On August 30, 2017, Hybrid Pedagogy, one of the leading scholarly, peer-reviewed academic journals on education, published an article co-authored by three undergraduate students at Queens College: Sumedha Madan, Fina Ferrara, and Gavriel Lev. Their article, “The Ultimate Life Experience: Preparing Students for the World Beyond the Classroom” argues that colleges ought to prepare students for a great future, and offers concrete suggestions for how teachers, administrators, and students can work together to make this happen.
As the authors write, “We are three students attending Queens College in Queens, New York. One of us is a psychology major, one is working towards finishing the courses necessary to become a teacher, and the other is an undecided freshman. Even coming from such different backgrounds, we all share the fear that we will have trouble gaining employment after this massive investment of both time and money. Students, teachers and colleges can work together to best prepare students for the workplace and thereby give every student the best chance to gain and retain employment once out of college. We believe that hands-on work experience, mentoring relationships between students and professors, and skills training can promote student success, during and after college.” This article is part of the journal’s ongoing conversation about “The Purpose of Education.”
I had the deep pleasure of teaching these students in my Fall 2016 composition course at Queens College on “The Purpose of Education.” While there are many exciting conversations about the purpose of education in today’s society, so rarely are the voices of actual students included in these discussions. As their final project for the course, students co-authored well-researched articles on this topic, drawing on our semester-long discussions about active learning, the role of technology in the classroom, vocational education and the liberal arts, the relationship between education and democracy, and the history of public education. Instead of writing a traditional final paper that would be read solely by students’ peers and their instructor they submitted their writing to Hybrid Pedagogy in hopes of publication. Of the five submissions, one was accepted with minor revisions, two received decisions of “revise and resubmit” and two were respectfully declined with generous feedback from the journal’s editors. Following these decisions, students revised their writing, and those who did not have the time to revise for publication in the journal were still able to share their writing in the “Scholarly Voices” group on HASTAC, which highlights undergraduate writing.
This project was inspired by the student-centered teaching methods I have explored as a doctoral student, both in my research on feminist pedagogy and through my work with The Futures Initiative. Like all of my classes, “The Purpose of Education” was grounded on the premise that students are active knowledge producers who are capable of making critical decisions about their learning, course design, and assessment.
I have many people to thank for assisting us on this exciting journey. First and foremost, the students themselves – Sumedha, Fina, and Gavriel – whose dedication to the revision process for months beyond the end of our course is nothing short of astounding. Their writing, research, and revision skills have certainly prepared them for “the ultimate life experience,” in whatever endeavors they pursue beyond the classroom. I can’t imagine a group of students better prepared to tackle whatever life throws their way, and I would be honored to have them as colleagues one day. When you read, write, or think about today’s college students, you should have them in mind. Second, the editorial team at Hybrid Pedagogy, under the fearless leadership of Dr. Chris Friend, who answered countless emails, video chatted with our class, and wrangled a fantastic team of editors to review my students’ work with an absurdly quick turnaround time. Their commitment to not merely reciting but enacting the liberatory pedagogies of Paulo Freire and bell hooks is endlessly inspiring. And finally, I have to thank the Graduate Center Teaching and Learning Center and the Futures Initiative, both of which support graduate students like me in developing student-centered assignments, and HASTAC, which provided a platform for many of my students to publish their writing.
I am honored that my writing will appear alongside my students’ in Hybrid Pedagogy in an article that explains the pedagogical and political rationale behind this assignment (forthcoming). I am also putting the finishing touches on a how-to HASTAC post for others who may be interested in organizing a course around a similar publication assignment.
“Day Jobs” by Thomas Hawk; CC BY-NC 2.0