Designing Community Learning: “Analyzing Schools” with Professor Stefanie Wong

Photo: Standing outside Environmental Sciences Magnet School at Mary Hooker, from L – R, Professor Stefanie Wong, Rob Johnson (8th grade teacher), Annie Moore ’22, Jonah Capriotti ’22, Ashley O’Connor (7th grade teacher), Rafael Villa ’21, Lexi Zanger ’19. 

EDUC 200: Analyzing Schools
Professor Stefanie Wong, Educational Studies
Trinity College, Hartford, CT

In “Analyzing Schools,” Professor Stefanie Wong students introduces students to the study of schooling within an interdisciplinary framework, drawing on sociology, anthropology, psychology, and philosophy. Students combine their classroom learning about educational theories and settings with observing and participating in nearby K-12 classrooms for three hours per week. Through their classroom placements, students integrate theoretical readings with first-hand experiences in K-12 schools, deepen understandings and reflections on the contexts and inequities of urban schools and the purposes of education, develop meaningful relationships with students and teachers, and gain practical experience about teaching and curricula. Overall, the key goal of this course is to explore the central question: How can we best understand the practices, policies, and patterns in classrooms and schools in ways that enable us to create and sustain just, inclusive, effective, engaging, and pedagogically strong educational spaces?

Professor Wong explains the importance of community learning for Analyzing Schools, “The experiential component of the course allows students to connect course readings and themes to real life classroom experiences. As a result, they develop deeper understandings of how teaching and learning happens both in individual classrooms and within social contexts. Teachers also appreciate having Trinity students in their classrooms. They tell me about how helpful Trinity students are in supporting learning activities, and how much their students enjoy working with college students. Sometimes, Trinity students build lasting relationships with their teachers and schools, continuing to volunteer at the school beyond their course commitment.”

To successfully integrate classroom and community learning for her 26 students, Professor Wong constructs a detailed framework of logistical documents, writing assignments, and assessment opportunities for community partners. Together, these help her create mutually beneficial partnerships with local K-12 teachers and rewarding learning environments for students because she has crafted ways to stay organized in her approach to her community learning component and evaluate student work across multiple dimensions.

Logistical Documents

Professor Wong’s Scheduling Form and Participant Observation Contract allow her to set up school placements and set expectations with her students for when and how often they will be with their K-12 teachers.

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Writing Assignments

Professor Wong asks her students to discuss their growing understanding of schooling by integrating what they have learned in her classroom and in their K-12 placement across multiple writing assignments. Here you can see several types of writing assignments: a reflection journal, a writing exercise, and two analysis papers.

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Assessment Opportunities for Community Partners

To ensure that students are fulfilling their contracts and partners are benefitting from the students working in their classrooms, Professor Wong has included multiple opportunities throughout the semester for community partners to offer feedback on student work.

Mid-semester, Professor Wong sends teachers their first evaluation, which is ungraded but shared with students so they can see how they might grow. The assessment consists of a google form with the following questions:

1) Has your Trinity student been coming to your classroom as scheduled?
2) As a participant-observer, has your Trinity student been actively and meaningfully engaged in the life of your classroom?
3) Any additional comments or advice that you would like us to share with your Trinity student?

At the end of the semester, she sends another Google form, and the ratings provided comprise students’ grade for participant observation. Questions include:

1) Did the Trinity student responsibly schedule their time in your classroom, completing approximately 8 three-hour sessions (or the equivalent of 24 total hours) by the end of this semester?
2) As a participant-observer, was the Trinity student actively and meaningfully engaged in the life of your classroom?
3) Rate the Trinity student’s overall effort on the two items above. (1-10 scale)

Lastly, she asks some teachers who have coordinated student placements to attend and evaluate final project presentations by students, where they present a week-long curriculum for the grade and topic of their choice. Below is the form that students use in this process.

Download (PDF, 32KB)

Coordinating, integrating, and assessing community learning can be a complex, onerous task, but Professor Wong’s documents offer a map for how an instructor can successfully manage a community partnership project that is beneficial for her students’ learning and for helping partners meet their goals.

Interested in developing a Community Learning component for your course like Wong’s “Analyzing Schools”? Contact Megan Hartline, Associate Director of Community Learning, for opportunities, resources, and feedback about this process. 

Students, are you interested in taking Community Learning courses such as “Analyzing Schools?” Take a look at this list of Spring 2019 Community Learning Courses.