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Some time ago I discovered Equity Unbound’s community building activities on OneHE’s website. This is a lovely collection of activities teachers can use to help strengthen the bonds between students (and between students and teachers). One of the categories is “Liberating Structures” (LS). Although I looked at a few of the LS activities, I felt more drawn to other categories. One reason was some of the LSs seemed to take a lot of time and involve a lot of steps. For example, I was really tempted to try out TRIZ at the beginning of this semester. I was intrigued by the idea of having my students think up the worst scenario for group work and then envision how they wanted their groups to work together. But after looking at TRIZ (here and here), I discarded this activity as too time consuming and too complex. Even though I generally modify teaching ideas for my teaching context, I just felt the TRIZ structure was too rigid and too long.

So, you can imagine my pleased surprise when I listened to what Tony Carr and Irene Maweu had to say about LS during the Bring Your Own Topic session on June 14th. They emphasized how important it is to adapt a LS to a given context because a liberating structure might not fit well to a particular culture. Irene expressed it so well when she said, “take what you want and block out the white noise.” In that session, I also learned that LSs are designed to make everyone feel equal. How? LSs encourage people who would otherwise remain silent speak up during a session, and after experiencing LSs in different MYFest22 sessions, I have found this to be true.

I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to try out LSs and discover for myself how they are flexible tools that give participants just enough structure to unleash creativity – in an equitable way. I’m now eager to adapt some LSs to the classes I’ll be teaching next semester.

I took the header photo of the top part of a rocket at the National Museum of the US Air Force near Dayton, Ohio, USA.