MLA14: “21st Century Pedagogies”: Abstracts and Presenter biographies

Session #213, sponsored by the Discussion Group on the Two Year College, will be held on Friday, Jan. 10th, at 8:30am in the Michigan-Michigan State room of the Chicago Marriott.

Below are abstracts and presenter bios: Presentations will be brief enough to allow the full 15 minute question and answer period.

                                             “Not on Wikipedia: Making the Local Visible”

Laurel Harris is Assistant Professor of English at Queensborough Community College of the City University of New York. She recently co-edited the 2013 collection Communal Modernisms: Teaching Twentieth-Century Literature and Culture in the Twenty-First Century Classroom.

In this paper on “21st-century pedagogies,” I consider a collaborative project in my English 101 classroom that uses the dustiest of literacies—navigating physical archives—to engage first-year writing students in the construction of local history.  The process of archival research positions students as interpreters of resources that have received little contemporary attention. In this reconstruction of the research paper, a genre generally relegated to the first-year writing program, students begin not only with gaps in their own knowledge, but also with gaps in campus and community knowledge, conduct background research, move into the archives, and, finally, reflect on their experience and make connections with the past. The students’ reconstruction of events and repositioning of archival material correlates with contemporary theories of active learning. This project also suggests a new role for the research paper in the first-year writing sequence. It thus raises questions of the modes and venues for curating and interpreting archival primary sources and of the relationship between web-based and archival literacies.


“Survival Spanish Online:  Designing a Community-College Course that Bridges Culture and Authentic Connections”

Cecilia Kennedy is an Associate Professor of English and Spanish at Clark State Community College.  She has designed a number of online and hybrid courses in English Literature and Composition, Regional Studies of Latin America, Survival Spanish, and Spanish I, II, III, and IV.  She has Chaired the Clark State Humanities Colloquium for four years now.  In August of 2000, she received her PhD from The Ohio State University in the area of Sixteenth Century Golden Age Theater from Spain.  She has published articles in her area, but also has an interest in community-based language learning.  She recently co-authored the textbook:  Sitios:  A Community-Inspired Approach to Spanish, which incorporates activities and lessons organized around the places where students will meet and interact with Spanish speakers in their communities.

“Survival Spanish,” as a course title, might suggest a “fast-food” approach to “conquering” a language: learning just enough to get by.  Furthermore, putting it online might appear to compromise that creative, spontaneous, and human element inherent in language.  Spanish, after all, is spoken by many people who value deep, enduring relationships.  In this view, language is savored, not devoured.  The challenge in designing a “Survival Spanish” course online that still makes room for the human touch, rests in aligning language goals with community-based activities that take the students off line, even if only for a brief time.   I plan then, to discuss how I designed these initial projects that empowered students to:

  • Identify a community partner
  • Initiate written exchanges online
  • Speak in person about family, courses, interests, and hobbies

In order to implement these activities, I consulted various best practices that recommend aligning course goals with community activities, allowing for reflection, and assessing student work.  Preliminary results from my two sections of online Survival Spanish (fall 2012) indicate that students developed a “willingness to take risks,” (Sally Berman, 2006) empathy for others, and newer, deeper connections with extended family members and co-workers.


“Sound Essays: a Cure for the Common Core”

Kate O’Donoghue is a PhD candidate in English at the CUNY Graduate Center, specializing in 19th century American fiction and Composition and Rhetoric. She has been teaching at CUNY since 2005 and has also worked as a writing fellow to help faculty across disciplines integrate writing goals into their curricula. She is currently an adjunct at Queens College and a graduate fellow at Baruch’s Center for Teaching and Learning. Her interests in educational technology and multimedia stem from her experiences in the classroom and have been further informed through seminars, workshops, and research. She has designed and taught curricula for hybrid courses using WordPress, Wikispaces, Blackboard, and various social media outlets. 

Critical thinking derives from failure, risk, and creativity–notoriously difficult skills to assess. The increased emphasis on testing, standardization, citation, and secondary sources recommended by the Common Core standards may create greater facility with evidence at the expense of creativity and engagement. I strive to retain an emphasis on sources and citation without sacrificing creativity in my college-level writing courses by assigning argument-based expository compositions that reward abstract thinking, risk-taking, and creativity. One such assignment is a sound essay, created from user-friendly, open-source software and existing web-based sounds. The stated objective is to exemplify tension between sources. Initially, students write 500-word proposals on the course wiki. Then, we spend two weeks in the computer lab working collaboratively to compose the sound essays. Students upload their finished projects to the wiki, accompanied by 1,000 word essays that explain their process, justify their sources, and defend their theses. Finally, each student presents the sound essay to the class. The assignment encourages critical and abstract thought that students then apply to their own reading and writing. Also importantly, the inevitable conflicts between practicality, creative vision, availability of sources, and technical competency guarantee a certain amount of easily-recognizable failure–which, with instructor guidance, transitions to a broader realization that such setbacks are necessary for learning. Moreover, students begin to recognize sources as critical components of the argument, which expands the possibilities of evidence and emphasizes the importance of citation and bibliographies. By the end of the lesson, students morph from prolific consumers to confident users of technology.


“Leveling Up: Gamifying the Literature Classroom.”

Jessica Lewis-Turner is a PhD candidate at Temple University.  During her time there, she has been the instructor of record for classes in the English, American Studies, and Women’s Studies departments, as well as in the First-Year Writing Program.

“Gamifying” education has recently become the subject of intense debate.  Much of the writing on the subject, however, either treats gamification abstractly, or discusses practical applications only in the context of K-12 classrooms.  In this paper, I explore ways in which some aspects of gamification can be brought into the study of literature.  I argue that video game techniques of questing, repetition, and even low-stakes failure are of particular use in introductory and interdisciplinary courses, where students are unfamiliar with literary analysis.  To model this practice, I describe my efforts to gamify my “Introduction to Literature” course, a non-major, general education course in the English department.  I found that by breaking down the work of critical analysis into short, concrete tasks, and by allowing students to fail without significant consequence, my students were able to view the course not as an insurmountable challenge but as part of a journey.


CFP for Transitions and Transactions II: Literature and Creative Writing Pedagogies in Community Colleges

I wanted to post an announcement about a CFP for the second annual Transition & Transactions Conference at BMCC-CUNY. (


Transitions and Transactions II: Literature and Creative Writing Pedagogies in Community Colleges

                                                            Keynote Speakers:

Billy Collins • Anne Waldman • Keith Kroll

Pedagogy as an essential part of the learning and teaching culture has an ever more important place in community colleges where we continually rethink and revise our practices for our often non-traditional student population and for a population less aware of the value of the written word. Building on the success of our first conference, Transitions and Transactions II: Literature and Creative Pedagogies invites Community College faculty to send proposals for the April 25-27, 2014 conference presented by Borough of Manhattan Community College, English Department. Continuing our work developing a community of engaged teachers interested in improving their practice by sharing pedagogical questions, concerns, successes, theories, and intellectual curiosities about the ways in which teaching and learning happens and does not happen in the community college literature and creative writing classroom, we invite a large field of inquiry: student and faculty populations, physical environments, social media and technological dependency, resistances, disruptions and distortions  to teaching and learning, institutionalized educational policies, and (dis)abilities and mental illness awareness in teaching. In addition, in light of the rise in recent violence that uses the educational environment as a global stage, we invite papers that theorize violence at education institutions and violence in education and ways that college students have engaged with these questions in literature classes.


We are pleased to include the teaching of creative writing as a new topic for our conference. We’ve added creative writing pedagogy as a way to engage in and add our voices to this important field of scholarship. Specific to the community college, we would like to address how faculty teach creative writing when literacy and literary familiarity and preparation vary widely. Please see a list of suggested topics below.


We also invite presenters from our 2012 conference to present collaborative work that resulted from participating in the conference and we will consider topics not mentioned in this CFP. We look forward to learning how you invent and are invented by your students and your position as teacher in our next conference.


Literature Pedagogy Topics:

1.    Exploring Cultural Literacies: Outside the Classroom

2.    Teaching Literary Theory at the Community College

3.    Teaching Literature in the ESL and Developmental Skills Classroom

4.    Teaching Literature in Interdisciplinary Humanities Courses

5.    Academic Positions and Self Reflection

6.    Assessment & Self-Evaluation in Teaching Literature

7.    Culturally Responsive Teaching in the Literature Classroom

8.    Public Policy and its Relation to Community College Education

9.    Research in the Teaching of Literature

10.  Multimodal Practices in the Teaching of Literature

11.  Teaching Classical Literature

12.  Game Theory and New Theoretical Approaches to the Teaching of Literature

13.  Gender Constructions in the Text and in the Classroom

14:  Psychoanalytic Theories of Pedagogy

15:  Race, Class, Gender and Multiculturalism in the Text and in Classroom

16.  Student Experiences in the Community College Literature Classroom


Creative Writing Pedagogy Topics:

1. Creative Writing Theories and Resistances to Theory

2. Narrative Assessment: Grading Student Creative Writing—Teacher Response

3. Workshop Models

4. Creative Writing: Teacher’s goals versus students’ life goals

5. Creative Process and Creative Thinking

6. Creative Writing Communities

7. Creative Writing: Interdisciplinary Approaches

8. Teaching the Transferable Skills of Creative Writing

9. Personal Creative Writing Theories and how they work in the classroom

10. Pedagogical Contradictions: Where the Personal and Political Converge

11. Legitimizing the Field of Creative Writing Pedagogy in the Academy

12. How students use Teacher Feedback

13. Multimodal Creative Writing Assignments


As teachers of literature and creative writing, the conference asks the larger question:  How do we make a literary life and literary citizenship possible both for our students and for ourselves?


This is an interdisciplinary call extended to teachers and graduate students. Additional topics are welcome. Deadline for submissions is November 15, 2013. Send abstracts (minimum of 250 words) or inquiries to:

Dr. Margaret Barrow and Dr. Manya Steinkoler

Borough of Manhattan Community College/CUNY

English Department, Room N720

199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007

Telephone: (212) 220-8270 /Email and


Please include a) name of author(s), b) affiliation, c) email address, d) title of presentation (e) body of proposal and (f) brief bio. We acknowledge receipt of all proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should resend.

Non-presenters who prefer to participate in the conversations and workshops rather than deliver a presentation may attend on a first come, first serve basis subject to space available at the venue. To book, send an email to Dr. Barrow or Dr. Steinkoler with  “Booking Request” as the subject. Please include your name, affiliation and email address. Cost: $100.00 Full-time faculty; $50 Part-time faculty and $25 Graduate Students.


David Bahr, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
The Borough of Manhattan Community College–The City University of New York

MLA 2014

The Discussion Group on the Two Year College will have two sessions at MLA14 in Chicago.  Below is the program description for one of the sessions: Please attend!

Friday, 10 January

213. Twenty-First-Century Pedagogies

8:30–9:45 a.m.

Program arranged by the Discussion Group on the Two-Year College

Presiding: Stacey Lee Donohue, Central Oregon Community Coll.

1. “Not on Wikipedia: Making the Local Visible,” Laurel Harris, Queensborough Community Coll., City Univ. of New York

2. “Survival Spanish Online: Designing a Community College Course That Bridges Culture and Authentic Connections,” Cecilia McGinniss Kennedy, Clark State Community Coll., OH

3. “Sound Essays: A Cure for the Common Core,” Kathryn O’Donoghue, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York

4. “Leveling Up! Gamifying the Literature Classroom,” Jessica Lewis-Turner, Temple Univ., Philadelphia

For abstracts visit after 15 Dec.

Hello world!

Dear MLA Two-Year-College Members,

as your co-administrator, I welcome you to our blog!  I am excited that our panel “Teaching Sustainability” was accepted by the Program Committee, and hope to see many of you at this panel in January in Chicago.

Apart from news related to the conference, how do you envision this space for us? What are some burning issues and questions at your campus?  What are you fired up about (apart from summer vacation)?