Experiential Learning in the Stainforth Project: RA Take-aways


  • DH Stainforth work as an RA was experiential by nature. In other words, there wasn’t an aspect of Stainforth editing that is not experiential learning, according to the editors (or from what I gleaned from their interviews)
  • Communication was a key component, especially in terms of feeling part of a collaborative team.
  • They noticed the connections between DH work on the Stainforth project and the library as inherently experiential
  • Experiential learning on the Stainforth project inspired continued work in the field, for example, continuing on to library school, wanting to learn how to design a database, applying to a PhD program to specialize in DH
  • Thinking about experiential learning on the Stainforth project led to reflection on a common theme of organizational systems and systems of knowledge: of two kinds, (a) historical organizational systems involved in bibliography, historic library organizations, shelf marks, and (b) systems for organizing data such as our spreadsheets and the TEI XML with which we encode our data. These two things seem to go hand in hand.
  • The Stainforth was a crash course in how to productively troubleshoot: deal with errors, failures, miscommunications, accidents by asking for help and finding a solution collaboratively. In particular, it’s important to set ego aside, admit mistakes, and work together for a solution, even if it means re-editing hundreds of lines of data.

How I set up project infrastructures for experiential learning in Stainforth RA work:

  • Pay, compensation, real money, as much as you can pay.
  • Make RAs feel 100% part of the project team and editorially significant. Nay, editorially essential!
    • Give editorial privs on all documentation, emphasize that it is evolving. Shared collaborative docs give RAs a stake in the project.
    • Ask for critique of the documentation and procedures and empower RAs to propose changes.
  • Online communication platform that everyone likes. We found Slack and it stuck. We hated Basecamp, google chat, and email, though we still use email for some communication.
  • Model “getting into the data” and collaborative editing with the RA team.
  • Encourage reflection on what we learn in a variety of ways! Blogging, chatting informally about the project, humor, camaraderie.
  • Set goals that we will meet and CELEBRATE TOGETHER when we meet them. Chearlead.

You Might Also Like