Sharing Stories at the Penn Faces Speakeasy

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On Thursday, April 5, Penn students, faculty, and staff braved the unseasonably cold, windy, and chilly weather to share and listen to one another’s stories on Penn’s College Green. This event was organized by the student group Penn Faces, which has been supported by the Weingarten Learning Resources Center since its inception.

Penn Faces is a “project that is the product of collaboration among individuals who came together with the common goal of creating a site to foster resilience and encourage honest conversations. Its vibrant color is a blending of Penn’s red and blue, highlighting both the spectrum and the unity of our experiences.”

The Penn Faces website provides students, faculty, and staff with a space to present their stories to the broader Penn community in the hope of breaking down the expectations of perfection that can be found on Penn’s campus.

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Some members of the PennFaces Student Advisory Board

The PennFaces Speakeasy is an annual event, organized by the PennFaces Student Advisory Board, that is held to provide the Penn community a space where they can share their stories with a wider audience.

The speakers exhibited strength through their vulnerability while sharing their personal stories of facing setbacks, experiencing loss, finding different paths, and building their resiliency. Here are some of the speakers from the event:

As an audience member, what stood out to me where some common themes that connected the different stories.

  • While each person shared their own individual stories of facing challenges, of feeling like they needed to hide who they were, or of believing they needed to conceal their struggles behind a mask, what made a difference for each person was finding an individual or a community with whom they could speak and connect with.
These ideas spoke to me about the need to find community and to make connections here at Penn.

Too often, I can feel like I just really need to zone in and focus on my academic and professional work while I am here, but we all need to make time and space for our personal lives.

We can have a richer, happier, and more fulfilling experience if we can be our whole selves on Penn’s campus.

Further, some acknowledged that every resource on campus is not for everybody, and that the first resource you reach out to might not be the best for you.

The speakers touched on ideas that reaching out to others and asking for help is a process, but that when you find the right place, it can make all the difference.

Whether who you reach out to is your friends or family, or a designated resource here on campus, these stories remind us that there are people here who truly care, and that there are people here who may be struggling too, even if they don’t always show it.

The speakers and advisory board hope that one day an event like the Speakeasy is not needed at Penn, because we will all feel more comfortable speaking about our fears, difficulties, and struggles openly in more spaces. For the time being though, PennFaces highlights a real need at Penn for students, faculty, and staff to remove our masks and to share our stories.

If you are interested in becoming more involved with PennFaces, go to Penn Faces to find out more.

For more resources at Penn, here is a helpful guide:

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Additionally, here are some other resources students have found to be helpful:

  • The Tutoring Center
  • Marks Family Writing Center
  • Resource Librarians
  • Professor and TA Office Hours
  • Campus and Community Houses (La Casa Latina, Makuu, Greenfield Intercultural Center, LGBT Center, etc.)
  • Your college major Advisors
Wherever you build your sense of community and decide to share your story, ask for help, or to find camaraderie, know that the Weingarten Learning Resources Center is here for you.

We wish you the best of luck as you finish up this semester!

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Dr. Ryan Miller, Director of the Office of Learning Resources, the PennFaces Student Advisory Board Members, Matthew Lee, Victoria Meeks, and Dr. Myrna Cohen, Executive Director of the WLRC, and Wendy Zhou.

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor & Research Fellow

 

 

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Building an Intentional Support Infrastructure

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Hello Folks! We’re coming up to that time of the year again. With the end of the Spring semester in sight, we’re ramping up for our last mid-terms, formalizing and consolidating major projects, and looking ahead to Reading Days (April 26-27) and Finals (April 30-May 8).

Wait a minute, why is Weingarten asking me to Stop, Pause and Reflect when I’m just ramping up, building momentum, taking the leap???

That’s right! WE CARE ABOUT YOU! Being a critically reflective and conscientious student, professional and human being demands us to hone in our assumptions, mode operands and the automaticity of our belief systems, ideologies and actions/behaviors – TO REFLECT, EXAMINE, INTERROGATE, ADJUST AND EVEN TRANSFORM!

Today, we’re reflecting on how to build an INTENTIONAL SUPPORT INFRASTRUCTURE for ourselves and others! Regardless of where you are in your PENN program, whether you’re a first year undergraduate or advanced post-doctorate professional student, building an intentional support infrastructure is ESSENTIAL to your SELF-CARE. We underline the term, intentional, because intentionality fosters change and growth.

Every member of the PENN community comes from different and unique walks of life. Some of us have had superbly, built-in support infrastructures in the past. If that applies to you, perhaps the support sought you out and you didn’t even have to look for it. Others may have had to be more self-supportive and independent, while being selective about discovering and seeking supports and guidance. Now, we’re at PENN, together, and things may look a little bit different, and/or your personal predicament may have changed a little or a lot. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Check out our PENN FACES website and program for real stories of successes and failures, ups and downs, hardships, self-discoveries and resilience – all here at PENN!

At Weingarten, we want to emphasize that it is not about academic achievement solely, but about personal growth, and developing essential and healthy life skills, right here PENN, that will take you beyond your immediate academic career, and support you in your life beyond PENN. So, what does it mean to build an intentional support infrastructure?

  • First, acknowledging that you cannot do it all alone, that you need an intentional community, and that part of being a successful individual is to be able to identify and optimize what your support resources are. The idea of the self-sufficient Ivy League student operating out of a figurative island is a MYTH! Remember the PENN FACES project! And there is no SHAME in asking for HELP! In fact, we encourage vulnerability, honesty, transparency & candidness! Check out Brené Brown’s TEDxHouston’s talk: The power of vulnerability.
  • Second, accepting that you’re an unique individual, and that your identity, background, needs, experiences, circumstances and contexts are different that others. Push out those old, self-defeating thoughts, “everyone else is doing it… everyone else seems to be handling it fine… I don’t want anyone else to know what I’m really going through…” Instead, try these validating affirmations, “I am enough… My needs are essential for my growth… I will seek out support and utilize resources available to me with agency, confidence and hope… I will consider ways in which services and resources enhance and strengthen my own gifts, talents and strengths.
  • Third, take an inventory of the resources available to you at PENN (and beyond). Check out our VPUL Resources:

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  • Fourth, be open and flexible to the fact that how you may have previously accessed and utilized support resources and services may be different than how you may need and experience them now and in the future. Give it a try! And if it doesn’t work the first time, try again differently! Also, you may need to combine a particular set of services and resources for a particular goal, need, situation or time in your life, so take a creative and hybrid approach to how you build your own, customized and intentional support infrastructure!
  • Fifth, offer your support to others. At a time when everyone is so busy and technology often masks the reality of people’s lives, reach out the be there for someone else, make time, offer your empathy and understanding, and take action where appropriate and consented. Helping others will elevate and strengthen your own intentional network of support.

So, next time you look ahead and/or introspectively, before you charge ahead with actualizing and executing your goals, projects and paths, make sure that you have also take account of the very intentional support infrastructure that you’ll need to inspire, fuel, accompany, scaffold and/or intervene – so that the quality of your trajectory will be a successful one, regardless of outcomes. You may begin by asking:

  • Who will be my study/project partner?
  • Who will give me moral support?
  • Who will be my accountability partner?
  • Who will I go to for inspiration?
  • Who will I go to for consultation, advice and/or mentorship?
  • Who will I turn to for technical support?
  • Who can I go to if I struggle?

And remember, our doors, hearts and support resources are always open and available for you at Weingarten. Come check us out!

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Instructor and Research Fellow

 

Foregrounding Identity in Academia & Scholarship

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Right about now, we find ourselves knees-deep (maybe waists-deep!) in final projects. It is that time of the year in the Spring semester, Folks! At Weingarten, we empathize with the criticality and rigorousness of your final projects: term papers, capstone projects, portfolios, program thesis papers, and the list goes on! We also know our students, yes, YOU! You have been diligently examining your syllabus requirements, going through the assignment/project rubric with a fine-tooth comb, consulting with the Professor and/or the TA, integrating your course citations and materials, aggregating your own research references, and perhaps even disaggregating, coding and analyzing your collected data!

As you sit down in front of your computer to write your introduction, thesis or opening paragraph, BREATHE! Close your eyes, inhale deep, exhale loud, and CENTER YOURSELF… Yes, that’s it! We want to locate the YOU back in the research project!

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Due to the increasing professionalization of the Academy and the scientification of research, even social science research, it is easy to loose sight of our own IDENTITIES in being enveloped by the research process. But remember, YOUR PERSPECTIVES are UNIQUE and VALUABLE! You are part of a diverse University Community, which is bonded by all that makes us different, inasmuch as there is synergy in our factors in common. Your IDENTITY fundamentally influences your approach, methods and interpretations – whether or not you acknowledge it explicitly in your work.

YOUR IDENTITY OCCUPIES A CRITICAL SPACE IN YOUR CONCEPTUALIZATIONS

Here are a few tips in bringing back, centering and honoring the YOU in your research process:

What Inspired You?

Identify and track the source of  your inspiration. Was it a person, object or moment in time that served as catalyst for your inspiration? Was it a personal, academic or professional experience? Is there a story, a narrative behind your inspiration? Don’t lose sight of this inspiration as it will not only serve as fuel to sustain your academic work, but it will also serve as an interpretive lens in helping contextualize your conclusions and implications based on the source or triggering axis of your inspiration.

Look Back: What is your Legacy?

Reflecting on and examining your legacy will help you flesh out the theoretical framework to your project. Your legacy may involve histories, stories, narratives, memories and experiences that shaped who you are today. They often inform the ideologies, orientations and interpretive lenses, which can be teased out of your theoretical framework. Other times, they serve as counter-narratives, arguments or positions relative to your own or society’s dominant stances.

Explore Your Intersectionality

You are a phenomenally complex individual whose legacy, orientations and identity are deeply and richly rooted. The work of understanding the intersections of our identities, the matrix of their categorical representations (e.g. gender, sexuality, race, class, religion, citizenship status, etc.), how our identities are socially constructed, fluid and negotiated, and ultimately, what socio-political and economic power they afford or limit in different contexts can be labor intensive, but will prove invaluable to your research process. It will help reveal blind spots and assumptions in the research design, analysis and/or interpretations of findings. Identifying, wrestling with coherences, dissonances and/or boundaries of the scope of our research project is our duty as researchers.

Localizing and interrogating your own IDENTITY within Research is a critical means to Embracing and Valuing the authentic YOU and WORLD around YOU!

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Instructor and Research Fellow

Tech Tuesday: Text Help with Read and Write

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Read and Write is a technology software recently introduced to our office by Amrou Ibrahim, our Assistive Technology Specialist. It’s an amazing application that can assist many students with their reading and writing needs. The tool offers support through various features, including highlighting texts, reading texts aloud, and utilizing talk-to-text features.

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Read and Write can be installed through a Google Chrome or Safari add-ons. Once it is installed, the application installs a toolbar that can be used with any tab in your web browser. Additionally, there is a desktop feature that can be downloaded so that Read and Write can be used offline as well.

This tool includes many different features which can benefit students here at Penn. Here are a few :

  • Text-to-speech features for selected passages or entire documents (works with emails, web browsers, PDFs, and more!)
    • While the text is read aloud, the associated words are highlighted on the screen. (This can help keep the reader focused)
  • Text and picture dictionaries to aid in students’ reading
  • A speech to text feature that can aid in students’ writing
  • A simplifying text features that gets rid of ads and other distracting features from web pages
  • Tools to highlight and underline while you are reading

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This is a great tool to try, especially because it is free! If you are interested in learning more about this tool or other technology that can be useful, call the Weingarten Learning Resources Center at (215) 573-9235 to make an appointment with Amrou or with one of our other learning instructors!

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Fellow and Learning Instructor

What does this problem want me to do?

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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.

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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?

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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?”

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Identify the procedure that should be paired with the problem

Imagine…

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!

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By Staff Writer: Nicholas Santascoy, Learning Instructor

The Problem-Solving Sandwich

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Take-away:

When you go to do your homework (reading & problem-set)…
  1. Start with a homework problem first, not the reading.
  2. Read only if you need to. Read only what you need.
  3. Then get back to the problem and solve it.
PART 1: WHAT IS THE PROBLEM-SOLVING SANDWICH?
Read-Then-Solve: A Bad Idea

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Unfortunately, many students do their homework using the read-then-solve strategy—they read the entire assigned reading, then start on the problem set.  This may make for reading more than you need and likely zoning out while you’re reading. Read-then-solve is often wasteful and boring. You may ask, “But don’t I need to understand the concepts first?” I ask in reply, “Do you read-then-solve in real life?”

The Problem-Solving Sandwich – What You Do in Real Life

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In this “real world” scenario, suppose you are writing a report on a Word document, and run into trouble with the formatting. Say it is a problem with making bulleted lists in Word. You have a problem you intend to solve. Here are two strategies you can use. Which is best?

Strategy 1: Read-Then-Solve
  1. Read an entire chapter on formatting in Microsoft Word
  2. Attempt to solve the bulleting problem
Strategy 2: Use the Problem-Solving Sandwich
  1. Attempt to solve the problem with what you know. For example, you might right-click and see if any of the options make sense.
  2. If can’t figure it out, THEN search for a solution to your specific problem. For example, you might google “how to make bullets in word for mac 2011”
  3. As soon as you have what you think you need from whatever reading you find, get back to the Word doc and solve the problem.
It’s a sandwich—see?
PART 2: WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU?
Benefit 1: The Problem-Solving Sandwich is More Efficient

Let’s see how the problem-solving sandwich can save you time. Compare Kim and Susana, both in a class involving problem sets, in this toy example.

Kim uses the read-then-solve strategy:

On Monday, from 4-6pm, she completes the assigned reading. The next day she works on the problem set, also from 4-6pm. Thus, her schedule looks like this:

READ-THEN-SOLVE
  KIM
TIME MONDAY TUESDAY
4:00 PM read SOLVE
  read SOLVE
4:30 PM read SOLVE
  read SOLVE
5:00 PM read SOLVE
  read SOLVE
5:30 PM read SOLVE
  read SOLVE

Remember, this is just a toy example! You will likely want to put in a 6-hour minimum; see previous blog post with that title.

Susana uses the problem-solving sandwich strategy:

She works the same days, but not the same amount of time.

PROBLEM-SOLVING SANDWICH
  SUSANA
TIME MONDAY TUESDAY
4:00 PM SOLVE SOLVE
  read SOLVE
4:30 PM SOLVE read
  SOLVE SOLVE
5:00 PM SOLVE SOLVE
  read SOLVE
5:30 PM
 

As you can see, Susana stopped half an hour earlier than Kim on both days, saving herself an hour. Does this mean she has less mastery of the concepts? Will she do less well on the exam?

Who has greater command of the key ideas?
  • SUSANA > KIM
  • SUSANA < KIM
  • SUSANA = KIM

When I show this to students in my workshops, they generally think that Kim and Susana have equal control of the topic, that is,

  • SUSANA = KIM
But Susana had an hour more to have fun!

Why could she learn as much in less time? First, she only read when she couldn’t solve the problem on her own so she cut straight to the stuff relevant to her specific question with a strong motivation to get the info and get out—her brain was on the hunt.

Benefit 2: The Problem-Solving Sandwich is More Engaging

What do I mean by your brain being “on the hunt”? When you read-as-needed only, your goal is to find a specific answer to a critical question—you’re giving your brain a question mark: “?” J

But when you read-then-solve, your goal is to “get through the chapter.” You’re giving your brain a period: “.” L

Which is more fun? Ready to Try It? So if you have been using the read-then-solve strategy, try out the problem-solving sandwich strategy. If you have any ?s about how to do it, feel free to come chat with a learning instructor—we’re happy to help!

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 To your better learning!

Staff Writer: Nicholas Santascoy, Learning Instructor

 

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