Build learning communities with tools from art and social movements

Presented by Dr Theron Schmidt

A Connections seminar

Collaboration and cooperation are highly desirable skills in the 21st century, but the opportunity to develop these skills are often hindered by the lack of tools available – and a fear of open-endedness that is often felt by both teachers and students.  

Social movements have also faced similar challenges that have resulted in the development of a variety of procedures, principles, and forms of organisation. Further practices for the creation and interrogation of ‘community’ have been created within community arts projects and Socially Engaged Art. These tools make group structure explicit and intentional, as something we can actively create and critique in a variety of ways, rather than assume by default.  

The temporary learning communities that we form in the classroom can benefit from a ‘toolbox’ of different techniques. Introducing these tools and techniques into the classroom can promote activity, self-determination, and critical reflection. 
In the upcoming Connections seminar, Dr Theron Schmidt will present some of these tools in the toolbox, including:  

  • Formal Consensus-based Decision making, with its emphasis on an explicit call for disagreement and divergent opinions;  
  • Sociocracy, which has clear guidance on holding ‘rounds’ of discussion; processes for preferential rather than binary voting such as Dotmocracy and Fist-to-Five;  
  • methods from Action Learning such as ‘clean space’ and ‘neutral questions’;  
  • and Relational Somatics, which uses practices such as guided meditation and attention to tone of voice and breathing to consciously cultivate a deeper connection between group members.


About the Speaker

Theron Schmidt

Dr Theron Schmidt lives and works on unceded Gadigal and Bidjigal lands. He is a Senior Lecturer, School of the Arts & Media, and teaches creative activism, performance writing, and collaborative practice at UNSW. He has published widely on contemporary theatre and performance, participatory art, and politically engaged performance.