Faculty Benefit from Playing and Letting Go of Certainty

By Anastasia P. Samaras and Kathleen Pithouse-Morgan

The authors wrote the article “Nourishing Wholehearted Faculty Professional Living Through Co-creative Play” in KDP’s current Educational Forum. You can find the article online for free during the month of July.

Anastasia P.  Samaras is a Professor of Education in the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University, Virginia, USA. She is a teacher educator, pedagogical scholar, and self-study research methodologist. Anastasia’s research centers on designing, co-facilitating, and researching neo-Vygotskian-based applications in curriculum and in faculty transdisciplinary polyvocal self-study professional learning communities with a focus on collective creative activity.

Kathleen Pithouse-Morgan is a Professor in the School of Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Her scholarship is in professional learning, with a specific focus on better understanding and supporting teachers and other professionals as self-directed and self-developing learners. Using creative and transdisciplinary approaches, she has collaborated across contexts and continents to study methodological inventiveness in professional learning research.

We are two teacher educators and self-study research methodologists who have been playing with methods and data collectively since 2012. Living an ocean apart in our respective home countries of the United States of America (USA) and South Africa, we have been enriched professionally by our collective creativity and particularly by what we have come to recognize as playfulness in self-study research.

During a recent conference presentation, we were asked if our work became easier over time. We replied, “No, we wouldn’t want it to. It grew more uncertain and yet exciting because of our willingness to take risks in our creative and collaborative endeavors.”

We have found that our playful collaborative work in higher education has returned us to places and spaces to progress and grow professionally and collaboratively. Similar to what Parten (1932) identified as collaborative play, an advanced stage of play for young children, collaborative play as academics makes us fuller because of each other. We have experienced what John-Steiner (2000), a Vygotskian scholar (1978), calls “complementarity” (p. 7), whereby we support and trust each other’s disposition to take risks by moving beyond our comfort zones – which is fundamental to creativity. When we share the risk, we are encouraged to take more risks, and we enter into a developmental space of mutual support and challenge.

We are drawn towards the work of Brené Brown (2010) and her guideposts for wholehearted living. We see vital points of connections between those guideposts and what we each have come to understand and practice through collaborating with others. In particular, we see resonances between what has emerged from our repeated explorations of polyvocal self-study and Brown’s emphasis on Cultivating Creativity, Cultivating Play, and Letting Go of the Need for Certainty.

We look at the impact of what happens when we get out of our familiar element. We examine what it can do for others, for students, and colleagues. It’s because we know that going into those spaces gives us the freedom to think in ways that we don’t think of in our usual pencil and paper performance.


Opening to uncertainty

Vulnerability and not knowing

No one is in charge


Creating a new composition

Pushing against the status quo

Changing what’s normal

What has that playing with research ideas entailed for us, and why might it matter for others? We invite you to read about our pluralist methodological route and analysis results in design elements for professional learning captured through rich pictures, poetry, and dialogue.

4 Tips to Maximize Remote Collaboration in Crises

By Lisa Polk

Massive change during times of crisis requires us to consider our priorities through a different lens. The decisive actions required during the COVID-19 pandemic were incomparable to patterns of previous crises. However, assessing available resources and considering possible solutions can help you navigate through uncharted waters. Limitations and opportunities that were previously nonexistent can be an asset in maximizing the needs of remote collaboration.

Onsite learning environments that aided teacher–student interactions during learning have evolved into a form of remote collaboration. We are holding meetings in online platforms that are unfamiliar and require new learning for some participants. Remaining flexible with priorities, responding reasonably, and allowing for innovation can help you maximize collaboration.

1. Prioritizing: Key factors in prioritizing include thinking about the purpose of a meeting and staying in focus. Before the meeting, communicate the agenda and goals, which you reach the desired outcome. Virtual meetings might only include a brief timeframe for action items, but you can accompany them with previously shared documents or follow-up emails for effective and efficient collaboration. Your priorities might not follow a common pattern from one week to the next, but if you stay focused on needs, goals, and solutions, you can have success.

2.  Responsiveness: Being considerate and responsive to the preferences and needs of others can help you maximize collaboration in a variety of learning environments (Evmenova, 2018). Accessibility and preferences might change for someone from one week to the next in remote learning, requiring flexibility for modes of communication and access to instructional materials. (Rogers-Shaw, Carr-Chellman, & Choi, 2018). Remaining responsive to the needs of others and flexible to change can help everyone collaborate effectively.

3. Feasibility: Prioritizing quality over quantity is a key factor in providing a feasible approach to collaboration. Offering feasible avenues of communication and remaining open to varied approaches can increase opportunities to connect with students and colleagues. Assisting with feasible access to materials, connecting to virtual meetings, or locating food services can help meet the needs of individuals as well as send a message of care and concern.

4. Innovation:  Share innovative ideas and optimal tools for solutions to current issues. If certain approaches provide multiple modes of access to learning, such as choice boards or familiar instructional materials, offer these as possibilities, and be willing to initiate action. Interact positively and listen while collaborating. It is a time to think outside the box and share expertise (Gustafson, 2017).

By being considerate and flexible, you can positively impact learning during times of crises. Being responsive to the needs of others can ease tensions and promote learning. Maximizing collaborative efforts can help further academic achievement, and you’ll be sending students and colleagues a message of value and concern. 


Evmenova, A. (2018). Preparing teachers to use universal design for learning to support diverse learners. Journal of Online Learning Research, 4(2), 147-171.

Gustafson, B. (2017). Renegade leadership: Creating innovative schools for digital-age students. Corwin.

Rogers-Shaw, C., Carr-Chellman, D. J., Choi, J. (2018). Universal design for learning: Guidelines for accessible online instruction. Adult Learning, 29(1), 20-31.

Ms. Polk is a doctoral student at Sam Houston State University. She has been in education for 29 years and is currently a K-12 Curriculum Specialist. Her research interests includes implementing instructional approaches that promote academic growth in all students.

5 Ways to Provide Meaningful Experiences in the Classroom

Providing effective instruction is the key to supporting a student’s education. An important component of such instruction is the facilitation of engaging activities that will promote questioning and diverse conversations around subjects that are relatable to your students. The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #4, which encourages quality education for all, promotes innovation and creativity. This goal can be advanced through your classrooms in five ways.

1. Collaboration

Organize collaborations amongst teachers and students on a weekly basis to foster a positive school environment. Grade team teachers can plan periods that are centered around whole group and small group instruction across the grade level. For example, dedicate a social studies period to joining three classes together for small group projects.

2. Peer-to-Peer Intervisitations

Following the path of collaboration, create differentiation of instruction through peer-to-peer intervisitations. The purpose of having students from one class visit students in another would be to pair students who have similar interests or strengths together and challenge them to develop their critical thinking skills. Guided reading groups would be a great channel for this because they can move at their own pace and be challenged through essential questions and inferring techniques.

3. Authentic Conversations

Commit to the SDG #4, quality education, by developing real connections to the students you teach and invest in. Individual conferences are valuable because the teacher becomes the learner. Students can teach the teacher about their culture through the labels that they add in their writing, their word choice, and the narratives that they share through the process of storytelling.

4. Professional Development

Work with other teachers during professional development to try out a new protocol that you are interested in using in your classroom or school. Fellow teachers can assist you in trying out a protocol prior to introducing it to your students. By sharing your ideas with colleagues, you can demonstrate your ideas and receive insightful feedback to make it better before presenting it to your students.

5. Social Media!

AAs members of Kappa Delta Pi, an organization that prides itself in promoting educational resources and successes, feel free to share your classroom activities on social media and celebrate your progress on meeting educational goals. This would support the SDGs, particularly within quality education, by sharing successful teaching experiences with educators across the world. If you are doing amazing work in the field of education, please share it with the UN using the twitter handle @GlobalGoalsUN and the hashtag #GlobalGoals. Have you found ways to reach out to friends, family, or colleagues about the success you have had with projects surrounding education? Please share below!

Happy Teaching,
Clairetza Felix

Clairetza Felix is a graduate student in the Literacy Specialist program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She chose to become a UN Youth Representative to be able to offer a unique approach to education.