Tag Archives: pedagogy

Techniques for “Warm Calling” Using Collaborative Annotation from Danica Sumpter’s Difficult Dialogues Workshop

Written by Dr. Sarah Ropp

On Friday, April 23, the Difficult Dialogues program welcomed Professor Danica Sumpter to lead our fourth and final faculty-led dialogic pedagogy workshop for the Spring 2021 semester. Sumpter presented an interactive session entitled “‘Warm Calling’ and Collaborative Annotation” to close out this successful and enriching series, which has also included a workshop on self-care led by Prof. Gloria González-López, a workshop on multi-modal approaches to dialogue presented by Prof. Katie Dawson and Beth Link, and a workshop on navigating positionality with students led by Prof. Shetal Vohra-Gupta. In this final workshop, Sumpter presented the notion of “warm calling” as a desirable, effective alternative to “cold calling,” and described how she has used the collaborative annotation tool Hypo.thesis over the past two semesters to prepare students to engage in dialogue. 

Below, find some terms, tools, and techniques explored in Sumpter’s workshop — all of which are broadly adaptable across discipline and content. 

What Is Warm Calling? 

Traditional “cold calling” involves posing a question and then immediately selecting an individual student or group to respond (or, in its more extreme version, calling on the student first and then asking the question!). In contrast, “warm calling” implies that students will have the opportunity to prepare for being called on to some extent. If cold calling “put[s] [students] in the position to think quickly and speak publicly while the rest of the class may or may not be also thinking as hard about the question,” warm calling has the potential to benefit both the individual called on and the rest of the class. 

How Does Collaborative Annotation Support Warm Calling? 

Sumpter explained that collaborative annotation via the Hypo.thesis app has been a crucial strategy for preparing students to engage in dialogue with one another meaningfully and purposefully in two brand-new elective courses she has taught during the past two semesters of online teaching and learning: Race, Power, Privilege and Health (Fall 2020) and The Art and Science of Teaching Nursing (Spring 2021). These courses both involve complex, sensitive content, to which students need to bring an openness to new ideas and a willingness to confront their own positionality, privilege, and assumptions. 

Sumpter’s procedure is quite simple: using the Hypo.thesis plugin for Canvas, she uploads a text to the course site and assigns students to read and annotate the text together by the night before the class is scheduled to meet to discuss the text at hand. Sumpter can prime the students to attend to certain questions by inserting questions into the margins, or help them understand uncommon or debated terms by providing definitions in the margins. Using the various features of Hypo.thesis, students can respond to the questions Sumpter poses for them as well as highlight and comment on sections of text that strike them as particularly interesting or puzzling. They can respond to each other in comment threads, thus initiating a conversation about the text in writing before they are called upon to do so orally during class. 

Ahead of the synchronous course meeting, Sumpter reads through the comments students have made, looking for trends, misunderstandings, particularly poignant comments, and questions. This, she explained, gives her valuable insight into students’ understanding of the text ahead of their class discussion. She uses their collective annotations to guide the questions she formulates for students to respond to in dialogue. In class, Sumpter will highlight trends as well as individual responses, inviting students to reflect and further elaborate on their responses.

The benefits to students, Sumpter has observed, are many:

1) Students who are typically less likely to engage in oral dialogue are often more confident about participating in class, since it is easier to expand upon a comment one has already made than articulate a complete response on the spot. 

2) The class discussion can begin at a higher level of rigor, thus maximizing precious class time. Having already begun a dialogue with one another in writing, students are more prepared and willing to engage in a “brave space” for dialogue in which they grapple with deeper and more complex questions.

3) The often unwieldy, tiresome discussion board is streamlined into a process that students express liking much, much better. Rather than read a text on their own and then register their commentary on a Canvas discussion board, students respond both to the text and to each other in the same, conveniently public space. 

Other Benefits of Collaborative Annotation: Community Building, Trauma-Informed Pedagogy, and UDL

Sumpter also noted that collaborative annotation played an important and very positive role in helping her students build community with one another in the digital space — the aspect of in-person learning that students report missing above any other during the pandemic. She observed that students started augmenting their annotations with unexpected extras to support each other’s learning: links to YouTube videos and funny memes related to the text’s content, helpful definitions of terms, and personal experiences. Sumpter quoted a student who commented that their experience with collaborative annotation via Hypo.thesis made them rethink their assumptions about community-building in an asynchronous learning environment. This student concluded that building community with classmates “was not an impossibility, but easily attainable.” 

Additionally, it was pointed out by faculty attendees of the workshop that warm calling, supported by practices like collaborative annotation, is a meaningful, concrete, simple, and easily implementable practice to support trauma-informed pedagogy and Universal Design for Learning principles

Additional Resources 

Adams, B. & Wilson, N. (2020).Building Community in Asynchronous Online Higher Education Courses Through Collaborative Annotation.”

“10 Ways to Annotate with Students” (blog post from Hypo.thesis)

“Getting Started with Perusall” (another collaborative annotation app that includes certain features that Hypo.thesis doesn’t, such as the ability to group students into smaller sections to annotate a text and the ability to grade annotations and register grades automatically in the Canvas gradebook)

Resources for Evaluating Dialogue

Written by Dr. Sarah Ropp

Evaluating dialogue in the classroom is a tricky business, whether we are talking about assessment (trying to determine the degree to which classroom dialogue has achieved its goal for the purpose of affirming or adjusting pedagogical approach) or grading (attempting to assign a quantitative value to student performance). As Brookfield and Presskill (1999) write, “We don’t believe there really are any standardized protocols or universal measures we can apply to assessing a discussion leader’s effectiveness or the value of student contributions.” 

However, reflecting critically on what has just happened in the dialogue, including facilitator choices and participant contributions and experiences, is deeply valuable for both teachers and students. And assigning a grade to dialogue participation is a way to signal its value and importance as a learning outcome in the course, validate student effort, and make expectations transparent and consistent. 

There are endless ways to both assess and grade dialogue. Below are some ready-to-use resources to spark ideas. 


Activities for Helping Students Think Through Positionality from Shetal Vohra-Gupta’s Difficult Dialogues Workshop

Written by Difficult Dialogues Program Coordinator Sarah Ropp.

On Friday, March 26, the Difficult Dialogues program was very pleased to host Shetal Vohra-Gupta (Assistant Professor of Social Work) for our third faculty-led dialogic pedagogy workshop of the Spring 2021 semester. Entitled “Helping Students Think Through Positionality,” Vohra-Gupta’s workshop was one of our bimonthly Difficult Dialogues faculty learning community events. Vohra-Gupta presented some of the activities she uses throughout the semester to engage students participating in her UGS/DD 303 course “The Invisible 80%: Students, Policy, and Action,” which she has been teaching regularly since Fall 2017, in meaningful reflection around their intersecting social identities. Highly adaptable across disciplines and content, three of Vohra-Gupta’s techniques are summarized below. 


    1. Identity Mapping. At the beginning of the semester, Vohra-Gupta explained, she invites students to name a few of their major social identities and reflect on the impact each identity has had on their lived experience, both pragmatically and affectively. Students engage in this reflection through a three-tiered graphic organizer, modeled after an approach presented in Danielle Jacobson and Nida Mustafa’s 2019 article “Social Identity Map: A Reflexivity Tool for Practicing Explicit Positionality in Critical Qualitative Research.” Here’s how it works: 
  • Tier 1: Students draw 8 boxes and write one of the social identities they possess in each box (for example: Class, Age, Citizenship, Ability, Race, Sexual Orientation, Cis/Trans, and Gender). 
  • Tier 2: Students draw two smaller boxes connected to each Tier 1 identity box. For each of these Tier 1 social identities, students name two ways in which this identity affects their day-to-day life, writing a simple word or phrase into the smaller boxes (for example, a student might name “health care” as an impact they associate with Canadian citizenship). These impacts may be experienced as positive, negative, a mix, or neither.
  • Tier 3: From each of the smaller Tier 2 boxes, students draw additional lines to connect emotions that they experience as a result of the pragmatic impacts (Tier 2) of their various identities (Tier 1). For example, “shame” and “desire to be an advocate” might be two emotions experienced in connection with a White racial identity. 

  • Positionality Statements. Vohra-Gupta stressed the importance of participating in critical self-reflection around identity as an instructor–not just having students do so. She explained that she does this for multiple reasons: to model reflection for students, to acknowledge and ameliorate to some degree the power imbalance between instructor and student, and to engage with her own positionality as a scholar and teacher on a regular, ongoing basis. Vohra-Gupta shared a short positionality statement of about three sentences that she uses to introduce students both to herself as an instructor and to the content and format of a positionality statement. Her statement contains a list of three or so of her primary social identities, as well as a definition of her scholarly and pedagogical identities (for example, as a feminist and critical race scholar). She invites students, after they have participated in the social identity mapping activity, to craft their own positionality statements. 

  • Written Reflection. Following the social identity mapping and positionality statement activities, Vohra-Gupta has her students apply their reflections more systematically, through a written essay assignment in which students must describe how their various and intersecting social identities impact their relationship to and experience with a given policy. For example, Vohra-Gupta shared, female students had written about their experiences of feeling exposed and embarrassed due to the “clear-bag” policy at UT stadium sporting events. Vohra-Gupta’s course is about university policy, but this exercise can be adapted to any course topic–our identities affect our lived experiences in every area, after all.  


Additional Resource: 

Workshop participant Amy Nathan Wright (Assistant Professor of Instruction, Human Dimensions of Organizations) shared this original identity inventory exercise as a potential follow-up to the identity mapping activity.

Three Multi-Modal Dialogue Techniques from Katie Dawson’s Difficult Dialogues Workshop

Dr. Sarah Ropp, the Humanities Institute’s Difficult Dialogues Program Coordinator, will be writing weekly blog posts sharing  material from the Difficult Dialogues faculty learning community events and other resources.

In her first post, she shares three techniques from the March 12 workshop, “Dialogic Meaning-Making through Multiple Modes,” led by Katie Dawson (Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance) and Beth Link (a PhD candidate in Curriculum and Instruction). Read her post below!

On Friday, March 12, Katie Dawson (Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance) and Beth Link (a PhD candidate in Curriculum and Instruction) led an invigorating workshop for faculty as part of the Spring 2021 series of bimonthly Difficult Dialogues faculty learning community events. Entitled “Dialogic Meaning-Making through Multiple Modes,” the workshop focused on engaging students in meaningful dialogue through visual and embodied modes, rather than strictly verbal (whether oral or written). Taking an experiential approach, Dawson and Link led a total of 10 faculty members through several highly engaging dialogue structures, each of which is widely adaptable across disciplines for use with students in the classroom. Three of these structures are detailed below. 

  • Breathe and Stretch Check-in. To open the workshop, Dawson led participants in a check-in. Rather than the typical verbal check-in, in which students take turns giving oral answers, Dawson introduced a nonverbal, embodied check-in. She invited participants to unmute ourselves one-by-one and perform a unique breath and stretch–whatever felt centering and helpful in preparing each individual to engage in the workshop. The other participants would then repeat the breath and stretch modeled by our colleague. This exercise worked to dispel anxiety, create a sense of community, and foster a sensation of simultaneous restfulness and readiness to engage.  

  • Watercolor Conversations. Link, an arts educator, led participants in a non-verbal dialogue structure entitled “Watercolor Conversations.” In this activity, participants were split into pairs, and each pair of participants conducted a back-and-forth, silent conversation by taking turns to build upon each other’s drawings on a single canvas. (We used a digital painting tool called aggie.io; in a face-to-face setting, instructors would need to provide paper and watercolor paints, crayons, or markers.) Link prompted participants to consider what abstract elements–colors, shapes, and lines–might represent different emotions or states of mind. She instructed us to follow certain conversational conventions as we painted: one person initiated the non-verbal dialogue by painting an abstract shape or line that expressed how they were feeling, the other responded to it, and their partner responded to them in kind. Participants were encouraged to paint in the same space–i.e., not have a “one-sided” conversation–to be mindful of how much space they were taking up in the canvas, and to avoid “interrupting.” Each participant engaged in visual dialogue with their partner for about five minutes while soft music played. Back in the whole group, Link led a post-dialogue reflection, in which participants considered the experience of having performed the watercolor conversation (“warm,” “supportive,” and “happy” were some of the reports) as well as the activity’s potential application in the classroom. Community building and norm-setting were emphasized as this activity’s main benefits, as the visual medium provides a grounding literality to discuss with students the importance of listening, responsiveness, and not taking up too much space in the dialogue. 

  • Sociometrics. Dawson led participants in this embodied dialogue technique, also known as “Vote From Your Seat.” In this activity, participants used our arms as a sliding bar graph to indicate the degree to which we agreed or disagreed with a given statement. Holding our hands palm-out in front of our bodies, such that they were visible to other Zoom meeting participants, we slid our hands upwards towards the top of our Zoom box to indicate agreement in response to a series of thought-provoking statements such as “Learning is easy.” Hands all the way up to the top indicated full agreement, while hands hovering down near the bottom indicated disagreement. Degrees of skepticism were indicated by partially raised hands. Participants were instructed to pause and take stock of the varying viewpoints present in the room before lowering their hands and engaging in reflective dialogue. Rather than immediately ask participants to defend their positions, Dawson instead began by asking participants to consider what someone who had agreed with the statement might have been thinking (as well as why someone might disagree or feel conflicted). In this way, participants entered the conversation from a stance of curiosity rather than debate.

For additional techniques, please visit Dawson’s Drama-Based Instruction website.