Are you feeling emotionally safe?

Recently we held a workshop at Douglas College titled “Creating emotional safety in learning spaces,” which was facilitated by Leva Lee of BCcampus; Sandra Polushin, CFCS faculty; and Steven Bishop and Hope Miller from the Learning Designer team of Academic Technology Services.

And how did we land on this topic? Well, it started over a year ago when Ross Laird presented a two-day workshop titled “Storming the Ivory Tower.” As one plank of his 10-plank framework, emotional safety is a critical component of teaching the whole person.

Our goal in running this workshop was really to start a dialogue at Douglas College about what emotional safety means and how it impacts each of us in our various learning environments. None of the facilitators professed to being an expert in the field of emotional safety, but they were willing to guide the discussion around this important topic.

To that end, the facilitators used Liberating Structures activities to generate thoughts, ideas, challenges, and solutions, as well as to model how such topics could be tackled in learning environments. Two hours flew by as participants completed three activities–Impromptu Networking, Drawing Monsters, and 1-2-4-All–each activity building on the insights gleaned during group work.

I’m happy to report that feedback from participants was very positive. They liked the format and saw the benefits of using Liberating Structures to delve into topics such as emotional safety.

But, did we succeed in creating an emotionally safe space for participants to come together, share, tackle tough topics, and problem solve? Absolutely.

If, after reading this, you are interested in joining Douglas College’s Whole-Person Community of Practice, please contact either Steven Bishop or Hope Miller.  You can also consider joining the Vancouver Liberating Structures User Group.

Serendipity Strikes

Open-GroundHave you ever started going in a direction, and something completely unexpected, valuable and delightful popped up? This can be a transformative experience.

It started when a few faculty and staff were in a lively conversation about student interest (or lack of interest) in innovative learning environments. The discussion was mostly opinion, with some research references thrown in. We needed something more to sustain our inquiry into “what students want”.

And then we discovered an article that changed our direction. In What Learners Want , Ross Laird, Ph.D. writes about his experience spending a full day with 20 diverse university learners at different stages along their educational paths “…talking about the kinds of learning environments and experiences that work best for them. With great candor and enthusiasm, the learners worked together to craft their vision of a contemporary learning environment.”

We started meeting people who were familiar with his book Grain of Truth. We became more aware of his work with indigenous groups, addiction issues (including technology addiction), and the Amazon Field School. We learned about his interests, accomplishments, and educational contributions. A new direction took shape, and interest in bringing Ross to Douglas College grew.

Each time we’ve met with Ross, we have been inspired, entertained, and stimulated to hear more. With support from individual faculty members, the Learning Technology Steering Committee, Academic Technology Services, and funding from the College Wide Faculty Development fund, we’re thrilled that Ross facilitated a series of well-attended sessions at Douglas College. We’re excited about the emerging community of practice that has met several times since those sessions, around the educational themes Ross brought to us with his work, including:

  • Emotional safety
  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Character development
  • Facilitation skills
  • Mentorship

Related content: Storming the Ivory Tower: A Workshop on Transforming Post-Secondary Education (notes, slides and recordings from the Ross Laird sessions at Douglas College)

to be continued…