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Enriching Scholarship 2017: Inclusive Engagement – From The Classroom To The Meeting Room May 4, 2017

Posted by aquillam in teaching.
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Just a note before you begin: you might notice as the week goes on my grammar and spelling get worse. That’s because I have less time for proof reading and editing. My apologies if this seems less than professional, but I still have all my regular job duties to do too.

People perform best in an environment where they have the flexibility to follow their own ideas, but are given enough direction to guide them, get them started, and to keep them focused on the task at hand. They also have different preferred ways of interacting with others. Liberating Structures (LSs) are a tool for for providing both structure and flexibility, with many different ways of interacting with each other to help ensure that everyone has a voice and the opportunity to perform to their best potential. They are open source/creative commons noncommercial  so you can use them however you want, as long as you don’t try to make money off of them.

In this workshop we tried out four types of liberating structures. One was used as an icebreaker, the others all helped with generating ideas and expanding communication. In almost all of them, the amount of structure given really helped get the conversation started and give it direction. Everyone in the room was engaged in the process. Many of them have kinetic components, so they help keep the participants energized. While I can see pros and cons of individual LSs, as a toolkit, they appear to be a good set for improving engagement and inclusivity. At the end of each, we also evaluated what was liberating and what was structured.

The room we were in is a flexible space and was open in the middle with chairs arranged in groups of 4 around the perimeter.

The ones we tried out were Impromptu Networking, 1-2-4-All plus TRIZ, Fishbowl,  and 25/10 Crowd Sourcing.

Impromptu Networking was the icebreaker. We were told to gather in the middle of the room and given a prompt. Then we had to find someone we didn’t know, and had 2 minutes to talk about our answer to the prompt. At the end of two minutes, we had to switch partners, and repeat. In the end, we’d talked to 3 people, and gotten 3 different perspectives, which we took back to our seats. It wasn’t enough time to actually get to know anyone, but it was enough to promote a sense of familiarity latter in the session (and in fact, latter in the day!)

TRIZ is a Russian acronym for stopping counterproductive activities. It was paired with 1-2-4-All, which is a lot like think-pair-share.  First we were given a prompt and 5 minutes to write about counterproductive activities (since that’s a little vague, I’ll be more explicit: we were to identify activities that would exclude people from meetings or classes, i.e. be counter-productive to inclusivity.) That became the 1 part of 1 -2-4-all. After that, we were given 2  minutes to share with one of the other people in our group (so groups of 2). After that, we shared with all 4 in our group, and came up with a couple group ideas. Finally, we went around the room and each group shared their top ideas. The slow build up of sharing was very comfortable and helped make sure the quieter members actually did contribute, but the more vocal member could share with the whole class. That does leave an opening for quieter members to end up ignored by the class. Also, we didn’t plan in advance who from our group would be the spokesperson, which made things uncomfortable.

Fishbowl is remarkably like what it sounds. 4 people are chosen to talk and everyone else stands around and listens. It can work really well for things like software users who discuss what they like and dislike while the software developers listen. It can be particularly helpful if there are ideas or viewpoints that need to be heard but are often drowned out in conversation, or if you have a group who really need to hear something from a different perspective without interrupting.

25/10 Crowd Sourcing: Take a few minutes to generate big ideas (e.g. we were asked for the best idea to promote inclusivity if money is no object.) Each person writes ONE idea on an index card. After everyone has written down their idea, gather in the middle of the room. Pass the cards randomly around the room (the moderators used music to time the card shuffling part.) After several exchanges, the cards should be well shuffled. Each person reads the card, and rates it on a scale of 1 – 5 where 1 is meh, 5 is awesome, and writes the rating on the back. Once everyone has rated the cards, turn the idea up again, and repeat the random exchange and rating. Repeat 3 more times until each card has been rated 5 times. This means the maximum value for the card should be 25. After that, select the 10 highest scoring cards. This is a good way to generate lots of ideas and share them in a low stakes way. It might be a good thing to try with students to generate ideas for studying for the exam. However, it really felt like it needed more followup.