early spring garden with raised beds and students working in it; blue sky
March 31, 2022

Stress Lifted, Curiosity Sparked

As students settle into the Workshop, they find themselves asking more questions than they have answers for
by Alexa ’22

Walking into the Tang Institute on my first day, I had no idea what to expect. The *Workshop was and is an enigma to me. I came into my first week with a lot of questions. What will we be doing? Will I gain a deeper understanding of how I learn? Will this be a waste of time? I quickly discovered that everyone had questions, not just me. We also had very few answers. We’ve asked questions about everything from individual learning styles to group projects. What will we be doing? was the big question. The answer: gardening, group projects, painting, and more.

I was placed into the bias group, and we were prompted to explore bias within education. On our first day, we started out with a brainstorm. What is bias? How do we define it? How do we want to explore it within education? How are we going to approach this project? So much of the Workshop revolves around uncertainty and influence over our own learning. Alex ’22, another bias group member, noted that she really likes “the agency that we have over our own learning and schedule, as well as the balance we strike between individual and collaborative work.” I agree.

After much brainstorming, our group narrowed our focus down to exploring bias within our dorm culture and how that, in turn, affects our social groups. We chose dorms because they have established lines of inclusion. We know who is in a dorm, whereas the line between who is and isn’t in a certain friend group is blurred and rather subjective. As we move forward, our group will try to stay cognizant of our own biases surrounding what we want with this project and in general.

What is bias? How do we define it? How do we want to explore it within education? How are we going to approach this project?

At the beginning of the project, I had specific “answers” to questions I posed. I went into the project thinking let’s figure out why this dorm is predominantly POC while that dorm is predominantly white. When I entered the project, I had a set bias in mind. However, our group has pushed itself to go beyond jumping to conclusions. Instead, we are focusing on the What is happening? We ask questions like What is happening with the housing process? or How do these ‘biases’ come to be?

There’s been a lot of learning and unlearning in this first week of the Workshop. We’ve discussed what makes learning meaningful and how we can achieve that here, in our small cohort. So far, I have felt a stress lifted off my shoulders and have started to feel a sense of curiosity come back. Ralph ’22, another member of our bias group, recently echoed this sentiment and added, “Thus far, most of my schooling has never been about myself but what someone else wants. This novel freedom is both exhilarating and daunting.”

The bias project excites me. I am genuinely curious about it. When do you get to analyze social systems…for school? Not that often, yet here we are.

The "Bias" group includes Alexa ’22, Alex ’22, Ralph ’22, Adya ’22, Sabby ’22, and Ali ’22.

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*THE WORKSHOP

Each spring term, the Workshop welcomes 20 seniors to this interdisciplinary, project-based course. With an eye toward reimagining what school can be, the Workshop is the senior’s onlyacademic commitment for the entire term. Instead of splitting their time and attention into units of distinct courses and fields of study, they work closely with peers, faculty, and community and global partners on a series of linked, interdisciplinary projects that revolve around a single theme. Within a chosen theme, students explore areas of personal interest. This year's theme is Experiments in Education.

During the first few weeks of the term, students are working on one of four faculty-led projects. We will be featuring blog posts by students during this time.

  • Historiography (led by Chris Jones)
  • Listening to Buddhists in Our Backyard (led by Andy Housiaux)
  • Andover’s CAMD Scholars Program: Advancing DEIJ Teaching, Learning, and Community Outcomes (led by Corrie Martin)
  • Bias (led by Nicholas Zufelt)

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The Tang Institute at Phillips Academy is a center for the advancement of teaching, learning, and partnership. To learn more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter, Notes on Learning.

Categories: The Workshop, Featured

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