Reflections on DATA

images (1)

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.

images (31)download

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


Positive Psychology – Keep a Gratitude Journal


Positive Psychology is a new, exciting, and constantly developing field!

Positive psychology is the “science of positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions’ promises to improve quality of life and prevent the pathologies that arise when life is barren and meaningless” (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2014, p. 5).

Positive psychology has been shown to increase happiness and reduce stress

(Goodmon et al., 2016; McDermott et al., 2017).

At PENN, we have the Penn Positive Psychology Centre, which is doing incredible work in the field:

  • We are just beginning to understand how implementing positive psychology techniques can reduce stress, increase happiness, and improve achievement in college students.
  • While more research still needs to be done, early studies have shown that implementing positive psychology techniques have improved students’ mental well-being.


Keep a Gratitude Journal!
  • Gratitude journals are a way to keep track of the positive and good things in your life that you have to be grateful for.
  • In the hurried nature of our daily lives, it can be easy to lose track of all the things, big and small that we can appreciate and be thankful for.
  • A gratitude journal helps you slow down and reflect on the good things in your life.
  • Taking time to notice the positive things each day helps you keep a more positive outlook.


How to keep a gratitude journal?
  1. There is no right or wrong way to keep a gratitude journal. Do what works best for you.
  2. You can just use a plain notebook, or keep the list right in your diary or journal if you already use one. There are gratitude journals that you can buy that often come with prompts or different quotes to make you think, but buying one isn’t necessary.
  3. While you can keep write your entries in a way that is meaningful for you, it is recommended that people take time each night to write down 1-5 things you are grateful for each day.
  4. It is a helpful way to keep track of what went well that day, even on days that are stressful and feel like nothing went the way it was supposed to.
  5. Furthermore, writing in your gratitude journal can be a relaxing way to help people prepare for bed and can even make sleeping easier.


No matter how you use your gratitude journal, take some time to appreciate the people, places, and things in your life!

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor


Goodmon, L. B., Middleditch, A. M., Childs, B., & Pietrasiuk, S. E. (2016). Positive psychology course and its relationship to well-being, depression, and stress. Teaching of Psychology, 43(3), 232–237.

McDermott, R. C., Cheng, H.-L., Wong, J., Booth, N., Jones, Z., & Sevig, T. (2017). Hope for help-seeking: a positive psychology perspective of psychological help-seeking intentions. The Counseling Psychologist, 45(2), 237–265.

Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Positive psychology: An introduction. in M. Csikszentmihalyi (Ed.), Flow and the foundations of positive psychology: the collected works of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pp. 279–298). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.

Seligman, M. E., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410-421. doi:10.1037/0003066X.60.5.410

Work-Life Balance: 4 Suggestions for Optimizing Your Personal Time!


Wow! Spring semester is here and charging forward at full speed!
(I don’t know about you, but for me the winter break flew by!)

Now, the spring semester has kicked off, Canvas sites have been published, syllabi collected, books ordered, first classes attended, preliminary assignments completed, and first projects and/or exams scheduled…


It’s time to balance the semester workload with time to relax and recharge on your own and with friends.

Maybe you have weekend plans or you’re already planning your spring break, or maybe your plans are to squeeze in watching some of your favorite shows on TV or Netflix in-between studying.


We here at Weingarten have four suggestions for how to make the most out of your personal time while on campus in order to remain as relaxed, refreshed, and rejuvenated in the spring semester as possible:

1. Read a book that you want to read!


Often, during the semester, the only reading students have time to do are the readings that are assigned for classes. Use your scheduled and dedicated study breaks to read a book you have been wanting to read. So many wonderful books were published this year, check out these lists for some suggestions:

2. Write a thank you note!

thank you

Stay connected and send a thank you note or an email to a professor, staff member, friend, or classmate who was a big help to you last semester. Your kind words of appreciation will mean more than you know.

3. Plan your spring semester strategically!


Take an afternoon to lay out important dates on your calendar and planner for the spring semester.

4. Form an exercise habit!


With each new semester, it’s the perfect time to start building a new habit! Do you have plans this semester to walk each day or to go to the gym or to do yoga or to meditate each week? Do these plans fall to the wayside when the semester get busy? Exercising regularly is one of the best things we can do for our mind and body, but it can be easy to push these commitments to the side when the semester gets busy.

It takes three weeks to form a new habit and make it stick! 
No matter what your plans are, we hope you optimize your personal time while maintaining your work-life balance!

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, 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

o (5)o

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:


o (4)

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!

o (6)

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

large_20_CaryLeibowitz_2.3.17_JKAPhotography (2)

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!).

kelcey tech 1

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.

kelcey tech 2

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.

kelcey tech 3

  • 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

Super-Secret Study Spots: Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center Edition


I know what you’re thinking. Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center is not a secret study spot. I’m here to let you in on a little VP secret: there are two new spaces within our beloved library that opened this fall. The hours for these new rooms are the same as most of the rest of VP:

  • Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to midnight
  • Friday 8:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Saturday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Sunday 10 a.m. – midnight

Read on to find out more about these great new spaces!

Moelis Family Grand Reading Room (first floor)

  • Noise level: Silent
  • Perks: The swivel recliners in the front of the room are perfect for study breaks.
    • This room truly is grand. A beautiful cloth tapestry lines one wall, with floor-to-ceiling windows surrounding the other sides of the room.
    • This room also features plush blue chairs at every table to make your study time a comfortable experience.
  • The Moelis Family Grand Reading Room is sound-proof and totally silent. If you’re looking for a space to really buckle down and focus, this is your spot.

The Class of 1937 Memorial Reading Room (fifth floor)

  • Noise level: Quiet
  • Perks: Comfortable seating in front, study carrels in back. Perfect for any occasion!
  • The Class of 1937 Memorial Reading room is now a card-access room designed to meet the needs of graduate students.
  • This newly redesigned room features space for both independent and group study, and there is a lactation room available as well.
  • In addition to the new features, this room is also home of football memorabilia from the class of ’37. The glass display case features three footballs and several uniforms that give a feel for what live at Penn was like 80 years ago.

Class of 37

While you’re over at the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center checking out the new spaces, don’t forget about our other favorite VP spots including:

Each separate space at the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center has different advantages, so make sure to check them all out to decide which one works best for you.

Staff Writer: Cassie Lo, WLRC Learning Instructor


Bigger Pictures: Make a Note

“I don’t know what I think until I’ve written about it.” ~  Various Attributions

Of all the things I talk about here at your learning center, the one I always feel a little bit guilty about is notetaking. I always feel like the subject is like a benignly neglected child in a big family, the kid who basically raises herself in a household that is far too stretched and busy to worry about someone who is more or less okay. That’s notetaking.

Lombard_scribeAcademic notetaking has been largely conscribed by one thing:  the lecture. And historically, this makes sense. Back in the mists of time, professors would intone and, well, profess, and students would scratch away, trying to get down every word. It wasn’t uncommon for “serious” students to learn how to take shorthand in order to get down every word.  This technique can be described as truly Mediaeval, with its roots planted firmly in the monastic scriptorium, where sacred text was read aloud while Brother Scribes took down copy. What a gig.

Academia has embraced a few technological advances since the Monastic era, most notably the slide deck. Ah, yes. PowerPoint. Our frenemy. No matter where you come down on the ubiquitous deployment of PowerPoint in the higher ed classroom, there is one undeniable plus: the mad rush to get down every word has been alleviated, at least somewhat. So long as the slides are made available, you don’t have to worry about copying out the entire slide during class. All you really have to worry about is what is said off slide.

But there is another part of notes that gets routinely neglected, and that is the notes you make to yourself, and if you don’t do that now, I’d encourage you to give it a go, especially if you are currently in the type of humanities or social science courses that require you to come up with your own paper topics. These notes capture what you think about the lecture topics or reading material. Think of these kinds of notes as the record of what you think.

And one more thing: these types of notes don’t have to be declarative. Solid questions arising from the reading material count as notes too.

Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk, Senior Learning Instructor