I am constantly thinking about how to improve my teaching and there is no shortage of opportunities at CityTech to learn about improvement ideas and strategies. Below, I highlight three of the opportunities that have had the biggest impact on me and for which I have produced output I am proud of.

Learning Communities and Summer Institute of Teaching and Learning

I am a big proponent of learning communities in different forms, particularly for students in their first semester of college. Even before arriving at CityTech, I had taught as part of a learning community on three separate occasions, so I jumped at the chance to participate at CityTech. My Fall 2014 MAT 1190 Quantitative Reasoning class was part of a learning community with Professors Karen Goodlad and Michael Krondl in Hospitality Management and my Fall 2016 MEDU 2010 Technology in Math Education class was part of a learning community for Math Education majors Professor Estela Rojas’s Methods of Teaching Middle School Mathematics class. As part of the preparation for the Fall 2014 community, my partners and I participated in the three-day Summer Institute of Teaching and Learning led by Professor Estela Rojas. The Summer Institute was not only an opportunity for my partners and me to spend time together, planning our community, but but also a chance to learn about different levels of learning according to Bloom’s taxonomy, as well as strategies for provoking these different levels in our classes.

I worked hard with my partners to put together a successful learning community that would best serve our students. I restructured my MAT 1190 course with their help so that math topics appeared in the order that fit best with students’ hospitality classes. For example, unit conversion appeared in my class before recipe scaling appeared in Professor Krondl’s, so students were equipped with the strategies they needed when they needed them. I also designed an end-of-semester project where students applied statistical methods to understand Yelp reviews of popular New York restaurants of their choosing. The class included students who were not part of the learning community and even those students enthusiastically engaged with the project. My Math Education learning community with Professor Rojas was different—students were further along in their academic careers and the two linked courses were both program requirements—and it was equally successful. Professor Rojas and I worked together to design a common capstone project for our two courses.

Opening Gateways

As an Opening Gateways faculty fellow in 2017-2018, I participated in a seminar series focused on faculty development. Opening Gateways is a is a five-year collaboration between CityTech and the Borough of Manhattan Community College. Its goal is the support of student success in high-enrollment gateway math courses for students in STEM majors. Over the course of seven seminars, faculty fellows learned about active learning strategies, open digital pedagogies, and how to develop a STEM application to be used in a gateways class. As a result of the seminar, I have experimented with small changes and large changes to my teaching. One of the easiest changes to implement has been one that’s had the most noticeable in my class. At the seminar on active learning strategies, the speaker, Steve Hinds offered the following suggestion: during a lesson, rather than asking students, “Are there any questions?” ask, “What are your questions?” This question emphasizes two important facts:

  1. students should have questions—nobody expects them to understand anything perfectly immediately, and
  2. students should ask questions—it is their job to take ownership of their learning by figuring out what their questions are and seeking answers.

Now, I do not move on in my class until someone asks a question. This has changed the dynamic by putting more weight on my students’ shoulders. I have also experimented with a flipped classroom model and technology-supported learning.

As a faculty fellow in 2017-2018, and now as a senior fellow in 2018-2019, I have created two open educational resources using the Desmos Activity Builder. One, for MAT 1275, is a step-by-step introduction to the graphs of the sine and cosine function via the Wonder Wheel (the ferris wheel at Coney Island). The other, for MAT 1375, walks students through an introduction to compound interest, geometric series, and amortization schedules. I have assigned these projects in my own MAT 1275 and 1375 classes, respectively, as part of a flipped classroom model and in class with our department’s class set of tablets. In both cases, my students embraced the change of pace and engaged with the projects with enthusiasm.

Quantitative Literacy Assessment

As part of my work on my department’s Assessment Committee, I worked with colleagues to devise a project to be used in an assessment of quantitative literacy (QL). We wanted to design a project where students had to develop a deep understanding of a topic that would be interesting and relevant to them and for which we could create a rubric for assessment based on the Association of American Colleges & Universities VALUE rubric, which requires performance descriptors for different learning outcomes. We decided to create a four-day project to be delivered in class and with homework that would walk students through the answer to the following question step-by-step:

You owe $2000 on your credit card. If you pay the minimum payment each month, how long will it take you to pay off the card and what is the cost of the loan?

The mathematics required to answer this question is rather involved and my colleagues and I had to navigate many delicate issues to include them efficiently and effectively. We partnered with a selection of instructors teaching MAT 1190 Quantitative Reasoning over the course of three semesters and tweaked the project based on their feedback. As part of the assessment, we also created our own rubric for the project as well as directions so the participating instructors could report their students’ results to us themselves.

I learned a lot from this collaboration, especially from creating the rubric, which I took the lead on. Many of our traditional assessment tools in math tend to focus on calculation only, where students might demonstrate only a superficial understanding of a problem. For this assessment, we needed to address other skills as well, including interpretation, representation, application and analysis, assumptions, and communication. I happen to have a background in this type of assessment, so was a good person to create this rubric. (My summer job when I was an undergraduate was creating similar rubrics for large-scale math assessments for the Education Quality and Accountability Office, an agency of Ontario’s Ministry of Education). Something that was new for me, however, was creating the prompts myself for students to demonstrate their performance level in each of the particular skills. Now, in my own classes, I design prompts that assess not only calculation skills, but the other skills as well. One notable example is my focus on style, which I was already experimenting with before creating the QL project. I used to call it “communication” but renamed it to make its focus clearer to my students.