Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Celebrating a unique collaborative inquiry

Some 2 years minus 4 months ago, I embarked on a unique collaborative inquiry.

The driving question:
How can I restore range of motion and functionality to my left shoulder?

Luckily I've had the opportunity to dig deeper and deeper with an expert learner, Dana Melena, with this content.

And as the expert learner, Dana has brought to our collaboration all the attributes of expertise that Bransford described:

  • Expert learners have well-organized knowledge, not just problem-solving strategies.
  • Expert knowledge is organized to support understanding, not just recall. And the organization is grounded in a field’s foundational concepts.
  • Expert knowledge is conditionalized, and the conditional relationships form patterns that experts recognize and rely upon.
  • An expert’s fluency allows the easy retrieval of relevant knowledge. The patterns mentioned in the previous point are second nature to the expert, while the novice struggles to recognize them. This fluency with fundamental patterns frees the mental energy to focus on new knowledge to add to the pattern.
  • There is a difference between adaptive experts, whose metacognitive skills allow the transfer of knowledge from one setting to another, and routine experts, whose expertise allows them to function well in standard settings but doesn’t serve them well when conditions are different.

Dana is undeniably an "adaptive expert" as this inquiry has been challenging and this body of mine more than unique.

Throughout this twice weekly collaboration
We've asked questions--
We've listened, really listened to each other--
We've brought in expert opinions--
We've had difficult conversations--
She's valued what is important to me; she's been encouraging, she's been frank and honest.

And reflecting now-- the elements of collaborative inquiry abound.

Developing Collaborative Knowledge - Collaborative inquiry creates intersubjective understanding, including areas of common experience and mutual knowing. Knowledge is co-created by the group and is shared by the group.

Relationship - The potential for collaboration is enhanced by a shared history and careful attention to relationship building. It is characterized by an affirmation of one another's contributions, an absence of internal competition and the nurturing of individual and well as group development.

Dialogue - Dialogue is central to the process of  collaborative inquiry. This includes storytelling, creating metaphors and using other right brained processes, experience sharing and the expression of tentative, not fully-formed ideas.

Attentive Listening - Collaborative inquiry requires careful attention to self and others by listening with the intent to understand, observing nonverbal cues, attending to affective responses, honoring silence, and listening to the spaces between the silences.

Reflection -Engagement in collaborative inquiry requires multiple levels of reflection:individual reflection on process and experience, individual reflection on the written reflection of others, and group reflection through dialogue.

Openness to divergent views - By acknowledging that our own knowledge base may be limited by our socio-cultural background and experiences and becoming open to seeing from another's frame, opportunities to extend knowledge are created.

Shared Passion - When passion is mutual, the motivation for collaboration is high. Excitement and energy generated by one member often ignites passion in others.

Commitment - In order for effective collaboration to occur, members must be committed to themselves, to one another and to the group process and project.

We've created areas of common experience-- she has been the lead learner in this area with expansive expertise; I've brought some knowledge of my history and aspirations for doing.

The relationship element, as always, is huge. Each of us has intentionally engaged in affirmations growing a meaningful and productive relationship that enables visions to become reality.

Our sharing of experiences, the stories -- have contributed to formal and informal dialogues that have deepened and supported my learning.

And we have listened, really; so important to highlight that again-- Dana's a master of observational listening, hearing what's not said and that has been a strength for me also.

Our reflections on what worked, what didn't yielded more questions, more experimentation-- and led to different paths all in the quest of an answer to the driving question.

We've extended our collaborative knowledge -- when presented with a divergent view I was struck by Dana's nimbleness and flexibility and my excitement as she changed directions in mid step within seconds.

Fueled by our passions-- mine for regaining functionality and hers for seeing that occur-- we have sustained a huge momentum throughout this extensive inquiry. Dana's passion has truly "re ignited" mine when the inquiry came up against potholes and some detours.

And lastly commitment, articulated more clearly than I could ever-- we've been committed to ourselves, to one another and to the process.

Adding here one last element-- that of celebration and recognition of a process that is seen as important and significant by those involved. In my mind, these celebrations and affirmations can not only add value to the process but also provide opportunities for those involved to understand more deeply how profoundly the opportunity to inquire collaboratively has altered their lives.

Still inquiring and learning more, Dana, this celebration's for you! Thank you--

Image: 'The Art of Inquiry'


Anne Davis said...

I love this post! What a wonderful description of collaborative inquiry! This is what learning is all about and I celebrate with you both! Thanks for telling the story of the learning journey....

Anonymous said...

Lani, Great post. Thank you.