School of Thinking
The way we make sense of our external and internal world seems to be the most important part of our existence, translating to almost every other aspect of life. Huge, complicated social systems, from education through religion to advertising exist with the purpose of teaching us to think in a certain way. They are effective to a degree – our minds might be other things as well, but they are also a product of social and cultural influences.
Outgrowing those influences means reshaping one’s own thinking – to become more independent, creative, or simply playful. It allows us to take a more active role in society; to bend or renegotiate unspoken rules; to engage others in more authentic ways. This is not easy, because it involves more than learning new facts, theories, or tools. To go beyond reinforcing a pre-existing worldviews or become more competent at advocating them, we might learn to expand our perspective and change the assumptions we make.
This is the purpose of the School of Thinking – a 1-year intensive, transdisciplinary postgraduate programme. We invite adults of all ages, with diverse academic and professional backgrounds, offering them a mixture of academic and personal learning. Far from comprehensive and complete, the School of Thinking is an ever-evolving, co-creative project thar revels in ambiguity and incompleteness, reflecting its intended outcomes.
The primary aim of the Postgraduate School of Thinking is to help the students to challenge and expand their understanding of themselves and the world – to outgrow rigid simplifications, black-or-white choices, and predefined narratives. This goal is supported by:
- Learning multiple languages to think and talk about thinking. The students will be able to draw from rich array of advanced academic frameworks and models (e.g., complexity thinking, systems thinking, dialectics, lateral thinking) to discover new ways of looking at decision-making, problem solving and other, less pragmatic, forms of thinking.
- Facilitating an intense workout for thought. The students will get more accustomed to managing ambiguity and learn to approach it in a more creative manner by applying and evaluating diverse thinking frameworks to ‘wicked’, complex and ill-defined problems.
- Practicing the habit of observing thinking. The students will purposefully observe groups engaged in thinking together as well as their own minds. This practice will make them more sensitive to quality of thinking, and able to appreciate and reinforce extraordinary thinking when it occurs in others and themselves.
- Recognizing and appreciating diversity in thinking. The students will share their thinking with a diverse group of people and practice the art of appreciating other minds. This will provide a space to explore differences more profoundly than in typical social situations, helping to add new points of view to the repertoire of everybody involved.
- Bringing the new understanding into personal and professional practice. The students will be supported in translating their insights into new ways of engaging with their personal and professional lives, expanding the learning from the purely intellectual and academic into a more complex, emotional and behavioural
The Postgraduate School of Thinking is conducted entirely in English. It takes one academic year (two semesters) to accomplish. The curriculum comprises of 750 hours of study, which includes 174 instruction /contact hours and 576 hours of flexibly scheduled individual and group work. The contact hours are divided into intense two-day learning sessions, of which part are in-person workshops held on VUB Campus in Brussels, and part can be experienced both on-campus and remotely.
Contact sessions amount to an average workload of slightly more than 2 days per month. The additional individual and group work is estimated to take about 3 to 4 days per month, scheduled at students’ own pace.
The generalist curriculum of the Postgraduate School of Thinking is addressed to working professionals whose interests are focused on complex, ‘wicked’, multidisciplinary, convoluted, and unprecedented phenomena — and particularly to those, for whom the outcome of their endeavors critically depends on the quality of thinking.
The (non-exhaustive) list of the professional roles, whose performance can be greatly enhanced by participating in the programme includes: intellectual and organisational leaders, think-tank members, politicians, activists, entrepreneurs, intellectuals, researchers, artists, philanthropists, managers, as well as consultants, coaches, trainers, and teachers who support such professionals in their development.