Some Thoughts about my Journey with the CPLC

December 18, 2020

My learning with the Cluster Pedagogy Learning Community (CPLC) began in May of 2019. Although this is just a year and half ago, my perspective about teaching and learning has shifted greatly during this time. Of course, the pandemic has forced me to think about my teaching, but it is much more than this historical event that influenced me as a teacher. The CPLC, the facilitators and my colleagues, have pushed me to think about my teaching in ways that I hadn’t considered before joining this learning community. I recently read my blog posts and thought I would share pieces that help articulate some of my learning and how it relates to my experience teaching this fall.

In my first post for this blog, Getting Started, I shared the following quote.

“…an exercise of pedagogy that pushes past the walls of the classroom and into the complicated practice of being human” (Morris & Stommel, 2019, p. xv).

An Urgency of Teachers- the Work of Critical Digital Pedagogy

I feel that these words capture so much of what I have thought about during my experience with the CPLC. My colleagues in the CPLC continuously challenge me to think about my practice and how what I do as a teacher matters. The pandemic pushed these ideas into focus even more as I tried to understand how to support my students during this crisis. I often wonder what it would have been like to navigate this shift to pandemic teaching without this amazing learning community.

In several posts, Praxis, Connections to Reflections of my Teaching, CPLC Season 2 & COVID-19, and ACE Framework: What I needed without realizing it, I highlight my thinking about teaching and how I consider ways to rethink the structure of my courses to support students and their learning. This process is not easy and I know that I can do more; however, I believe that I am moving in the right direction.

One element of my teaching that reflects change relates to the use of assessment in my courses. (See more in Praxis, Connections to Reflections of my Teaching.) I feel that this aspect of my teaching has shifted greatly in many ways. First, I have thought about how I gather understanding of student learning and how to provide more student choice in this work. I think that this fall I found myself thinking about these ideas even more as I thought about how to support student learning during the uncertainty of the pandemic. I tried to provide students with choice in which assignments they would complete and in the ways they completed this work. This flexibility provided students the opportunity to consider the questions: “What do I want to learn?” and “How do I want to show this learning?” I tried to consider Morris and Stommel’s ideas from An Urgency of Teachers: The Work of Critical Digital Pedagogy as I created learning opportunities for students in my courses.

“Can we imagine assessment mechanisms even that encourage discovery, ones designed for assessing learning but designed for learning through assessment” (p. 34).

An Urgency of Teachers: The Work of Critical Digital Pedagogy

I paired student voice and choice about course assignments with flexible deadlines. (See more in ACE Framework: What I needed without realizing it.) Students created personalized timelines for assignment deadlines that they could modify as needed throughout the semester.

Many students appreciated the opportunity to consider when they would like to submit their work. This allowed them to share their learning when they were ready instead of when I told them to submit the assignment. Some students found the choice in assignments and the flexible deadlines didn’t provide enough structure for them. This is something for me to consider as I move forward in my thinking about the design of course assignments. How do I make sure that all students have the supports they need to share what they know and how they are making sense of the course content?

Another aspect of my approach to assessment relates to the use of ungrading. (See more in CPLC Season 2 & COVID-19.) This fall I used ungrading in all my courses. To support this work, students answered reflections questions to share what they have learned and how they engaged with the course content. I also met with each student individually at the end of the semester to give them another way to share their thoughts about their learning. These conversations were important and helped me learn so much about the students’ knowledge of the content. Students also shared many perspectives about the courses I taught that I don’t think I would have captured without these student meetings.

I feel that this is an area of my teaching that I want to learn more about in terms of how to best help students make a shift in their thinking about feedback and grades. I know that I am still trying to navigate how to implement structures to help students reflect on their understanding of key course content and how they approach engaging in the course.

The ideas that I shared in this post highlight only a little bit of my learning. One key element that ties all of my learning together relates to an idea I explored in my post Sociality & Remote Learning. Joshua R. Eyler writes in his book How Humans Learn,

…learning derives from our social nature and our visceral need to communicate with other people.

p. 67

The CPLC nurtured my learning by providing space and time for this connection and communication with my colleagues. It brought faculty and staff together from across campus and allowed us to explore big ideas about teaching and learning. I found like minded individuals that wanted to improve their teaching and pushed me to think about my practice. I will miss having the opportunity to participate in these conversations. I want to thank my colleagues. This experience changed me. What a wonderful experience and opportunity for growth!

I move from the CPLC to my sabbatical, where I know I will continue my thinking about teaching and learning in new ways. I plan to continue writing in this space and will share my thoughts as I look for more opportunities to learn and grow as a teacher.