Recap of DoTS 2 - Shifts in Education and Learning

May 14, 2019

The 2nd episode of "Dialogues on Transforming Society & Self" focused on the university of the 21st century and the new learning coordinates.

The second episode of Dialogues on Transforming Society & Self (DoTS), hosted by Otto Scharmer and featuring esteemed guest speakers Professors James Martin and Eva Pomeroy (read more about them in this article), was fully booked just 16 hours after registration opened. The May DoTS session centered on how to rethink the university of the present and future, and is part of a larger and ongoing conversation on deep axial shifts that we launched last April, and that will be running monthly until December 2019.




In kicking off the session, Otto acknowledged the great response to the DoTS open invitation to a collective dialogue: with 500 attendees registered for seats about one month in advance and with 460 people on the waiting list, this, said Otto “is a clear sign that something is going on in the field of education, and of higher ed in particular”.

So, where is the new university? In no one single place; it’s a movement that includes all of us, as we develop and evolve prototypes of learning and knowledge creation in our own contexts. Guest speakers James and Eva elaborated on this from their experience within their institutions and various spaces of learning.

James Martin: The Ability to Adapt Over Time

James touched on what the real purpose of university is today, living in an age where we are asking ourselves: What does it mean to be human in a context where machines are ever more present? "Universities, in my mind, should be platforms for upward social mobility, which means that they also could be platforms for immobility and segregation. The universities of our time face special challenges and opportunities; we're seeing ourselves disrupted more than ever. This has led me to want to understand the social drivers that are responsible for the impact of education. It is interesting to see that universities are being squeezed from both the left, and the right."

"As organizations and as individuals, the ability to adapt over time is the most important skill. The good news," James observes, "is that it really doesn’t matter at which level of education we start. The studies are showing that if we as individuals increase our learning and knowledge over time and start a positive trajectory, that continues for the rest of our lives. Addressing that phenomenon is ultimately part of the university’s mission today."

Eva Pomeroy: Relational Learning and Role Inversion

Eva shared about her work: "What we have created is a very dynamic, diverse, multi-generational learning community. It is informed by feedback from the real world, because the real world is in the room. Part of our ability to do this is really about coming together to cultivate our vertical literacy, which is ultimately about relational learning. We can only really see our levels of listening and of attending through our interactions with others."

"There’s been a profound shift in our thinking about the purpose of coming together for a class. The individuals who gather are able to self-organize in ways that are meaningful for them. That’s a profound shift in what a university educator does. The traditional model of holding/giving knowledge is inverted and the students can also give. I would describe it as an experience of beauty.”


Where do you see the new university happening in your own context?


After Otto’s dialogue with James and Eva, participants were divided into virtual breakout rooms to hold a dialogue in groups of four to five. They were instructed to each introduce themselves, discuss what resonated most with them from what they heard, and where they see the new university happening in their own respective contexts.

Taking part in the session were educators, students and key figures from universities and institutions as far apart and diverse as: Naropa University (Boulder, Colorado), University for International Cooperation in Costa Rica, Tallinn University (Estonia), Utrecht University, Technical University of Madrid (Spain), University of Western Sydney, University of British Columbia - Vancouver (Canada), University of Pittsburgh, University of Cologne, Ottawa Music Industry Coalition, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro State, The Rizal Academy (Philippines), the University of Bologna (Italy), Universidade Católica de Brasília (Brazil), Steinbeis University (Germany), University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban (South Africa) and many others.

Moreover, the DoTS attendance list registered participants from over sixty countries around the world. 

Some of the responses harvested after the breakout sessions revealed a deep resonance with what the speakers had shared and extended the conversation well beyond that of university institutions. Some questions and remarks that came up in the plenary sharing:

"Two things: Having the real world in the room - in any context that seems important. And seeing one’s city or location as the university - how might that shift and help integrate the real world into everything?"

"Particularly meaningful to me was the inversion of power in the learning process: situating teachers and students in a mutual co-creation process. Also (...) a process of knowledge translation, so that we speak the language of those who don't share our perspectives. "

"How do we go from our little pockets of creativity, to the transition where it becomes who we are as a university?"

"My view is that life is its own university; everything is a learning opportunity, so long as individuals are up to participating."

"What we're actually talking about is lifelong development, which is not just knowledge transfer, but also is about capability and skills"

"Last year, my job as a teacher in agriculture became more like a "helper to learn": how to create conditions for learning?"

"A deep sense of inequality is largely the cause of most of our social problems and is an impediment to learning and knowledge creation. Jimmy’s question of what is knowledge is perhaps one of the most important questions we need to answer. How to answer it collaboratively through Action Research is something every university needs to address, in my opinion."


You can view a video recording of the session here:


COMING UP NEXT -- stay tuned for announcements on Episode 3 in June

 See planned upcoming topics here.