About the Series

Welcome to Dead Ideas in Teaching and Learning, a new podcast hosted by CTL Executive Director, Catherine Ross. Our mission is to encourage instructors, students, and leaders in higher education to reflect on what they believe about teaching and learning. In each episode, guests are invited to share their discoveries of “dead ideas”—ideas that are not true but that are often widely believed and embedded in the pedagogical choices we make. 

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Conversations focus on dead ideas in topics such as grading, teaching with technology, student motivation, assessment, and neuromyths about learning, to name a few. Conversations also explore dead ideas exposed by the move to remote teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope these radically honest conversations will inspire lightbulb moments for our listeners as they seek to understand their own teaching and learning. To listen to an audio trailer, click here.

The theme originates from the article “The Tyranny of Dead Ideas in Teaching and Learning” (The Sociological Quarterly, 2011) by Diane L. Pike, Professor of Sociology at Augsburg University. Pike writes, “Ideas are dead because they are no longer correct, if they ever were. They are tyranny because we cling to them despite the evidence…Clinging to dead ideas about teaching and learning limits our practice as professors. The resulting tyranny means we fail to educate our students as effectively as we might…The good news is that learned behaviors, sociologically informed reflection, and the application of the research in the scholarship of teaching and learning can liberate us and improve the experiences of teachers and learners alike.”

Where and When to Listen

Episodes are released every other Thursday and are approximately 30 minutes in length. Listen on this webpage (below) or subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify

*Note: our next episode will be released Thursday, March 11, 2021, instead of Thursday, March 4, due to Columbia’s scheduled Spring Break.  

Join our email list or follow us on Twitter to hear about upcoming episodes. Send us questions and feedback at CTL-podcast@columbia.edu

Hosted by CTL Executive Director,
Catherine Ross

Latest Episode

Season 2, Episode 3: The Syllabus with William Germano and Kit Nicholls 

What does the syllabus do? Who is it for? Why is it chronically unread? And how can it be written to foster an environment of trust and collaboration in the classroom? William Germano, Professor of English at Cooper Union, and Kit Nicholls, Director of the Center for Writing at Cooper Union, are authors of the book Syllabus: The Remarkable, Unremarkable Document That Changes Everything (2020). In this episode, they tackle these fundamental questions about the syllabus, and discuss how it serves as a starting point for addressing larger dead ideas about teaching, learning, and student engagement.

February 18, 2021. 41:46 min.

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Season 2, Episode 2: Ungrading with Jesse Stommel

Jesse Stommel, co-founder of Hybrid Pedagogy: the journal of critical digital pedagogy and co-author of An Urgency of Teachers: the Work of Critical Digital Pedagogy, has not graded student work—in the traditional sense—in 20 years. Instead, he practices “ungrading”, a word which “…suggests that we need to do intentional, critical work to dismantle traditional and standardized approaches to assessment.” In this episode, Jesse unpacks why he supports ungrading (as well as the dead ideas that it challenges), and explains how it promotes student learning. He also shares steps that listeners can take towards ungrading in their own classrooms.

February 4, 2021. 33:28 min.

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Season 2, Episode 1: Assessment For and As Learning with Jonathan Amiel and Aubrie Swan Sein 

Beginning In 2007, Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons (VP&S) began to radically rethink their curriculum and assessment strategies for first and second year medical students. In today’s episode, we speak with Jonathan (Yoni) Amiel, Interim Co-Vice Dean for Education and Senior Associate Dean for Curricular Affairs at VP&S, and Aubrie Swan Sein, Director of the Center for Education Research and Evaluation and Associate Professor of Educational Assessment at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Jonathan and Aubrie discuss the changes they have implemented and the dead ideas they have encountered— especially around assessment—and how things have turned out thus far. 

January 21, 2021. 36:24 min.

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Dead Ideas: Season Two Trailer

Welcome back to Dead Ideas in Teaching and Learning. When we began this podcast, our mission was to encourage instructors, students, and leaders in higher education to reflect on what they believe about teaching and learning. Now, almost a year into the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it remains a difficult, uncertain moment for higher education. But in that uncertainty, we have a profound opportunity to confront the many dead ideas that have been exposed by the move out of our traditional classrooms and to challenge what teaching means and how it happens. This podcast is a space for reflection, transformation, and learning.

January 7, 2021. 2:10 min.

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Bonus Episode with Jenny Davidson: How Much Reading Is Enough?

In this bonus episode, we continue our conversation with Jenny Davidson, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia, to tackle the question of how much reading is enough in a literature course. Professor Davidson shares examples of how she balances assignment load with student learning objectives in her literature courses, and how she has had to adjust that balance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

December 17, 2020. 24:24 min.

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Season 1, Episode 5: Dead Ideas in Grading with Jenny Davidson

On March 20, 2020, days after Columbia University transitioned to fully remote teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jenny Davidson, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia, published an article in The Washington Post titled “Forget distance learning. Just give every student an automatic A.” In this episode, Professor Davidson further discusses why she chose to give all of her students an A in Spring 2020, and why, even outside of a pandemic setting, she has long been resistant to the conventional practices of grading.

December 10, 2020. 31:01 min.

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Season 1, Episode 4: Columbia Undergraduates on Dead Ideas in Learning

In Spring 2020, Columbia students Mae Butler, Haya Ghandour, Jennifer Lee and Kalisa Ndamage served as undergraduate teaching and learning consultants as part of the CTL’s Students as Pedagogical Partners initiative. In this episode, these students share their experiences and perspectives on remote teaching and learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They discuss Columbia’s move to pass/fail grading in the Spring 2020 semester, how we can use technology more intentionally in classrooms, and what they would change if they could reinvent higher education.

November 25, 2020. 24:20 min.

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  • Resources and reflections developed by the Undergraduate Student Consultants on Teaching and Learning with CTL staff, as part of the Students as Pedagogical Partners initiative

Season 1, Episode 3: Dead Ideas in Science Teaching with Carl Wieman 

Carl Wieman, Nobel laureate and Professor of Physics and Education at Stanford University, has dedicated much of his career to addressing the problems and challenges of how universities teach science. In this episode, Wieman imparts the “aha!” moment that motivated his transition from physics research to science education research. He also shares dead ideas that he encounters routinely in science teaching, including those that are magnified by the shift to remote teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

November 12, 2020. 24:42 min.

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Season 1, Episode 2: Neuromyths in Teaching and Learning with Michelle Miller 

Do we really only use 10% of our brains? Will using technology in my course improve my students’ learning and motivation? Are students nowadays “digital natives”? In this episode, we tackle these questions and others with Michelle Miller, Professor of Psychology at Northern Arizona University and author of Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology. Miller talks about her research and experiences with misconceptions about the mind, brain, and learning, with a focus on neuromyths related to teaching with technology.

October 29, 2020. 24:58 min.

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Season 1, Episode 1: The Tyranny of Dead Ideas in Teaching and Learning with Diane Pike

In our first episode, Diane Pike, Professor of Sociology at Augsburg University, discusses her motivation to write the article “The Tyranny of Dead Ideas in Teaching and Learning”, which serves as the foundation of this podcast. Pike shares “light bulb” teaching moments from her career as well as how her thinking around “dead ideas” has evolved in the past 10 years since the article’s publication. 

October 15, 2020. 24:20 min.

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Trailer: Introducing Dead Ideas in Teaching and Learning

Welcome to Dead Ideas in Teaching and Learning, a new podcast hosted by CTL executive director, Catherine Ross. Our mission is to encourage instructors, students, and leaders in higher education to reflect on what they believe about teaching and learning. In each episode, guests are invited to share their discoveries of “dead ideas”—ideas that are not true but that are often widely believed and embedded in the pedagogical choices we make.

October 14, 2020. 3:49 min.

Transcript