The Unbearable Lightness of Ideas: LWs goes to University!

Hands on Bricks!

Hands on Bricks!

“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things” Theodore Levitt 

 The last months have been devoted to innovation. Time for creativity and innovation is necessarily made by questions looking for solutions and  the apparent quietness of this space is filled by innovative actions taking place in unexpected places, with unimagined forms and surprising people.

LegoViews is a growing method, proving itself to be not only flexible, but integrated and integrable into different contexts with diverse aims.

The current experiment is taking place in Italy: regardless the economic situation, that country can still be a place open to real innovative approaches and able to recognise, capitalise and be enthusiast for new ideas.

And the Italian Academia can be a free  environment where a real problem could turn into an amazing opportunity: just put together an innovative university department, like the Architecture department of University of Ferrara, a team coordinated by Prof. Marcello Balzani, a cutting-edge course lead by prof. Carlo Bughi and supervised by Prof. Beppe Dosi,  and what you get is an explosive situation where ideas happen and changes take place.

This is how it began: by chance, like the most exciting things in life. I was informally talking to people who were telling me how many difficulties they were facing in finding a sound and appropriate methodological approach to group students to work on course projects. The main problem is to transform a bunch of undergraduates into an efficient team. Until today, when students are asked to form groups, they tend to aggregate on various emotional and relationship based motivations, which are not functional from an educative perspective: those students represent tomorrow’s professionals and they need to learn to collaborate and create running teams based on competences and skills, rather than on personal likes and dislikes. The demand was to define a new approach to allow teachers to create groups on the basis of some educative and objective criteria and to prevent students from grouping according to their pre-existing relationships.

But how could those criteria be identified and defined so that  they can justify teachers’ interference into the groups’ creation without disappointing the students or creating internal tensions?

The aim was to create an engaging experience which could allow students to be actively involved in the whole process – they need to feel that they are the main focus of the entire action – which would lead to the definition of functional teams composed by people selected on the basis if their individual capacities and approaches.

And [again] the answer came from LSP: if LSP can create teams and enhances knowledge sharing processes, what if we take those cognitive mechanisms and the classic LSP strategies and combine them with LWs’ specific maieutic approach?

By combining the two methods, students’ ontological concepts can be revealed, their vision, their relationship and interpretation of the world could be disclosed in a playful way, by engaging them in an original experience which capitalises on students’ curiosity towards themselves and towards everything new.

The criteria we were looking for could therefore emerge from a new approach which combines both LWs and a LSP-based workshops and engages both students and teachers in a brand new collective and collaborative experience.

The test is currently taking place at the Architecture Technical Representations‘ course: to develop their course projects, students have the opportunity to chose among three modules, each one dealing with a specific topic and lead by a different tutor who is an expert in the field.

The first phase of the experiment consists in the selection of the criteria to be adopted to select students for each groups and this will be achieved by defining a semantic reference framework for each module. To develop such a semantic framework, both tutors and the head of department will take part to a LEGO-based interview and through both quantitative and qualitative analysis we’ll define the main concepts related to each module. As soon as the reference maps will be determined, students will be involved in an LSP based workshop, whose results will be analysed using the same methods applied earlier to originate the reference semantic maps, so that at the end of the data analysis process, students’ results will be compared with the reference framework in order to create the groups.

To verify the efficacy of this approach, the experiment foresees a control group: in fact only half of the students will take part to the experiment, while the other half will be free to merge into groups according to their own criteria, with no specific instructions, as it used to happen. This division is necessary to monitor and evaluate the group dynamics’ between the spontaneously aggregated groups and those designed with the LEGO-based approach.

At the end of the academic year, the experiment will be assessed taking into consideration and comparing the interactions, the dynamics and the processes which will characterise each group, so that we’ll be able to understand how well the method worked, how effective it was and how much it affected the team building activities, the work flow and students’ collaboration. As the experiment is in its early phases, more details can’t be disclosed yet.

Results of this experiment will be published on appropriate scientific publications and are part of a set of experimentations run by the University of Ferrara and the forward-looking management of the faculty of Architecture.

As a personal note, I really thank University of Ferrara and the people who allowed such a cutting edge idea to take place, both professors and students showed rare human qualities and an incredible collaborative and supportive environment. As Academia should be.

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