October 09, 2019

Partnership at the Tang Institute | Four Views

Four different modes of engagement offer a glimpse of partnership at the Tang Institute
by Andrew Housaiux

Ted Sizer, Andover’s 12th head of school, often spoke of Phillips Academy as a private school with a public purpose. This non sibi spirit was central to Oscar Tang’s and John Palfrey’s founding vision of the Tang Institute, and it is something we strive to embody each day. We seek to connect educational leaders to our school community and to share our best ideas and learning with the broader educational community.

But what do these lofty ideals look like in practice? The past two weeks offer a snapshot of four different modes of engagement. They show an institute that brings educational leaders to campus, that works with faculty and students to pilot and develop new materials, and that imagines new approaches to teaching and learning at Andover.

September 23: Right Question Institute

At the invitation of Tang Fellows José Peralta and Cath Kemp, the Tang Institute brought the Right Question Institute (RQI) to campus for a daylong workshop. José originally connected with RQI co-director Luz Santana at the NAIS People of Color Conference, and he saw the potential for this work to inform teaching on campus. “Cath and I were in the process of rethinking the Bio 100 curriculum,” Peralta says, “and RQI’s Question Formulation Technique was an exciting opportunity for us to think about the ways in which we could help all students feel seen and heard in our classrooms.”

A range of faculty attended this workshop that helped teachers design lessons that put student questioning and inquiry at the heart of the learning process. Faculty from Biology 100 made up much of the group. This department is working with José and Cath to develop new materials that incorporate more inquiry into this foundational science course.

This project is an example of the Tang Institute’s on-campus focus on core academic courses. The learning of hundreds of students is impacted when we help colleagues and departments refine and reimagine these core academic courses. Close to 175 9th graders take Bio 100 each year, and as these students continue to make their way through Andover, they will be able to draw upon and return to these foundational scientific skills of question-asking, hypothesizing, and collaborating.

September 26: Harvard’s Religious Literacy Project

On September 26, the Tang Institute hosted Lauren Kerby and Sarabinh Levy-Brightman, two educators and staff members from Harvard Divinity School’s Religious Literacy Project (RLP). The RLP is dedicated to supporting the public understanding of religion. As part of its mission, they work closely with K–12 educators.

Tang Fellow Kurt Prescott has worked closely with this group over the past two years and presented this summer at the RLP’s Summer Institute, which featured educators from all over the country.

After visiting several classes, the educators from RLP spoke with faculty from the English and Philosophy and Religious Studies departments. They made plans to work together on several projects to support classroom teachers.

One faculty member will work to develop resources around religious literacy in the context of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, a text taught in English departments across the country. Others are exploring ways to help the RLP build out its library of primary sources to support teachers, with a particular focus on resources in African American literature and history.

Kurt Prescott had his first online office hours last week, meeting with educators from across the country on Zoom. This collaboration will continue through office hours, curriculum development, and joint development of educator resources.

September 30: Kevin Mattingly meets with Workshop Faculty

On September 30, faculty of the Workshop, Andover’s school within a school, hosted mentor teacher Kevin Mattingly. Mattingly is a longtime teacher at the Klingenstein Summer Institute, a founding faculty member of the Mountain School, and a co-teacher of EdX’s popular “Science of Learning” course.

It was a day of dialogue and discussion during which Mattingly asked key questions:

  • How do you want the students in the Workshop to be changed by their time in the program?
  • What can this experience offer that a more typical senior spring experience cannot?
  • How can faculty remain intentional in thinking about their goals for learning, assessment, and collaboration with off-campus partners?

The following day, the Workshop team met for its weekly meeting and debriefed Mattingly’s visit, beginning the process of turning their insights and questions into a more formal curriculum and system of assessment. They turned their attention to “mastery credits,” a term put forward by the Mastery Transcript Consortium to describe interdisciplinary skills like civic-mindedness that students would engage with from several different dimensions.

October 4: Opportunity Insights

Five Andover faculty drove to Harvard’s Opportunity Insights on Friday, October 4. These faculty members came from several different parts of the community: History and Social Science, Math, Statistics, and Computer Science, and the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library. The topic of conversation? Andover’s plan to pilot a module from Professor Raj’s Chetty’s renowned course, Using Big Data to Solve Social and Economic Problems.

This fall, 64 students in four economics sections will explore Chetty’s Opportunity Atlas, doing statistical research and writing up their findings in a narrative report based upon the assignment given to college students.

In addition to this work done in the classes of economics teachers Liz Monroe and Tedd Parker, statistics teacher Ellen Greenberg will have her students explore the Atlas and related materials. As the team at Opportunity Insights explores more avenues to connect their research to other high school teachers and classrooms, they will continue to draw upon the experience of Andover teachers and students as they engage with this exciting material.

Categories: Partnerships, Featured

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