Open spaces teaching

Tools and processes; Connections; Contribution to the Topic: Could these aspects of Open Spaces workshop form the basis of teaching as well?   The stumbling block would seem to be the idea that students—learners—could contribute to the topic of the course.  A slight rethinking of the topic of a course is needed:

Constructivist learning aims to provide students with experiences that guide them to build an understanding for themselves instead of being handed a pre-packaged understanding produced by others.  Conceptual change learning extends this further by noting that students come to a learning situation with existing understandings, however rudimentary and incomplete, and these “private universes” need to be exposed and mobilized in order for appropriate constructivist learning to be fashioned for them.  The net result of constructivist, conceptual-change learning can be seen as contributing to the topic if the topic is not simply the ostensible subject of the course, but the challenge of generating conceptual change for persons X, Y, and Z related to the subject.

This perspective suggests that Connections might refer not only to connections among participants of the course that stimulate and support contributions, but also to connections among the elements of the subject matter (within and beyond the course proper).

Connections are enhanced by Tools & Processes.  Following the model of daily writing in recent workshops (see recent posts), these tools and processes might well begin with daily writing where students are asked to write about the topic, that is, about the subject and how it is understood by them, from the start, thus instituting active learning from the outset.


About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor teaches and directs programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He studies the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context as well as innovation in teaching, group process, and interdisciplinary collaboration (see He is especially interested in conversations with others who are, in diverse ways, "troubled by heterogeneity" (

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