In late September, Aaron Chung ’22 and Charles Irwin ’22’s research paper, “Petrarch and the Significance of Dialogue,” became officially published at the Cambridge Journal of Classics Teaching, making them the first high school students to get published in the journal’s recent history. Reflecting on this experience, Chung and Irwin viewed the process as challenging but rewarding at the same time.
Chung and Irwin examined Renaissance scholar Petrarch’s pedagogy in their paper, which emphasized engagement and conversations between students and instructors. By taking inspiration from Petrarch’s insight, they then argued its relevance to the learning process in modern-day classrooms such as the Harkness method and online classes during Covid-19.
The idea first sparked from Chung’s research project in his History-200 class, where he focused on Petrarch’s contributions to Latin education and classics. According to Emma Frey, Instructor in History and Social Science, Chung’s enthusiasm and the tremendous amount of effort put into the research project were evident within her class.
Frey said, “Aaron already liked studying history and classics, so Petrarch connected those two subjects. Aaron was incredibly engaged in the research and writing process and we talked during almost every class and conference period for the duration of the assignment. When Aaron submitted the essay, it represented a lot of time dedicated to learning as well as crafting a great paper.”
As Chung persisted in his interest in Petrarch even after History-200, he began to develop the paper further when he learned from the Society for Classical Studies that the Cambridge Journal of Classics Teaching was calling for papers. In his edits during quarantine, Chung conducted more research and shifted a more narrow focus to Petrarch’s pedagogy of dialectic method to accommodate for the topic of the journal.
“[While] I edited the original version, and I tried to focus more on Petrarch and on engagement and learning, basically similar to the Harkness method about how he wanted both students and instructors in the Latin classroom to converse with each other and to imitate the writers in their own style. And I found the connection between his methods and how a lot of classes are being taught today,” said Chung.
Chung faced several challenges in his editing process, with the biggest factor being the inclination to procrastinate since the research paper was not an in-school assignment.
“For the first time I was writing a research paper that was not due at any certain point, or it was not due for a grade. I think at certain moments, whenever I came upon an obstacle, often it was easy for me to just let it go and forget about it because I’ll be fine without handing it in,” said Chung.
Irwin, who was Chung’s dormmate last year, served as the second author for the research paper. With his shared interest in classics and the pedagogy of Petrarch, he assisted Chung in the research and writing process. To Irwin, the main obstacle was in finding primary sources.
“It’s really challenging to find these old documents, especially during the research process because these are medieval documents made in the 1300’s. So off the bat, it was hard to find some primary sources. Although Petrarch is an important figure in Renaissance literature, [a lot of the research papers] don’t really focus on his pedagogy and his teaching ideals. You kind of had to dive in and find a lot of the parts that were more specific to [our topic],” said Irwin.
Chung and Irwin were excited when their paper got published at the Cambridge Journal of Classics Teaching. Chung believed that the publication was especially meaningful because of the challenges they had overcome and the hard work they had put into crafting the paper.
“I’m obviously very honored and happy that out of the journals on history, I think it’s been around since the 1960’s, Charlie and I were the first writers as high schoolers to be published by the journal. Honestly, I think I’m [mostly] happy about it because of the work and effort that both Charlie and I put into this [whole] endeavor,” said Chung.
The writing process additionally allowed Chung and Irwin to reflect on themselves and draw inspiration. Having started a nonprofit to teach Latin to local children of underprivileged communities last year, Chung believes their paper helped him to further develop his interest in classics and education.
Chung added, “A big part of the research paper was a reflective experience or a reflection for me. Since the start of Upper year, I have started a nonprofit, where I can teach Latin to local children of underprivileged communities. I’ve been working on that for over two years and the issue that I faced was how to maximize the learning experience, especially for elementary school students, how to actually help them take away something from the classes that I have with them. And I think that’s where a lot of the curiosity came from. So I think writing this research paper and seeing how some great scholars of the past have been conducting their classroom atmosphere and the way of teaching, especially the dialectic method, gave me a lot of inspiration as to what to do in the future.”
Editor’s Note: Aaron Chung ’22 a News Editor for The Phillipian.