June 24, 2019

The Tang Institute: A Year in Review

This past year at the Institute was one of learning, reflection, and partnership.
by Andrew Housiaux

The Tang Institute exists to support student learning. We fund faculty fellowships—often in interdisciplinary teams—to learn about and engage with central questions in education today. We also connect our learning with other educational leaders, sharing and growing our best ideas with local and global communities.

This is the mission of the Tang Institute, and I have been honored to lead this important work as Currie Family Director. This past year at the Institute was one of learning and reflection: in what ways can Tang best support student learning, both at Andover and in the wider educational community? How can we encourage the ongoing learning and growth of our talented faculty? And what do meaningful, ongoing partnerships look like?

Re-Envisioning Learning

This spring we laid the groundwork for our pilot of a School within a School, which will officially launch in spring 2020 and allow us to re-envision learning as we work with a group of students to pursue interdisciplinary, project-based learning undertaken in connection with the campus and local community. This undertaking will put Andover in nationwide educational conversations about grading, assessment, and experiential education. The 30th anniversary of the Gender Sexuality Alliance on campus was an opportunity for the Tang Institute to bring together several of our partners. We sponsored and hosted five graduate students from the Klingenstein Center at Teachers College, Columbia University, who engaged in the weekend’s events and had thoughtful conversations with a range of faculty here. Tang Fellow Kurt Prescott presented to an audience of educators and alumni about the innovative work about teaching in inclusive classrooms that he has done with Harvard Divinity School’s Religious Literacy Project. We’re particularly excited to think about ways to impact student learning by focusing on innovative pedagogy in core courses, including the integration of ethics modules into some Computer Science courses and additional inquiry-based learning in Biology 100 that will build on previous science of learning work done by Tang Fellow Christine Marshall.

Building a Community—Locally and Globally

Other highlights from the year were our third consecutive TEDx conference, put on in collaboration with Mike Barker and the OWHL team. A Niswarth conference in March brought together educators and school leaders from across New England to learn about a flagship LITW program. Our CompassEdu platform now serves more than 1000 students at seven schools and supports educators with assessment, placement, and course validation. Our yearlong Mindfulness Speaker Series was open to the public and had more than 500 people—including educators from 10 schools—taking advantage of this programming that spanned the academic year. All three of our speakers have agreed to return this coming academic year, and we will continue to build out additional programming for school-based teachers of mindfulness in the surrounding communities.

Our twice-monthly Tang lunches continue to be a forum for community learning and the exchange of ideas; highlights were presentations on empathy and the arts, methods of tracking student participation with discussion maps, and project-based statistics. We have been hosting teachers and administrators from schools across the region and the country; by inviting them to our Tang lunches, they have been able to learn from our fellows and take ideas incubated here back to their home schools and school districts.

Connect with Us

I remain grateful for our engaged community of students, teachers, partners, alumni, staff, and so many others. In particular, I would like to express my gratitude to our departing Head of School, John Palfrey, whose vision helped bring the Tang Institute into being and whose ongoing support has inspired us to reach for a broad vision of Phillips Academy as a private school with a public purpose.

As ever, we welcome any thoughts or feedback you may have. If you haven’t signed up to receive the regular newsletter of the Tang Institute, “Notes on Learning,” I encourage you to subscribe online and stay connected to our news, events, and deeper reads.

For now I leave you with a few resources we suggest for summer reading, related to projects our fellows are undertaking at the Tang Institute and in partnership with others in education.

Recommended Reading

An Ethic of Excellence by Ron Berger

"Berger’s book cuts through the noise of innovation and insists that the singular representation of a school’s purpose is — and should be — the work its students produce. Any institutional effort that doesn’t enable students to produce interesting, authentic, rigorous work is effort wasted."

The Privileged Poor by Anthony Jack

Getting in is only half the battle. The Privileged Poor reveals how—and why—disadvantaged students struggle at elite colleges, and explains what schools can do differently if these students are to thrive.

"Why the Periphery is Often More Powerful Than the Core" by Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine

"[E]xtracurriculars draw together opposing virtues that are critical for sustained and deep learning: passion because students have chosen the arena and are seeking to excel in it, and precision because there are ample opportunities for practice and feedback .... Once we began to see this world this way, we realized that the most powerful core disciplinary classes that we observed shared many of these characteristics."

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