Institute on Descriptive Inquiry - Institute 2


Institute on Descriptive Inquiry - Institute 2



July 28, 2019-August 12, 2019  




At the Summer Institute we come together with others who share our commitment to creating classrooms and schools where all children—and all people— are valued. In joining our experiences, ideas, and questions with those of educators and others who share a vision that starts and builds from students’ and teachers’ strengths, we reinvigorate our own practice and our sense of what is possible.  

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

Major seminar

The major seminar addresses the framing issues of the Institute.

Mon., Tues., Wed. (week one):  From studies that focus on work with young children, parents, and schools, this year’s spanning studies will overlap with the conference theme.

Thurs., Fri. (week one): Following the three-day spanning studies, we will move to our work with ideas foundational to descriptive practices.  In summer, 2016 we looked closely at portions of an earlier work of Patricia Carini, “The Art of Seeing and the Visibility of the Person.”  Last summer we worked through Carini’s more recent writing, short essays from the book Jenny’s Story: Taking the Long View of the Child. This year we turn to another contemporary author, Sheri Leafgren, for what we anticipate will be a very powerful conversation of her book, Reuben’s Fall.

Mon., and Tues. (week two):  From our work in the first week, we will move into two days focused around looking at the Disposition and Temperament section of the Descriptive Review from a variety of perspectives and at the kinds of knowing of ourselves and others that emerge from those persspectives.

Wed., Thurs., Fri. (week two): Continuing our new practice from last year, we will devote the final three days to reading or writing. One small group will be devoted to writing projects. Bring something you are working on or an interest in starting something new. This year’s book groups continue with the theme of the particular within politics. They will be sent to you in a letter in early June. 

 Independent work/small group inquiries

In the afternoons and evenings, there are many opportunities. Some participants bring projects of their own to work on. Often participants bring a piece of work that they would like others to help them examine. Small groups are organized to assist participants who want response to a piece of work or an opportunity to think together with others about a child, an aspect of practice, or an issue. The afternoons and evenings are also a time when small groups can delve more deeply into questions that arise out of the major seminar. The small-group work does not have to be connected to the theme of the major seminar. In this way, the afternoons and evenings accommodate the need of participants to work on material that is important to them whether or not it has a place in the major seminar.  The evening sessions also give us the opportunity to share in and support the work of the Institute on Descriptive Process, which runs concurrently.



The Institute on Descriptive Inquiry draws a mix of returnees and new participants. The Institute extends a warm welcome to new participants. If you are a potential newcomer and have questions about any aspect of the Institute, please contact Cara Furman.

 Preference will be given to those who enroll for the full two weeks, but we can usually make arrangements for people who can only attend for one week.  It is also possible for those who have projects of their own to arrange a schedule that will allow for work on their project in lieu of the major seminar.   Sometimes, participants ask about bringing one or more family members. Within limits, we can accommodate this. (Please contact Lindsey Young if you wish to arrange a special schedule or want information about bringing family members.)



If you are interested in bringing materials for a study of a child or of teaching practice, please contact Cara Furman or briefly describe your ideas on the enrollment form. Participants are encouraged to bring material from their classrooms or work settings. While some participants have specific projects they are working on, others come with loose collections of children’s work, documentation of activities or curriculum, journals, or the like.


The Institute takes place at Bennington College, Bennington, VT. Most rooms are single occupancy; bathroom facilities are shared. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at the College dining hall


The Institute fee is $1150 for the two weeks and $725 for one week.   These fees include a dorm room and breakfast, lunch and dinner at Bennington College. If you live off campus, there is a fee of $200.  

Partial scholarships are available for a limited number of participants. Please contact Joe Alberti via email at for more information on scholarship aid.  The deadline for individuals requesting scholarship aid is May 15.  If aid is granted, you will have 5 business days to accept the aid and complete registration. 

Two credits can be earned through Antioch University New England. The cost:  an additional $350. Please indicate on your enrollment form if you are interested in credits.



A non-refundable $100 deposit by June 1, 2019. We must have sufficient enrollments by this date in order to hold space in the dormitory. Please make every effort to register by this date. 

The balance of the fee may be paid at any time prior to the Institute, but is due upon arrival at the Institute. Enrollment is on a first-come, first-served basis. A letter describing the content of the Institute in more detail, what to bring, etc. will be sent to enrollees in early June.


The Institute on Descriptive Inquiry, Inc. does not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religion, or national or ethnic origin in the administration of its admissions policies or practices

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