Michael Herman
Opening Space for Business Agility

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colleagues on oslistserve:

last august, i did an open space with staff and professors at a very small college outside of chicago. the dean, a very close friend, had initiated that i be invited. he (the dean) is now experimenting with os in one of his classes.

he recently wrote me:

"Friday night was the first actual OST class. Twelve of us came up with about 9 different topics, which we assigned to 30, 45, or 90 minute blocks. We used 15 minutes to set up, 90 minutes for the group meetings, and the last 15 to go around the circle. Each of us was required to give the group a short account of their activity.

Scary, but wonderful. The students are inviting the rest of the school to participate starting Monday. We'll see. I'm not sure my colleagues really know what i'm up to, and I'm not sure I want them to know. However, the genie is definately out of the bottle. More as the story unfolds." Steven Werlin mailto:sjwerlin@shimer.edu


this is the invitation that the students have sent to faculty and students at shimer college:

Dear Community, The Pedagogy for Liberation class would like to invite you to participate in our Open Space Discussions. What is Open Space? Open Space Technology is a radically democratic technique of dialogue, which we are using to explore a variety of issues. These issues are posted and will be updated on the 438 lounge tack board. Our meetings begin at 5:30 on Mondays and 4:30 on Fridays. Participation and contributing issues are open to the Shimer Community.

posted 05-12-2002 08:48 PM

from judi richardson, dartmouth nova scotia- http://www.ponoconsultants.com

Okay teaching with OST. Say I'm covering a chapter that has mandatory objectives. Well, I ask the class to study the chapter and any additional handouts I might have. I also ask them to come to class with one question from their reading. I open the space in circle format and the theme is the chapter we are covering. In an 80 minute class, students have about 30 to 40 minutes to discuss the topics posted. During that time I'm checking on their topics to see how I'll address them at the end. I'm also listing the objectives on the board and deciding what has and hasn't been covered. The last 30 or 40 minutes of the class, the students report on their discussions and ask questions. I then cover the objectives by asking students questions and talking about the ones we missed. Students quickly "get" that I'm going to do the objectives and start to address them with their questions! The next class if it is on that chapter I would do experiential learning or exercises -- you could also use a few classes in open space to cover a chapter.

later on, somebody asked again about this and judi said more...

The textbook was a "given" -- even to me as a Professor taking over at the last minute. I would read the chapter information and have additional resources available for reading. Students would read the material and come to class with at least one question. They were the sponsors and participants. The "theme" was the area law we were covering. The givens were the textbook and resources materials, that an evaluative opportunity was pending (!), and if something came up that we needed clarification on, I'd get it for them, and that course outcomes would be covered. Note: Attendance was part of the term mark! When the space was open for topics some students would use the question they brought with them from their reading and research, and some would come up with new ones. We would spend a couple of hours and then they wanted to debrief their topic sessions to the whole group. At this time, I had to think on my feet. As curriculum requires that certain outcomes be covered -- I creatively would link their discussions to chapter outcomes with their input.

We took about three or four classes to cover each chapter area. The 2nd class after the OST, students would apply the concepts learned to case law. They would choose what case they wanted to work on and act like judges in small group format.

The next class we would once again open space and the conversations would be deeper.

The next class was an evaluative opportunity -- essay test or multiple choice test. Out of curiosity I even did a multiple choice test once with sticky dots and topics on the wall -- then a selection of answers -- the debrief was hilarious as they could see how each other was "voting" on the test questions!

We also compiled a book of proceedings that they took with them at the end of the year in their language rather than "legalese"!!

My department head was okay with what I was doing as I had built up a reputation of "different" facilitating over the years -- preferring to be the guide on the side, rather than the sage on the stage! When he saw that "marks" were coming out of it, it was okay.

Interestingly some students who wanted to do home study and write exams found the course a challenge as they had to be there. One woman who had a challenging illness found the course challenge and yet chose to stay with it. So, the format isn't for everyone -- quite frankly I also like that part of that -- more of those who "choose" to be there.