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Except from:
Wink, J. (2010, 4/e, p.162) Critical Pedagogy: Notes from the REAL WORLD. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.


The Mess: This is one of my very favorite activities. I have found it to be very revealing, effective, and empowering for participants. I encourage you to adapt this and try it. Make it work for you. There are surprises every time you enter into this type of process. First, you start with a mess (Figure 4.3). In this case, a mess is any situation within an educational space that needs attention. It is something that is not working for someone.

First, You Start with a Mess

  • Start with a mess (a problem, contradiction, or difficult situation).
    • Define it. Name it.
  • Learn more about it.
    • How can we learn more about this?
    • Who knows what about this?
    • How will we share information with the group?
  • Alternative approaches.
    • List all of the ideas that might work. Think wildly and passionately.
    • Dream. Think up utopias.
    • Collectively, choose an approach.
  • Preparation.
    • What are the roadblocks? How can we prepare for them?
    • What new problems might this approach create? What are possible solutions for these new problems? What could go wrong? What role might others play if we decide to try to change this?
  • Action plan and evaluation.
    • Create a timeline and a plan of action.
    • Do it; fix it. Do it; fix it.
  • Write a commitment statement.
    • We commit to . . .
    • I commit to . . .
    • Members of the group share personal commitment statements and agree to use their own expertise to help fix the mess.
  • Begin again.
    • Redefine and rename the new mess.

    FIGURE 4.3 First, You Start with a Mess.