Session 10 – Flexible Learning 3


  • The objectives of the flexible learning sessions are to provide students with more time to engage with their community-based project and be exposed to different perspectives on the theories and concepts explored in class.


After completing this session, you should be able to:

  • Explain the importance of experiencing and resolving issues of uncertainty as a key process in developing professional competencies.
  • Recognize, manage and control scope change in your project.

Key Terms + Concepts

  • Uncertainty
  • Project Scope Change
  • Failure (is your friend?)

Required Readings + Resources

PODCAST: This American Life - Poultry Slam 2011: Act 3: Latin Liver

Begin this week by listening to Dan Barber's story of foie gras: in order to make foie gras — goose liver — the birds have to be treated inhumanely, strapped down and force-fed huge amounts of food. So when Dan, who runs the New York restaurant Blue Hill, heard about Eduardo Sousa, a Spaniard who had supposedly found a way to make foie gras without mistreating the animals, Dan didn't believe it ... until he went to Spain to investigate, and then tries to replicate the program back home (20 minutes).

Uncertainty in the Learning Environment

"Without a certain amount of anxiety and risk, there’s a limit to how much learning occurs" (Shulman, 2005, p. 18)

Over the years of LFS 350, a pattern of student experience has emerged. The pattern revolves around cycles of uncertainty and resolution. The first iteration of the cycle begins when you meet your group and find out which community project you have been assigned. This round of uncertainty is resolved (slightly) once you meet with your community partner, prepare your proposal and receive feedback on your plans. Your group then has a few weeks of carrying out the steps identified in your proposal. This is where the next cycle of "uncertainty + resolution" emerges. Now that you have had the opportunity to engage with your community, you realize that elements of your proposal do not coincide with aspects of reality, that is, the context in which your project is meant to unfold. Don't worry, this is perfectly natural and expected. As future professionals in the food system, your career will be defined and "characterized by conditions of inherent and un-avoidable uncertainty" (Shulman, 2005, p. 18). The challenge now is how your group responds to the rising tensions between best laid schemes, group dynamics, university course work-loads, and community expectations. How you resolve theses challenges and emerge with a final product that satisfies the interests and objectives of your group members and community partner is the topic of this session. As stated in Shulman's opening quote, learning occurs when you experience certain amounts of anxiety and risk. Our goal is to help you develop the skills necessary to address these anxieties so that you are confident to rise to the challenges you will face as a professional.

Shulman, L. S. (2005). Pedagogies of uncertainty. Liberal Education, 91(2), 18–25. Retrieved from

Project Scope Change

This week, we will begin to come to terms with major reality of any project - SCOPE CHANGE! Only on very rare occasions do projects unfold as outlined by a project proposal. It's not that taking the time to create a proposal is a waste. It is simply the nature of engaging with complex issues, such as those evident in your community-based projects (and your future career as a professional within the food system). So what do we do when our best laid plans fail us? At what point does a group admit that the original vision needs to be tweaked, revised, or completely dropped?

Scope Change refers to the common reality of all projects - previously designed plans turnout to be lacking in certain ways, or new opportunities emerge once a project is unfolding, and the group must answer the following questions:

  • Is this within the scope of our project?
  • Is this opportunity worth pursuing? If so, how will it impact other aspects of the project?
  • Who do we need to include in this conversation to make an informed decision on project change?

Proposals are absolute necessities for having a successful project, but they are written in a state of high uncertainty. It is nearly impossible to predict what we will experience as a project unfolds and project members need to be prepared to continuously reflect on and question initial premises.

Messes and Failures

The following resources will help you conceptualize and prepare for the ups and downs associated with community-based projects. Both explore the idea of common responses to challenging situations, engaging with messes and fear of failure. Both resources will compliment our on-going discussion in LFS 350 on the value of community-based projects and how experiences in the course prepare you for your future role as professionals in the food system.