Teaching 'rich pictures'
As part of my ongoing university teaching practice, I am teaching over 200+ undergraduates how to undertake an investigation into a new and complex 'problem situation', in their case, that of student food poverty. The process of making sense of their investigation in to to create potential solutions uses the core 'technique' in Intensive Engagement- that of the 'rich picture'.
It is really difficult to teach as a technique because most students (undergraduates and mature students) struggle with the idea of 'drawing a picture' to represent what is going on inside their heads. But as they begin to warm up to the idea, they begin to see the concepts and ideas, the fruits of their research, being sorted out before their eyes as they talk with each other and scribble on a flipchart pad. One student mentioned the other day that it was quite cathartic. He didn't use that word, but he expressed it as therapy. Not only was he making sense of the challenging topic of student food poverty, he was also expressing in an unstructured way, his own understanding of his own student life. He was beginning to appreciate its complexity, the numerous demands on his attention and effort that he had never encountered before. He was able to face this complexity in a constructive manner using the rich picturing, however, because he was doing the structuring, he was completing the links.
When we are using a rich picturing technique with community members in neighbourhood policing, we need to remain aware that the picture is not just a representation of the challenging social/crime problem that the team are tackling, but also an unformed representation of the messiness inside our heads. It makes people quite vulnerable to express themselves in this way, but we learn a huge amount about the dynamics of the problem situation.