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“The Workshop: Experiments in Education” Challenges Standard Educational System

Courtesy of Coreen Martin
Courtesy of Coreen Martin

Under the theme of “Experiments in Education,” 22 senior participants are currently working with their peers, faculty, and community partners on a series of linked, interdisciplinary projects.

Deviating from the traditional education system that consists of strictly divided courses, topics, and even classrooms, The Workshop program allows students to engage in learning from unbounded class settings.

The Workshop provides students opportunities that are typically not feasible within the standard schedule. According to Andrew Housiaux, a faculty advisor of The Workshop, the program strives to increase the immersion of students in their studies.

“The Workshop is an effort to think differently about the foundational building blocks of schooling: grades, assessment, learning, teaching, time, and student agency. The program is so immersive because we need significant blocks of unscheduled time to do immersive learning and reflection. For example, it’s almost impossible to take a field trip in our current schedule. The more open structure of the Workshop allows for us to have this kind of off-campus learning, or on-campus gardening, as a regular feature, not a one-off,” wrote Housiaux in an email to The Phillipian.

Lesley Tan ’22 is currently researching about the Buddhism Project with Housiaux. Tan described the more relaxed pace of the class with its increased freedom and independence, allowing students to better take advantage of and understand the resources around them.

Tan said, “[I’m] someone who really wants to develop my own curiosity as opposed to constantly being bombarded by what I should do. I’m currently in a Buddhism project, which is directed by Mr. Housiaux. He has helped give us guidance in terms of specific readings that we have during for each day, and then we have discussions. And for next week or so we are visiting a Buddhist temple every single day, which is a lot more immersive compared to how my other classes usually are. The workshop has really helped me navigate what I want to do, how I want to learn, and just learning about my own mind as a student. Oftentimes, we don’t really investigate how we learn because we’re normally told [what] we have to do. But instead, [in The Workshop] we’re setting our own intentions and goals for our own learning.”

Similarly, Sean Meng ’22 shared that he took the course as an opportunity to reflect on his academic career so far and explore what education meant to him.

“It [is] a really great way to spend your senior spring. You do four years of very traditional Andover education, obviously, [with] excellent schooling. But this is something different. Senior spring [is when] you get some extra leisure time, where things aren’t as high stakes. You get to reflect on your educational career and really think about what has worked, what hasn’t worked, what is the future for education, what has been the most helpful, and what could education be in the future” said Meng.

Led by faculty advisor Christopher Jones, the project focuses on historiography, entailing numerous readings that deviate from typical textbook learning and providing a unique approach to learning history, according to Meng.

Meng said, “We’re currently looking at the Gilded Age. And we’re looking at different narratives describing the same time period, learning how different historians, world views, and the biases, change the way that they write about history, and how we can derive a fuller picture of this period of time and think about whether there even is such thing as a full picture of a historical time period. We’ve been doing a number of readings, quite long readings, but very, very interesting.”

The program is currently offered exclusively during the spring term for Seniors who have already completed their graduation requirements. While the program is in its early stages, with this term marking its third year for running, faculty members are hoping to extend the program further into the curriculum and be able to offer it to Lowers next year.

“A tenth grade version [of the program] will be launched next year too, so a tenth grade group will be able to do some version. If we can document how this program actually improves teaching and learning on campus, we can maybe get more support, more resources and be integrated even more into the curriculum. This project could definitely have a direct impact on the curriculum,” said Martin.