S3: E13: Experimental Higher Education w/ Goddard College (Bernard Bull and Kumari Patricia Younce)

In this podcast, we're speaking with Goddard College, a private college in Plainfield, Vermont with additional campuses in Port Townsend and Seattle, Washington. Goddard is a heavily progressive school with a variety of unique programs - from inventing “low residency” (students attend campus for around 2 weeks, then complete self-directed, purposeful projects) to never giving grades. It enrolls 700 students, 30% of whom are undergraduates. Founded in the spirit of experiential and democratic education, Goddard emphasizes self-directed higher education programs where learners submit their work via learning portfolios.

We talk about the struggles, successes, and experiments of progressive universities, including what makes Goddard different, how we can prepare students and educators for progressive schooling, what types of students make Goddard their home, and how we can revolutionize higher education.

Two of their representatives join us:

Dr. Bernard Bull, president of Goddard College, an advocate of alternative education and author of many books, including Missional Moonshots: Insight & Inspiration in Educational Innovation, What Really Matters: Ten Critical Issues in Contemporary Education, and Adventures in Self-Directed Learning.

Dr. Kumari Patricia Younce, education program director of Goddard College, who has worked in every variety of school as an art educator, whose focus on creativity and progressive practice landed her at Goddard.

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S3: E12: Making the Switch to Ungrading (feat. Abigail French, Dr. Susan Blum, and Dr. Laura Gibbs)

Today, we're deep diving into ungrading. In episode 5, we looked at the gradeless movement and the pedagogy that surrounds it, and now we're looking at how it's incorporated, and the non-academic benefits of implementing it. To be clear, when I say "ungrading" - I'm referring to the movement away from grades. This doesn't necessarily mean that the class does not issue at grade at all. Typically, this means that grades are as limited as possible, as in one final grade at the end of a year, with opportunities to redo assignments or reach that goal in multiple ways.

Almost every classroom one visits today will have a chart on the syllabus which breaks down grades.

  • Homework: 30%

  • Tests: 40%

  • Classwork: 20%

  • Participation: 10%

  • With opportunities for extra credit.

First, I don't blame educators for setting things up this way - it's the way it's almost always done. It's the dominant way of thinking about grading. But there are a litany of issues with categorical grades. Does a student who never completes homework really not understand the content, or are they just disobeying instructions to do work at home? If a student never passes a test, but does great in their classwork, are we grading their content knowledge or their anxiety levels?

And further, in addition to all the pedagogical issues with assigning grades, what we're actually grading, and how this affects intrinsic motivation, we're also enacting barriers. When we place these systems within our classroom, we're presenting one more step between us, as educators, working with students to help them learn. Because now, the conversation isn't about helping someone get better, it's about ensuring that the categories are adhered to and scored properly.

This system causes a breakdown of the relationship between all of us. I distinctly remember being horrified in an English class, one of my better subjects, because although I did great on tests and assignments, a huge portion of our grade was participation. My teacher met with me with the advice..."talk more" - which for someone like me is easier said than done. The anxiety and fear I felt within that room meant not only that I'd achieve a lower grade than others, but I simply didn't enjoy the class, nor did I trust the teacher, nor did I learn as much as I could have.

When my Spanish teacher assigned extra credit to make back our points from tests, which I was doing very poorly on, I would always do the extra work - which took a considerable amount of time. I remember turning in one of the longer assignments, only to have it lost by him - leading to an argument that resulted in me receiving a detention.

The point is that when we create systems where there are barriers to learning, we're demotivating students as well as making a hierarchical structure that harms our relationships. The teacher becomes an enforcer rather than a coach. And these experiences are commonplace. Most people have some fond memories of school, but certainly negative ones that harmed them mentally and emotionally. Some of my worst memories are those that happened at school as a result of teachers.

GUESTS IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE

Abigail French, a veteran public school teacher focusing on sixth grade, whose beginning her journey into ungrading after unrest with the traditional system.

Dr. Susan Blum, an anthropology professor at the University of Notre Dame, author of I Love Learning; I Hate School": An Anthropology of College, who utilizes ungrading in the classroom and is soon publishing a work on gradeless learning.

Dr. Laura Gibbs, a professor at the University of Oklahoma, who teaches mythology and folklore and epics of ancient India . Laura has been teaching these classes online since 2002 which have always been ungraded.

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S3: E11: Teaching as a Nerdy Introvert w/ Jessamyn Neuhaus (Geeky Pedagogy)

Dr. Jessamyn Neuhaus is author of Geeky Pedagogy: A Guide for Intellectuals, Introverts, and Nerds Who Want to Be Effective Teachers, which releases on September 1st, 2019. Jessamyn is a full-time professor at SUNY Plattsburgh, teaching US history, pop culture history, history methodology, as well as “Superheroes in US Culture” and “The Apocalypse in USU Pop Culture.”

It’s only fitting that I recorded this episode with a D.C. Comics shirt, just after watching an episode of The Boys. Jessamyn and I speak about what introverted teachers bring to the classroom, how we can engage introverted students, the problems with the loud and “inspiring superteacher narrative”, and how embracing nerdom/being authentic is paramount to success.

As an introvert, I struggled in professional development, specifically motivational speakers, who made me believe that the best teachers had “Robin Williams” moments (which we discuss on this podcast!) Certainly, this isn’t to berate those who are loud, inspiring, and engaging - but us “nerdy folks” would not do well in a profession that requires that skill-set. I worry that many educators who choose this path and read certain teaching strategy books will come to believe that teaching isn’t for them - solely because of the false narrative of what “good teaching” can look like. Jessamyn and I dive into this and what we can do to change the narrative.

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Bonus: 2nd HRP Summit: Getting Ready for School

Nick and I (Chris) are experimenting with new ways to grow our progressive community. Social media is a double-edged sword: it’s amazing for discovering connections in a way that’s never existed before, but not intuitive for deep conversations. So, we’ve started our monthly Summit! This is an online discussion for anyone who wants to attend.

This is our second discussion, centered around the start of the year. Listen in for upcoming announcements and big deals at HRP! Plus, check out restorehumanity.chat for future info!

ATTENDEES (as recorded)

  • Nick Covington

  • Deanna Hess

  • Shealyn

  • Terry Whitmell

  • Terri Broce

  • Trevor Aleo

  • Chris McNutt

  • And more!

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S3: E10: Shifting Mindsets: Entrepreneurial Education and the Battle Against White Supremacy w/ Kenrya Rankin

In this episode, we discuss Start It Up: The Complete Teen Business Guide to Turning Your Passions into Pay and How We Fight White Supremacy with author Kenrya Rankin. A graduate of Howard University and New York University, Kenrya is an award winning author and speaker whose work has been featured in Fast Company, Ebony, and Glamour. She’s the editorial director for Colorlines. Further, she’s host of the new podcast,The Turn On (NSFW.)

I contacted Kenrya initially while researching entrepreneurship education books for an upcoming class project, and I was impressed by Start It Up and the message it sends. It’s not just a “business plan book” - it features students from all backgrounds starting business in their teenage years. It’s an easy read and perfect for one’s classroom. However, I was more excited when I learned Kenrya has an extensive repertoire of anti-racist advocacy works, and this connections between the two are fascinating. Listen in and enjoy!

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