Scenarios for an on-going studio

This post presents the scenarios for a series of 4-week online collaborative explorations (CEs) (and one 4-day workshop) with continuing participation from alums of the graduate program in Critical & Creative Thinking.  The actual process and products of the CEs are private to the group. Read more of this post


If an Instructional Design graduate program produces graduates who work as instructional designers, what does a program in Critical and Creative Thinking produce? A possible answer depends on first noting that the Program is really about changing practice so might be better called Critical, Creative, and Reflective Practice. The answer then could be “SloMoCoCo,” standing for SLOw MOde COach or CO-COach. The graduate has the ability to coach others in the following as well as walking the talk, that is, having established a studio to support their own work:

[I]n order to make best use of the one’s skills, experience, and aspirations, it is valuable to give oneself ample time for connecting, probing, reflecting, and creating (CPRC). In this spirit, students [in the Program are introduced] to many and varied CPRC tools and processes, principles and themes, which… students build into their own toolboxes and “studios” for lifelong learning and mindful practice (from previous post).

The next question might be: What does the process of being introduced to “tools and processes, principles and themes” and “build[ing them] into their own toolboxes and ‘studios'” look like? Can it be laid out as directly as one might lay out the skills needed for instructional design and teaching others instructional design? Graduates of the CCT Program — and anyone else interested — are welcome to provide their roadmaps for moving from applying to the Program to completing a capstone “synthesis of theory and practice.” One addition to what has happened so far in the Program is the new idea of:

a “virtual studio”… with every member taking responsibility for supporting each person’s studio-building initiatives, including those of the faculty member and alum that will join with the 4-6 students in each studio. Each studio creates the guidelines they use about how often to meet…, what processes to use during the meetings, how to bring in newcomers, how to take stock and revise the studio’s processes, and how to share… what they are learning about ways to build and run supportive studio spaces (from previous post).

Transformational education — a contrast or tension

A connection between personal transformation and social change has characterized “transformative learning” since Mezirow’s original 1978 formulation of this approach to adult education.  This connection is, as schematized in figure 1, that beliefs, values, ways of thinking, assumptions, frames of reference, or self-awareness are called into question and transformed; the resulting, more critical and inclusive perspectives at the personal level are then applied to promote wider change through education, institutions, policy, and social movements. In my view an additional level, between the personal and social, is important (figure 2): well-organized, sustainable studios or work spaces in which creative projects, collaboration, and reflection on wider engagements are fostered.

Figure 1.  Transformational learning emphasizes students changing beliefs, values, etc. and on this basis influencing justice in society (perhaps through organizational change)

Figure 2.  Creative and Transformative Education emphasizes lifelong development of inquiry and engagement that centers on the studio or workshop space as a base from which to advance inner and organizational changes and reflect back on them.

Some thinking on creative and transformative education

A. Tension and provisional response

“After training and experience in their original fields or specialties, many professionals are ready to extend their reach so as to take well-researched and thoughtful roles in teaching and collaborating with others to be creative and transformative in diverse settings…”  (personal notes on creative and transformative education)

“A few years ago an experienced facilitator admonished me not to think too much about how to support the translation into everyday work and life of tools and processes introduced in a workshop setting. The advice was to the effect that tools and processes are taken up only if they are introduced in actual work settings….”  PT, from

Provisional response to tension:  Read more of this post

Studios in our lives

What roles can studios play in education or, more generally, in personal and professional development?

A. My initial thinking on this question starts by identifying three kinds of studio:

1. A space for the practitioner or artist or professional to be focused on one’s own creative or generative work.

(The tools are all there and distractions are reduced [as in “don’t open your email in the morning”].  “Tools” here is metaphorical—the toolkit may include many of the creative habits and other processes that help in Taking Yourself Seriously.)

2. A space where the practitioner or artist or professional works with apprentices.

(Taking the step of recruiting apprentices is a further step in Taking Yourself Seriously, as is designing how to supervise them.)

3. A space where teams work together on a project.

(“Space” is metaphorical, including virtual collaborations, such as Collaborative Explorations.  The character of the collaboration may vary, as is evident in variants of Project-Based Learning.  However, again, tools are provided and distractions are minimized during the focused worktime.)

B. My colleagues Felicia Sullivan and Jeremy Szteiter, among others, emphasize the need for people to “build confidence to know what one wants to inquire into.”  The practitioner or artist or professional should arrange ways to foster this confidence-building among the apprentices and other participants of studios of types #2 & #3.  A prerequisite for the practitioner doing this fostering would be, I suggest, Taking Yourself Seriously through work in a studio of type #1.

C. My frequent reference to Taking Yourself Seriously invites elaboration.  I suggest, for now, that this involves finding the “vertical unity” of elements upon which or from which change flows naturally.  The method for exposing and clarifying such elements and their organization needs to be explored and articulated.  Some possibilities include:

a. Remembering Conversation with outsider witness retelling

b. Clearness Committee

c. Drafting and revising a professional bio for a project you really want to undertake

d. Finding your vocation (as described by Parker Palmer in Let Your Life Speak).

e. Mapping workshops

f. Scaffolding

g. Support circles

h. Other? (Suggestions welcome)

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