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Educators Discuss Preparing Students for Life After High School

Westminster hosted educators from around the region Jan. 6 for this year’s Westminster Teaching Symposium titled “To College and Beyond: Preparing Students for Life After High School.”

The keynote speaker was Wendy Fischman, project director of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The mission of Project Zero is to understand and enhance learning, thinking and creativity for individuals and groups in the arts and other disciplines.

Wendy joined Project Zero in 1995 as a researcher with Project Co-Arts, a study of educationally effective community art centers. Since 1996, she has managed various aspects of the GoodWork® Project, specifically focused on the meaning of work in the lives of young children, adolescents and novice professionals. She has written about education and human development in several scholarly and popular articles and is the lead author of “Making Good: How Young People Cope with Moral Dilemmas at Work.” Wendy co-developed the GoodWork Toolkit, a curriculum designed to introduce students and teachers to the concept of “good work.” Most recently, she is involved in the management of a large, national study on liberal arts and sciences in the 21st century at 10 college campuses.

Before coming to Project Zero, Wendy taught humanities to middle school students and evaluated school reform programs facilitated by a government-sponsored regional laboratory. She received a B.A. from Northwestern University.

Wendy began her presentation by giving an overview of the Good Project. “I come to you as a researcher and a participant,” she said. She discussed how good work is “at once excellent, engaging and ethical.”

“It is important for people to find value in work and enjoy it,” she said. She shared highlights of major findings of the study and the genesis of the GoodWork Took Kit. Following this, she discussed a large-scale national study that is documenting how different groups think about the goals of college and the value of a course of study emphasizing liberal arts and sciences. She shared some of the issues identified from the research and offered takeaways for those in the audience.

After her presentation, those attending the symposium had a chance to attend two breakout sessions given by educators on related topics. Nick Pinkerton of Southern Connecticut State University spoke about “How Student Mental Health Trends Inform Our Work Moving Forward”; Joe Di Christina and Jody Goodman of Trinity College spoke about “Helping Students Transition to College”; and Tim Quinn, Amy Rogers and Lesley Skendarian of Miss Porter’s School spoke about “Miss Porter’s School’s Senior Seminar: Designing Your Life; Purpose, College and Career.”

Following the morning’s presentations, participants shared lunch in Armstrong Dining Hall.

The symposium was sponsored by the Westminster Teaching Initiative (WTI), which was formed in 2010 to enhance teaching and learning at Westminster by encouraging collaboration and dialogue among faculty members and departments about curriculum and pedagogy. The purpose of the symposium is to widen the circle of sharing and allow teachers from area schools to come together, converse and learn from one another. Westminster faculty member Charlie Griffith P’11, ’14, ’17 serves as director of WTI and planned the symposium.

Members of the Westminster faculty concluded the day by further discussing the morning’s presentations in afternoon group meetings. “The hope is the symposium will spark ongoing, productive conversations about what we do and how we do it, and from our follow-up discussions, there is every indication it will do just that,” said Charlie.

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