Healing Fractures II #2: Staging an enquiry outside the box

Akin to last year’s Healing Fractures educators’ workshop, the following posts describe some of the activities during this years session: Healing Fractures II – Beyond Birmingham. (See “Healing Fractures II – Beyond Birmingham?” – video introduction).

When one opens a student-centred philosophical enquiry into controversial subjects, which possibly have  emotional or other personal import, it is vital to ensure to break up the usual lines of thinking and activate in each individual student’s thoughts and feelings they may not usually associate with the subject.

What Dr Lawson and I were looking for was to move outside the scope of professional rote answers, and dig out personal resources. However, such an activity demands a level of safety and should not be the first thing one does on a Monday morning. Also, as Healing Fractures II had some quite specific aims, we did not want the the out-of-the-box to be overwhelming, resulting in either a negative or over-positive response sending participants to far out on a creative spin.

For these reasons, the morning session opened with a protracted Catch1Partner with leading questions, such as:

Is culture produced by communities or does culture produce communities?

Think about events in Birmingham. How different can you be before you become a problem?

What are the potential positive and negative consequences of making “humanism” a Religious Education subject, because  “[pupils] have the right to study a way of life that reflects their own.” (M. Beech, quoted in Telegraph,by D. Ashton 12.12.2014)

Very long, frank and engaging discussions ensued, participants being free to take all the time they needed with each partner. For me my own professional development, there were great benefits of working with a man as profoundly British as Mr Lawson; most notably the Fundamental British Value of “muddling along”.

From working with children, and often challenged children, I tend to be three steps ahead of every move and very tightly manage interaction to ensure support for LAPs, that friends don’t have much time to go off-task, etc. Here I consciously worked to let go of the Scandinavian OCD, and put away my inner micro-manager. (A couple of former participants had a good laugh at this one).

The movement from the topic-relevant lead-in to the out-of-the-box-questions was to seat participants in highly heterogeneous groups based not only on profession and faith, but to age and gender as well. Seated in these small 4-man home teams, which would support the brunt of the session, students were then asked to pick a picture from a huge stack of random prints.

The task was to pick an image which would reveal something about “What is education to me?”  And as Mr Lawson phrased it: “Don’t overthink it, find an image that speaks to you.” Videos of the staging of the second session is found here.

These are some of the choices made. Good riddance to the new Education Secretary.

Participants actually did explain in a rational way how this related to their understanding of education. Give it a try!

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