It Doesn’t Have to Be Like This: Alternatives to Traditional Grading

With the end of semester upon us, do you find yourself facing a mountain of grading?  Do you wrestle with the nuances and complexities of assigning grades?  Do you have concerns about how conventional grading practices might impact student motivation and learning?  Do you ever wonder if it has to be like this?

If you’re interested in exploring these questions and learning more about the ways in which some faculty at Georgetown are moving away from conventional grading in their classes, tune into CNDLS’ latest episode of What We’re Learning About Learning, Ungrading: What, Why, and How. Importantly, ungrading doesn’t equate to a lack of feedback, or skipping assessment in courses; rather, it centralizes the feedback instructors give students in place of the numeric grade itself. You will hear from Patrick Johnson, Associate Teaching Professor in Physics; Karen Shaup, Associate Teaching Professor in English; Erika Seamon, Teaching Professor in the American Studies Program; and Milena Santoro, Associate Professor in the Department of French and Francophone Studies.

These instructors followed different paths to ungrading and don’t all practice the same techniques. In the episode, we hear what brought them to change their grading practices—the why of ungrading—and then the how, the nuts and bolts of their techniques. The conversations illustrate how changes can run the gamut from small tweaks to large overhauls and encourage students to turn their attention from the outcome of grades to the process of learning.

Listen to episode, and get in touch with us if you have questions or ideas about grading practices.

Using a Curriculum Enrichment Grant to Support Primate Research in Kenya

Launched under the Georgetown Learning Initiative (GLI), curriculum enrichment/experiential learning grants (CEGs) support course-related activities that strengthen the intellectual climate. These grants were designed after “Call to Action: Curriculum and Learning at Georgetown”, which asked us to commit to enhancing the undergraduate learning culture by engaging all students. Consequently, these grants support course-related activities, speakers, and other experiential learning opportunities that deepen student understanding as well as expose them to diverse experiences and experts in the field of study. 

A Curriculum Enrichment Grant (CEG) helped support professor Angela van Doorn (Biology) in bringing eight students in her African Field Research in Conservation and Actionable (AFRICA) Teaching class to Diani Reef—a large 5-star resort in Diani Beach located in the southeast region of Kenya—to observe and study a protected species of primates native to the area. Students in her class participated in field research on the two-day trip, working in collaboration with the nonprofit Colobus Conservation whose mission is to conserve and protect endemic primates and their coastal forest habitat among villas, spas, and resorts along the coastline. 


What We’re Learning About Learning: Inspiring Academic Excellence

Over the last couple of years, we’ve been tuned in to a conversation about balance in higher education: how to engage and challenge students while also ensuring courses are flexible enough for all students to be able to engage (here’s one example, from Tufts University). But, as we discuss in this episode of our podcast, What We’re Learning About Learning, these two aspects of the classroom—academic excellence and flexibility—aren’t at odds with one another. In the words of MC Chan, who teaches in the Biology department, “When we talk about academic excellence, I think too often it is juxtaposed against academic flexibility. It’s oftentimes juxtaposed against equity, not only of access, but equity of experience in the classroom as well. For me I think of that as a false dichotomy. I think that both can exist at the same time.” 


Digital Learning Webinar Recording: Flipping a Course for Inclusion and Equity


On Thursday, September 15th, Assistant Teaching Professor MC Chan shared his experience in flipping his biology course in order to increase engagement, but soon realized that it had positive impact on how inclusivity and equity. In this webinar, you will learn best practices for flipping your class to the greatest positive effect. (more…)

Graduate Student Teaching Matters: A Conversation with Aeron Haynie and Stephanie Spong

This semester, we’re keeping graduate student teaching at the center (for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship). Along with our normal busy slate of workshops and other offerings designed to help graduate students grow as teachers, participants in CNDLS’ Apprenticeship in Teaching (AT) Program will be in conversation with the ideas—and the authors themselves—of a much-needed new book: Teaching Matters: A Guide for Graduate Students (Haynie & Spong, 2022).


What We’re Learning About Learning Podcast: Bringing Belonging to the Classroom

We wrapped up our second season with a closer look at a theme that has come up repeatedly in our podcast: belonging. Our interviews with faculty have focused on a wide range of topics, including antiracist pedagogy, accessibility, experiential learning, well-being, and religious diversity. But, in conversation after conversation, the faculty, staff, and students we talked with emphasized the importance of the feeling of belonging in the learning experience. In this episode, we pulled together these conversations to highlight patterns, insights, and key takeaways.


Notes from a Faculty Panel: Tools and Techniques to Sustain Good Teaching

As part of our annual back-to-class support known as Digital Learning Days, we invited three well-regarded professors to speak and field questions. Angela van Doorn (Biology), Patrick Johnson (Physics), and Huaping Lu-Adler (Philosophy) joined us for an hour-long  panel on “This Made My Life Easier”: Tools and Techniques to Sustain Good Teaching. We discussed the tools and techniques they rely on to prepare efficiently for the semester, run a smooth class session, and develop strong relationships with and among students. (more…)

Digital Learning Days, Back in the Car Barn (And Online)

We’re looking forward to welcoming Hoyas back on campus this fall, with a strengthened sense of community making its way into our new routines. That’s why, this year, we’re offering Digital Learning Days on August 18, 2022 in-person and August 19 virtually, on Zoom. Our schedule of offerings reflects the sort of semester we’re embarking on—one focused on good, basic teaching practices, navigating adaptations as they come.