Third International Conference on the Teaching of Psychology
Elfriede M. Ederer-Fick, Anita Giener, Helga Kittl-Satran & Brigitte Schachner
Institute of Education,
University of Graz,
Graz, Austria


The Knowledge Loop method creates a learning and communication culture which allows for a great number of people (from 12 to 1000) to interact meaningfully and to integrate larger groups into an authentic dialogical process. The opinions and attitudes of individual participants as well as those of the entire discussion group as a larger social entity regarding a specific topic or range of topics are discussed creatively and openly on the basis of agreed-upon common terms. Reciprocal referencing is a key communicative element. In this collective process of expressing opinions, individual ideas merge into and build on one another, and it often becomes impossible to identify single-source statements. It is not the solving of a problem that is at the centre of attention; rather, the focus is on exploring the problem, on condensing and expanding on existing arguments, and on inspiring innovative thought processes. Thus, learning communities are created which facilitate innovative thinking in groups and knowledge constructions in terms of social constructivism, where the collective knowledge and intelligence of many are used to explore a complex topic, and where group spirit is restored.

The Knowledge Loop is based on management instruments like the World Café created by Brown & Isaacs and is generally used for group activities during symposia, conferences or meetings. The World Cafй method combines the intimacy of small group discussions and the tension of large-group interaction and creates a setting for free and easy exchange. Tables for 4 to 5 persons are prepared and covered with paper table cloths. Coloured markers invite people to write and draw on these tablecloths to create a shared visual space. Asking people to move to other tables after an appropriate discussion time allows for a dense web of connections to be woven in a short period of time. One person always stays at the table, the others rotate from one table to the next for the upcoming round. This “fixed person” welcomes the newcomers and very briefly introduces them to what has happened at this table so far, encouraging the newcomers to link these ideas with those they produced at their last table. After the third round the host makes the outcome visible in a whole group conversation.

Independent of area of application and research topic, the poster will present the step-by-step progression of a Knowledge Loop as a modified variation of World Café, adapted to teaching and research. With regard to the choice of topic in academic teaching and the research topic in the sample to be analysed, a number of experiences with different methodical variations in university teaching (Ederer, Schachner, Giener & Kittl, 2007) and in research settings (Schachner, 2007) will be presented. In all cases, intensified interactive reflection creates multiple process materials made available in different media and databases (written, audio, graphic and video documentation). Results of differentiated qualitative content analyses of the reflections of students show the effectiveness of this method (Ederer, Giener, Schachner, Kittl, Fernandez, Geissler, Oberegger, Plischnegger & Snobe, 2008).

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