ONL221 is an online course on open networked learning. These reflections are part of the course assignment. This one is on topic two – sharing and openness .

Suggestions for reflections
– openness in your own practice

“You could be observant to have your talking time more evenly distributed …” one of our facilitators mentioned when we had a short evaluation around ‘group work – so far’ in our open networked learning course, ONL 221, which is about open networked learning and build on a problem based learning approach. Being one of the more talkative members I confess, I had my share in that. So maybe an easy way to handle this is just to keep my mouth shut and listen or blame the facilitator/moderator of the session to be the one responsible for this. Then again, I came across the concept of liberating structures during the pandemic and it really got me into thinking about what formats for conversation we chose and how that might affect things like talking time or inclusion.

This weeks topic is, sharing and openness. And my reflection starts just here: What difference would it make if practices of liberating structures were used in comparison with the facilitator structured approach used in the ONL course?

There is guidance as to how each group should do their group work, what outcomes are expected from individuals and also a description of what the facilitators role is in the course. The impression you get is that even the role of facilitation is a learning journey that takes place at another parallell level of the course and room is given to the influences that might be brought into that role. The actual micro-structure of each conversation/meeting is then open to whoever takes the lead for a specific session, both for facilitators but also participant moderators. The term micro-structure refers here to how the collectors of liberating structures, Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless use the word, meaning “smaller structures that influence our interactions with other people”. There are 33 different structures , more evolving constantly, that are described as patterns that can easily be applied by everyone. Combining different structures into strings is making the whole concept flexible and qualify as a pattern language.

Lipmanowicz/McCandless argue that most of us are familiar with the big five conventional micro-structures that either are over-controlled such as presentation, managed discussion and status update or under-controlled as in brain-storming and open discussion. The resulting interaction is thus either relatively predetermined and rather unidirectional or reflecting other unwanted patterns of conversation as for instance unevenly distributed talking time. Liberating structures are – on the contrary – all aimed at creating a more including pattern for participation.

Given the promise of an inclusive outcome of conversations by design through liberating structures and noticing that this also is a wished for result of the course guidelines for facilitation I think it could be an interesting question for course organizers to ask:

Could experimenting with liberating structures be a helpful impulse for  ONL course facilitators?

Liberating structures