2008 Teaching and Learning Symposium

2:30-4:30 p.m., May 6, 2008
HUB Ballroom

Session Description



Lessons in Democracy: CEP and the Practice of Radical Equality, or Is this Any Way to Run a Major?

Christopher Campbell - Urban Design and Planning, Community, Environment and Planning

For more than a dozen years, the Community, Environment, and Planning (CEP) program has tried to practice a different kind of education based on empowering students to make fundamental decisions about their learning – what they learn and how – about their major – how it is run, and who it is for – and about their education – where they are going and how they are getting there. But perhaps the most controversial aspect of this unusual major is its radical commitment to equality between students and faculty and its accompanying practice of consensus-based democracy to resolve all significant decisions regarding the program. Celebrated by some, maligned by others, and misunderstood by many, we ask, is this core CEP practice a case of the inmates running the asylum, or are their lessons here for others to imitate?

In this presentation to the UW community, we will briefly describe the CEP philosophy and the practices and structures that support it, and then critically evaluate its impact on the student and faculty experience. In particular, we will focus on how the roles of teacher, student, and program administrator change under a model of radical equality, and how these changes can be both beneficial and costly. By engaging in this discussion, we hope to both debunk some of the myths surrounding democratic, student-centered learning while also helping others decide whether or not this approach might be right for them.




Index of Symposium Presenters