Summer Reflection Part I: Examining Our Academic Writing Processes

SunriseDawnThe Pacific OceanBeachWaveRocks
https://pixabay.com/photos/sunrise-dawn-the-pacific-ocean-2489250/

Maybe you are taking an alternative summer break and doing community service in a remote pacific village, and taking time in between to soak in the clear ocean air. Or maybe you have accepted an internship position with a financial consulting firm in New York City. Or maybe you have joined a summer co-op opportunity with a technology start-up firm in the CA bay area. Or maybe you are back at your childhood home, getting re-acquainted with your town and civic organizations. Wherever you may be this summer, and however you may have chosen to spend your time, we hope that you will carve out a little time for academic reflection. Here’s a simple framework for reflecting, and doing some meta-cognitive self-assessment so that you can reap the benefits of lessons learned and start your Fall semester in gear:

Reflecting and analyzing your writing

It’s so easy to dust our hands off, catalogue our papers away, and turn a new page. And it’s completely natural and understandable to do that since you’ve just spent so much time intensively researching, drafting and revising your paper. You did your best, submitted your paper, and accepted your grade. Well done, and do step away; however, be intentional about scheduling time to return and assess the product of your labor:

  • What type of feedback have you received from your teaching team or peers? What was helpful? Are there areas for further development? Would it be helpful to schedule a follow up appointment/call with your professor during the summer or in the fall?
  • Was the process of conceptualizing your ideas, thesis and argument coherent for you? How close did you stay to your original plan or how far did you depart from it? Looking back, was the initial scope of your main thesis realistic? What can we learn about zooming in or out in our scope given the requirements of the project?
  • Which resources were most helpful? Are there integral literary sources that have become a critical part of your interpretive lens and you know you will be returning to? Are there new journals, research or professional organizations that you will be utilizing more henceforth? Is there a new theory, practice or research/data analysis instrument that you have adopted?
  • Have you shifted your thinking in any way? Have you added a complementary perspective that helped further stratify or nuance your thinking? Have you developed a deeper understanding of your guiding principles? Have you moved away from your prior positionality to think in a new mode or from a different perspective?

Journal, journal, journal! Keep a writing reflection journal. I know that writing may be the last thing that you may want to do during your summer break, but you may be pleasantly surprised to realize later in the new academic year that these reflections have planted seeds that will germinate new ideas for your forthcoming papers. And most importantly, through reflection, we grow as writers and analysts!

Wishing you a Happy Summer, speckled with opportunities to reflect on your academic writing!

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow

Study Spots: Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics (PCPSE)

The south view of the contemporary expansion of the Ronald O. Perelman Center. (Photo: copyright Adrien Williams, courtesy of KPMB) https://penntoday.upenn.edu/news/new-perelman-center-looks-future-while-preserving-past

If you are a lover of historic art deco architecture and are in the hunt for a new study spot, look no further than across from the Penn Bookstore at 36th and Walnut. Inaugurated in 2018, the Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics (PCPSE) is the latest addition to the School of Arts & Sciences, which rehabilitated and significantly expanded the circa-1925 West Philadelphia Title and Trust Company building at 133 S. 36th. Enter on 36th street through the set of glass doors in the new addition across from Cosi Cafe:

Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics https://www.facilities.upenn.edu/maps/locations/perelman-center-political-science-and-economics

The main lobby is airy, and if you enjoy studying under natural light, it should be the perfect locale for you, especially when the days are long and it’s sunny outside. Upon entering, you will find student lounges, with various types of seating, on either side of the escalators:

If you’re looking to do group work in art deco-meets-futuristic style, your team will feel energized and motivated to collaborate utilizing one of their six group study rooms, which can be reserved online:

“One of the most important roles of a great university is to encourage open dialogue, the free exchange of ideas, and civil and robust expression of divergent views, on our campus and all around the world,” Gutmann added. “This building will be a place to do just that.”

https://penntoday.upenn.edu/news/new-perelman-center-looks-future-while-preserving-past

So give the new PCPSE a try and let us know how you enjoy it! And don’t forget to step outside and cross-over to the conveniently located and newly revamped Penn Bookstore Cafe to refresh and replenish in between your study sessions!

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow

Relaxation Room @ Penn’s Biomedical Library

Penn is committed to the heath and well-being of all students, faculty and staff. Dr. Dubé is the University of Pennsylvania’s inaugural Chief Wellness Officer. The Wellness at Penn website provides eight categories of wellness:

Adapted from the Wellness Wheel of SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the US Department of Health and Human Services)
https://www.wellnessatpenn.com/

On April 25, 2019, Amanpreet (Aman) Kaur, Community Health and Engineering Librarian at the Biomedical Library, and her team’s idea of “Weekly Themed Walks” was selected as one of the finalists for Penn Wellness’ Big Pitch event, which invited students, staff and faculty to pitch their ideas for innovative wellness programming for the community.

Aman has also developed the Relaxation Room at the Biomedical Library:

Relaxation Room by Amanpreet Kaur
Penn Libraries

On May 30th, Aman provided us with a tour of the Relaxation Room in support of the Sow, Nurture and Grow: Cultivate Your Purpose theme of this year’s SALT (Student Affairs Leadership Team) conference at Penn:

  • There are spaces for physical, intellectual and spiritual relaxation, including yoga mats, chair yoga and prayer mat.
  • There are spaces for drawing, coloring, sensorial manipulatives, puzzles and even an Operation game!
  • There are relaxing sounds stations where you can scan QR codes with your cellular device and listen with a headphone.
  • There is an adjacent room that can be accessed for more interactional activities.

And, of course, get some studying and research done before or after your relaxation, as the Biomedical Library continues to be a great Study Spot at Penn!

For more information about the Biomedical Library, also see our prior blog: Study Spots: Biomed Library.

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Instructor, Weingarten Learning Resources Center.

Refueling Research Passion

University of Pennsylvania, Houston Hall, Fireside Lounge
Photo by Scott Spitzer
Source: University of Pennsylvania flickr

How do you keep the intellectual fire alive?

Whether you’re an undergraduate, graduate, professional or executive student, everyone has experienced a feeling of plateau in their scholarship. Your “long-term” goal may range from a term paper, a capstone thesis, a peer-edited publication, a grant proposal, to a dissertation and beyond.

But what happens when you experience intellectual fatigue? When the passion and excitement of your research question appear to have dimmed? When fogginess surrounds your clarity of conviction and analysis? You have been so focused and poured so much time and energy into your academic, scholarly and professional endeavors, that all of a sudden you start doubting yourself, including your research.

At Weingarten, we love to partner with and support our students through the ups and downs of their academic journeys. We offer a framework to help you assess and reignite the passion within for your scholarship:

Refueling Research Passion Pyramid
Conceptual Framework by Min Derry

In the Refueling Research Passion Framework, each triangle represent spheres of opportunity to re-engage, learn and restore, while the circles represent stratification and fortification:

  1. Wellness Triangle (top): How can you engage Self-Development, Community & Network, and available Resources to nurture and restore your Wellness? For instance, is it time to make that doctor’s appointment, or to try that new circuit route for your running or workout routine? How about joining a Philly @ UCity Fitness or Nutrition Meetup?
  2. Intellectual Triangle (bottom left): How can you explore Self-Development, expand your Community & Network, and seek new Resources to deepen or broaden your Intellectual Pursuits? For instance, is it time to step outside of your comfort zone and try a new Conference that brings other players and perspectives, or to try an interdisciplinary Conference that will “shake” up your ideas a bit?
  3. Vocational Triangle (bottom right): How can you explore Self-Development, connect with your Community & Network, or seek new Resources for Professional Development? For instance, can you email that distant colleague or professor and finally connect over good conversation, an article, coffee and/or writing for publication?

PEDAL@GSE
Second-year lead facilitator Yuxiao Li speaks with the team of four first-year GSE students she is mentoring during a discussion after teaching the intermediate class at Penn.
Photo by Louisa Shepard.
University of Pennsylvania flickr

So, next time that you feel in a slump, fret not! There are ways to reignite your research passion! Refer to our helpful Framework for Refueling Your Research Passion.

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow

Managing Successful Transitions: Bringing the Skills you Learned at Weingarten Off Campus

I remember sitting, terrified, at my college graduation. I clutched the sides of my white plastic lawn chair like it was an ejector seat that could go off at any moment, propelling me from comfortable student life into a reluctant adulthood. At the time, the skills I had perfected through trial and error as a student– like keeping up with class assignments, studying for exams, and writing research papers—seemed entirely disconnected from my new role in the workforce. How would I cope with having a boss and coworkers? What if the pace was too demanding and I couldn’t keep up?

At my first job after college, I worked as an administrative assistant at a busy news magazine. I soon found out that the independent skills I learned from being a college student, such as juggling multiple assignments, keeping a to-do list, and staying on top of my schedule, were all transferrable to the workforce. For example, when I had a big project to tackle at work, I thought of large research papers I had written, and how I had broken them into smaller steps and assigned deadlines.

In my current role as a learning instructor, I often reflect on how the skills we focus on at Weingarten are setting our students up for success not only with coursework, but in their many off campus pursuits. Here are some practical ways you can use Weingarten learning strategies over the summer and beyond:

  1. Plan your syllabus. A syllabus is really just a roadmap, a kind of project plan with a few over-arching goals, and key dates and deliverables. Think about how you might use a similar syllabus or project plan to stay on track this summer. Remember to pick 3-4 big picture goals.
  2. Make a summer calendar. Many students love the colorful Weingarten semester calendars, which provide an overall view of key assignments. Why not make your own to plan out major dates and deadlines this summer?
  3. Use active learning strategies. Whether you are trying to ace an entrance exam for graduate school, or learn a new language for study abroad, remember to use visual diagrams, practice problems, and other techniques to keep your brain active.

By Staff Writer: Jennifer Kobrin, Learning Fellow

“Lifewide Learning:” Developing Resiliency Wherever Life Takes You

Many of us may have heard the term ‘lifelong learning,’ as it relates to an educational journey that may span several decades or even a lifetime. However, this term is often used to refer to the kids of education that happens within formal settings for adults – in classrooms such as on college campuses, or certificate programs that might prepare us for a career in a specific field. The term ‘lifewide learning[1],’ was created to acknowledge that adult learning happens in a nearly infinite range of places and situations, most of them outside the traditional classroom. Although we generally think of learning as intentional or deliberate, lifewide learning acknowledges that learning frequently happens unintentionally. Navigating these unexpected situations as opportunities for growth, no matter how frustrating, help us to develop resilience.

For students ending the semester and reflecting on what they learned from classes, the biggest takeaways may not have been from the syllabus or class assignments. For example, maybe the shock of receiving a bad grade on an important exam caused you to reexamine your time management and study strategies in ways that will ultimately help you succeed later in life. As students across Campus embark on summer internships, or perhaps a new job after graduation, remember that your biggest opportunities for growth may also be spontaneous or unplanned. You might find that your next job experience is something very different than what you expected. Again, rather than dwelling on this disconnect, be open to what you do learn. Uncomfortable or challenging situations can be particularly important opportunities for personal growth, if we are open to the lessons they bring.  


[1] Source: Reischmann, J. (2019). Lifewide learning – Challenges for Andragogy. Journal of Adult Learning, Knowledge and Innovation, 1(1), 43–50. https://doi.org/10.1556/2059.01.2017.2

By Staff Writer: Jennifer Kobrin, Learning Fellow

Bigger Pictures: Procrastivity’s Greatest Hits

Source: Wikimedia Commons
File:Procrastination (No Wall Uncovered VII).jpg

“Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he’s supposed to be doing at the moment.”

~ Robert Benchley

You know what’s annoying? Spell check. Let me tell you why. The neologism “procrastivity” shows up no later than 2008, and spell check wants me to change “procrastivity” to procreativity. Needless to say, procreativity requires not only a different blog post, but an entirely different blog.

Anyway, now that we’ve dispensed with that minor annoyance, let’s delve, shall we?

Procrastivity as a neologism comes from the merging of “procrastination” and “activity”. In other words, we engage in procrastivity when we are supposed to be doing one thing, a thing of great importance, and we instead do some other thing, also a thing of importance, but a thing of decidedly lesser importance. Groan if any of these sound familiar:

  • It’s time to study for your calculus final, but before you wrestle with limits and area under the curve, you first have to clean up your study space. You tell yourself that a tidy desk is a productive desk. But once your desk has reached the state of blissful efficiency, you realize you simply moved items to the bed and the surrounding environment which, of course, now demands organizing. Two and a half hours later you’ve cleaned your room for the first time in months, but you have yet to look at any calc.
  • Your final paper is due on the last day of exams. Nothing short of perfection will give you the final grade you so deeply covet. So you read. And you read some more. Over a period of days you even run back and forth to the library grabbing more books that turn out to be unneeded, which you knew before you checked them out but you just had to make sure. The day before it is due, you’ve written less than a page of the 20 or so you need to turn in.
  • You know you have to go through your Bio slides because the exam is a mere 37 hours away. But there’s so much to be done. You need to send a follow up email to the members of your performance group, thanking them again for all the extra work they did to make the semester ending show such a rousing success. You then double check the treasurer’s report and send her an email thanking her for getting you the numbers before summer break. You then check your airline reservation since you’re flying out of PHL in a mere 43 hours. Slides? What slides?

Slippery slope, thy name is procrastivity.

This type of procrastination hurts because the other things you do instead have legitimate importance. But you are still not doing what you need to be doing.

So: Beware. Be careful. Be vigilant.

And as finals draw ever closer, remember: You got this.

Pete Kimchuk

Senior Learning Instructor