Liberating with fun

two feet appearing over the edge of a cliffI’ve explored the Liberating Structures before and had considered how they could enhance teaching in a classroom. Many of the listed structures are similar to teaching strategies I’ve used throughout my career as an educator, just never called them ‘structures’.

This video explores the establishment of these structures:

I’ve recently had the opportunity to see a few of these structures in action during a session at the Creative Commons Global Summit under the guidance of Rajiv Jhangiani. The session was titled How Might We Break the Open Education Movement? During this session Two liberating structures were applied, the 1-2-4-ALL and TRIZ. As participants worked through the questions that were posed, thoughts and ideas were collected in a collaborative Google doc, visible from the screen at the front of the room. Our roles as facilitators were established prior to the session start, with a timekeeper as a critical role since the timing and frequent shifts from 1 to 2 to 4 to all keeps the conversations focused and on topic. The shared Google doc provides some of the conversations, but not the feel and atmosphere created by the structure.

The 1-2-4-all structure provides

  • 1 minute for personal reflection,
  • 2 minutes to share within a pair
  • 4 minutes to share within the group, and
  • 5 minutes to share out across the whole room (reporting only the best ideas out).

During this conference session people were directed to be seated at a table of their choice, close to the front of the room, in groups of no less than 6 and no more than 10. Since participants did not necessarily know each other, this forced new nodes of contact that may have been unexpected. Individuals at each table were self selected as the ‘recorder’ of the group conversations and at many tables, one or two took on a more active role to ensure each person was included or had an opportunity to speak. As I observed and monitored the tables for active participation, I noticed that the ‘paired’ conversations allowed for a more ‘positional’ discussion such as “at my institution it looks like …”, building a shared experience connection. The four minutes following allowed for the focus to shift to the topic question in a specific way. The five minutes for the whole group sharing limited the responses being shared to only one or two that may have been the most pressing or divisive ideas. The immediate movement on to the next topic did not allow for participants to dwell on prickly issues or differences in opinions. The flow through the sequence of questions made this session move quickly, and feel like it ended way too soon. In reflection, that’s ultimately what you want to see happen in a classroom as well.

This is very similar to the ‘think-pair-share’ teaching strategy used in many classrooms from K-higher education. It’s often done in a less structured format, with variations similar to those proposed in this liberating structure. In a Kindergarten classroom it’s sometimes done as a ‘turn to talk’ with an ‘elbow partner’ with ‘knee to knee & eye to eye’ structure.

I know there are other commonalities to be found between other liberating structures and the core set of teaching strategies, for example ‘What, So What, Now What?‘. There will be more ‘expanding my thinking’ with liberating structures as I continue to explore these in the classroom. I’ll continue to check out the many ideas found on the BCcampus site where liberating structures are outlined for specific classroom use. More liberating reflections to come.

Image attribution: Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash