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  • Joyful Inquiry: Broadening Perspectives on TLA Theory & Practices // With Ruth Farmer

Joyful Inquiry: Broadening Perspectives on TLA Theory & Practices // With Ruth Farmer

  • 19 Apr 2017
  • 30 May 2017
  • Online


  • $35 per week
  • $40 per week

As TLA practitioners, we might find ourselves frequently encountering issues that are considered "problems." The word transformation suggests that something needs to change (and we rarely change something if it is going along swimmingly).

What if we asked the question, “What’s right with this picture?” How might TLA theories and practices help us deepen our understanding of what is working and use that to foster transformation(s)? How might a strength-based perspective alter the way we design or facilitate TLA offerings?

This 6-week course looks at TLA theories and practices, as defined in the Goddard College graduate program, from the perspective of joyful inquiry. Using articles, poetry, visuals, and music, we will explore ways to broaden our concept of individual and community transformation.

Discussions and writing will emerge from texts available online, as well as from the anthology Transformative Language Arts in Action (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014) co-edited by Ruth Farmer and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg.

Week by Week

Week 1: Core Values and Community Building

We will consider the values and theories that shape TLA as a profession. Discussions of our current and/or developing TLA practices will offer a way to become acquainted as a learning community. We will explore the value of using a strengths-based approach to understand individual, community, or organizational issues. We will focus on terms we often take for granted, such as “transformation,” “empowerment,” and “social change.”

Week 2: Transformation as Creative Process

As TLA practitioners, we are committed to exploring strengths and challenges, to better understand the processes we may incorporate to create change. How do we collaborate with individuals and communities so that they define their own issues? How does such collaboration enhance creative problem solving? How does beginning with a person’s (or community’s) assets shift the ways in which we design activities intended to foster transformation?

Week 3: The Power of Culture

This week, we consider the meaning(s) and impact of “culture” and whether we have (or need) a common framework from which to explore problems and solutions. How might our understanding of cultural implications influence our perception of power and power dynamics? How might privileging spoken, written, or sung words limit the ways in which we understand and/or embrace communities?

Week 4: Models of Facilitation and Leadership

We will examine a spectrum of facilitation and leadership styles. Assessing which ones resonate with us and which are problematic (and why) might expand our knowledge and resources. Students are encouraged to bring in examples from their own experiences as facilitators and participants.

Week 5: Returning to You

We will consider how learning more about the theoretical underpinnings of TLA has facilitated a better understanding of ourselves as practitioners and the communities we serve. We will revisit theories, readings, and resources from previous weeks to assess them and find ways to contribute to the larger conversation(s) / bodies of knowledge that comprise our areas of interest. This exploration will prepare us to demonstrate newly acquired learning / techniques, which we will share during Week 6.

Week 6: Bringing it All Together

Incorporating what we have learned from previous weeks, we will share some aspect of our practices, focusing on shifts that have occurred and deepened our understanding of TLA principles, theories, and practices.

Who Should Take This Class

Anyone interested in exploring multiple approaches to facilitating dialogues, particularly about difficult issues such as race and class: Teachers, clergy, coaches, workshop facilitators, and others seeking strengths-based approaches to talking about and achieving individual, group, or community transformation. The course readings will emerge from Transformative Language Arts in Action, and we will explore TLA theories as a foundation for our own joyful inquiries. For this reason, those who are seeking certification in TLA foundations would benefit.


This is an online course. Students should expect to spend 3-5 hours per week reading, writing, and responding to each other on the discussion forums. We may schedule 1-2 group video / phone conferences.

About the Teacher

Ruth Farmer is an essayist, poet, fiction writer, editor, and writing coach. Ruth’s work appears in journals and anthologies. Her most recent publication is Transformative Language Arts in Action, which she co-edited with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. Ruth directs the Goddard Graduate Institute; is a faculty member at the Community College of Vermont; and owns Farmer Writing and Editing, which offers coaching, editing, and writing services. Ruth lives in Bristol, Vermont.

"The Transformative Language Arts Network" is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Kansas, P.O. Box 442633, Lawrence, KS 66044

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