A reflection template based on Parker Palmer’s “There is a season”

Use this reflection template whenever you are ready to pause and take stock before proceeding either: from one phase to another; on from an activity or event; into dialogue with others; or at a branch point when choosing an activity or path to pursue. Copy the template page or print it out, then for each of the items, note “plus-delta”—one thing you did well during the phase/activity/event and one thing that could be developed further next time.http://ptaylor.wikispaces.umb.edu/PalmerSeasons

Reference: Palmer, P. J. (2000). “There is a season,” p. 95-109 in Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.

Extending Play: “Stuck busters”

This design sketch builds on the 4P’s of the Lifelong Kindergarten (LLK) — Projects, Passion, Peers, Play (see http://learn.media.mit.edu/).  It is a response to the case for the 2nd topic, Play, of the July 2014 Design for Living Complexities course. Read more of this post

Moving and motivating given the gaps

My pulling-together-the-pieces form of curiosity  together with asking about what motivate curiosity, in what directions, and how far led me to explore a schema from past work about “gaps.”  Rather than wait till I had time to write and revise the ideas, I speak about them in this 18-minute video podcast,

Creativity, curiosity, reflection within a frame of “engaging with distributed complexity”

My pulling-together-the-pieces form of curiosity  led me to assemble schemas from past work and try to integrate them in a coherent account.  Rather than wait till I had time to write and revise the ideas, I speak about them in this 34-minute video podcast:

What to think about curiosity killing the cat?

“Curiosity kills the cat.” That doesn’t imply don’t be curious. What it implies is curiosity has consequences. It takes you out of safe areas.

What are the guidelines we need for being curious? Read more of this post

On meanings of “reflection”

As I seek ideas for evaluating the effect of the workshop on reflective practice, I am finding that reflection or reflective practice is often discussed in close relation to problem-solving (especially analysis of problems that managers face).  I am more interested in “the creation of meaning from past or current events that serves as a guide for future behavior.” In that frame, “[r]eflection is the process of stepping back from an experience to ponder, carefully and persistently, its meaning to the self…”

These quotes are from a much-cited article of Daudelin (1996), who nevertheless goes on to emphasize problem-solving, not simply meaning-making. I have suggested the term “refractive practice” to highlight the desired sense of reflection distinct from problem-solving (Taylor 2012), but this post explores different senses of reflection rather than making use of the neologism. Read more of this post

How to evaluate the effect of a reflective-practice promoting workshop

Consider a workshop designed to foster reflective practice.  How to evaluate the effect of the workshop on reflective practice?  This could be evaluated by asking participants to record when they undertake a post-workshop reflection process.  This process could use guidelines recorded on an individually customized and evolving template (along the lines below).

As noted, the substance of the reflections is private—participants are not asked to share this.  However, submission of the googleform allows assessment of the frequency of participants undertaking the process and of substitution of new guidelines.  These data could then be used to compare the effect of a given workshop in comparison with previous versions of the workshop or with other kinds of professional development workshop that also aim to foster reflective practice, and to compare the same workshop run with different nationalities or experience/status of participants. Read more of this post

Guided Tour of my mentoring, themes


Four considerations underlie my mentoring of students, graduates, and junior colleagues–at UMass Boston and elsewhere: Read more of this post

What leads us to change our teaching so it departs from how we were taught?

A feedback slip at a recent faculty teaching workshop I ran asked the title question of me personally. Some thoughts:
1. A colleague who shifted during graduate school from ecology to science education studied science faculty who made a big change in their teaching (towards being more interactive, activity-based, etc.). He concluded, as I recall it, that each person had their own biographical reasons–there were no generalizations.
2. I have often found myself saying that I haven’t systematically looked at my own development as a teacher. I don’t have a coherent narrative to offer anyone else.
3. It is the case that I have tried to articulate my guiding themes ever since I had to prepare material for reappointment/promotion reviews. Doing this made me, in turn, more conscious of what I was doing (see http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/portfolio05.html and precursors).
4. But being reviewed may not be the explanation — indeed, colleagues advised me to focus on publications because teaching doesn’t really count. At about the same time, I had stumbled into being the advisor for graduate students teaching writing-intensive seminars (because I had started such teaching for extra $$ one summer). In that role, I observed their classes and had to invent ways of reflecting back what I saw — some of my themes about teaching arose from doing that. From that experience I convened a “teaching co-op,” in which faculty and grad. students observed each other’s classes.
5. But commenting on the teaching of colleagues may not be the explanation, given that I had already instituted a practice some years earlier of having students take turns to stay after class and give feedback.
…and so on.
6. I think a key connecting strand here is that my research has always been about problematic boundaries of complex situations and I have sought and made use of opportunities to teach interdisciplinary courses about life and environmental sciences in their social contexts. This teaching gave me the chance — or made it a necessity — to formulate my own distinctive interdisciplinary themes. In short, reflection on my teaching practice was less some virtuous approach to teaching and more something I had to do intellectually.
(More thinking, remembering, reflecting is needed here…)

Research for Writing, Writing for Research: A workshop

Overview of a workshop run for doctoral students in Environmental Studies at Yale University in Fall 2008.

OK, you’re near the end of a semester learning about qualitative research and preparing a research proposal.  This “writing workshop” will look at the role of writing in research from three different angles:

1.  Thinking about what your project (or thesis) is isn’t finished until you finish writing—and you can’t bring writing to a finish without thinking through what your project (or thesis) is really about.  So, what processes can help you with your thinking and writing at the final stages?  We’ll look at “Sharing” and “Revising with Feedback,” guided by chapters 3 & 13 of Peter Elbow’s Writing with Power (Oxford U.P.) and another piece of his (http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/ elbowresponses.html).   (If anyone wants to volunteer a few pages for us to give feedback on, please email me and I’ll explain how this will work.)

2.  The course syllabus says:

The idea is to commit to a project quickly and put some effort into it; you may change your mind later, or find that the problem you thought was worth pursuing is in fact a deadend. Congratulations—that is what research is all about.

Is that what research and writing have to be like?  It is too late to change for this semester, but let’s compare your experience with a process that allows more time for finding a project that really engages you.

Before the workshop:

a. Read the introduction to a book (http://bit.ly/TYS2012) that compiles material from three CCT courses:

b. Examine the “phases of research and engagement,” which are overlapping and “iterative”

c. Consider the idea of “dialogue around written work

During the workshop, we will use two of the tools in the book to compare your experience with the ideas/practices in a, b, & c: Guided freewriting, and Strategic Personal Planning.  (Details of how we’ll do this can wait till the workshop.)

3.  (time permitting)  Many of you will be teachers and researcher advisers one day.  If you see your development as a teacher as an ongoing process, then this process is a suitable subject for qualitative research.  In that light, before the workshop please read the compilation of snapshots from my development, and come prepared to give feedback so I can revise and improve this first draft.  (I’ll be asking you to use one of Elbow’s variety of responses in providing the feedback.)



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