Well I had a go at using the thinking environment approach (see Klein (1998) Time to Think, and (2008) More Time to Think) with a group (see previous post dated 4 June for discussion about using it with one to one meetings). Using it with a group was productive. We achieved a lot, enjoyed ourselves and came away with new ideas and a project to work on together to enhance student experience for a specific group. The meeting wasn’t shorter though! I suspect I was really just trying to do too much in an hour and a half (we took two hours).
Feedback from a colleague who participated (and had done the same training workshop on the technique) was that we did two meetings worth of activity and he thought it had worked. All the members of the group were very positive and found the style of meeting very productive. We came away from the meeting with really clear actions, particularly for us as a group. I came out of the meeting feeling pretty buoyant – not always the case with meetings!
The aim of the approach was to focus on giving people space to think effectively and creating conditions for everyone to contribute pretty equally.
Basic structure was :
– a round of ‘what is good for you.’, or ‘what is going well?’ (positive start).
– used a mixture of rounds, ‘listening pairs’ (see Klein’s books for an explanation on how this works), and some discussion, but with respectful listening.
– the discussion came after an individual round where everyone contributed, and after a shared review of the briefing paper on the topic I had sent out in advance. So the discussion was based on everyone’s knowledge. The effect of this seemed to be an incremental building of knowledge and ideas.
– action round, ‘what are you each going to do, and by when?’, ‘what do we need to do?’ – The main notes from the meeting are action points collected from this round.
– ended with a final positive round: I went for, ‘what was successful for you about this meeting?’.
This structure may not sound very different to a lot of other meetings, and I guess it isn’t but some of the difference is about intent. My understanding of this approach is that Klein is arguing for creating a space where people’s thinking can be transformed and to do that we have to address the way we listen, the appreciation we give each other, and the ease we create, so thinking can happen. I don’t think I managed all of this in the way she envisages, but I am working at it, and I’m enjoying trying.