By Kaitlin Mondello
The Teach@CUNY Handbook, now in its third edition, grew out of conversations between staff at the Teaching and Learning Center and graduate students teaching across CUNY. CUNY is a large, expansive, and confusing bureaucracy, one that requires help to successfully navigate. The handbook is designed to be a light, slim volume that you can read while holding onto the subway poll on your commute to and from campuses, whether you want to make an assignment more interesting for students or you want to think about how to better structure class discussion. You can also read it electronically on any device on Manifold: https://cuny.is/tcuny-handbook. While the handbook is geared toward new teachers, much of the content is useful to instructors at all levels, including those on the job market.
In its first iteration, the handbook presented fundamental information a new teacher at CUNY might need, from how to find and visit a classroom before the semester starts, to how to revise a course for subsequent semesters. In the second edition, we streamlined the content to make the handbook more readable and easy to use with bolded terms and bulleted lists. We then used it as the basis for the curriculum in the Teach@CUNY Summer Institute, where 60 rising second-year students prepared to teach for the first time at a CUNY school. We covered the fundamentals: Teaching at CUNY, Conceptualizing your Course, In the Classroom, and Grading and Assessment. The handbook offered a useful guide for both the concrete steps new instructors need to take throughout a course, but also the kinds of questions we need to ask ourselves and our students along the way if we want to have successful courses.
In this third edition, we made several substantive changes. First, we reconceptualized the structure into four major categories: Principles, Practices, Ideas, and Resources. The Principles section is newly composed, and makes explicit the theoretical concepts that undergird our approach in the handbook and other elements of our work at the TLC. The theories in this section share a common concern: access. How can we make higher education more accessible to more people? You can then find the scholars who have inspired and informed this work in the Resources section.
In the Practices section, we significantly expanded guidance on Educational Technology. We are careful in this chapter to avoid recommending integrating technology into courses for its own sake: digital tools should be purposefully selected and integrated into teaching and learning. In this section, you will find suggestions for uses of digital tools in face-to-face, hybrid, and online courses that can enhance student learning and engagement.
In the Ideas section of the Handbook, we substantially broadened suggested activities and assignments based on several TLC projects over the last year, including workshops on “Creativity in the Classroom,” “Expanding your Pedagogical Toolkit” and the Focused Inquiry Group “Museum Pedagogy.” The Ideas section is full of creative activities and assignments that will get students to engage with course content in ways that feel fun, relevant, and meaningful to them. If you are tired of grading the same set of tests or essays every semester, why not offer other types of assignments so that you and your students can be excited about the work you do together?
The handbook is not designed to be read straight-through; you can pick and choose parts as needed. Across all sections you will find the principles of our pedagogy applied not only to students, but to you as the instructor. We offer multiple access points to the material, and encourage you as the instructor to actively engage the content rather than passively accept it as given. The handbook is not a set of prescriptive templates or a manifesto. It offers you information, ideas, and questions that you can then respond to in ways that meet your needs as an instructor and individual. Our aim is to help instructors at all levels to be more intentional and reflective about their teaching practice and to see their work in the classroom as part of a broader philosophy of teaching.
In future editions, we plan to more explicitly integrate the four sections of the handbook; to offer more guidance for teaching in a variety of disciplines; and to integrate recent and foundational studies in the scholarship of teaching and learning. What else would you like to see us include? The online edition is fully annotatable on Manifold and we welcome your comments and questions!