A possible course with more open inquiry even than project-based learning

I seek feedback on the idea of revising my project-based learning courses into something even more open to individualized inquiry. Following the lead of a friend, Mac Brown, I am thinking about a course in which students produce contributions to a book (or handbook) on the topic of the course in all its angles: what is known; how to gain knowledge – to move from a novice to someone with organized themes and examples; ways to pursue action, involving collaboration with various parties; lessons to teach or guide others; case studies or illustrations of themes; etc.
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“Changing Academic Life”: extracts from a nomination statement

[I didn’t receive the award, but it was helpful to assemble what I’ve done in relation to a possible path ahead.]
“Most workshops are dysfunctional—this one wasn’t!” read an evaluation from the first New England Workshop on Science and Social Change (NewSSC), a 4-day workshop I have organized since 2004 around issues ranging from ecological restoration to public involvement in environmental health.[2] “I now know 13 other people I can go to for advice, encouragement, teaching help, ideas, collaboration, anything,” one 2008 participant wrote in her evaluation. Read more of this post

Against plenary sessions

Listening to what is said in a plenary session is my least favorite aspect of a conference or workshop. In fact, let me assert that there should be no time spent in plenary sessions, only activities that elicit reflection, making of connections, and new insights. Logistics and other announcements could be made in written materials or only after sessions in which participants have first experienced “connecting, probing, reflecting” (CPR).
Some suggested CPR activities follow:
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ThinkTank, a day-and-half model (updated)

An update on an earlier blog post, composed to suggest a way that participants’ interests and energies could be engaged over the day and a half of a ThinkTank on topic X. That post was prepared after looking back at what happened (and didn’t) during a “thinktank” that went from evening of one day to lunchtime a day and a half later. This update follows a similar workshop of the same length and qualities (i.e., ample funding, a diverse group of inspiring participants brought together to move ideas into [further] action,…)
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Flexible engagement

In this post I expand to education the scope of the principle of “flexible engagement”—“an ideal in which researchers in any knowledge-making situation are able to connect quickly with others who are almost ready—either formally or otherwise—to foster participatory processes and, through the experience such processes provide their participants, contribute to enhancing the capacity of others to do likewise.” (Taylor 2005, p. 225). Read more of this post

Have we constituted a group that might effectively promote a new organization of scientists (or inquirers)?

Thought-piece by Peter Taylor circulated by email soon after the “Ecology at the Boundary of Human Systems” workshop, March 2000.
1. Have we constituted a group that might effectively promote a new organization of scientists (or inquirers)? [Referring to proposal for American Federation of Scientists]
2. What would we need to do to assess this likelihood? What inquiry would we need?
3. How would we support each other to pursue that inquiry?
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Workshop on Making Spaces for Connecting, Probing, Reflecting, Creating

“Most workshops are dysfunctional—this one wasn’t!” read one evaluation from the first New England Workshop on Science and Social Change (NewSSC) workshop in 2004. Appreciative feedback like that may feel like validation for any workshop or collaborative processes that you facilitate, but how well can you articulate or support the principles or theory about personal and group change that underlie those processes? Moreover, how would you lead people who experience the dysfunction in many workshops, collaborations, conferences and meetings into making the effort to create something more fulfilling?

This four-day workshop is intended to allow participants to delve into the principles or theory that underlie their own workshop or collaborative processes and develop plans to make those processes more effective in some sense(s) that they deem important….
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