Dear Ambiguity,

How might diving into personal moments of ambiguity shine light on students' relationship to ambiguity in larger ways?

Emily Callaghan
Tried and Tested
No items found.
Purpose for Students
Make it Personal
Date Added: 
May 2019

Relationship to Ambiguity

This is an intro activity designed for learning about personal connections to ambiguity. Designed originally for the's Teaching + Learning Summit in the Fall of 2017, it was influenced and has evolved and iterated thanks to feedback from lots of folks since. This was one of the artifacts I developed as part of my Designer in Residence experience in 2017/18.

I wanted to include this in the library so that it can be shared more broadly with teachers and students.




We tried using an audio intro (personal share of an ambiguous time) and going without (depending on preference we think both work well).

We tried sculpting with plain white paper and blue tape and using lego (designing for high simplicity and low cost / effort for supply wrangling) for the sculpting prompt. Both work well.

We tried many formats for the postcard and wanted them to be mailable, though we haven't (yet) actually collected them via mail. We'd love to hear about mail experiments!

We tried sending the prompts out digitally for asynchronous, solo applications and found that leading this" in room" gets to larger themes and more meaningful connections.

We've tried this with college students, in public workshops with adult learners, and at conferences / summits with a mix of expertises represented. The learning experience and its value persists across all audiences. Though, we haven't tried with students younger than college age (yet).




Self awareness about one's relationship to ambiguity (present or past) helps personalize the importance and stoke curiosity about ambiguity.

The mix of prompts (building in 3D, sharing 1:1 and narrative) help to connect across learning types.

There is a chance to shape new practices / aspirations about ambiguity into the future and those can act as personal or curricular learning plans.

The group share helps the individual feel acknowledged (others may have similar relationships) and sparks new connections and empathy for others.

Design Abilities Used

Students learn from others' personal experiences, thereby deepening their understanding of the topic as well as explore abstract and concrete formats for exploring and discussing ambiguity (e.g. personal experience and physical abstraction via sculpting).


This activity was shaped with much feedback and inspiration from the Teaching + Learning community.

Designed by:

Emily Callaghan
Emily Callaghan
Owner, DESIGN+ Labs, Lecturer, Stanford

Design Abilities Used

Learn from Others (People and Contexts)
Move Between Concrete + Abstract
Learn More about Design Abilities 


This resource is the original work of the Designer(s). I/we give permission for it to be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

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