On Campus

Know thy workshop

With the school’s second Community Day come and gone, The Vanguard commends all involved in its planning and execution. We believe the changes from last year’s inaugural Community Day strengthened the event and made it a better overall experience for those involved.

Choosing from a variety of workshops allowed students to pursue their curiosity and connect with others similarly curious. Having two separate workshop experiences meant students could interact with more people and perspectives throughout the day. This was an improvements on last year’s long day in the same group with one set curriculum. The day was also well-paced, with workshops and breaks scheduled in a way that kept student interest and participation going from the first meeting to the last. Finally, a variety of presentation methods proved engaging. Whereas last year’s program was primarily a lecture model that in some cases felt too regimented to allow productive conversation, this year’s program, featuring art activities and open-ended discussion prompts in addition to videos and Powerpoint slides, helped students receive and process information more effectively. 

We do have a few suggestions for improvement, however. In some of the workshops this year, participants felt uncomfortable sharing because, at times, distinguishing whether facilitators were presenting facts or subjective opinions was difficult. Unsure when student leaders were transmitting verifiable information or expressing their own viewpoints, some participants reported having trouble determining whether and how to challenge the leader or speak up with an alternative narrative. Still others felt uncomfortable sharing because they thought they had signed up for a specific activity and were unprepared to comment.

A small but effective change for the next Community Day would be to categorize the workshops as primarily one of three kinds: informational, discussion-based, or experiential. Informational workshops would present a framework or message in the form of a lesson, whereas discussion workshops would be open-ended by design and would rely on the exchange of student perspectives, serving as a forum to explore controversial issues. Experiential workshops would focus on learning by doing. Though by nature there would be some overlap, if each workshop had a clearer purpose—established ahead of time in the workshop’s description—then both leaders and participants would approach the experience better prepared and able to engage.

Group leaders committed to running informational workshops would be responsible for thoroughly researching their topics, citing credible sources, and keeping their own biases out of the conversation. Group leaders committed to running discussion-based workshops would focus on how to engage participants even in tense situations, where disagreement arises. And experiential workshop leaders would structure their sessions in a way that would maximize immersion. Identifying these three categories would leave students with a better idea of what they were signing up for and facilitators with a clearer understanding of their role.

Another minor change might be to have group leaders communicate directly with the faculty in their workshops to discuss expectations for teacher participation. Some teachers reported feeling as though they weren’t allowed to chime in, while others reportedly took over the workshop. If student facilitators and participating teachers could plan on conversing before each workshop to anticipate and head off leadership problems, the workshops would no doubt run more smoothly.

We hope the future organizers of Community Day will continue to seek and incorporate programming feedback for the event so that school-wide participation and enjoyment of it only grows in the coming years. Thank you to those involved for all of your hard work, and we look forward to year number three.

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