Many Cooks in the Kitchen: How to Foster Diverse Identities and Practices Across Teams for Innovation

Concurrent Session 1

Brief Abstract

Innovation often emerges when diverse people can freely communicate dissent and agreement. The MSU Hub’s team of educators, instructional designers, and researchers are currently supporting a large-scale curriculum revisioning. Join us for conversation rooted in this question: How do you balance diverse viewpoints to keep innovation projects flowing to completion?


Stephen Thomas is a faculty member and the Associate Director for the Center for Integrative Studies in General Science at Michigan State University. He also serves as the Digital Curriculum Coordinator for the College of Natural Science at MSU. For his bachelor’s degree from Denison University, Stephen majored in Biology and minored in Art. This interest in the science/art intersection continued into graduate school as he freelanced as a biological illustrator while earning his masters and Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in Organismal and Evolutionary Biology and Entomology. Since coming to MSU his research focus has shifted from virulence of fungal pathogens of gypsy moths to visual communication of science in formal and informal settings. Stephen’s interests have broadened to include not just art and science, but also technology and teaching. He has worked on projects such as the use of comics to reduce subject anxiety in non-major science courses, the development of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) to teach general science, and augmented reality and kiosk games to engage visitors in science museums. One of his more recent projects, Instruct2020, is looking at how to foster community generated visual curriculum for science instruction. His use of technology in teaching has won him multiple awards including three AT&T/MSU Awards for innovative use of technology in online classes, a James D. Hoeschele Endowed Teaching Award for excellence in teaching science to non-science majors, and funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Dave Goodrich (@rangerdavie) likes to learn, design, and reflect.

Extended Abstract

Our team is a group of educators, instructional designers, and researchers. Last year we embarked on an ambitious project of supporting MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine in shifting to a college-wide, competency-based, flipped curriculum and the connected educator development necessary to support these changes. This project is core to a project portfolio in our new, campus-wide Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology. We’ve continued to navigate the opportunities and challenges of tackling ambitious innovation work and designing the processes we need along the way while incorporating our various approaches and experiences.

We’ve found large-scale higher education innovation projects bring together individuals from across professional identities and project management and working practices. These diverse identities and practices present multiple perspectives across our cycles of iteration and agile design. In our panel conversation (not presentation) we will facilitate talk about process design for innovative work that can best channel the anticipated and unanticipated consensus and dissensus that emerges when we enact widespread change and engage with wicked problems in the context of education.  

Our most frustrating moments and best learning have emerged because of our inability to anticipate or address perspectives tacitly rooted in our familiar disciplinary identities and practices. In these moments it becomes clear to us how our differences in training, experience, values, and project management practice-- knowledge that may have worked well in our previous work on other projects--now present obstacles when it comes to engaging with others who rely on unfamiliar or even disagreeable approaches. Educators, for example, may have been most used to designing curriculum and managing the ebb and flow of their own courses, but may have less experience in the pedagogical approaches or pace most familiar to instructional designers. Instructional designers might be familiar with what it takes to redesign a single course but not what it takes to do so across a whole program. Researchers might be able to manage themselves and their own projects but are presented with new challenges that emerge when presented with new innovation teams. But, in navigating these sticking points, we’ve found we need each other and our sometimes opposing views, knowledge, and approaches, and that it will take us continuing to navigate multiple points of consensus and dissensus to meet our hoped-for project outcomes.

In our conversation we hope to facilitate dialogue among attendees by doing the following things:

  1. Briefly share the specific moments of dissensus in our work and further articulate their roots.

  2. Surface the multiple identities and practices that converge for innovative work for scholars and leaders in different university spaces.

  3. Explain the consensus and dissensus that emerges across these multiple identities and practices.

  4. Reflect on the most effective practices and/or processes to channel consensus and dissensus.

  5. Synthesize driving questions for us all in our innovative projects.

Our conversation will emerge out of the following question prompts:

  1. First of all, why approach projects through lenses of innovation?

  2. Who comes together for innovative projects?

  3. What professional identities and connected practices do people often bring to innovative projects?

  4. Where does consensus and dissensus most often emerge between these identities and practices?

  5. What project practices and/or processes have worked best to channel this consensus and dissensus?

  6. What do we still need to figure out in order to best channel innovation project consensus and dissensus?

To build beyond just Q & A think-pair-share table and large group discussions, our slide-free conversation will leverage multiple design methods to help participants map their own professional identities and practices in innovation work, identify points of consensus and dissensus, and surface practices through conversation. The resulting discussions will support the wider group in further enacting the practices that will help us to move in the ways we need for innovation in higher ed.