What does this problem want me to do?


Solving problems in STEM courses often requires identifying the correct procedure for solving a problem. If, under the time pressure and stress of an exam, you jump right at a problem, you may choose the wrong procedure to solve it.


To train yourself to look before you leap, when working on problem sets, ask and answer the questions, “What does this problem want me to do? How will I give it what it wants?” for each problem.

Rashmi Kumar, Ed. D., STEM Specialist at the Weingarten Center, consistently teaches her undergraduate and medical students to ask these questions before they jump at the problem, so they are more likely to pair it with the right procedure:

What does this problem want me to do?


Define the goal of the problem

It might make the work a little more fun, and you will be faster and better at problem-procedure pairing on the midterm:

How will I give the problem what it wants?”

Identify the procedure that should be paired with the problem


Susana is about to solve a STEM problem. She asks herself,

What does this problem want me to do?

She answers,

Hmm, it wants me to calculate the torque at a perpendicular force.

Then she asks,

How will I give it what it wants?

And answers,

First I have to convert the units into the expected format. Next, I’ll need to identify the right equation. Then I’ll be ready solve the equation.

Simple and easy, right?

Practice it until it is an automatic habit and you will do it under pressure.

And for added fun, try saying “problem-procedure pairing” ten times fast!


By Staff Writer: Nicholas Santascoy, Learning Instructor


Spring Clean Your Academic Life


Image from UPenn Facilities website

While it might not feel like spring outside yet, it is definitely around the corner. Spring break is over, and this semester is already halfway complete. Before we become busy with spring social commitments, with enjoying the nice weather (it’s coming, I promise!), and with beginning to study for finals, this point in the semester can be a great time to do some academic spring cleaning.

Sound new to you? Often, we often only think of spring cleaning as a chore we complete with our dorms, houses, or apartments, but actually this can be a great point in the semester for taking time to reorganize your academic life. Spending a few hours clearing out old papers and organizing important files can help you feel recharged and ready to take on the rest of the semester.


Image from NewBridge Recovery

So turn on some music, open up the curtains to let some sunlight in, and get ready to get organized. Here are some suggestions for how to spring clean your academic life:

  • Take some time to go through your folders (or the paper crumpled at the bottom of your backpack).
    • Recycle the papers you don’t need anymore.
    • If papers will be useful or helpful later in the semester or in future classes, place them in a labeled folder.
  • Organize the files on your computer.
    • Make sure you have created file folders for each of your courses this semester. Sort your files accordingly. Make sure to add any downloaded files that will be useful.
    • Delete the computer files you no longer need.
    • If you are reading a lot of PDFs, make sure you are keeping them organized for easy reference when you are writing future essays. Tools like OneNote, Notability, or Zotero can be great for helping to keep PDFs organized.
  • Sort out your Inbox!
    • This task can be dreaded, but now can be a good time to take charge of your email if it’s gotten out of hand.
    • Delete unread or unneeded messages.
    • Place important emails in their applicable folders
    • Take yourself email chains that you don’t need or send them directly all an advertisement folder so they aren’t clogging up your main inbox.
  • Take stock of your books and textbooks.
    • If you’re like me and you have too many books, make sure you’ve made any returns to the library.
    • See if you can sell back any books on Amazon or another site.
    • Donate books you no longer need to on-campus donation sites or a local library.
  • Review your planner and/or schedule.
    • Make sure your spring commitments are updated.


Image from Waterford Technologies

What else do you do to recharge and reorganize during the spring? Let us know!

Remember, instructors at Weingarten are here to help with any of your academic needs! Call 215 – 573 – 9235 to make an appointment. Or, stop by Monday thru Friday from 12pm to 3pm and Tuesday and Wednesday nights from 4pm  to 7pm for walk-in appointments.

By: Kelcey Grogan, Weingarten Learning Instructor and Learning Fellow

Exam Analysis

Often, students spend all their time studying and preparing for exams before they take a test. Did you know though that some of the most important studying and preparation comes after you take exams?

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One of the best ways to prepare for future exams and to ensure that you understand course material is to analyze your exam after you take it! This ensures that you are thinking critically about your learning and preparing the best way possible for your next exam.

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When you receive your test back from your instructor, first examine the questions you answered correctly.

Think about:

  • How did you study for this information?
  • Why did you get this question right?
  • What can you learn from it?

Use this information to help you prepare for your next exam. Identify what strategies worked for you when you were preparing for this test, and be sure to use them again.

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Next, look at the questions you answered incorrectly.

            Identify why you answered incorrectly:

  • Was it a content mistake? Meaning:
    • You never saw the information.
    • You didn’t study the information.
    • You studied the information but learned it incorrectly.
    • You studied the information but could not recall.
      • From these content areas, see if you can identify if your mistakes were coming from the same section.
      • Do you need to go back and review a chapter section?
      • Would it be helpful for you to review this with the professor, a TA, or a tutor?
  • Was your error in the application of the material? Meaning:
    • You studied and recalled the basic information but could not apply it to higher order thinking problems.
  • Did your error have to do with how you approached the tests? Meaning:
    • Did you misread or misinterpret a test question?
    • Were you too impulsive or overconfident on certain tests questions?
    • Was it test fatigue?
    • Was your pacing off for the test? Were you running out of time?

Use this information to help you adjust your studying for the next exam.

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Make an appointment with a learning instructor at the Weingarten Learning Resources Center for more help on how to make the most of your exam analysis. Here is a link on our exam analysis appointment protocol. We are happy to help you think more critically about your class, about what you learned, and about how to prepare for your next exam!

Blog adapted from resources prepared by Dr. Ryan Miller, Executive Director of the WLRC.

By: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor

Reflections on DATA

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As a society, we put great value on DATA. As students, academics, scholars, researchers, practitioners and inquirers, we are often in the pursuit of, if not, immersed in DATA. Each Discipline, from Medical and the Health Sciences, to Engineering, Computer Science and Business, Sociology and Social Policy, to Education and many others, we seek to identify, collect, connect and correlate, analyze, triangulate and interpret data in meaningful and impactful ways.

All the while, we adhere to the highest standards of integrity, validity and reliability. Institutionally, we evaluate and scrutinize our methodological processes through rigorous review processes, internal review boards, internal and external audits and certifications, etc.

Whether or not our practices are directly or indirectly related to data generation, processes, manipulation and/or management, our lives are increasingly enveloped in DATA, and currently, BIG DATA, mediated by technological advances.

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While there is substantive information, including literature, instruction, training and professional communities that serve the missions of quantitative and qualitative methods of research inquiry, it is worth reflecting and engaging with some enduring and universal questions about humanizing and democratizing research:

What is the [Symbolic or Material] VALUE of [Researcher/Practitioner] Data?
Who does Research ultimately Benefit?
  • Whose interests does it serve?
  • What purpose(s) does it fulfill, for whom and why?
  • What are the restrictive parameters (e.g. temporal or contextual, etc.) particular to the affordances and limitations of the collected data that would curtail or caution the generalizability or universality of the research findings?
  • What other outcomes or consequences can be anticipated or identified/acknowledged beyond/outside the scope of the research question/study?
  • What are the cross-disciplinary implications of the study (e.g. social, economic, political, religious, etc.)
What are some of the issues of Access in Site and Participant Selection?
  • Whose stories/agendas are studied/told, why, and how? Which stories/agendas are foregrounded, and which are subjugated? Whose stories/agendas are omitted?
  • Which participants does research seek to reach by elicitation, and why? Is there an avenue/process for participants/communities to reach research opportunities? Is there reciprocity and multilateralness, or is research unilateral?
  • Can participants self-select into or except out of research without direct or indirect consequences? What are the local implications of designing indeterminacy into the site and/or participant selection process – at the local and macro levels?
  • How are power disparities conceptualized, balanced or mitigated? How is power directly or indirectly coded or recognized into the research process and findings report?

So, the next time you engage with your research project and reflect upon your conceptualizations, site and participant selection, data sources and rules of engagement, and interactional methods, consider the other side of RIGOR, tipping the balance towards humanization, democratizing engagement and ambivalence.

Only a very intentional, many times, alternative approach to scientific research, can balance by counteracting the historical scientification, neutralization, objectification and exotified subjectivity of individual, community and complex categorical lived realities that are far from neutral, but politically imposed.

For more information about intersecting RESEARCH with their SOCIAL CONTEXTS, consider the following literature:

  • Erickson and Gutierrez (2002). Culture, Rigor, and Science in Educational ResearchEducational Researcher. 31:8. 21-24.
  • Lather and Moss (2005). Introduction: Implications of Scientific Research in Education Report for Qualitative InquiryTeachers College Record. 107:1. 1-3.
  • Zembylas and Schutz, Eds. (2016) Methodological Advances in Research on Emotion and Education. Switzerland:Springer International Publishing.

By WLRC Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Instructor

Making It Stick!

What has Research about the Science of Successful Learning taught us about Making It Stick?


Brown, Roediger & McDaniel (2014) identified 6 Research-based Principles and Strategies for committing information to long-term memory and increasing the probability of retrieving it as applicable knowledge:

➔  (1) Rereading text and massed practice are ineffective
➔  (2) Active retrieval interrupts forgetting
➔  (3) Create a mental model for new knowledge that connects to larger context and prior knowledge

A conceptual approach to active information processing and retrieval helps interrupt forgetting and deepen your understanding. Conceptual Mapping helps you:

  1. Synthesize the big picture,
  2. Do a deep dive where you need to be more granular,
  3. Establish simple-complex relationships and hierarchies,
  4. Identify gaps, and
  5. Try a variety of Conceptual Mapping tools:
1. Concept Map Anywhere!

All you need is any blank “canvas”: scrap paper, notebook, white board, etc.

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2. Concept Map Online: Search for a Variety of Free and Subscription Software Apps


3. Try this Free Online Concept Mapping Tool by Google: Coggle


(Click icon above to watch introductory video)
➔  (4) Space out practice and interleave subjects

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There is a minimum of 3 levels of time management for the semester:

  1. Semester: Major Deadlines
  2. Week: Logistical
  3. Daily: Individual Tasks
Think strategically before, during and after coursework


  1. Office Hours: Professor and Teaching Assistant
  2. Sleep
  3. Meals and Snacks
  4. Breaks
  5. Self-Care Activities (e.g. exercise, therapy/counseling, health care, etc.)
  6. Extra-curricular, volunteer and social activities
➔  (5) Extract underlying principles that differentiate problem types to prepare for unfamiliar problems/situations
➔  (6) Try problems before being taught solution

As you prepare weekly problem sets for class, recitation or online submission, OR before you compare your sample prior exam answers, step back and take time to:

  • Evaluate and differentiate types of problem by concept categories.
Conceptual Problems
Algorithmic Problems

Make It Stick

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, WLRC Learning Instructor

Shhh!!! Super Secret Study Spot!

secret-1142327_960_720 In need of a new study spot? 
Bored of the same old?
Search no more! 



If you are a sensory-modal, visual learner, and/or share a love for the arts,  you will love our newest Super Secret Study spot: UPENN-ICA

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Location: 118 South 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

Phone: (215) 898-7108

Museum Hours: 

Elixir Coffee Bar: 

Admission: FREE for ALL


As soon as you walk into the ICA-UPENN, you will notice the essential Elixir Coffee Bar to your left:


Grab your favorite caffeine fuel or otherwise, gourmet pastry, and head up the stairs to your left alongside the mega glass walls to the museum’s mezzanine:


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Your long-awaited soft-landing will be a brightly-lit mezzanine area flooded in natural light from two adjacent walls:

Depending on the configuration of the space, you may find different types of table set-ups, but typically, you will have the option of at least 3 small tables with chairs on all sides, enough to support 1 person to a group of 3-4 people:



When the weather is nice outside, you can head out to the Tuttleman Terrace, and enjoy the elements:

Studying + Sunbathing = Bliss!

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So next time you find yourself needing a little pick-me-up, try a change of scenery…


  • Galleries are currently closed for installation, but the Elixir Coffee Bar and Mezzanine remain open regular hours.
  • Winter Opening Celebration: February 2, 2018.
  • Winter Exhibit:
Cary Leibowitz: Museum Show

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So grab your FREE ICA-UPENN Museum Membership, and enjoy your Super Secret Study Spot!

Secret Concept

Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Instructor

Tech Tuesday – The iPad Pro Pencil

If you already have an iPad Pro, the iPad pencil is a must! If you are planning on saving up for an iPad Pro, then make sure to save up for the iPad pencil too. Priced at $99, the pencil is a great addition to the iPad. It makes studying and taking notes so much easier. If you are already using apps like OneNote, EverNote, or Notability to help with your studies, the iPad pencil syncs easily to work with these applications.

kelcey tech


Annotating: Annotating and writing notes on PDFs is made much easier with the iPad Pencil. It is a much more natural feel, cleaner and easier to read than writing with your finger on the iPad screen.  This is one of my favorite ways to use the iPad pencil. I am someone who needs to write on what I read. Using the iPad Pencil allows me to still take great notes, while keeping all the PDFs organized by class (and saving a lot of paper!).

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Notetaking: With the iPad Pencil, the iPad becomes like a travelling notebook. It is much easier and more natural to take handwritten notes during classes or in other settings. These handwritten notes on your screen can transfer easily to other devices with apps like OneNote and Endnote.

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Drawing: This is one of the wonders of the iPad Pencil. Drawing and making figures on the iPad is taken to a whole new level with the iPad Pencil. This can also be useful for studying. Now you can create mind maps and concept maps right on your iPad.

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  • The pencil only works with the iPad Pro.
  • It’s $99.
Let us know if you have any other suggestions for tech products to review!

Note: This blogpost is not an ad. In our Tech Tuesday posts, we highlight technology that we think would be useful and helpful for students.



By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor