Graveyard in the Fall
August 10, 2017

2017-18 Tang Institute fellows, projects announced

Efforts touch on a range of topics from hybrid workshops to learning outcomes for students in natural science courses
by Jenny Corke

The Tang Institute team is pleased to announce a diverse array of new and continuing Institute projects for 2017-18. These efforts touch on a range of exciting topics, from a hybrid workshop that will prepare young women writers to an ongoing study of learning outcomes for students in natural science courses.

We are grateful for the enthusiasm and partnership of the Andover community for imagining and sharing these promising ideas. We look forward to working with our fellows and collaborators, especially the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL) team and our colleagues in Educational Initiatives and the Office of Information Technology, (OIT) to grow these projects during the coming year.

Following is the complete listing of 2017-18 Tang Institute Fellows and projects. For additional information, please contact [email protected] or visit

Quiet Schools


Despite a renewed focus on and commitment to diversity and inclusion, most schools continue to perpetuate and reward an “extrovert ideal.” Inspired by the work of Susan Cain and Heidi Kasevich to empower introverts, Tang Fellow Tracy Ainsworth will explore ways to effectively support the needs of introverted students and faculty members and to identify and leverage their strengths. When students and educators have a deeper understanding of the diversity and power of temperament, they can more fully nurture, value, and benefit from the ideas and contributions of others, thus building stronger and more inclusive communities.

Mathematics and Learning


The goal of this project is to empower teachers to be change agents in mathematics classrooms by: teaching and modeling for students tools/strategies for learning mathematics and developing a growth mindset; using mathematics as a vessel through which a broader set of enduring understandings are taught to students; and, providing students with a sense of what mathematicians do and a view of mathematics as a living subject. Using a variety of strategies, Tang Fellow Nikki Cleare will explore opportunities to bring knowledge and research about the science of learning and learning mindsets to the teaching and study of mathematics.

Mindful Community


Now in its third year, the Mindful Community project aims to support community members—students, staff, and faculty—in their cultivation of mindfulness in daily life. Mindfulness practice can play an important role in enhancing individual well-being and in cultivating empathy in interactions with others. Mindfulness is the practice of bringing kind awareness and curiosity to whatever is happening in the present moment: in our minds, in our bodies, and in the world around us.

Academy Compass


Academy Compass (Compass) enables students to take placement exams on an efficient, online testing platform in mathematics and other academic subjects. Content Design Lead Joel Jacob will work closely with Jacques Hugon, technology partner to the Tang Institute and lead developer of the platform, to engage a small group of schools that plan to use the Compass platform for their custom placement tests in the spring of 2018. This effort will provide an opportunity to pilot the Compass platform with partner schools and to understand its use in diverse, new contexts. Besides working closely with department chairs from other schools to design their custom tests, Joel will also build statistical models, using data from existing tests, which assess both the effectiveness of the questions already in use, as well as the logic underlying the placement of students in each school’s curriculum.

Tang-SYA Collaboration: Hybrid Calculus


Through a partnership between School Year Abroad (SYA) and Phillips Academy (PA), a year-long, hybrid calculus course will be implemented as part of the SYA Spain curriculum during the coming school year. Led by Tang Fellow Matt Lisa, and in conjunction with Tang Collaborator Will Orben, who is spending his sabbatical year as a math teacher in Zaragoza, Spain, the 2017-18 collaboration focuses on creating and curating digital materials in partnership with SYA and builds upon a rich database of content and tools developed in recent years. The project enables both schools to explore new means of teaching and learning and features a pedagogy that combines the use of online content, remote instruction, and in-person coursework.

Scientific Learning


Now in its second year, Christine Marshall-Walker’s project is focused on identifying and assessing learning outcomes for students in our advanced biology (BIOL-500) and molecular biology research (BIOL-600) courses. After collecting preliminary data in 2016-17, she will launch a more expansive, formal study this fall. The overarching goal is to identify and nurture specific attitudes and behaviors that promote academic maturation in our students while strengthening their love of learning. Based on this year’s study, she hopes to identify and share outcomes and strategies that are relevant for teachers across the Division of Natural Sciences as well as those at other institutions.

Hybrid Fiction Workshop for Young Women

This project aims to design a hybrid workshop model that will prepare young women writers for the creative challenges and practical realities of sharing their work beyond the classroom. Combining an on-campus summer residency with an online platform, the workshop will focus on the development of each student’s unique writing voice, artistic confidence, editorial skills, and awareness of the publishing landscape, with an eye toward avoiding submission pitfalls associated with youth and gender. In gradually shifting student writers from an academic mindset to an independent one—from question-answerers to problem-makers, from writers in the classroom to writers at home—this hybrid workshop will help students cultivate sustainable writing habits and publication strategies.

Citizen Historians and the Holocaust

This coming year, Tang Fellow Mary Mulligan will work with PA students on History Unfolded, a project of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, DC. The project invites citizen historians, including teachers and students, to investigate American newspapers from 1933 to 1945 to determine what was being reported in the press about the treatment of Jews during these years.

By finding and reading newspaper articles, students will use primary sources to explore how the Holocaust was covered in the local and national press. When students find a newspaper article they will then upload it to the USHMM’s national database which focuses on 32-Holocaust-era events.

Together with colleagues in the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL) and the History & Social Sciences Department, Mulligan and PA students will consider important questions regarding 21st century journalism, including the construction of local and national narratives, the emergence of fake news, the verification of primary sources and accounts, and more. In spring of 2018, a group from PA will travel to the USHMM to view the new exhibit of which History Unfolded will be a key part.

Physics 550 Hybrid Project


Tang Fellow Ranbel Sun, in close collaboration with Tang Fellow Caroline Odden and members of the Physics department, are working together to develop a diverse set of online physics modules and resources. The long-term goal of this project is to create a mastery-based Physics 550 curriculum which utilizes a hybrid approach and will build a growing body of resources developed by PA Physics teachers. Using a variety of mastery learning strategies, including group-based, individualized, teaching and learning techniques, a key motivation will be to test approaches that enable students to move at their own pace through certain parts of the course, in order to achieve a high level of understanding in the process. Online resources will be designed and utilized to introduce content and provide initial feedback. Class time would shift towards learning more in-depth material, exploring demos, and working with peers. These combined approaches will aim to help the students take control of their learning, be accessible to students from diverse backgrounds and levels of familiarity with the content, and promote a growth mindset.

Learning Disposition


Whether in the classroom or outside of it, engaging with a new community online, or developing a new skill, young people must have the capacity to understand failure and adversity as natural parts of the learning process. Informed by research in the field, Noah Rachlin is now in his fourth year of leading an effort to help students and teachers see mistakes not as impenetrable roadblocks but as natural parts of the learning process. Rachlin has defined this practice as “learning disposition,” which he breaks into four key concepts: mindset (“I believe it is possible to improve”); motivation (“I want to improve”); deliberate practice (“I’m going to work at the upper limits of my present ability to improve.”); and focus (“I will commit myself to this work over time”). During this coming year, Rachlin will lead a variety of activities designed to deepen and expand this work, through drawing connections with related efforts on campus, including work emanating from the Sykes Wellness Center, the Empathy & Balance curriculum, the work of the Dean of Students and Dean of Studies offices, and additional efforts. He will also continue efforts to partner with other schools and organizations who are implementing and developing strategies designed to help students to understand and guide their learning.

Memento Mori: Education, Documentation, and Interpretation at the Andover Historic Burial Grounds


This project will forge a collaborative relationship between Phillips Academy and several local organizations with the goal of conducting pedagogically driven fieldwork to document, analyze, and preserve two of Andover’s and North Andover’s rapidly decaying historical colonial burial grounds. This work will be conducted in large part through a new Phillips Academy history elective and will result in the production of state-of-the-art maps, 3D imaging, and an interactive database that will be made publically accessible to the local community and beyond. Throughout their work, students will hone research, writing, analytical, visual literacy, and cutting-edge technological skills in a hands-on experiential and project-driven environment.

Additional Support

In addition, the Tang Institute is pleased to offer support for the following technology initiatives:

Mapping and Teaching the Haitian Revolution: Digital Mapping Tools

With their project, Mapping and Teaching the Haitian Revolution, Stephanie Curci and Chris Jones are creating an interdisciplinary course on the Haitian Revolution and its Caribbean and American consequences. Topics will include abolitionism, sentimental literature, national histories, collective memory, and the terms of legitimate revolution. As the project enters its second year, the Tang Institute will offer support for digital tools designed to engage teachers, students, and organizations within and outside the PA community in this work.

IRT: Alumni Database and Networking Tools

Led by Executive Director Asabe Poloma, the Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers (IRT) will develop and implement an online database designed to connect and engage its growing network of alumni, teachers, collaborators, and other stakeholders.

About the Tang Institute

The Tang Institute at Andover is dedicated to cultivating and sharing innovative ideas that center on a common inquiry: How do we prepare students for an increasingly complex and interconnected world? The answers are varied, but Tang Institute pursuits are grounded in Andover’s commitment to connected learning, an educational approach that makes learning relevant to life and work in a digital age and global society. The Institute functions as an ideas lab, drawing together faculty, students, and partners to explore and develop promising, new approaches to teaching and learning—and to bring what’s working into the classroom and the wider world.

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