Teaching How to Avoid Plagiarism

Posted on

Tennyson O’Donnell, Director of Trinity’s Writing Center, asked several of us to join him this semester on ways to address plagiarism with “less policing and more pedagogy.” This seemed like a good opportunity to improve on my Avoiding Plagiarism learning exercise, which currently appears on the WordPress syllabus for my First-Year Seminar and Educ 300 Ed Reform: Past and Present courses.

My goals are to create one or more new digital tools that:

  • emphasize interactive learning to help students recognize and avoid plagiarism,
  • faculty can easily replicate, customize, and include in their existing course materials, with minimal assistance from instructional technologists

Here’s some ideas to consider, created with the assistance of Ilya Ilyankou ’18. Try the demos further below and ask yourself two questions: Is this a good way to learn? And can other faculty easily customize it for their own courses?

1) Explanation with examples: Currently, the Trinity College Student Handbook offers an explanation of plagiarism, with some examples. But to my knowledge, the only digital format is a PDF file. It’s not easy to point students to the right section. Furthermore, if you don’t like the examples or citation format, it’s not easy for faculty to customize.

Recommendation: if Tennyson and other committee members recommend a revision of the Handbook text, which seems likely, then please make the new version more easily accessible online, with a direct link, and also in formats other than PDF (such as HTML or plain text).

2) Contextual example:  Briefly, one page of a sample paper that includes examples of plagiarism and proper paraphrasing, with instructor’s comments on the side.

3) Interactive examples with tooltips: One way to enhance the explanatory text is to feature interactive examples, which ask students to float their cursors over the words to reveal instances of plagiarism. Try this demo: https://action-lab.github.io/avoid-plagiarism-tooltip/

See open-source code on GitHub: https://github.com/Action-Lab/avoid-plagiarism-tooltip   Click to open the index.html file. Faculty can make a copy and insert their own examples, or more likely, ask an instructional technologist to do it for them. This version has no grading component. 

4) Interactive 5-step form: Another way to enhance the explanatory text is to create a 5-step online form, which walks students through the stages of improperly and properly paraphrasing and citing a source. Try this demo: https://goo.gl/forms/1X1gFLf4woMSvF6E3

Basically, this version updates my existing exercise from a relatively static WordPress page into a slightly more interactive Google Form. Any faculty member with a basic knowledge of Google Drive (or an instructional technologist) can make a copy to customize for their own course.

The Google Form enables manual grading: instructors can click on “Responses > Individual” to review each student’s answers. In fact, I have set up this demo form so that anyone can click this link to see the instructor’s view.

Alternative Moodle version: I don’t know the details, but it may be possible for Trinity’s instructional technologists to translate this form into a Moodle component, which faculty could request to add to any Moodle course. Potential advantages might be the ability to connect scores to the Moodle gradebook, or perhaps the ability to insert feedback on students’ responses. But a Moodle version of this form would require Trinity to create an “open” Moodle demo site where faculty can see and test modules before deciding whether to add (or request IT to add them) to their Moodle courses.

5) Interactive multiple choice quiz: I didn’t create a demo, but you can easily imagine different versions of multiple-choice quizzes on avoiding plagiarism. Both Google Forms and Moodle (and many other platforms) support quizzes. If you like this concept, then design some thoughtful questions and add adaptive responses, so that incorrect guesses show hints toward the correct answer. And share the demo link to your quiz, as well as the underlying text and answers, so that other faculty (or instructional technologists) can customize for other courses.





Tough Questions to Ask about Trinity edX

Posted on

This essay expands on themes raised in my earlier presentation, “Lessons Learned from Teaching MOOCs at Liberal Arts Colleges: Reflections on Data Visualization for All,” delivered at the Blended Learning in the Liberal Arts Conference at Bryn Mawr College, PA, in May 2017. See my presentation slides.

Dan Lloyd, my faculty colleague in the Philosophy Department, asked several of us to report on our experiences with Trinity edX (sometimes called TrinityX), the non-credit open-access online course platform that Trinity College joined as a partner in 2014. To date, Trinity faculty have developed at least seven edX courses, with more underway, on topics such as art and chemistry, mobile computing, data visualization, biology education, urban sustainability, and the philosophy of phenomenology (see https://www.edx.org/school/trinityx). Three years later, it’s time for Trinity to re-evaluate our edX partnership. This essay raises tough questions that we should be asking ourselves about multiple goals of this initiative, its direct and hidden costs, and how we should make decisions in higher education.

Since edX is an “open access” initiative, I am sharing my reflections in this public essay, rather than a private email that only Dan and a few others might read. To those who already know me, it’s no surprise that my views on educational technology are “mixed.” On one hand, I value meaningful student engagement and believe in seeking out innovative ways to deepen and expand learning for all. The edX initiative asks us to rethink our classroom teaching with technology, a process I began first-hand in the late 1980s and continue today. On the other hand, my graduate training in educational policy studies has inoculated me with a healthy dose of skepticism toward technology innovations. The best way to avoid the twin contagions of hype and greed is to expose ourselves to thoughtful analysis of these trends by historians (such as Larry Cuban, Teachers and Machines) and contemporary critics (such as Hack Education by Audrey Watters). 1 Of course, my experiences and views of edX may not be representative of other faculty, staff, and students at Trinity. To quote my colleague Dan, “your mileage may vary.”

How we got here:
One obstacle to clear thinking about Trinity edX is how it emerged in an era of hyped-up expectations for transforming higher education. The New York Times declared 2012 to be the “Year of the MOOC.” 2 Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun, who created the for-profit Udacity platform for free online courses, predicted that in 50 years, “there will be only 10 institutions in the world delivering higher education.” 3. At Trinity, my colleagues on the Information Technology in Education Committee (ITEC) organized discussions to make sense of this movement, with faculty who gained first-hand experience as students in MOOC courses, and thoughtful guest speakers such as Lisa Spiro (who provided an overview of how liberal arts colleges were responding) and Lisa Dierker (a Wesleyan professor who innovated with teaching on the Coursera platform). 4 Although research universities led the MOOC movement, several liberal arts colleges climbed aboard the bandwagon that promoted massive open online courses as a grand experiment to reshape higher education. Soon thereafter, some of Trinity’s peer institutions — Wellesley, Colgate, Davidson, and Hamilton — joined up with the non-profit edX platform (created by MIT and Harvard), while faculty at Amherst voted to stay away. 5

Trinity’s leadership decided to join up with edX. In December 2014, Dean of Faculty Tom Mitzell announced that Trinity would sign a 3-year contract, with an initial start-up fee of $250,000 (see more details about costs below), which committed our faculty to develop at least 4 non-credit open online courses for the edX platform each year. The Dean’s letter emphasized how our institution would benefit by experimentation and reputation, while the larger world would benefit from the free expansion of knowledge.

Joining edX will enable the College to expand its educational outreach to people in the broader community, including individuals in Hartford, our alumni, high school students, and others in the U.S. and abroad. . . This partnership with edX represents an opportunity to publically promote the quality of instruction embodied within a Trinity education, enhance our reputation, and influence the evolution of online instruction. It is an opportunity to conduct experiments, research how students learn with online content delivery, and provide open access to liberal arts teachings. We will be joining an elite set of liberal arts institutions that have already begun to explore the myriad possibilities associated with an edX partnership. 6

The letter also mentioned the possibility that edX might generate some revenue for Trinity if students paid for verified certificates of completion of these free online courses, but let’s leave that point aside.

Admittedly, I sat on the sidelines during this phase, and did not actively support nor object to the Trinity edX contract. By 2014-15, my term on the ITEC committee had ended, and I was on research leave from Trinity with a fellowship at another institution. But my worries grew when I participated in a not-well-attended information session for faculty members who were considering teaching a edX course. Exactly how would Trinity determine whether or not this high-cost program achieved its vaguely-defined goals? Some of my faculty colleagues expressed similar concerns in the Trinity edX Committee’s 2015-16 report. The report listed the first cohort of courses, described several implementation challenges, and also brought up the key unresolved issue:

The Committee began preliminary discussions on how to assess the ‘success’ of online courses. At this early stage it was not clear what the evaluation criteria might be. 7

Reflections on my edX teaching experience:
To understand more about the Trinity edX process first-hand, I submitted a proposal to design and teach a course during its second year. Although my colleague Dan Lloyd impressed me by designing a 6-week online non-credit philosophy course that also became a module for his face-to-face for-credit Trinity course, I could not fathom how to accomplish this with courses that I regularly taught, which relied on writing assessments that did not easily convert into online activities (or God forbid, more papers to grade!). Faculty at other liberal arts colleges who had experimented with MOOCs warned against doing any assessment that involved writing. Furthermore, I already shared the syllabi for my existing courses — with many examples of student writing — on the public web, so I did not see benefits of moving this content into the open-yet-password-protected edX platform.

See all Trinity edX courses at https://www.edx.org/school/trinityx

After considering my options (and time constraints), I proposed to create a non-credit online Trinity edX course titled “Data Visualization for All” for Spring 2017. The description included the all-important tagline: learn how to tell your data story with free and easy-to-learn tools, and create interactive charts and maps on the web. I chose this course topic, rather than one of my writing-intensive courses in educational history or policy, because I had already shared several data visualization instructional materials on the web, which many readers had discovered. Furthermore, I could envision how to expand my existing web content into a online course with automated or peer-reviewed assessments, for multitudes of students who I would never meet, nor have time to interact with in person. Building loosely on Dan Lloyd’s model, I designed my edX course to run parallel to a small one-hour-per-week data visualization internship seminar I also supervised that semester, though it did not count as one of my regular courses. As a result, two groups of students used these instructional materials: the 9 Trinity students enrolled in my face-to-face weekly seminar, and many more students who enrolled in the online course (see more about edX enrollment data further below).

One way that my experience diverges from the typical online instructor’s story is that “Data Visualization for All” actually consists of two open-access products: the edX course and a free online textbook. We used the edX platform to publicize the course and register students, and to lay out a 6-week course outline, with short conceptual videos, multiple-choice quizzes, peer review assignments, and a discussion board for anyone needing help. But most of the course content — such as step-by-step tutorials, sample data sets, and templates — appeared in a separate, open-access digital textbook. Students in the edX “course” followed links to the “book” on a different platform. The open-access book is a separate product for several reasons. First, the edX platform was suboptimal, from my perspective, and I did not wish to pour hours of work into a customized HTML-only format that was not designed for easy export to other platforms. By contrast, I authored the textbook on a GitBook platform, which uses the easy-to-write Markdown format, and content is shared and exportable on a GitHub repository, an open-data standard. Second, while all content in my edX course is open access, it sits behind a password-protected site, and is not easily discoverable through search engines. Third, as much as we praise teaching, the faculty promotion systems are driven largely by publications. Although it’s “just a textbook,” my online textbook is far more likely to be recognized by my peers as a publication, in contrast to a MOOC.

Learn how my edX non-credit online course ran alongside my for-credit face-to-face Trinity internship seminar (http://commons.trincoll.edu/dataviz), and how my co-authors and I produced an open-access textbook,  Data Visualization for All (http://DataVizForAll.org)


If you’ve never taught a Trinity edX course, it’s definitely a team effort. I invited two key people to serve as co-instructors to credit their intellectual work in creating the course: Dave Tatem (Trinity’s Instructional Technologist for the social sciences, who helps me think about teaching and learning with data, and managed the edX platform) and Stacy Lam (an undergraduate who had completed my face-to-face internship seminar the previous year, and provided key design insights from a former student’s perspective). Behind the scenes, Angie Wolf (director of operations and planning for Trinity’s computing center) managed all of the videography and editing for about eight 3-minute concept videos. In addition, Trinity student Ilya Ilyankou (a double-major in computer science and studio arts) developed several open-source code templates for the course. He and other students also co-authored chapters for the online book.

As an individual faculty member at Trinity, was I personally satisfied with my edX experience? On one hand, I was tremendously pleased with my campus edX team that worked with me to create the course, and the modest course development funding that Trinity provided to create new digital learning materials for both my face-to-face and virtual students. On the other hand, the edX platform is not as friendly as expected for authors or students. Furthermore, edX staff never addressed my friendly suggestions for minor improvements to their open-source code, which I submitted directly on their development platform. I also asked my campus IT lead to raise one simple coding request directly with our edX campus rep. Finally, I described my minor code request (with a link) in the standard post-course edX faculty satisfaction survey. No one has ever responded.

But “individual faculty satisfaction” is a narrow way for Trinity to address the broader question about whether to continue our edX partnership. In any evaluation, what matters is how we frame the questions, and the ways we gather information to answer them. Ideally, the overarching question for any educational evaluation should be: Question 1: To what extent does a program contribute to — or distract from — achieving our core mission? But this seems to be “too big” a question for us to wrap our heads around, as seen in the Trinity edX Committee report from 2015-16 above, where no one had a clear idea about how to evaluate the “success” of our online courses. So let’s break this down into smaller, more manageable questions, perhaps with a more pragmatic focus:

Question 2: What evidence exists, if any, that the program is achieving its stated goals?
Recall that the December 2014 announcement of Trinity’s edX contract stated at least three goals (which I’ve reordered here): experimentation, reputation, and expansion of knowledge.

a) Experimentation and research with online student learning:
One of Trinity’s stated goals was to “conduct experiments [and] research how students learn with online content delivery.” Yet to my knowledge, no one at Trinity has collected or analyzed any meaningful evidence about student learning through our edX courses, or shared this with me (as one participant) or our faculty at large. Nor am I aware of any systematic sharing of quantitative or qualitative learning data across comparable liberal arts colleges on the edX platform. At the 2017 Blended Learning in the Liberal Arts Conference at Bryn Mawr College, my Trinity colleague Dan Lloyd and I told stories about edX experiences, along with an IT colleague from Wellesley, which was a great first step, but not the same as systematic research.

If no one collects data, nor systematically analyzes it, does this really deserve to be called an “experiment”? Sorry if that sounds a bit harsh. But if a philanthropic foundation granted me funding of this size to run an new educational program, you can bet that they’d insist on an evaluation component from the start. In the not-for-profit world of academia, collecting, analyzing, and sharing meaningful data about teaching and learning — the core mission of liberal arts colleges — should be a central part of our mission, not an afterthought.

In the absence of meaningful analysis, institutions like mine tend to fall back on not-so-meaningful public relations statements about our experiences with edX. For example, consider this basic question: Who enrolls in Trinity edX courses? At an April 2017 faculty meeting, our top administrator made this statement, which is accurate: “Through these non-credit bearing courses, involved faculty have engaged with over 25,000 students from over one hundred countries.” In fact, as part of my Data Visualization for All course, I encouraged registered students to answer a simple survey question in an open data format, which allowed anyone to map the general location of participants, as shown below. 8

Yet while this public-relations statement about Trinity edX is accurate, it does not reveal the full picture of what learning actually looks like. In my “Data Visualization for All” edX course in Spring 2017, online student participation sharply declined during the two-month run, as shown by course statistics. Although nearly 5,000 students registered for the free course, less than 800 (16 percent) of those actually began the coursework by filling out my initial survey described above. Moreover, only 53 students (or 7 percent of the roughly 800 who began the coursework) finished it by the end.

Is the completion rate (or “dropout” rate, if you prefer that term) of my course similar to other edX courses at Trinity or elsewhere? We don’t know the answer. To my knowledge, very few institutions publicly release this type of information. That seems counter to the spirit of the open expansion of knowledge goal. Instead, Trinity and other institutions should openly publish MOOC retention data, just as higher education accreditors and government agencies mandate that we report retention data about traditional face-to-face enrollments.

b) Reputation
To date, I have not seen any evidence, quantitative or qualitative, which suggests that Trinity’s reputation has risen as a direct result of partnering with edX or offering our courses on their platform. And I think it’s a difficult argument to support. Imagine that everyone accepted the validity of the reputational survey of liberal arts colleges compiled by US News and World Report (note that this sentence began with “Imagine…”). To convince us that MOOCs had reputational power, one would need to demonstrate that over time, participating institutions (such as Trinity) went up in reputation levels, while non-participating institutions (such as Amherst) went down, holding other factors constant.

Furthermore, it’s not yet clear to me whether students who register for a Trinity edX course clearly identify it with our college in particular. Here’s a researchable question: if an independent organization sent an online survey to students who registered for one of our online courses, and asked them to name our college from a list of similar institutions (such as Connecticut College, Wesleyan University, Tufts University), what proportion of the respondents would accurately identify that it was offered by Trinity? While edX students probably are more likely to recall that a course was offered by well-known institutions, such as Harvard or MIT, to my knowledge, no one has systematically explored this question for smaller liberal arts colleges that are edX partners.

Finally, it’s important to remember that online education is a two-way street. While we hope that our institutional reputation would go up, negative user experiences with the content, platform, or even other users can drive that indicator downward. Digital content ages quickly. Online course material that looked shiny and new in 2014 may not meet the same standards in 2017, and probably will appear to be obsolete to many web visitors by 2020.

c) Expansion of knowledge
Let’s be clear: I’m all in favor of the open expansion of knowledge. It’s the central reason why I’m became an educator, and a core principle in designing “Data Visualization for All.” But MOOCs, like most institutions, do not distribute educational resources equally across the population. The Trinity edX Committee report of 2015-16 briefly noted that “the majority of learners were slightly older than college-age, and had at least some college education,” a common pattern among MOOCs in general. If Trinity is serious about using edX to expand knowledge, we need richer data on the demographics of people currently served, and research-based ideas on more effective ways to reach underserved populations.

Question 3: What are the direct — and indirect — costs of operating the program?
Evaluating any educational program requires a clear accounting of direct costs (which appear in a budget) as well as indirect costs (which may be hidden from view). Since no one has granted me access to actual cost data, here’s my estimate from Trinity’s announcement of its edX partnership in December 2014:

Estimated Direct Costs for Trinity edX
$250,000 one-time edX membership fee
$ 45,000 annual subscription cost (year 1)
$ 45,000 annual subscription cost (year 2)
$ 45,000 annual subscription cost (year 3)
$ 40,000 annual faculty and direct expenses (year 1)
$ 40,000 annual faculty labor and direct expenses (year 2)
$ 40,000 annual faculty labor and direct expenses (year 3)
$505,000 3-year total

Note that annual faculty labor and direct expenses are based on $5k for course development, $3k for running the course, and $2k for expenses = $10k x 4 courses per year.

Now consider some of the indirect costs, which I can only estimate, because no one has shared actual data. The Trinity edX Committee Report of 2015-16 stated that “faculty and staff involved in creating new edX courses made it clear that this process required a substantial investment of time.” First, although faculty like me received an additional stipend of $8,000 to develop and run a Trinity edX course, the actual time commitment cut into our other teaching, research, and service responsibilities. Second, my experience revealed that IT staff had to spend a considerable amount of their time to co-produce and manage our edX courses. Trinity employs 3 instructional technologists and one director to manage them. (Did anyone tabulate the total number of hours spent by instructional technologists per edX course? Might it have exceeded 33 percent of their annual workload, or more? If yes, then add 1 FTE instructional technologist salary and benefits to the direct cost estimate above.) Given that only 4 or so faculty developed an edX course each year, this project swallowed up a disproportionate amount of their workload, and there may be hidden detrimental costs to the other 180+ Trinity faculty who did not develop edX courses, but would have benefitted from IT services. Update on Nov 29th: Also, note that of the 6 Trinity faculty who developed edX courses that appear online to date, 3 are now retired (Archer, dePhillips, Morelli) and the other 3 of us are full professors (Lloyd, Myers, and me). This suggests that Trinity edX does not match the needs of the majority of our younger faculty.

Once again, the figures above are simply my quick estimates. If Trinity College wishes to continue the edX partnership, it should give serious consideration to tabulating real costs and sharing those with a faculty committee. Until that happens, my ballpark estimate suggests the price tag of this 3-year experiment was at least $600,000, and probably higher.

Question 4: Do the benefits justify the costs? Have we explored alternative ways to achieve the same goals?

No one wants to reduce educational policymaking to a mechanistic cost-benefit analysis, because so many of our values — such as understanding, collaboration, and freedom — cannot be measured in dollars and cents. But ignoring the true costs of educational programs, or failing to connect programs to their intended benefits, are equally unwise choices for the long-term health of institutions such as Trinity. At this three-year threshold in the Trinity edX partnership, we need an sober evaluation on whether our investment of significant time and money produced the outcomes as envisioned. Speaking as one faculty member, I am not persuaded that the edX experiment, if we can even call it that, should continue.

Perhaps it’s easier to think about this challenging question in a different way. Has Trinity explored alternative means to achieve the same goals: experimentation, reputation, and expansion of knowledge? Instead of spending more than a half-million dollars on online education, how else could we spend a fraction of that money to achieve similar ends? Some quick ideas:

a) If Trinity values experimentation to improve teaching and learning, should we consider funding better ways to collect evidence of this in face-to-face settings (such as rich observations of classroom and non-classroom interactions), to help us better understand when and how we are reaching our goals, and expanding these lessons across the college?

b) If Trinity values improving the reputation of our core mission, face-to-face teaching and learning, should we fund better ways to capture and communicate these stories to the outside world, such as web essays and short videos by our faculty, staff, and students?

c) If Trinity values the open expansion of knowledge, should we offer incentives for faculty in standardized courses (such as introductory statistics, chemistry, psychology, US history) to review, adopt, or create open-access textbooks? Would this investment yield cost-savings for students both at Trinity and elsewhere?

Before taking another ride on the high-technology bandwagon, let’s look at what we truly value as a liberal arts college and identify cost-effective ways to meet our shared goals.


  1. Larry Cuban, Teachers and Machines: The Classroom Use of Technology since 1920 (New York: Teachers College Press, 1986), http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/12262353, and his more recent writings at https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/; Audrey Watters, Hack Education, http://hackeducation.com/.
  2. Laura Pappano, “The Year of the MOOC,” The New York Times, November 2, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/education/edlife/massive-open-online-courses-are-multiplying-at-a-rapid-pace.html.
  3. Steven Leckart, “The Stanford Education Experiment Could Change Higher Learning Forever,” WIRED, March 20, 2012, https://www.wired.com/2012/03/ff_aiclass/.
  4. Trinity ITEC, Spring Institute on Teaching and Technology 2013, http://commons.trincoll.edu/itec/event-may-2013/.
  5. Carl Straumsheim, “Four Liberal Arts Colleges, Early to the MOOC Scene, Form Online Education Consortium,” Inside Higher Ed, May 13, 2015, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/05/13/four-liberal-arts-colleges-early-mooc-scene-form-online-education-consortium; Ry Rivard, “Despite Courtship Amherst Decides to Shy Away from Star MOOC Provider,” Inside Higher Ed, April 19, 2013, http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/04/19/despite-courtship-amherst-decides-shy-away-star-mooc-provider.
  6. Dean Tom Mitzell to Trinity Faculty, December 16, 2014
  7. Trinity edX Committee Report, 2015-16.
  8. Data Viz for All, Spring 2017 survey participant map, https://jackdougherty.github.io/lmwgs-dataviz-2017-spring/

Jia-Hui Stefanie Wong to Join Educational Studies Faculty at Trinity College

Posted on

2017-04-Stefanie-WongThe Educational Studies Program at Trinity College welcomes Jia-Hui Stefanie Wong as a two-year visiting faculty member, beginning in Fall 2017. Professor Wong is completing a joint Ph.D. degree in the Department of Educational Policy Studies and the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her dissertation, “White Dominance in Diverse Schools: When Multiculturalism and Social Justice Aren’t Enough,” is based on a 16-month ethnographic study of how students and teachers perceive and challenge inequalities at a racially and socioeconomically diverse high school. Despite the school’s commitment to social justice, her study examines how White supremacy and privilege persist within its power structures. She also co-authored an article on the racialization of Asian American immigrant students in Educational Studies.

Professor Wong’s interdisciplinary training and field-based experiences make her an ideal fit for Trinity College. As an undergraduate at Swarthmore College, she majored in Educational Studies and Political Science, minored in Chinese, and collaborated with faculty on an ethnographic study that she later presented at a research conference. This experience not only shaped her desire to pursue graduate school, but also her dedication to create similar fieldwork and research opportunities for undergraduate students. Furthermore, she adds that “my experiences as a woman of color on predominantly White college campuses will help me effectively mentor and support students of color at Trinity. I have learned how to negotiate spaces that are not always welcoming to people of color, and to create spaces that value the diverse knowledges and experiences of a range of students.”

Drawing on her teaching experience at UW-Madison, Professor Wong will offer courses at Trinity such as Educ 200: Analyzing Schools (fall and spring), Educ 320: Anthropology and Education (fall 2017), and Educ 309: Race, Class, and Ed Policy (spring 2018).

Northeast Hartford Oral History Summer Internship with Community Solutions

Posted on
Swift Factory artwork 2015 Image source
Swift Factory artwork 2015 Image source

Community Solutions in Hartford is searching for a summer intern to conduct oral history interviews with Northeast Hartford residents and former employees of the Swift Factory for their Inspiring Places project. Read more in this October 2015 Hartford Courant article. See internship posting in the PDF below and contact them directly for any questions.

Download (PDF, 115KB)

Tonight’s Educ 300 Class: Past and Present Activism on Anti-Immigration Policies

Posted on

Dear students in Educ 300: Educ Reform Past & Present,

Many of us are deeply troubled by the Trump administration’s ban on refugees and immigrants from select Muslim nations.

In tonight’s class, I hope that historical thinking can help us to become wiser about responding to present-day events. We’ll examine anti-immigrant stances from more than a century ago, and explore how natives and newcomers fought over similar issues during the Common School movement. Although the past never exactly repeats itself, history can help us to reflect on how to make sense and take action in today’s perilous times.

One student emailed me to explain that they are participating in a silent protest as an act of solidarity, to let me know that they may not speak in tonight’s class. I understand that each of us must follow our conscience.

But I ask you to think carefully about whether a silent protest in a college classroom is the most effective way to show solidarity. In my view, Trump wants “silence” from students, activists, and especially the news media. We at Trinity have an incredible privilege: our liberal arts education teaches us how to speak truth to power.

If you’re as angry as I am about Trump’s policies, then I encourage you to join me tonight to learn about the past, get politically organized, and raise your voice in protest. If students wish, I am more than willing to set aside part of tonight’s agenda to build more connections between past and present and discuss how to translate ideas in action.


Job Post: Associate Director of Community Learning at Trinity College, Hartford CT

Posted on

Come work with us at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. We’re searching for an Associate Director of the Community Learning Initiative, a full-time position with an initial three-year contract. While other colleges call this “service learning,” at Trinity we emphasize creating knowledge in collaboration with Hartford community members. The right person will bring teaching, administrative, and urban partnership experience to help us support and expand community learning between our campus and the capital city. Also, the candidate will teach one course in our new Community Action Gateway for entering students, either CACT 101 Envisioning Social Change or CACT 102 Building Knowledge for Social Change. These courses emphasize interviewing and hands-on research with community stakeholders, designing collaborative social action projects, and sharing work though public speaking and digital storytelling.

Candidates need the right combination of skills to build academic and interpersonal connections between Trinity students, faculty, and Hartford community organizations. Ideally, the candidate will start in March 2017, though our search committee will consider applicants who wish to begin at the end of the spring semester. See the official job posting and application link, summarized below:

Title: Associate Director of the Community Learning Initiative (full-time position with benefits)

Trinity College is a nationally recognized liberal arts college located in Connecticut’s capital city of Hartford, with approximately 2,200 students and 200 faculty members. The College’s urban and global focus is highlighted in the Center for Urban and Global Studies and the longstanding Community Learning Initiative for academic partnerships. Learn more at http://www.trincoll.edu

Trinity College invites applications for the position of Associate Director of the Community Learning Initiative. The Associate Director will coordinate academic engagement between liberal arts courses and Hartford organizations through the Community Learning Initiative and the proposed Community Action gateway for entering students. Among other responsibilities the Director will:

• In collaboration with the faculty director, guide the Community Learning Initiative to promote academic engagement with Hartford, by matching new/existing faculty with community organizations, and strengthening and publicizing these partnerships.
• Build relationships with Hartford organizations.
• With support of the faculty director, oversee the Community Action gateway for entering students, including teaching one course per year, planning with participating faculty, and recruiting through Admissions.
• Support the CLI Research Fellows Program.
• Coordinate with the Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement.

The Associate Director of the Community Learning Initiative is a 12 month full-time administrative position with competitive salary and benefits that reports to the Faculty Director of CLI. The initial contract is for three years, with a flexible start date, to ideally begin no later than March 1, 2017. Review of applications will begin immediately, and will continue until the position is filled.

The successful candidate will contribute to Trinity’s urban academic programs and will show clear evidence of leadership skills and experience with urban community partnerships,, excellent oral and written communication skills, ability to collaborate with faculty colleagues, experience directing and mentoring students, and evidence of innovative teaching.

A complete application consists of a letter of application, curriculum vita, and names and contact information for three references. Please submit all application material at https://trincoll.peopleadmin.com/.

Trinity College is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer with a commitment to diversity in hiring. Women and members of minority groups are especially encouraged to apply. Applicants with disabilities should request in writing any needed accommodations in order to participate more fully in the application process.

Qualifications: A master’s degree is required and a doctoral degree is preferred. Significant community engagement and college-level teaching experience is expected.

Salary is commensurate with education and work experience.

Additional background about the program and position:

At Trinity, we define the Community Learning Initiative (CLI) as a form of experiential education, which matches our liberal arts courses with local organizations in the City of Hartford. Since 1994, CLI courses have been offered in almost all of our academic departments and programs, connecting with more than 250 community organizations, and enrolling about half of our undergraduate students. See the online course schedule and select “community learning” in the drop-down menu to view the range of participating courses for next academic year.

CLI highlights some of Trinity’s most creative teaching and learning, sometimes in unexpected places. Chemistry students have analyzed toxic metals in soil samples from abandoned city lots to help housing organizations plan where to build. Members of the Hispanic Hartford course write bilingual web essays that feature the city’s rich Latino cultural resources and agencies for newcomers. Theater and Dance students have partnered with nearby elementary school students, and women who were released from prison, to help choreograph and tell their stories in public performances. Advanced undergraduates apply to become CLI Research Fellows, where they receive additional training and support to make their independent studies and senior thesis projects more meaningful and useful to their community partners. (See Dec 2016 news story on the fellows’ community research poster presentation.) While other colleges may label this “service learning,” Trinity philosophy professor Dan Lloyd explains in this essay how “community learning” better defines the two-way collaborative relationship that brings together the campus and the city.

In our newest initiative, CLI is launching the Community Action First-Year Gateway program, to help build stronger campus-city learning among cohorts of entering students. The CLI Associate Director will help lead this program, with its first cohort of students in Fall 2017, and teach one of these two new seminars:

CACT 101: Envisioning Social Change (Fall)
How do different community organizations (neighborhood groups, non-profit advocates, unions, government agencies, social entrepreneurs, philanthropies, etc.) envision social change? What strategies for change do we find across the City of Hartford? How can Trinity students cultivate and engage in meaningful partnerships to promote social change? Students will investigate these and related questions through readings on community action and social impact, hands-on research and interviews with community stakeholders in Hartford, and the design of collaborative social action projects around a core theme (to be implemented in the spring semester). Students will think critically and reflexively about the root causes of social problems, the ways that power and privilege shape social change work, and how their biographies shape their understanding of and engagement with Hartford.
Enrollment limited to 15

CACT 102: Building Knowledge for Social Change (Spring)
How can students and community groups effectively collaborate to develop goals and outcomes for social action projects? How can knowledge be defined and constructed collaboratively with community partners for purposes of social change? In this course, students work in collaboration with community groups to implement a project in the City of Hartford. Students learn strategies for effectively engaging with community partners and explore and reflect upon the process of producing and disseminating knowledge for social impact. Students will expand their skills through workshops on non-fiction narrative, public speaking, digital storytelling, and data visualization, facilitated by leading experts in these fields. Student groups and their community partners will share their stories about their social change projects at the end of the semester.
Enrollment limited to 15

The intellectual energy of CLI attracted me to come to Trinity years ago, and the continued dedication of faculty, students, and community partners still inspires me today. The CLI brainstorming lunches offer one of the few opportunities on campus to discuss teaching and learning across departments. My faculty colleagues have integrated community learning into several of our courses in the Ed Studies Program. Last year I discovered new ways to connect students and city non-profit organizations through the data visualization internship seminar at Trinfo Cafe, Trinity’s neighborhood internet and community center. I look forward to working with the right candidate, who will bring new ideas and energy to expand the academic relationships between our campus and the city.


Writing Race and Education History on the Web

Posted on

Thanks to Brian Croxall, Digital Humanities Librarian at Brown University, for inviting Matt Delmont (Arizona State University), Esther Cyna (with Ansley Erickson at Teachers College, Columbia University), and me to present work from our digital book projects on November 4th, 2016. See notes and links on our public Google Doc, my presentation slides, plus this video recording of our session.

Abstract: This panel contrasts how historians of race and education are authoring three digital books on the web, which raises provocative questions about the future of scholarly communication. Historian Matthew Delmont created open-access companion websites to accompany both of his recent books published by the University of California Press: The Nicest Kids in Town (http://NicestKids.com/) and Why Busing Failed (http://WhyBusingFailed.com). Jack Dougherty and his contributors are creating On The Line: How Schooling, Housing, and Civil Rights Shaped Hartford and its Suburbs, a digital-first, open-access book with interactive maps and oral history videos, under contract with Amherst College Press (http://OnTheLine.trincoll.edu). Ansley Erickson and Esther Cyna and their colleagues are producing Educating Harlem, a digital history project in two interconnected parts that mix elements of traditional publishing with web-based open-access scholarship.

North Hartford Promise Zone – AmeriCorps VISTA Positions

Posted on

NHPZ-AmeriCorps-VISTA-flyerPromise Zones are an initiative started by President Obama to give some communities battling poverty a leg up in making lasting change. In 2015, North Hartford became one of only 22 promise zones to be named in the entire country. As we begin our second year with the North Hartford Promise Zone designation we would like to share information regarding the exciting North Hartford Promise Zone AmeriCorps VISTA service opportunities that are available.  Currently, the North Hartford Promise Zone is seeking candidates who are interested in serving as North Hartford Promise Zone AmeriCorps VISTA members. 

 As part of the Promise Zones initiative, AmeriCorps VISTA members are available to each Promise Zone community.  AmeriCorps VISTA is a national service program designed to alleviate poverty.  Members make a year-long, full-time commitment to serve on a specific project at a nonprofit organization or public agency. They focus their efforts to build the organizational, administrative, and financial capacity of organizations that fight illiteracy, improve health services, foster economic development, and otherwise assist low-income communities.  We are looking for people who are passionate about the promise zone community, organized, and who have good writing and computer skills.

 As part of their year of service, VISTA members receive the following benefits:

  • $456 bimonthly living allowance (approximately, before taxes);
  • $5,775 Education Award voucher -OR- $1,500 cash stipend;
  • Childcare assistance, if eligible;
  • Healthcare benefits

Please feel free to post, share and email the opportunities with networks and others. 

Communications VISTA job posting — Increase community involvement and coordinate communication

Data VISTA job posting — Gather + analyze data and research best practices

Policy Coordinator VISTA job postings (2) — Lead and guide collaborative efforts

To apply: visit https://my.americorps.gov/mp/login.do

For more information, contact: 

Logan Singerman
NHPZ AmeriCorps VISTA Leader
City of Hartford
550  Main Street | Room 305
Hartford, CT 06103
O: (860) 757-9508
E: logan.singerman@hartford.gov


Pathways to Teaching with Trinity students and alumni, Wed Oct 5th, 2016

Posted on
Both virtual (via video conference) and physical panelists
Both virtual (via video conference) and physical panelists at our Pathways to Teaching discussion

Curious about teaching in a K-12 school after Trinity?
Feeling overwhelmed by different options and programs?
Come join us for a panel discussion:

Pathways to Teaching with Trinity Students & Recent Alumni
Wednesday, October 5th, 2016, 6:30-7:30pm in Rittenberg Lounge, Mather Hall

Listen and learn from current Trinity students and recent alumni who have followed different pathways to teaching. Guests will appear in person and via video conference to share their stories, explain the decisions each of them made, and offer their advice. Professor Jack Dougherty will moderate the discussion and refer to the Pathways to Teaching advising web pages hosted by the Educational Studies Program. If you missed this event, see video below.

Guest panelists:

Long-Sophie-150x150Sophie Long ’17 is finishing her degree in mathematics. This fall, she also is completing her secondary school certification as a full-time student teacher in a New Britain CT public school, through the cross-campus consortium with the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford. Learn more about teacher preparation at USJ.

McQuaidLizzyElizabeth (Lizzy) McQuaid ’16 graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She began her secondary school certification program in mathematics through the consortium at the University of Saint Joseph, and this fall is finishing by student teaching full-time at Manchester High School. Learn more about teacher preparation at USJ.

Meehan-EmilyEmily Meehan ’16 graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Educational Studies. She is a Teach for America corps member and currently works as a 6th grade English/Language Arts teacher at Blackstone Valley Prep Middle School 1 in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Learn more about Teach for America.

Rollins-ElainaElaina Rollins ’16 completed her bachelor’s degree in Educational Studies. She currently teaches 2nd grade at Achievement First North Brooklyn Prep Elementary School in Brooklyn, New York and is working toward her master’s degree in childhood education from the Relay Graduate School of Education. Learn more about Achievement First Teachers in Residence program.

Armendariz-VeronicaVeronica Armendariz ’16 completed her bachelor’s degree in Educational Studies. She currently is a paraprofessional and 12th grade advisor at Chicago Bulls College Prep in Chicago, IL, and is working toward her master’s degree in secondary mathematics from the Relay Graduate School of Education. Learn more about the Noble-Relay Teaching Residency program.

Shaw-ZulekyaZuleyka Shaw ’06 graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, then completed her secondary teacher certification while earning a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Connecticut in 2009. She has taught in several public schools in Hartford, and currently is an 8th grade science teacher at the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy. Learn more about teacher preparation at UConn.

Voight-JessJess Voight ’17 is completing her major in biomedical engineering, with a minor in models and data. This past summer, she was one of 12 students from around the nation who gained first-hand experience as science educators at the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy, with training and financial support from the National Science Foundation – Teaching Experiences for Undergraduates program. Learn more about the NSF-TEU intern program.

Questions for panelists:

  • We all start at different places in life, and everyone follows their own path. What decisions did you make about pathways to teaching, and why?
  • What’s one piece of advice that you wish someone had shared with you during your earlier years as a Trinity student?

Video part 1

Video part 2

Past events with Trinity students and alumni

Friendly advice for your history conference panel

Posted on

As summer ends, the fall academic conference season begins. This time of year I find myself writing the same email to panelists for whom I’ve been assigned to serve as chair and/or discussant at the History of Education Society meeting in November. So this year I’ll also share it as a blog post to make the process more transparent, and encourage others to comment and share their own approach or advice, which may differ from mine. 

Dear panelists,

Looking forward to serving as chair and discussant on your HES panel in November. We’ll proceed in the order listed on the program unless your group tells me otherwise.

Some friendly advice:

1) Although the program chair instructed you to send me your writing by the beginning of October, feel free to extend that date to October 15th, because I won’t be looking at your writing until then. But this extension is a hard deadline, and panelists who miss it will not receive any prepared feedback from me.

2) Please send your writing to the entire panel to share your thinking, spark ideas, and promote discussion.

3) In addition, send us a 2-sentence bio, and more importantly, the context and trajectory of your writing, to help us understand how it fits into your academic plans. Do you envision this as part of a dissertation chapter, and/or journal article, and/or book project? Is it brand-new or near completion? Knowing this ahead of time helps me to frame my comments, which I usually gear toward helping panelists bring their work to the next step.

4) Everyone has their own style, but I support this recent email from program chair Jackie Blount: “It is better to prepare a talk than to read a paper verbatim.” So feel free to share your thinking about how you plan to do this. For example, it’s perfectly acceptable to send us a 25-page essay, with a note stating that you’ll prepare a talk about pages 1-4 and 10-15. Similarly, it’s also acceptable to send us an essay and presentation slides that outline your talk about that essay.

5) Aim to deliver your talk in less than the allotted time. Everyone loves a concise and focused presentation. And everyone feels embarrassed when a speaker who runs over needs to be interrupted by the chair, so let’s prevent that from happening. [The HES program chair states that sessions with 4 papers, allow no more than 10 minutes each; 3 papers, allow no more than 15 minutes each.]

6) Whether or not you choose to present digital slides or materials depends on your judgment about the best way to deliver your talk, which varies with content, setting, and personal preference.  I’ve seen both wonderful and dreadful presentations, both with and without slides. But if you plan to use a projector [which HES is providing in selected rooms this year], then set up your laptop and connecting cables in advance, and coordinate with other panelists to share equipment and avoid time swapping out hardware. Furthermore, if you present digital slides, consider hosting them on the web (perhaps with Dropbox or Google Drive) and insert a short link or Twitter handle on the first slide, so that audience members (or people who could not attend) may download them later. Years ago I shifted from PowerPoint to Google Slides to make this process even easier.

Let me know if you have any questions.