Institute on Descriptive Process - Institute 1


The 48th Summer Institute on Descriptive Process will be held virtually for Summer 2020

 Please direct any questions about registration to

[email protected] or [email protected] 


             Using Descriptive Process And Reflective Conversations To:


  • Inform the Work of Teaching
  • Gain Another Way of Looking
  • Create Political Ground and to Think about School as Public and Democratic Space, Supporting Diversity and Complexity



The overall aim of this Institute is to explore the many ways in which children express their ideas of the world through activities, words, and works, and to consider the implications of this understanding for classroom practice, curriculum, school policy, and assessment. The basic content of this Institute is the Prospect Descriptive Processes and the unique perspective they provide for thinking about children and their work. Some of the issues central to this Institute are: 

  • What does it mean to take the time to look closely and describe?
  • What does a school or classroom have to be in order that each child be recognized and heard?
  • What of importance to children and their education is made visible through their works?
  • What must we do to enable each child to be the agent of her/his own learning?

This residential Institute is a five-day workshop for parents, teachers, and other educators who wish to examine issues of teaching and learning through the perspective of the Descriptive Processes. There are many conversations, connections with participants in the Institute on Descriptive Inquiry, and optional gatherings that occur over meals and in the late afternoon and evening.  To fully participate in and benefit from this institute, and to build the coherence of the Institute itself,

it is important that participants attend all five days, from 2:30 pm Sunday, July 28th to noon Friday, August 2nd.

Observation and description of children and their works are central to this Institute. The context for our inquiry is formed both from our shared recollections of ourselves as learners and from reading about and discussing issues such as standards and values, school culture, race, and gender. We will use Prospect’s Descriptive Processes to study individual children and the writing, drawing, painting, model making, talk, and other “works” they produce in their classrooms. A core of the work the group does together is describing from the spanning collections found in the Prospect Archive of Children’s Work housed now at the University of Vermont Special Collections. Participants are urged to bring collections of children’s work with them for the purpose of describing. Also, if you have a critical issue to discuss, there will be opportunities. Readings will be emailed to registered participants well before the start of the Institute.

The Institute is designed to serve “returnees” as well as first-time participants. Everyone will take part in Descriptive Reviews of the Child, Descriptive Reviews of Work, and Reflective Conversations. Those who are new to these processes will get to know them well. Participants, who are more experienced, but not yet confident in the role of chairperson, will be asked to act as facilitators, helping presenters prepare and co-chairing groups. We also encourage groups from the same school to attend together. This enables schools to begin to use the Descriptive Processes as part of their ongoing work. 

The Processes on which this work is based were developed at the Prospect School and Center (1965-2011). This Institute on Descriptive Process runs concurrently with the first week of the Institute on Descriptive Inquiry (a self-governing, collaborative study group, composed of educators and other experienced professionals, that has convened annually since 1978). Since meeting rooms and dorms will be nearby, participants of both groups will have the opportunity to share informal talk and to take part in descriptive inquiry sessions, as well engage with journal writing, drawing, and other evening work sessions. Social events are also planned.


The Institute is a residential Institute housed at Bennington College, Bennington, VT. Rooms are double occupancy; bathroom facilities are shared. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served at the College dining hall.


The faculty of this Institute consists of educators who are deeply knowledgeable about the Descriptive Inquiry Processes and ways of thinking about educational practices and issues. Please contact Taeko Onshi at [email protected] with questions about the Institute. 


The Institute fee is $900. This fee includes all program costs as well as room and board at Bennington College. Limited numbers of scholarships are available. Please contact Joe Alberti via email at [email protected] 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.  

A non-refundable $100 deposit is due 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 Summer Institute’s top priority is to expand and diversify participation in all its institutes and conferences. We want more educators speaking out for democratic values and for schools responsive to children. Diversity of all kinds immeasurably strengthens that message.

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

The Summer Institutes do 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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  • Bill McCarthy
    commented 2019-01-16 19:28:41 -0800
    Friends; what are the dates if this year’s training.

    All best;