Parts-Purposes-Complexities is a thinking routine developed by Project Zero‘s Agency by Design research group. It is a wonderful routine for guiding inquiry into all sorts of things: artworks, historical documents and, my personal favourite, with objects.
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This routine is for looking closely, exploring complexity, and finding opportunity. It encourages participants to slow down, make detailed observations and to look beyond the obvious We explore this thinking routine in our Module on object-based teaching and learning in my Visible Thinking in the Museum Online (VTMO) Course ⠀⠀⠀⠀

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You can use any sort of object for this activity – precious, non-precious, household, broken or brand new. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

There are 3 questions: ⠀

  • What are the various parts of the object?
  • What are the purposes of each of these parts?
  • Where do complexities* emerge among these parts and purposes?

*You can change the word complexities for more accessible terms, such as puzzles or questions.⠀

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This routine works beautifully with sketching and drawing. I like to use objects that can be handled and touched so that participants can examine the moving parts. ⠀⠀

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This routine works well in small groups and assign a notetaker who can take notes on what possibilities are being discussed. The group can then present their sketches, notes and findings with the group as a whole at the end. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

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Have you used Parts-Purposes-Complexities before? What are your experiences with it? .

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