Supporting change in creative learning

In April 2013 I undertook the following steps in thinking, inquiry, and framing of further inquiry as part of a “Collaborative Exploration” (CE) on Connectivist MOOCs: Learning and collaboration, possibilities and limitations (

STEP 1: These schematic contrasts were 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.  Microworlds were highlighted in the Learning Creative Learning (LCL) course offered as a MOOC by the MIT Media lab this spring (

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

(See for full chart)

STEP 2: In this schema, the contrast is arrayed in two dimensions, one corresponding to the social relations involved in the creative learning, the other to the technological tools and systems. Items positioned on the schema were ones encountered during the LCL course or that otherwise came to mind.

STEP 3: The LCL MOOC turned out to be a connectivist MOOC, which led to a parallel question: What kinds of learning and creativity go on in c-MOOCs? After following some leads on the web and reflecting on the schema above, I realized that I had been putting a premium on real-world creative learning, implying that this was the deepest or best learning. Suppose, however, we accept whatever sector of the schema learning and creativity is happening in. Then, instead of pressing towards real-world embeddedness, we could try to understand the “vertical” principles that unify the creativity in that sector and from which flow all the “horizontal” possibilities of change ( We could take stock at recurrent intervals and see what would be needed if we were to attempt to shift to a different sector, that is, not to simply continue along previous lines. Understanding the vertical principles and taking stock about shifting together make up an inquiry into what supports change in creative learning.

STEP 4A: My favorite starting point or grounding for supporting change is the 4Rs, in which a well-facilitated collaborative process keeps us listening actively to each other, fostering mutual Respect that allows Risks to be taken, elicits more insights than any one person came in with (Revelation), and engages us in carrying out and carrying on the plans we develop (Re-engagement) ( In the future I plan to revisit some schematic ideas about scaffolding ( as well as the diversity of considerations and tensions among them in moving from standard social science to community-engaged research (

STEP 4B. Other approaches to supporting changes in learning that I looked into during the CE are:
a) Communities of Practice (CoP), including comparison between c-MOOCs and CoPs ( CoPs emphasize knowledge in a specific domain that one can become an expert in and doesn’t make the connection between learning and creativity;
b) the Profound Learning Institute’s i-cubed model, from Researcher, through Engineer and Designer to Visionary ( This has an entrepeneurial emphasis with a little faith in God thrown in. They do mention creative & critical thinking as one of their essentials, but no mention of changing society in some egalitarian direction;
c) layers of involvement in CoPs, from periphery to core (;
d) SCORE–on layers surrounding synchronous online sessions (;
set of actions to foster CoPs; and
e) 7Cs–levels of participation, from consult through to curate (

STEP 4C. The other participants in the CE raised issues about:
a) Think-thin and independent-interdependent learning and collaboration;
b) Valuing the spontaneous exchanges between teacher and students;
c) Lean startups, in which a prototype is developed and evaluated in a public space;
d) The importance for learning of building trust is part of why transformative learning is difficult online;
e) The value of less-than-massive online learning spaces, even in technical fields.
The contributions of each of the participants will inform my future inquiry. More detail about their contributions might be made public in the Critical, Creative and Reflective Practice google+ community (


About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012,

2 Responses to Supporting change in creative learning

  1. 4/25 (an important day for Portugal, Australia/new Zealand, Armenians,..)
    I am preparing a revised post, which will note that many accounts of level of involvement, e.g., in CoPs, are descriptive, leaving the question unanswered of how to support change.

  2. Pingback: Collaborative explorations: From prototype to continuing possibilities | Probe—Create Change—Reflect

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