os in higher education

Steve Brigham sbrigham at kcg.com
Tue Feb 9 06:45:42 PST 1999

I distributed a document of Birgitt's yesterday that had a number of
education-related OST examples. This morning, I excerpted two additional
examples of my own that were part of an article I had published a few years
ago on Large Scale Events.


Open Space Technology: Examples in Higher Education

In May 1996, Keene State brought together 350 faculty, staff, and
administrators for three days of intense conversation - called SPEAK OUT- -
to begin identifying shared and achievable goals and priorities for the
future. As the president stated in brief remarks at the beginning of the
Open Space conference, "This is very different from the way we have done
planning in the past. Instead of appointing a committee to write an
institutional plan, I am asking each of you to ?speak out? about the things
you want changed and the things you value."

For three days, the campus became a hotbed of interaction, with 100
different issues being discussed - sometimes in intimate groups of three or
four, sometimes in rooms with people spilling out the door straining to
hear the topic of conversation. As day three came to a close, everyone
voted for the top 10 planning issues that Keene should begin focusing on in
the near term. Because of the close voting tallies, 15 issues emerged in
the final list. More than 100 people then took part in creating a 5-by-10
foot Interrelationship Map, which grouped the 100 discussion topics and
'mapped' their relationships to one another.

Keene State saw SPEAK OUT at as a beginning point in a continuous,
inclusive process of identifying issues of importance to the college?s
future. Late in the summer, the OST planning team held a half-day
conference to continue the discussions about the top 15 priorities. The
sessions were each led by SPEAK OUT attendees who shared the work under way
on each of the issues and engaged groups in further conversation and
planning. Keene held a Future Search the following January that built upon
the momentum generated at SPEAK OUT and developed eight strategic areas for
longer term planning.

Belmont?s Liberal Education Team for the Summer (LETS), a group of eight
faculty, worked diligently for nearly seven months to revise and reinvent
the general education curriculum. Although LETS had reported its ideas in
faculty meetings and had invited colleagues to four 60-to-90 minute ?town?
meetings throughout the fall 1994 semester, the faculty still had not
engaged in the kind of thorough discussion needed to decide whether a new
curriculum should be instituted. LETS decided that the only way to
determine how to move forward was to involve as many faculty colleagues as
possible in collaboratively exploring the general education curriculum. In
January 1995, the team held a 10-hour OST retreat over two days with 67
faculty (of 90 total) - titled "Issues and Opportunities for General
Education at Belmont."

More than 30 sessions were convened, and during each 90-minute time block,
faculty had their choice of eight or nine discussion topics. The
discussions were often passionate, occasionally heated. When the retreat
came to a close, faculty heartily supported most of the changes being
proposed and offered a handful of issues that needed continued exploration.
Most importantly, 65 of the 67 faculty supported the LETS team in moving
forward aggressively on comprehensive curricular reform. The new general
education curriculum was approved by the full faculty senate later that
fall. The LETS team viewed the open space event as the key event that
turned the tide towards support for reform.

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