The process felt right, even if I did quickly find that words like “innovative,” “creative,” and “transformative” became mushy, derivative, hopelessly weak versions of themselves. The team put into practice what I’ve always felt to be one of the strengths of any truly active active learning process – listening, hardly rocket science – and the sessions felt productive and useful.
Some highlights from the proceedings then became clear:
– In listening to conversations going on among the various groups, the design team seemed to be consciously seeking to include all opinions and hear everything that was said.
– the reporting-back was streamlined by asking groups not to tell us all of their ideas but instead the top two or three. While the democrat in me sometimes felt as if not everyone was getting heard, the design team’s efforts felt like an honest attempt to be as inclusive as possible.
– they were willing to at least pretend that they didn’t have an already-existing agenda, as they took ideas that didn’t seem to fit with the general zeitgeist of woo-hoo, can we collaborate even more now than we did before?
– In particular, they took the suggestion made within one group to have space for those who do not want to collaborate, but who instead are more comfortable being by themselves getting work done. This idea was so well-received that the final model included a third floor (or half floor) that was dedicated to reflection, prayer, and solitude, in interesting ways.
The struggle seemed to constantly move between the desire to develop a consensus and the need to hear everyone. This is a binary that seems particularly troubling in group work of this sort – how do we not let our vision get derailed, and how much do we really want to include everyone? No space will make everyone happy, and no space will make everyone’s – even in a tightly-knit organization – vision of what that space should entail. We often don’t know what we want from these spaces – my ideal classroom probably looks a lot different than yours (it includes this),