The Tutoring Center at the University of Pennsylvania offers undergraduate students a variety of options to supplement their learning experiences. As the tutors employed by the Center demonstrate a diverse array of knowledge and skills, they are also continually looking for ways to maximize the impact of their engagement with students in terms of learning outcomes for tutees. As part of that effort, Donna Brown, the Center’s director, has developed an ongoing working relationship with the Weingarten Learning Resources Center to facilitate collaboration across fields and areas of expertise, particularly in helping tutors to appreciate students’ learning styles and how to respond to them accordingly. She recently contacted Dr. Rashmi Kumar and James Arrington for a workshop for the tutors to help deepen their understandings for tutoring in the STEM fields.
Dr. Rashmi Kumar asks the tutors about their learning styles
The workshop was designed to engage the tutors’ knowledge of learning the STEM subjects. After recalling various experiences and challenges encountered by students and tutors, Dr. Kumar connected these narratives to Bloom’s Taxonomy of knowledge, focusing in particular on instances of declarative, procedural, and critical knowledge work. This demonstrated what one tutor described as moving “from basic understanding to higher level understanding.” The two WLRC staff then reviewed what one tutor called a “variety of strategies that can be used to help students,” including concept mapping, constructing hypothetical test questions, and syllabus analysis. Overall, the tutors found the workshop “engaging and useful” for their work, and the activity further deepened the ongoing collaboration between the Tutoring Center and the WLRC.
Staff Writers/STEM Workshop Facilitators: Dr. Rashmi Kumar and James Arrington
Creating a Personal Statement is much like what Professor Maureen Moran of Brunel University describes as, “You develop the insight of an artist, the analytical precision of a scientist, and the persuasiveness of a lawyer.” It’s the dreaded piece of any graduate program application where you’re expected to be insightful about what you hope to contribute to a field of study, but be very explicit how you plan on doing it and why you should be the one to receive the opportunity to do it.
It can be overwhelming and daunting even, knowing that even with your grades, resume, testing scores, and letters of recommendation, your Personal Statement will be the “make it or break it” piece. So much of your future rests on how the Personal Statement will be received.
Personally, I know that writing my Personal Statement was a process where I doubted myself over and over, plagued by questions such as: Do I start off with a quote? No, that’s too cheesy. How many times can I use the word “passion”? Oh gees, also cheesy! How much of my personal background is relevant? Should I elaborate on certain accomplishments that I’ve listed in my resume? How do I highlight myself without bragging or lionizing myself? Am I good enough to do this? Am I even doing this right?!
But have no fear! Here are some tips from someone who went through the whole anxious process to help you get started:
- Start early. Good writing is just re-writing. Allow yourself time to have evolving ideas about what you want to accomplish through your discipline, research, and short/long term goals during/after the program.
- Network. Ask current doctoral students in the program you’re applying to give you feedback on your personal statement and don’t be shy about politely asking them for a copy of their own personal statement. We’ve all been through it! We get it. Also, ask your professors who are helping with the letters of rec. to also give you feedback on your statement.
- Do your research. Different institutions have their own style, beliefs, and focuses. Research what those are and you must tailor each personal statement to align with them. The whole point is to let them know how you “fit” with their program and vice versa.
- Attend workshops. Some universities will have events and workshops for prospective students who are interested in applying. Go to those. They help with giving you some background and details on what is expected for the content and formatting. Lastly, there is a workshop you can attend here at UPENN! Register at http://goo.gl/XG2rDJ to attend this Friday, Nov 6th from 12-1pm at GSE Room 200.
Staff Writer: Victoria Rodriguez
In this semester-long series, our expert Learning Instructor for International Students Julianne Reynolds offers tips for keeping English “switched on” in your daily life at Penn. If you’re only using English in the classroom, you’re missing out on a lot of learning opportunities. Follow these short and sweet tips to flip the switch to English.
In September, Weingarten Learning Resources will host a series called Academics Plus for international students who would like to learn more about proven study strategies that work in U.S. classrooms. These hour and a half workshops are an ideal space to discuss academic, language, and cultural topics with the facilitators and with other international students who have similar concerns.
Since the workshops are open to students from all 12 Penn schools, this is a great way to meet people from other academic disciplines and backgrounds.
But don’t just take it from us:
“I found talking to WLRC instructors very useful in fitting into the academic and social life at Penn. Also, sharing experiences with other international students gave me the sense that I’m not alone in feeling all these pressures and hardships. These workshops helped me build my confidence, so that I can better figure out my own way of study.” – Saier Wang, Social Policy, SP2 ’16
“I participated in two Academic Plus workshops at Weingarten in the past year, one for reading strategies and the other for student conduct. Both workshops were very interactive and practical. For the reading workshop with 30+ participants, we were randomly assigned to 4-5 groups, and were asked to read an article before the instructor started the seminar, and to redo the reading after the strategies were introduced. That task enabled us to immediately apply new skills and see the effect. For the student conduct workshop, we were given some really tricky scenarios and were asked to decide whether or not the behaviors in the scenarios were plagiarism. Before the workshop, I thought I knew what cheating and plagiarism were for sure, but after that, I realized that there were some grey areas that I, as an international student, had misunderstandings in. I felt fortunate that I went to both workshops, as they helped to improve my efficiency and ensured that I was on the right track in an unfamiliar campus culture.” -Yue Shi, Counseling and Mental Health Services, GSE ‘15
Spaces fill quickly! Click below to reserve your spot in the Academics Plus workshops today!: