My excerpt from our description:
The goal of our project was to intervene on the hierarchical, egoistic classroom setting and foster a more inclusive community experience in which the learning process could take place. Some people willingly joined us at our five tea party tables before we explained the project, yet few actually partook of tea and snacks, or of a conversation with their tablemates. It was not until Pedro asked, “Can we start?” that the tea party really was allowed to begin. At that point people began drinking and eating.
I do not think that people’s hesitation to participate marks a lack of success on our part. As we said in class, people’s decisions to join or not join are what help make the piece. Watching how the tea party transpired was research, even, about how such a rigidly utilized space, with its unspoken rules of behavior and etiquette, can be very hard to change. The altered space had little effect on those who chose to reject it and instead attend to their laptops or cell phones.
Creating a true difference in classroom interaction may not be possible simply through changing the way the room looks and where one subsequently sits. It would be interesting to attempt different kinds of interventions to see which had the greatest effect on behavior. Setting the room up as a living room with sofas, easy chairs, and lamps would force people to be closer to one another, but would it change their behaviors?
I agree with Bill’s comment that we could have done more with the work aesthetically. It would have looked better if each table had a more fleshed out “theme” or environment to it, rather than a collection of cups and snacks on a tablecloth.
The project provoked a discussion that ended up consuming almost an hour of class time, and overall I think it was a success because it challenged students to not only behave differently, but to think and talk about why they do certain things in certain environments.