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Liberating Structures workshop – ALSIG

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The latest Active Learning Special Interest Group workshop took place on Thursday 15th February where Natalie Pocock, ALSIG Chair, and delegates were joined by Kirsty Lewis from The School of Facilitation. 

Kirsty Lewis introduced the concept of liberating structures, a set of 33 unique structures designed to facilitate effective group discussions, emphasising their flexibility and self-spreading capability. 

Liberating Structures is offered as a free resource  and can be accessed through a free app, website, and a book. Kirsty Lewis emphasised that while these resources are freely available, users are encouraged to acknowledge their origin. 

Liberating Structures can be a useful alternative to role plays for some groups. Kirsty also demonstrated the ‘Triz’ structure, which is designed to encourage innovative thinking by starting with an anti-goal. ‘Triz’ helps individuals and groups identify and address problematic behaviours or practices. Kirsty suggested that this process could be particularly effective with academic heads of departments. 

The workshop also offered a discussion about the ‘Conversation Cafe’ activity and the ‘after party’ technique in virtual meetings, emphasising its importance in mimicking the natural flow of in-person events.

Kirsty Lewis also discussed the intensity and time management of group activities, such as the ‘1, 2, 4-All’ method and ‘Triz’, and suggested altering the method based on group size. The importance of providing clear start and finish times for meetings and designated breaks was also emphasised. 

Key takeaways of the workshop are encouraging further exploration of liberating structures, starting small when incorporating these structures into workshops if you are new to liberating structures and experimenting with using liberating structures in workshops and meetings.

About the author: Rossana Espinoza is a Senior Learning Experience Designer with a large multi-national organisation. Rossana is also SDF Chair, leading the SDF to fulfil its promise: to continue supporting staff developers in the HE sector. She led the organisation of the first virtual SDF’s Festival of Learning and Development during the pandemic and converted a hierarchical structure to an agile matrix structure with an invigorated Exec team.