About IDI Inc.

Established in 2011, The Institute on Descriptive Inquiry Inc. seeks to preserve, promote, expand, and augment the concept of descriptive inquiry.  With historical roots in the descriptive processes developed at the Prospect School and at the Prospect Archive and Center for Education and Research, the Institute uses group process to describe, look closely at, and reflect upon student and teacher work in order to enhance teacher and school practice.  Purposes of the Institute include:

  • To work to make descriptive inquiry accessible to a broad array of educators
  • To work in concert with other organizations with the same or similar objectives
  • To support projects by educators with similar interests
  • To organize and conduct workshops, lectures, and symposia based on the concept of descriptive inquiry. 
  • To publish pamphlets, articles, and books on descriptive inquiry or related topics


The Institute on Descriptive Inquiry traditionally conducts two summer institutes: 

Institute I

The Institute on Descriptive Process can be an introduction to descriptive processes, or may serve to deepen understanding of them.  The Institute explores the many ways children and youth express their ideas about the world through activities, words, and works. The Institute’s work rests on close observation and description, giving teachers an opportunity to look at children’s (and their own) works from multiple perspectives, while also serving as a way of considering connections to and implications for teacher practice, curriculum, school policy, and assessment. 

Institute II

The Summer Institute on Descriptive Inquiry, brings together teachers, parents and others who are familiar with descriptive processes. Participants share a commitment to creating classrooms and schools where all children, and all people, are valued.  As they work from their experiences, ideas and questions, those who attend participate in spanning studies of children and works, philosophical inquiry and in depth study of the descriptive processes.

The Institutes are committed to recognizing and lifting up the capacity of each person.  Sharing a vision that starts and builds from students’ and teachers’ strengths, members and friends of the Institutes seek to reinvigorate their own practice and sense for what is possible.    

While some educators return to the Institute from year to year, we extend a warm welcome to newcomers.  Our top priority is to expand and diversify participation in this Institute. Expansion means that there are more educators speaking out for democratic values and schools responsive to children. Diversity of all kinds immeasurably adds to and strengthens that message.


The institute has two major components: the major seminar; independent work/small group inquiries.

Past Themes: 

2001            Taking Care of Childhood, Play, Spirit, and Imagination
2002            Locations of Relationship: ourselves, others' classrooms, culture.
2003            Sustaining possibility through story, memory, and imagination
2004            Everyday Life and Our Wildest Dreams: Working Inside Contradictions
2005            The Multiplicities of Democracy
2006            Locating ,designing, maintaining spaces for democratic community
2007            What does it mean to teach in these times?
2008            What do we hold dear in teaching?
2009            Descriptive Inquiry: Coming to action
2010            Expanding Our Sense of the Possible
2011            Using Descriptive Process to Navigate the New and Difficult Terrain
2012            Using Descriptive Inquiry to resist and re-imagine our educational terrain
2013            The Capacity of the Person with Culture                                                                           2014            Supporting the Capacity of the Person Through Community                                          2015           Expanding Horizons, Combining perspectives                                                                 2016           The Generous Community                                                                                                      2017           How does descriptive inquiry help us move between the the particular and politics?  2018            Just[ice] Relations: Knowing Self and Other

*With the closing of the Prospect Archive and Center for Education and Research in 2011, the institutes formerly known as the Prospect Summer Institutes are carried forward by a new organization, The Institute on Descriptive Inquiry Inc.  There continue to be two institutes, the Institute on Descriptive Process and the Institute on Descriptive Inquiry, collaboratively planned and facilitated by participants of the Institute on Descriptive Inquiry.  Using descriptive processes rooted in the work of Prospect, these Institutes provide a venue for concentrated study over a period of days that may be lived out in the professional and personal settings to which participants return.


General questions should be addressed to Andy Doan 

E-mail Andy Doan at [email protected] 

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  • Holly Lash
    commented 2015-03-14 18:46:08 -0700
    Oh all that is sweet and holy—hooray!
  • Bruce Turnquist
    commented 2015-03-14 18:04:40 -0700
    I am there- end of the world, beginning of the world. The borderline erased.
    There is a gap in the wall. Walk through.