – Student-Centered Pedagogy

415-615 pm

Room 9206; Livestreamed at

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.

Optional additional reading
HASTAC – The Pedagogy Project

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?

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

Read the full recap here.