Vol. 2, Issue 3, December 11, 2020

Anti-Racist Assessment

Welcome to CEETL CIRCLES — a newsletter by the Center for Equity & Excellence in Teaching & Learning (CEETL) to foster and support Pedagogies for Inclusive Excellence (we call these PIE) at SF State and beyond. 

Welcome Message 

Register Now! The Winter Faculty Retreat 2021 

"One of the most important ways to become more anti-racist in our teaching practice is through assessment."

The upcoming Faculty Retreat on January 21st builds on the work of the CEETL Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Pedagogies of Inclusive Excellence (PIE) Institute and is inspired by the work of many Black, Indigenous and scholars of color, particularly Ibram X. Kendi: “How to Be an Anti-Racist University.” 

This year, we have an opportunity to gather the groundswell of exciting movement in every area of the University around anti-racist and decolonizing actions. One of the most important ways to become more anti-racist in our teaching practice is through assessment.  Stressful high stakes summative assessments are increasingly viewed through an anti-racist lens as creating disproportionate barriers for students who are already owed the greatest educational debt (Ladson-Billings, 2006). 

At SF State, individual faculty members, departments and the Academic Senate are actively reevaluating teaching and learning -related assessment practices through an anti-racist lens: How do we build anti-racism into how we assess our students? How can we make assessment of teaching effectiveness explicitly anti-racist? 

This issue of  CEETL Circles highlights anti-racist assessment activities at SF State, with a call to reconstruct the end of the semester as a time for inclusive ceremonies of closure and celebration, rather than exclusion and high-stress.

Wei Ming Dariotis, CEETL Circles Editor 

CEETL Offerings
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CEETL Winter & Spring Faculty Development Programs

Join your community of teaching colleagues for the Faculty Retreat, a Teaching Square, Online Course, or Online Micro-Course. Learn more at the CEETL website.

CEETL Virtual Events

2021 Faculty Retreat: How to Be an Anti-Racist University

Featuring CSU Chancellor-Select Joseph Castro in conversation with SF State President Lynn Mahoney.  Hosted by CEETL and the Academic Senate. Learn more at the retreat site.

CEETL Online Courses

New Offering! JEDI Writing PIE Course

A fully online, asynchronous course on JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion) anti-racist pedagogies for teaching writing across the curriculum and writing within the discipline (WAC/WID).  Learn more at the JEDI Writing PIE site.
Spring '21 Cohort: JEDI PIE Course
Spring '21 Online Teaching Lab Cohort
Spring '21 Cohort: Online Teaching Lab

CEETL Online Micro-Courses

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Alternative Assessments Micro-Course 
Teaching Large Onine Classes Micro-Course banner
Teaching Large Online Classes Micro-Course
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Synchronous Online Teaching Micro-Course

CEETL Teaching & Learning Communities

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Spring '21 Teaching Squares

Our Partners in Teaching

Health Promotion & Wellness Virtual Toolkit   

Jul and her baby sit at a desk.

"HPW is excited to share a new Wellness in the Virtual Classroom Toolkit."  

Jul Custodio, Mental Health Educator, Health Promotion and Wellness


  At Health Promotion & Wellness (HPW), we believe that healthy students are successful students! Our students’ health is facing immense challenges, but if we create an environment that promotes wellness, they are better able to reach their full academic potential. The virtual classroom has its challenges, but there are also new strategies and opportunities. HPW is excited to share a new Wellness in the Virtual Classroom Toolkit. Designed by and for faculty, it shares promising practices to support student wellness and learning and includes links to grab and use tools, as well as resources for additional learning. Integrating wellness into the classroom has never been more important.

Eli Review Teaching & Learning Community

Screen shot of Zoom class reviewing Eli Review data
"There's no going back."   

Peer Review with  Eli Review Teaching & Learning Community (TLC)

Eli Review is a Powerful App, Integrated into iLearn 
Eli Review is an app, integrated into iLearn, that coordinates and reports peer activity so that instructors can see trends in what reviewers are saying to writers and about what writers need to revise. There is no cost for SF State students as the campus has an institutional license.  Eli Review has proven to be a powerful tool, as we discovered through our own research. We have asked over 1,000 students at SF State to tell us about their experiences with Eli Review versus traditional peer feedback: 90% say that peer review activities in classes using Eli Review helped them to become better writers. In contrast, only 45% of these students had found traditional peer review activities useful.  

Eli Review Is a Pedagogy, Not Just a Technology 
We know that frequent and effective feedback drives student learning — students want and need it. We also know that doing this takes a lot of faculty labor. It is hard to do this solo, so for the last five years, our  Eli Review Teaching & Learning Community (TLC) has helped faculty build a culture of collaboration, mutual support and equitable pedagogy that empowers students. Our growing faculty cohort has been building a feedback-rich culture in our classes to help students improve their writing dramatically.  Jonathan Knight (Biology) says that "We struggled for years with various approaches before discovering Eli Review in Spring 2019. There’s no going back. Partly this is because the app is an efficient tool for peer learning. But for me the real magic of Eli is the continuous professional development that engages writing instructors from across the campus." Hulya Gurtuna (Sociology) concurs, saying that the weekly TLC Zoom meet-ups become sessions in which our collective wisdom provides a steady-stream of ideas.

Transparency in Teaching and Learning 
Students working with this digital platform benefit from task clarity. Deepika Ahuja (Biology) shares this student comment, “After Eli I feel like I have an understanding of what is exactly expected.”  Students also benefit from learning how to give helpful feedback. DJ Quinn (English) shares this comment texted by a first-year student: “my peers in other classes have started seeking me for feedback because my experience with Eli Review taught me how to be helpful.”  A key feature afforded to us by Eli Review is how we can see our students' thought processes while they work. Joan Wong (English) says, “I appreciate how I am able to see my students’ work in progress, and I am able to intervene with lessons based on what I see.”  This transparency allows instructors to see where students need specific support.   

Student Centered for Social Justice  
Kristin Agius (English) says, “Eli Review helps me reach my goal of removing myself from the center of the classroom so that students’ voices are the center, which helps me ...[create] a more equitable/socially just classroom with my students.” Christopher Koenig (Communication Studies) also appreciates how Eli Review de-centers the instructor, writing, “The tool has helped move evaluation away from me, as the instructor, to the students, who are a better representation of the general public as the actual audience for the blogs.”  Getting well-structured feedback from multiple peers helps students write better for a general audience. 

Building a Community of Peer Reviewers 
Esther Chan (Composition for Multilingual Students) shares how at the start of the semester her students would not leave any feedback comments. After a group review session, the students learned to describe what they see, “evaluate what they see according to the criteria, and make thoughtful suggestions. Some students wrote over 100 words in the next review —amazing output for multilingual learners.” As students gain confidence as reviewers, they become a more important part of their classmates’ learning. This builds a stronger learning community among students. 

Interested in Eli Review for Your Own Teaching?
Get started using Eli Review here  Faculty are also invited to join the Eli Review TLC at the January 21st Faculty Retreat or by emailing John Holland at

Institute for Civic and Community Engagement

"Call for faculty and staff grant proposals for service-learning, community and civic-engagement." 

Institute for Civic and Community Engagement 

  The Institute for Civic and Community Engagement (ICCE) is announcing its 2021 Call to Service grants for activities occurring during the calendar year 2021 (January 1 – December 17, 2021). Call to Service grants support SF State faculty and staff in providing service-learning, community and civic-engagement opportunities to students and in disseminating service-learning knowledge, research and findings. The deadline for proposals for all categories is January 13, 2021. Visit for more information and the online proposal submission form.

Extending the Circle
Assessment Resources from our Higher Education Colleagues  

James Madison University, The Center for Assessment and Research Studies 

 James Madison University recently hosted an Assessment Institute and shared these free resources. 

Learning Improvement: 

Program Theory: 

Assessment Skills Framework: 

Academic Senate
This section features recent discussions and actions in the Academic Senate that impact teaching. 

Online Education Policy Updates  

"Instructors can require students to turn on their video during synchronous classes...with exceptions for privacy, equity and accessibility concerns. " 

Jackson Wilson, Vice Chair, Academic Senate; Associate Professor & Graduate Coordinator, Department of Recreation, Parks, Tourism & Holistic Health; Faculty Fellow, CEETL; President Elect, California Parks & Recreation Society Educator's Section


 The Academic Senate recently made some critical modifications to the Online Education Policy (F20-264).  Given that nearly all SF State courses are being taught online right now, it is important faculty are aware of these changes. 

  • Definitions were added for remote proctoring, as well Hyflex and bichronous learning modes.

  • It was clarified that third-party remote proctoring software is not allowed starting in the Spring 2021 semester.  Exceptions may be granted by the college deans.

  • Instructors can require students to turn on their videos during synchronous class sessions.  However, there are multiple privacy, equity and accessibility concerns faculty should consider before deciding if student video is required.  In future semesters, the description in the course catalog must let students know if they will be required to turn on their video.  

All faculty are welcome to attend senate plenary meetings and can review policies at the online policy archive.  Next semester, there will likely be further modifications regarding recording of synchronous class sessions and estimating the appropriate student workload for asynchronous online courses.

Resolution on Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities 

Michael Goldman poses for a photo.
"Faculty flourish when they engage in creative activities, and when faculty flourish, so do students."

Michael A. Goldman, Chair, Academic Senate Strategic Issues Committee; Professor & Former Chair, Department of Biology  

We find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic of the sort that defines the next steps in the evolution of the human species, redraws national borders and, incidentally, makes or breaks institutions like ours. Nearly eighty million Americans have come to realize the expertise, compassion and moral fiber it takes to lead a nation. But more than seventy-three million haven’t. We at SF State must meet the challenge of providing the talent, the empathy and the knowledge that will see us through the years to come. 

It is with this in mind that my colleagues on the Academic Senate’s Strategic Issues Committee introduced a resolution advocating for an emphasis on research, scholarship and creative activities (RSCA) and graduate programs. Historically, these activities have been obvious targets in every budget crisis, always immense and always unprecedented, that we have faced. 

Despite the unmatched challenges we face as a campus today, from funding cuts to enrollment shortfalls, a crushing backlog of deferred maintenance, an aging infrastructure and, oh, a global climate crisis, wildfires and a pandemic, we must not lose sight of the very important role we play in the solutions to today's most pressing issues. As a university, we have an obligation to contribute to the foundation of knowledge, and we know how much society needs us right now.  

And we need RSCA. Faculty flourish when they engage in creative activities, and when faculty flourish, so do students. Students engaged in activities like research tend to persist and complete their degrees. Think Graduation Initiative 2025, and the crucial role we play in California’s economic growth by providing a diverse, educated workforce, which are two key funding priorities for our legislators. And every student who persists and graduates represents our hope for a better future.

Student Evaluations of Teaching Effectiveness

Teddy poses for a photo with his cat.
"One of the important lessons this experience is teaching us is how to rethink the evaluation process. "  

Teddy Albiniak, Senate Chair, Academic Senate; Director of Forensics, Lecturer Faculty, Communication Studies, with 
Baggie, The Cat 

SF State faculty have shown extraordinary care, courage and labor during the transition to remote instruction. You have balanced the demands and anxieties of the present with a deep commitment to student success. One of the important lessons this experience is teaching us is how to rethink the evaluation process. The Academic Senate is tackling this question in two ways. In the short term, the Senate voted on November 3, 2020, to extend the emergency policy resolution passed in the Spring, which would add an optional probationary year to the tenure review process and would make the inclusion of Student Evaluations of Teaching Effectiveness (SETEs) in the Working Personnel File (WPAF) optional for tenure/tenure track faculty. 

While students will still fill out SETEs, only the individual faculty will review the feedback; no one else will see them unless the faculty member chooses to include them in their formal review documents. We’ve also asked that faculty find ways during the semester for students to offer anonymous feedback to support the development of virtual curricula. A similar version of this policy for lecturer faculty was presented to the Senate on November 17 and was approved on December 8. In the long term, the Senate convened a special Teaching Effectiveness Assessment (TEA) Task Force, chaired by CEETL Faculty Director, Wei Ming Dariotis, to examine SETEs themselves so that  we might learn how to better capture student feedback in a more helpful way.

Thank you for all your hard work.

Anti-Racist Course Assessment
Antiracist assessment is the foundation of antiracist pedagogy. This section features reflections on antiracist assessment shared by faculty participating in the JEDI PIE (Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Pedagogies for Inclusive Excellence) Institute.

Racism, as an inextricable stain in our society, permeates higher education. Ibram X Kendi argues that “the only way to undo racism is to consistently identify it and describe it; and then dismantle it” (p. 9). That is, undoing racism requires more than simply not being racist. It requires actively becoming an antiracist. In higher education, this work of antiracism is a continual, iterative process for us all because of just how ingrained racism is in prevailing power structures and practices.  

As such, we must recognize the ways in which racism exists at the most basic level of a university, in our courses. Practicing antiracism in our courses, that is, undoing the structural racism in our courses, is a daunting task. One place to start is a place where racism is often woven into our courses; in our course assessment. Asao Inoue says that our assessment strategy is more important than our actual classroom pedagogy because “it always trumps what you say or what you attempt to do with your students. And students know this. They feel it” (Inoue, p. 9). As such, it is in course assessment where our most marginalized students, such as our Black and Latinx students, receive the most inequitable, unfair treatment. 

Antiracist Course Assessment

It is an exciting challenge to consider creating assessments in our courses that are inherently antiracist. Antiracist course assessment is the process of aligning the ways in which we assess student learning (i.e. what we typically call grading) with our general antiracist teaching approaches. At a high level, an antiracist approach recognizes that typical course assessment structures are steeped in and privilege discourses of whiteness. Assessment practices are often not conducive to achieving student learning outcomes for all students. This means we have an obligation to scrutinize all of our assessment tools, from our deadlines to our quizzes and exams to our writing assignments to our group projects to our assessments of student participation. 

Such scrutiny might result, for example, in the realization that an over-reliance on high-stakes formative assessments is a poor way to assess student progress and achievement of learning outcomes. It might push you toward greater scaffolding of assignments. It might push you toward the incorporation of standards-based assessments. It might even push you further toward labor-based assessment. An antiracist approach to course assessment will look different in each of our classes. 

For instructors, a commitment to antiracism must include a critical examination and an overhaul of course assessment. Indeed, we must do more than espouse antiracism. We must practice it in our courses, lest the words of James Baldwin come back to haunt us, as he reminds us all, “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do” (p. 43). Let our students see faculty who are committed to antiracism. 

Works Cited

Baldwin, J. (1966). Report from Occupied Territory. Nation, 203(2), 39-43
Kendi, I. X. (2019). How to be an antiracist. One world.
Inoue, A. B. (2015). Antiracist writing assessment ecologies: Teaching and assessing writing for a socially just future. WAC Clearinghouse.

Oscar Jerome Stewart, Assistant Professor of Management & JEDI PIE Faculty Facilitator

Tina Bartolome poses for a photo.
"... labor-based grading... weaken[s] ... white supremacy..." 

Tina Bartolome, Associate Director of Curriculum and Faculty Development, Metro College Success Program

Teaching within Metro, there is already a commitment to scaffolding larger assignments into multiple smaller formative assignments throughout the semester and even over multiple courses. For example, students work toward completing an annotated bibliography over the course of a semester and then the following semester, build upon their experience toward a short research paper over a series of mini assignments that help them get there. I would like to keep the scaffolding approach and move toward labor-based grading, which would definitely separate assessment from grading, and hopefully weaken the underlying presence of white supremacy at work within the assessment process. I am still learning about labor-based grading, reading Asao Inoue's book on the topic. Alongside labor-based grading, I would also aim to increase the amount of peer to peer assessment.
Paul Stewart poses for a photo.
"I am giving the power of choice to the people, the students." 

Paul Steward, Lecturer Faculty, American Indian Studies, College of Ethnic Studies

  In past years, I taught a course that required an end of the semester synthesis of learning essays written by the students. It’s a hard assignment that takes time, focus and effort. I did not create the assignment, but I was expected to administer it.  If I could change that assignment, I would enjoy introducing it to the students, but then ask them collectively to plan the assessment rubric with me. They would work together to decide what the expectations are: topics, length, style, citation expectations, and to determine how to grade these, what they are worth and what is the scale.

I would hope students would lean to the liberal side and allow for more ease. I theorize that they may also allow for more creativity or artistry in the production and delivery of the assignment. How is this JEDI? Because I am giving the power of choice to the people, the students. I’m giving them control. I’m asking them to build something with consideration of their classmates and having expectations that are respectful of one another. It’s also freeing and independent in that they create and submit what they want rather than follow directions.  The key is to motivate them through self-determination theory that they are doing work they want to do and achieving outcomes they want to achieve.
Sugie Goen-Salter poses for a photo.
"...I am no longer assigning grades to any of the class projects." 

Sugie Goen-Salter, Professor, Department of English Language and Literature 

In my ENG 701 graduate course in Reading Theory (for the Composition MA and certificates in Teaching Postsecondary Reading and First-Year College Composition), students write a final digital essay. I have endeavored to include JEDI elements into this assignment (students choose to explore topics of their own interest/exigence; students have choice in modalities for presenting their work), and this semester I am making changes to how I assess the assignment.  
In the past, I have listed on my course syllabus the criteria by which I and their peers will provide feedback on their final projects. The projects are first formatively critiqued by their peers, then students have a chance to respond via revision. Then the projects are formatively critiqued by me, followed by a final round of revision. I then would assign a summative grade based not so much on how well their projects met the criteria (we did that in our round of formative critiques) but on how effective their revisions were in terms of responding to the needs of their audience (their peers and myself). I was pretty happy with how all of this was going.  

But this semester, I am no longer assigning grades to any of the class projects.  

Based in part on the work of Asao Inoue (Labor Based Grading Contracts: Building Equity and Inclusion in the Compassionate Writing Class and Anti-Racist Writing Assessment Ecologies) and the concept of "wise feedback," my plan for Fall is to offer students feedback but no letter grades on individual assignments. Instead, students will contract for their final grade in the course and will receive extensive feedback from me and their peers. They will be provided with support for meeting high expectations for the project, the assurance that we are here to support them, and believe in their capacity to meet those high standards.
Mohammad Azadpur poses for a photo.
"All these efforts resulted in better performances by my students." 

Mohammad Azadpur, Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy 

 In a normal semester, I administer a midterm exam that covers the material studied in the first part of the semester. It consists of multiple-choice questions, fill-in-the-blanks and short essay questions.  During the (normal) semester, we engage in multiple study sessions, led by the instructor and/or the TA, and they prepare a study guide (from which the exam questions are drawn). In the online semester, I had to revise this process in light of the new [online] modality. I re-calibrated the questions so the exam can have an open-book, open-notes format, as I did not want to unduly restrict them by third-party proctoring considerations. Honestly, I found these proctoring approaches impractical, but now I understand they also suffer from biases, which make them even more unattractive.  I also chose to award them extra-points for the study guide so as to encourage them to complete it, because even though the exam is now open-book and open notes, the new venue may pose time-considerations. The students may not have enough time to consult all their resources effectively while navigating the exam online. That is why they benefit from having a completed study guide. To further address the time consideration, I also increased the amount of time they have to answer the questions by 50%. All these efforts resulted in better performances by my students.  

I also pursued those who did not do well and developed strategies for addressing their problems. In the future, based on my JEDI PIE studies, I would like to develop the exam in two separate installments. The first will consist of multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questions and will be administered online (or in-class). The second (i.e., short essay questions) will be take-home.
Olivia Albiero poses for a photo.
"As I rethink this assignment considering the JEDI concepts, I can imagine different options." 

Olivia Albiero, Assistant Professor, Italian and German Programs, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. 

 In my literature and culture courses I usually assign reading journals to encourage students to read the assigned materials and articulate some initial reflections/questions. Students then post their reflections on the Class Forum which I set up through the iLearn format of Forum Posts. As I rethink this assignment considering the JEDI concepts, I can imagine different options. I usually do not grade the first assignment of the semester but only provide feedback because I think students should get the chance to practice the new format without feeling the pressure of performing for a letter grade. However, while I generally assign a rubric through which they are graded, I would like to try to discuss the grading criteria of the rubric with my students. Since this is an upper-division courses, in which and students usually have had some writing experience with reading journals/reflection posts, I believe we could have a productive dialogue on the criteria that deserve particular attention based on the specific focus of the course materials. This conversation could also help students engage with the reading and writing in a new way as they would concentrate on aspects on which we have collectively agreed. 
Victor Cameron Coronado poses for a photo.
"It's more important than ever for students to be aware they have choices and options."  

Victor Cameron Coronado, Lecturer Faculty, Department of Communication Studies 

 In past semesters, I have regularly included a series of written assignments called Concept Applications: short papers that ask students to reflect on their communication outside of the classroom and apply principles of the course readings we use to their lives.  Before this semester, such assessments were all in the same short essay format, and the assessment was mainly focused on the accurate definition and application of course concepts. For this semester, they are no longer restricted to just writing essays — I am trying to give students a variety of alternative means to demonstrate their knowledge, so while some are still traditional written responses, others are invitations to create artistic pictures, photo collages with descriptions, and so forth.  The idea is to give students a variety of ways to showcase their knowledge in ways I can still reliably assess.  

The other major change is that each Concept Application now has opportunities to earn extra credit for the class. This gives students more flexibility in which assignments they focus more time on and a sense of security if outside circumstances cause them to do poorly on an assignment — the idea that missing an assignment or not getting an A on a speech isn't even more of a stressor on top of everything else they are dealing with!  

Finally, I'm also more open in general to students submitting late work for partial credit — not TOO LATE, but enough that folks who miss a day or two can still earn points for their efforts. I've always allowed for some late work, but in these situations, I think it's more important than ever for students to be aware they have choices and options.
"I have decided to create a more intentional multi-level assessment."  

Susan Roe, Associate Professor, Hospitality and Tourism Management Department 

 My standard testing assessment format prior to moving online was to have 3-4 exams throughout the semester that covered about five weeks of material and included short essays and multiple-choice questions focused on a student’s ability to use course material in an applied manner. Thinking about “breaking up summative assessments” and “giving opportunities for students to practice the assessment formats,” I have decided to create a more intentional multi-level assessment. The content is broken into smaller weekly chunks. Low stakes knowledge-based assessments are provided weekly to acquaint students with general concepts and definitions.  These knowledge-based assessments allow students two attempts at the knowledge check so that they can practice, as well as give them an opportunity to review material if they didn’t get it the first time. After the knowledge check, we discuss course concepts and engage with the material before a chapter quiz is presented with more application-style questions. The lowest grade of the weekly quizzes is dropped from the overall grade to allow students leniency for issues that may arise, preventing them from being successful at each.

Dmitriy posing for a picture
"My original plan was to have a midterm and a final ... Instead, I plan to..." 

Dmitriy Ivanov, Lecturer Faculty, Department of Mathematics  

  My original plan was to have a midterm and a final, and each exam would be worth 30 - 40% of the grade.  Instead, I plan to have weekly or bi-weekly quizzes so students would get more feedback and so that they will have many opportunities to improve their grade (as opposed to having 1-2 exams, where failing an exam could lead to failing the course). I will also drop the lowest quiz score (or the lowest two quiz scores) for each student, so if a student has a bad day, this student could still do well in the class. Each quiz will be worth only a few percent of the final grade (something like 2-3%), so students will have many chances to improve their grade. Also, missing a quiz will not have a huge negative effect on the final grade (as opposed to missing a major exam, which, again, could lead to failing the class).

"There is no high stakes testing."  

Lisa Bates, Lecturer Faculty, ELSIT/GCOE; Metro College Success Program


I completely rethought this semester how grading should be handled in my AU 117 Stats for Social Justice and ISED 160 Data Analysis in Education. There is no high stakes testing. Students can seek help as needed. I have created homework and unit quizzes using the iLearn quiz function for the formative assessments.  I have been pleased with how empowered they feel that they can fix their mistakes in homework and unit quizzes. For the summative assessment, students create an opinion survey on a social justice topic, gather responses, summarize a research article on the topic and present their findings at the end of the semester.  The students are excited about choosing their group members and social justice topic for the opinion survey.   I am teaching them how to use Google Forms to create a survey. The students have agency to get the grade they want by working hard and asking for help when they need it. While the group project will create a lot of work for me, I believe it will be no more work than grading three midterms and a final, which is what I used to do.   It is wonderful to see how excited they are to do a project on a topic of their choosing.

Gwen, jennifer and Wei Ming in conversation

Assessment without Grading: A JEDI PIE Discussion

Jennifer Beach, Lecturer Faculty, English Language & Literature, JEDI PIE Participant
Gwen Allen, Professor & Director, School of Art, JEDI PIE Participant
Wei Ming Dariotis, CEETL Faculty Director, JEDI PIE Facillitator

The following discussion has been condensed and centers around grading practices. 

Jennifer Beach (Lecturer Faculty, Dept. of English Language & Literature): 

In an effort to make my classroom ecology more horizontal, and to minimize the gatekeeping aspect of the First Year composition class, I have shifted gradually further and further toward labor based grading that rewards effort and process rather than dominant notions of “product.”

This has not only made more space for students who have experienced alienation in conventional writing classes to receive recognition for their engagement, it has also liberated me to focus my feedback on the elements of their thinking that are either clear or confusing without having to “justify” a conventional letter grade. My feedback is freer now — more able to express gratitude and ask questions — because it is less encumbered by the painful weight of the B/C/A [letter grade] debate. 

Wei Ming Dariotis (Faculty Director, CEETL):  

Hi Jennifer,
I had the pleasure of attending a school that did not practice grading. We received extensive comments instead of grades, and we were invited to revise assignments until the teacher was satisfied that we had done our best work. It was a very small school and the student-teacher ratio was about 14=1. Grades exist, I think, largely to allow institutional administrations to regulate instructor labor. We can teach many more students if we are focused on gatekeeping and, as you say, "justifying" a grade in order to maintain the workflow and the flow of students from course to course. 

Gwen Allen (Professor, Director, School of Art):  

Hi All,
I so enjoyed these remarks and insights about grading. I have always felt that the "one size fits all" approach to grading (i.e. applying the same standards to every student) does not work, and in little informal ways I have practiced this by taking into account each student's situation/where they are coming from — i.e. gearing toward equity rather than absolute sameness or equality. I also have always tended to favor lots of second chances (and third and fourth and fifth chances) for students who do not immediately excel — the focus is on learning and I encourage re-writes, extra credit, different ways of encouraging them to contribute and grow. However, I have also had some discomfort with this approach and almost felt that I had to "hide" it so that students (or colleagues) did not think I was being unfair or too lenient. Reading about labor-based grading and the other ideas in this thread I am inspired to try to make some of these practices more official explicit policies, justified by the helpful tools CEETL has provided.

PIE Bite Spotlight  
Drawing of rainbow slice of pie

The Pedagogy of Cultural Humility: Bias
Second in a Series of Conversations on Cultural Humility 

"Bias has a bad rap, but of course we all have biases." 

Vivian Chavez, Associate Professor, Department of Public Health

The Pedagogy of Cultural Humility: the second in a series of Conversations on JEDI PIE with Vivian Chavez.

Arising from the work of medical professionals seeking to prevent misdiagnoses, cultural humility is a term coined by Melanie Tervalon and Jann Murray-Garcia (1998). Rather than focusing on "mastering" diverse cultures (a.k.a. cultural competency), cultural humility focuses on life-long learning and development through reflection.

WMD: How is cultural humility related to bias?

VC: Bias has a bad rap, but of course we all have biases. When we are not aware of our biases, they can become walls that keep us from seeing what is around us and that separate us from each other.

WMD: What is the line between humility and humiliation?

VC: Humiliation is awful — there are shame and failure associated with it. It hurts. Yet,  sometimes there is a thin line and a teaching that could be a step towards cultural humility with constructive discomfort. The key is to be vulnerable and keep the door of communication open. Communication with ourselves and with our students. Listen to the voice that says, “I want to learn from this. I’m curious about this. Maybe I can learn something.” Cultural Humility requires having a willingness to be aware of bias, to correct our mistakes, to be human.

WMD: Is cultural humility the removal of the armor that we think will protect us from discomfort?

VC: We are surrounded by lies. So we protect ourselves. But this corset that we wear — the boundaries and rules can be so confining.  Cultural humility is related to change. When we are faced with a situation like what we have at this moment, we need to respond with freshness, we have to remove the armor and be vulnerable to use everything we have learned.

MD: What is an example of you enacting cultural humility with your students?

VC: I don’t believe in extra credit — I have never believed in it because I have many small assignments that help me see my students and get to know their work on an ongoing basis. If they aren’t contributing through these assignments then I will reach out to them and find out what is going on. I’d rather offer extensions for the existing assignments than to give extra-credit. 

But last semester, I confessed to my students that I was ignorant about technology’s breadth and reach. Without it, we could not have finished the semester. As a scholar of health & wellness, I had studied how technology distracts us, takes us away from the present, interferes with our relationships between people and with nature and the environment. 

As a result, I had become biased against what technology could do to help us be together. Tristan Harris’ article on how Tech is Downgrading Humans opened my eyes to see the paradox of technology.  So I assigned extra credit for them to read the article, watch his 2017 TED Talk about how tech companies control people’s minds, and to post in the last forum discussion what I could do next semester to use technology to better support them. Many students that didn’t even need extra credit participated in this optional forum just to help me be a better teacher. They agreed with Tristan on how tech can be bad but good at the same time. How consumers must partner with technology cautiously to thrive and evolve at a time when the online environment is THE main way we connect, communicate & consume.

(to be continued in part 3: “Community Wellness.”)

Closing the Circle: Letter from the Editor
Greek Christmas Cookies made by Wei Ming.
"Something had to change — I needed a party." 

Wei Ming Dariotis, Faculty Director, CEETL; Professor, Asian American Studies Department; Affiliate Faculty Educational Leadership Doctoral Program

Party Like it's 1999:  

When I first started teaching at SF State in 1999, I was 29 years old, ABD, and untrained in any kind of pedagogy. I knew what I had experienced in undergrad and grad school, which both followed traditional models of high stakes summative testing, even for English and creative writing. As a student, I rather enjoyed final exams, but I found that as a new lecturer faculty member, final exams made me sad. 

I had spent 4 months building a community with my students, and at the very end, we would sit quietly in a room together while they wrote tensely for about an hour, then got up and slipped their exam papers on my desk while we mouthed “good bye” or “happy holidays” at one another. Sometimes, they added a card expressing their feelings of joy and sorrow, but I would read these while grading late at night, far too late for me to run after them to express my joy in having known them and my sorrow at our parting. 

Something had to change — I needed a party. 

Potluck Luck: 

Luckily, I had deliberately chosen Asian American Studies as my department, and there already existed an end-of-semester tradition followed by many faculty of hosting final class potlucks. I had also been introduced to the concept of the “Asian American Potluck” while being a member of the University of Washington's Asian and Pacific Islander Student Union (click here to see my assignment for how to write an Asian American potluck recipe).  

Potlucks seemed like the natural answer to my dilemma; instead of having a final exam, I started to ask students to bring a dish that represented someone in their family — defining “family” however they wished.  Further, I asked them to choose a dish that they would want to pass onto their own children some day. If they didn’t know how to make it, they should learn it.

We started to tell stories about these beloved family members and how they had nourished us. I told my students about my Yia-yia, my grandmother, Jean Rising, who wasn’t Greek but who taught me her mother-in-law’s Greek Christmas cookie recipe (kourabiethes). Years after I had memorized the recipe, I would call her and ask her to tell me again just to be able to hear her beloved voice. 

By sharing our potluck dishes, we shared the love with which we had been nourished. 

Closing the Circle Ceremony: 

I knew that Academic Senate policy required us to meet our classes on the day and time of the scheduled final exam, even if I was no longer giving a high-stakes summative assessment, but was a potluck enough to fulfill my obligation? Yes! but I could not resist adding some other elements to what eventually became a rather elaborate and satisfying “closing the circle” ceremony. 

In addition to Nourishment, I also ask students to engage in sharing Knowledge and Gratitude (or Appreciation). In a ritualized sharing, students choose one piece of writing by a classmate and explain why it was meaningful to them (this can be shared in a forum on iLearn). This activity centers the wisdom of the students and helps them see one another (and themselves) as knowledgeable. It is incredibly empowering. I remind them before doing the exercise that the opportunity to share another’s shine is more important than being in the spotlight.  

The climax of “closing the circle” comes as students are asked to practice gratitude and appreciation. They choose one classmate (only one, no matter how much they want to thank “everyone in their group” or “the whole class”!), and address that person directly in appreciation for something specific.  

As I teach Asian American Studies, I may remark on cultural norms among many Asian cultures that limit the acceptance of gratitude — particularly for Asian American women. I ask students to practice accepting the appreciations they receive graciously.  Receive this gratitude and let it nourish you.

We bear witness to these intimate acts of appreciation and connection to both validate and elevate them.   

Ceremonies of Leaving: 

As the ceremony winds down and we begin to pack up what is left of our potluck, I remind the class that the good fortune of our open and loving community of learning was not an accident — it was designed. I encourage them to bring elements of that design into their other classes and indeed into both their work and personal lives:  

  • Take the time to savor the love and care that is extended to you; and think about what you can learn from that to pass on to the next generation. 
  • Appreciate the wisdom of your peers and of yourself; and share what you know with others. 
  • Take the time to let the people to whom you are close know what they mean to you. 
  • Do it often; and graciously accept the gratitude of others. 

This will be the last time, I remind them, that this unique group of people will be gathered together for this purpose of shared inquiry. Say goodbye to our community, even as you plan to stay connected with individuals. 

As you, my colleagues, close out the circles you have opened this semester, I hope you will find time to make your own ceremonies of leaving in order to celebrate the communities you have co-created with your students.

CEETL Beetle Mascot

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