Working Groups Process: Reflections

January 15, 2009

At the center of the Visible Knowledge Project (VKP) is a concern to answer the question: what can we gain by doing this work together that we don’t gain by doing this work individually. In the VKP, we explore the possibilities for doing connected, similar projects and find that individual projects grow best in an environment of discussion and collective exploration.

Lydia Gerber, a VKP participant from Washington State University, believes that the working groups process provides opportunities for “fantastic feedback” and lots of “new ideas.” She notes the benefits of participating for all involved, not just the designated presenter, because of the value of “listening to other’s perspectives and challenges.” Gerber found the whole process–being the focus of discussion, offering a deeper critique of another project, and the general discussion of various projects–to be a real “springboard to getting my own thinking to a much deeper level.”

Rachel Theilheimer, from Borough of Manhattan Community College, likewise believes that the benefits of the process come “as much or more. . .from listening and commenting on others” as it does from the feedback one gets directly on one’s own work (as valuable as that may be). Theilheimer notes that during a working group session nearly everything anyone says is related to both another person’s project being discussed but also often to one’s own project. She imagines that therefore almost any comment on any project can impact the development of one’s own project, as one categorizes all comments something along the lines of: “Oh yes, that’s useful–Maybe, let me think about it–That’s not in line with my thinking at all.” Even those ideas or comments which fall in the last category are helpful to an individual’s own project, as they prompt more critical thinking about one’s own work.

As these two participants’ comments make clear, the working groups process has been very useful and popular for VKP participants at the Summer Institute. The process is also a model for groups to use locally on their own campuses. Outlines of the process and theĀ Working Group Feedback Form have been successfully used at Washington State University and Californial State University-Monterey Bay, among others.

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