Modes of creative learning in microworlds, messyworlds, and the real world

The items in this table are not intended to be comprehensive or be self-explanatory (thus the sources as entry-points at the bottom).  The schematic contrasts are, however, intended to stimulate discussion about the different kinds of creativity that are experienced in relation to the structure and boundaries of the different spaces of learning and action.

Space Microworld Messy World Real world
Examples Scratch, Turtle Project-based learning (PBL), Collaborative explorations Internships, apprenticeships, work, activist organizations, living in general
Tools Pre-built, available online Cases or scenarios in which problems are not well defined Action Research Cycles & Epicycles framework
Processes The tools’ simple rules allow wide diversity of products (like “generative grammar”) Define questions for inquiry relevant to the participant’s work & lives.Check-in & sharing each session; end with taking stock (e.g, Critical Incident Questionnaires). Action Research traditionally progresses from evaluations of previous actions -> stages of planning and implementing some action -> evaluation of its effects.  Add to this basic cycle: reflection & dialogue; building a constituency to implement the change; inquiring into the background; looking ahead to future stages.
Connections (among participants) Free borrowing from shared material; Timely help from others; Admiration for products of others Through listening well to each other, and to oneself, providing +delta feedback and references/referrals, and pacing/inspiring each other. Constituency-building.Also: Friendships, give or take risks to initiate new friendships or end relationships; Negotiating paths within the politics of unequal access to resources
Contributions to the Topic or field Not required, but anything is made by individuals with acknowledgement. Separate contributions from participants, but linked to the case. Change, based in research & constituency-building, implemented & evaluated.
Experience in relation to Carry over into subsequent learning, work, and living Experience of being creative -> desire to continue playing in the microworld.But the experience is dependent on the insulation of the microworld from messy world or real world complexities. Experience of learning and synthesizing -> further digestion & directions for inquiry.  It is no longer possible to simply continue along previous lines.But the experience happens within a “container” and is not tested by application and constituency-building in real world.When ready, participate again with positive, but circumscribed expectations. “What we come out with is very likely to be larger and more durable than what any one person came in with; the more so, the more voices that are brought out by the process.”Evaluation of the effects of an action or change can lead to new or revised ideas about further changes and about how to build a constituency around them, thus stimulating ongoing cycles & epicycles of Action Research.
Sources (Use tag cloud or category “Group Process” to select relevant posts)

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" (

5 Responses to Modes of creative learning in microworlds, messyworlds, and the real world

  1. Uranchimeg says:

    Thanks for sharing. Based on the which understanding do you defining these “Worlds”?

  2. Pingback: Modes of creative learning in microworlds, messyworlds, and the real world, cont. | Probe—Create Change—Reflect

  3. Pingback: Engaging in MOOCs: Exploring motivating factors and goals of diverse learners | Felicia M. Sullivan

  4. Pingback: Moving and motivating given the gaps | Probe—Create Change—Reflect

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