Effective collaborators: Structural conditions vs. personal development

An exchange with a colleague leads me to note a contrasting “structural” approach on the issue of effective collaborators to the one presented in a recent series of posts, where I noted:

An effective collaborator draws on many skills and dispositions [listed in the posts].  We can cultivate these skills and dispositions through participation in suitable activities and through creative habits, such as always taking stock of what we did (and did not do) and planning ways to improve. Participants who cultivate themselves as collaborators can bring their skills and dispositions to any collaboration (or workshop, group process, etc.) they get involved in. To the extent that participants in a collaboration have been cultivating themselves as collaborators, the people organizing or facilitating the collaboration can expect their efforts to be more fruitful.

In contrast, a facilitator could create the conditions (or rules or structure or process) for collaboration, which facilitates participants being more collaborative without asking them to change their behavior—or having to draw explicit attention to the cultivation of collaborators.  There is a “which comes first, chicken or egg?” aspect to this, given that rules or structure or process work better when there are at least some participants who already have developed the skills and dispositions I list.  At the same time, one way to cultivate those skills and dispositions is through well-facilitated demonstration or real-life activities.

Nevertheless, people who write books on group process and facilitation, e.g., Senge et al. 5th Discipline Fieldbook, do not give much emphasis to the cultivation of collaborators.  Most weight is put on creating the conditions for collaboration among whoever signs up for or is roped into the group process a facilitator is leading.  (Readers should point me to works that disturb this assertion of mine.)  If a facilitator has confidence in handling all-comers, then it is simpler to set a small set of guiding themes, such as balance advocacy with inquiry, or start from concrete observables and don’t climb quickly up the ladder of inference.  My longer listing of skills and dispositions of effective collaborators would then seem unnecessarily complicated.  Let me just say, however, that I want some more eggs with my chickens.

Effective collaborators: Skills and dispositions (Re-engagement)

Re-engagement— Respect, risk, and revelation combine so that participants’ gears are re-engaged (to use a machine metaphor), allowing us to mobilize and sustain quite a high level of energy during the collaboration. But re-engagement goes beyond an individual’s enhanced enthusiasm. It is a collective or emergent result of the activities that bring people who have generative differences into meaningful interactions that can catalyze transformations. In other words, meaningful social engagement and opportunities for personal introspection contribute to participants discovering new possibilities for work with others on ideas they brought to the collaboration.
We:

  • inquire further on the issues that arise in our own projects.
  • select and focus on a subset of the specific plans or knowledge generated during the collaboration in our subsequent work.
  • engage actively with others.
  • inquire further into how we can support the work of others.
  • are reminded of our aspirations to work in supportive communities.
  • make the experiences of the collaboration a basis for subsequent efforts to cultivate collaborators.
  • arrange to assist or apprentice with the facilitator in a future collaboration.

(Of course, what we state in the end-of-collaboration evaluations cannot show that we will follow through on intentions to stay connected or to make shifts in our own projects and work relations. A need or desire for periodic re-charging of our ideas and intentions is evident when past participants return to subsequent collaborations.)
[See Introduction to this series of posts.]

Effective collaborators: Skills and dispositions (Revelation)

Revelation—A space is created by respect and risk in which participants bring thoughts and feelings to the surface so as to articulate, clarify and complicate our ideas, relationships, and aspirations—in short, our identities. (Recall the principle that we know more than we are, at first, prepared to acknowledge.) Our own self-understandings are extended when we are respectful partners with others in the risky business of self-exploration. In this spirit, we:

  • do not fill up quiet spaces that occur.
  • take time to reflect on and digest our experiences.
  • gain insight into our present place and direction by hearing what we happen to mention and omit in telling our own stories.
  • bring to the surface knowledge that we were not able, at first, to acknowledge.
  • “re-mark” the various ways we understand ourselves, others, and the world, together with the understandings and expectations—some welcome, some not—that are pressed back upon us.
  • integrate experience from the collaboration with our own concerns.
  • make our entire thought process visible, including tacit assumptions.
  • invite others to add new dimensions to what we are thinking.
  • strive to find ways to make un(der)expressed voices articulate.
  • examine decisions we had made in advance about what the other people are like, what they are and are not capable of.
  • take notice of who exposes their ideas and questions in one-on-one interaction with us.
  • limit advocacy—making a statement—in favor of inquiry—seeking clarifications and deeper understanding; we do not impose our opinion or use questions to expose weakness.
  • generate new possibilities for knowing and being through activities that bring participants into revelatory relationships, that is, actively implicated us in one another’s revelations.
  • reflect on each phase—together or individually—leading to a tangible product to take into next phase.

[See Introduction to this series of posts.]

Effective collaborators: Skills and dispositions (Risk)

Risk—Respect creates a space with enough safety for participants to take risks of various kinds. In particular, we:

  • speak personally.
  • share knowledge we bring to the surface.
  • get to know more about each others’ not-yet-stable aspects.
  • share the experience of being unsure, but excitable and open to learn and to change.
  • make use of opportunities to reveal and remark upon oneself.
  • view the collaboration as a journey into unknown areas or allowing us to see familiar areas in a fresh light. (A journey involves risk; requires support; creates more experiences than can be integrated at first sight; yields personal changes.)
  • ask for help and support during the collaboration.
  • participate—perhaps quite playfully—during unfamiliar processes.
  • are open to surprises and spontaneous insights emerging from interactions among people who were strangers beforehand.
  • expose our ideas and questions in one-on-one interaction with participants who have more experience and formal status.
  • allow ourselves to probe conclusions we began with.
  • accept uncertainty and instability—”What exactly is going to happen? What should I be doing?”—as the collaboration unfolds (even without an explicit agreement on where we are headed and without certainty about how to achieve desired outcomes).
  • stay in there when the process seems rough—not stepping back into the role of critic or consumer.

(In all these aspects of risk-taking, collaborations benefit from the participation of “veterans” who have participated in collaborations conducted along similar lines.)

[See Introduction to this series of posts.]

Effective collaborators: Skills and dispositions (Respect)

Respect—Effective participants in a collaboration (or workshop, groups process, etc.) draw on the skill or disposition to:

  • listen attentively to others as commonalities and differences are brought to light
  • take an interest in points of view and work and life experiences that are distant from our own.
  • suspend judgment and listen empathetically.
  • have repeated exchanges that are meaningful and generative with participants who differ from us (which is enhanced by small size and mixed composition of the collaboration).
  • notice the experience of being listened to.
  • hear ourselves better as a result of being heard.
  • bring to the surface and into play knowledge we already have about the topic of any meeting or session.
  • recognize that there is insight in every response—there are no wrong answers.
  • recognize that each participant, regardless of background or previous experience has something valuable to contribute to the process and outcomes—we need everyone’s insight for the wisest result.
  • develop relationships that will enable us to keep getting help and support when the collaboration is over.
  • find opportunities to affirm what is working well.

In all these ways, Respect is not simply stated as a ground rule, but is enacted.

[See Introduction to this series of posts.]

Effective collaborators: Skills and dispositions

An effective collaborator draws on many skills and dispositions, such as the qualities listed in the posts to follow. We can cultivate these skills and dispositions through participation in suitable activities and through creative habits, such as always taking stock of what we did (and did not do) and planning ways to improve. Participants who cultivate themselves as collaborators can bring their skills and dispositions to any collaboration (or workshop, group process, etc.) they get involved in. To the extent that participants in a collaboration have been cultivating themselves as collaborators, the people organizing or facilitating the collaboration can expect their efforts to be more fruitful.

(Indeed, the list provides not only a checklist of qualities for cultivating collaborators, but also a checklist of conditions for organizers and facilitators to foster when running a collaborative process. Of course, we all find ourselves in some groups or teams where these conditions are not fostered. It is easy to fret over the shortcomings of our team leaders and colleagues. However, an antidote to fretting is for us to affirm the qualities below in our personal sphere and, more generally, to (re)claim space for our own creative pursuits.)

The list groups the qualities under four headings—Respect, Risk, Revelation, Re-engagement. (Note: An item under one heading may well contribute to the other headings.) The thinking behind these headings is, in brief, that a well-facilitated collaborative process keeps us listening actively to each other, fostering mutual Respect that allows Risks to be taken, elicits more insights than any one person came in with (Revelation), and engages us in carrying out and carrying on the plans we develop (Re-engagement). What we come out with is very likely to be larger and more durable than what any one person came in with; the more so, the more voices that are brought out by the process.

[These posts arose after teaching a two-day workshop on "Cultivating Collaboration" as part of a graduate course on "Creative Thinking, Collaboration, and Organizational Change.  A colleague asked me to make explicit the skills of a collaborator that the students were supposed to be cultivating.  In future years I plan not only to provide students with my list of skills and dispositions, but also make clear the following:  The activities of the workshop lead participants into using some tools and processes, making connections with each other, and formulating contributions to the topic of cultivating ourselves as collaborators. To reinforce and extend this experiential learning students should:

  • review each activity to identify which of the listed collaborator skills and dispositions applied to the activity and to identify possibilities for further cultivation of these qualities;
  • read the supporting material on each tool or process so the design and goals of each activity could be appreciated and perhaps replicated;
  • build on the two steps above to formulate more systematic plans for practice and evaluation with an eye to improvement.]

Journeying to develop critical thinking 2: Critical thinking as journeying

A few years ago I taught for the first time a general course on critical thinking. The students were mostly mid-career teachers and other professionals. This was also the occasion of my first telling the place in space story and running the re-seeing activity. Some of the students construed the story as a science lesson; evidently, I had to clarify the delivery and message. Later in the semester I had a chance to do this when we revisited the activity to practice lesson-plan remodeling. What emerged from the class discussion was that it mattered little to me whether students understood my weightlessness explanation. I only wanted them to puzzle over the general conundrum of how questions that retrospectively seem obvious ever occured to them and to consider their susceptibility to recurrent reconceptualizations. During this clarification process the image occurred to me that when one’s development as a critical thinker is like a personal journey into unfamiliar or unknown areas. Both involve risk, open up questions, create more experiences than can be integrated at first sight, require support, yields personal change, and so on. This journeying metaphor differs markedly from the conventional philosophical view of critical thinking as scrutinizing the reasoning, assumptions, and evidence behind claims (Ennis 1987, Anon, n.d.). Instead of the usual connotations of “critical” with judgement and finding fault according to some standards (Williams 1983, 84ff), journeying draws attention to the inter- and intra-personal dimensions of people developing their thinking.

In retrospect, the immediate impetus for my re-seeing critical thinking as journeying seemed to have been the “life-course” of students during that fifteen-week semester. Early in the course many students expressed dependency on my co-instructor and me: “Aren’t small group discussions an exercise in ‘mutually shared ignorance’?” “Could the class be smaller?—we want more direct interaction with you.” “I was never taught this at college—I’m not a critical thinking kind of person.” Some students were uncomfortable with dialogues their two instructors would have in front of the class in order to expose tensions among different perspectives. They asked for clear definitions of and procedures for critical thinking and for particular assignments and activities. Their anxieties were most evident when they looked ahead to a new end-of-semester “manifesto” assignment, in which we asked for “a synthesis of elements from the course selected and organized so as to inspire and inform your efforts in extending critical thinking beyond the course.” We responded to students’ concerns with some mini-lectures, handouts, and a sample manifesto. Yet we also persisted in conducting activities, promoting journaling, and assigning thought-pieces through which students might develop their own working approaches to critical thinking. By mid-semester students who had been quiet or lacked confidence in their critical-thinking abilities started to articulate connections with their work as teachers and professionals.

We had reassured those who worried about the manifesto assignment that they would have something to say, but we were surprised by how true that turned out to be. For example, the student who was not the “critical thinking kind” began her manifesto with perceptive advice:

“If there is one basic rule to critical thinking that I, as a novice, have learned it is
DON’T BE AFRAID!”
She continued: “Don’t be afraid to ask questions and test ideas, ponder and wonder… Don’t be afraid to have a voice and use it!… Don’t be afraid to consider other perspectives… Don’t be afraid to utilize help…” She finished, “Above all, approach life as an explorer looking to capture all the information possible about the well known, little known and unknown and keep an open mind to what you uncover.” Another student wrote a long letter to her seven year old: “To give you a few words of advice, yes, but mostly to remind me of what I believe I should practice in order to assist you with your growth.” These manifestos displayed admirable self-awareness. To arrive there the students had taken risks and opened up questions, had experienced more than they were able at first to integrate and had sought support, and ended up seeing themselves differently (Taylor 2001a).

In retrospect, the students’ confidence had begun to rise during classes involving various approaches to empathy and listening (Elbow 1986, Gallo 1994, Ross 1994, Stanfield 1997). I suspect that listening well helps students tease out alternative views. Without alternatives in mind, it is difficult to motivate and undertake scrutiny of one’s own evidence, assumptions, and logic, or of those of others. Being listened to seems to help students access their intelligence (in a broad sense of the term)—to bring to the surface, reevaluate, and articulate things they already know in some sense (Weissglass 1990). The resulting knowledge seems all the more powerful because it is not externally dictated (Friere 1970, Weissglass 1990). These are conjectures—I look forward to opportunities for more systematic exploration of the ways different people experience listening and being listened to in relation to their critical thinking.

(The third in a series of posts; see first post.)

Guided tour of my teaching ’01-’05: cross-fertilization of science in society interests & work on reflective practice

The eight strands in the previous post continued, but significant developments occurred in some additional areas, most notably the cross-fertilization of my science in society interests and work on reflective practice (which has become a second specialty in my scholarship). My 2005 book, Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago), develops a framework for the integration of research—in science and interpretation of science in its social context—with teaching and service—in the form of critical reflection on concepts and practice by researchers and students. Indeed, the framework is made clear in the last chapter, which builds explicitly from an approach to teaching interdisciplinary students. The opportunity and challenge of fostering the reflective practice of the diverse adults who come through the CCT Program has given me sufficient experience and confidence to push further in putting that framework into practice with diverse researchers. This integration of research, teaching, and service has led, in particular, to my establishing the New England Workshop on Science and Social Change (NewSSC), an umbrella under which to organize innovative, interaction-intensive workshops designed to facilitate discussion, teaching innovation, and longer-term collaboration among faculty and graduate students who teach and write about interactions between scientific developments and social change.

Guiding Research and Writing for Reflective Practice

  • From 2001-5 I was involved with 63 CCT students developing and completing their M.A. syntheses on a very wide range of topics. Four features of my courses on research and writing have come to fruition in meeting this challenge:
    • 1. A framework of ten phases of research and engagement that the students move through, then revisit in light of: a) other people’s responses to what they share with them; and b) what they learn using tools from the other phases. This sequence and iteration allows students to define projects in which they take their personal and professional aspirations seriously, even if that means letting go of preconceptions of what they “ought” to be doing. During the pre-synthesis course, CCT698, the students are introduced to range of tools for each phase, then practice using those tools in class and in assignments. A downloadable library of previous students’ work illustrates the different ways these tools can be taken up.
    • 2. A model of “cycles and epicycles” of action research that integrates evaluation, constituency building, reflection and dialogue, and can be applied to professional and personal change as well as educational and organizational change.
    • 3. Dialogue around written work—written and spoken comments on each installment of a project and successive revision in response —which allows me to accumulate a portfolio for each student in each course that facilitates generative interactions with students even when I am not an expert in their areas. By “generative” I mean students bring to the surface, form, and articulate their ideas.
    • 4. Making space for taking initiative in and through relationships: “in building horizontal peer relationships, in negotiating power/standards, in acknowledging that affect is involved in what you’re doing and not doing (and in how others respond to that), in clearing away distractions from other sources (present and past) so you can be here now… Don’t expect to learn or change—or to teach—without jostling among the five aspects.”
  • These four features form the basis of the “exit self-assessment” CCT instituted in which graduating students reflect on their development through the Program and identify specific areas for further work. The insight shown in most of these self-analyses gives the CCT faculty confidence that the graduates can continue learning without our superintending them.

Creating Problem-Based Learning Units and Other Innovations to Accommodate Students’ Diverse Interests Within Interdisciplinary Courses

  • Following the lead of my colleague, Nina Greenwald, an expert in Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and building on my involvement in BioQuest curriculum development workshops, I have introduced PBL or Action Research units in several courses, including one course at a doctoral level. I position the units at the start of the course, with the aim of allowing students to expose and coordinate a range of angles for investigating an issue, practice tools for rapid research, and gain a shared experience to refer back to during the discussions and activities that make up the rest of the course.
  • On another tack, I was pleased with the students’ response when I integrated the content of my scholarship with CCT-like reflective practice in an advanced graduate seminar that I taught at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The seminar theme was research, policy, and participation in issues of Conservation and Development. As well as critically reviewing literature on selected topics students also learned new approaches for developing their own writing and supporting others to write. I was able to link these two strands under the theme of paying attention to the challenges for individuals participating in collaborative endeavors.

Contributing to New Interdisciplinary, International, and Educational Projects

  • Bringing critical analysis of science to bear on the practice and application of science is not well developed or supported institutionally, so I continue to initiate or participate in new collaborations, programs, and other activities, new directions for existing programs, and collegial interactions across disciplines. In this spirit I contributed to four major grant proposals between 2001 &2005 (three UMB; one non-UMB) that link science, education, and professional development and to seven interdisciplinary anthologies, many of which that evolved from conference sessions or workshop series that I helped run. I also co-led the Curriculum development component of the 2003 Education for Sustainability initiative at UMB and the Ford Foudnation site visit that led to the grant for the new England Center for Inclusive Teaching (NECIT). Most importantly, I secured seed funds from NSF to initiate the New England Workshop on Science and Social Change, a workshop that has continued annually since with international participation aimed at linking science, science education, and science and technology studies.
  • The prospectus of NewSSC, which is evolving in response to evaluations and reviews of funding proposals, provides the following overview:
  • The choice of workshop topics and the innovative, interaction-intensive character of the workshops are designed to attract participants who will develop their knowledge, skills, and interest in promoting the social contextualization of science through interdisciplinary education and other activities beyond their current disciplinary and academic boundaries. Participants are sought from the various areas of Science and Technology Studies, the sciences, and science education and-with an eye to training “interdisciplinarians”-include graduate students as well as more experienced scholars.
  • For the 2006-7 workshops, participants were expected to submit new syllabi and curriculum units (primarily for college-level courses) or outreach activities (e.g., hosting a citizen forum on a science-based controversy) related to their workshop’s topic within six months of its completion. These are made available in an expanding compilation of Online Resources for Science-in-Society Education and Outreach.
  • Formative (during the process) and summative (after the fact) evaluations of the workshops provide a basis for developing the workshop experience from one year to the next and for establishing a model of workshops that can be repeated, evolve in response to evaluations, and be adapted by participants [evaluations are linked to the webpages and wikis for each workshop].

Guided tour of my teaching ’98-’01: Teaching portfolio, critical thinking journey, etc.

1998-2001

In the statement for the tenure review in 2001, I discussed my teaching under the headings:

  • A. Wide Scope of My Teaching and its Active, Ongoing Development
  • B. The Philosophy of Teaching Critical Thinking I Brought to UMB
  • C. Teaching Critical Thinking about Science in its Social Context
  • D. Leading Students from Critical Thinking to Taking Initiative
  • E. Learning from Difficult Courses in a Thoughtful, Respectful, and Professional Manner
  • F. Learning from Educators beyond CCT
  • G. Promoting Collegial Interaction Around Innovation in Teaching

(Discussion of related themes and exhibits from a 1999 review can be viewed at http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/portfolio99exhibits.html.)
The last heading points the sharing of work I pursue in a number of ways:

  • documentation of process and outcomes, evident in my Practitioner’s Portfolio;
  • regular presentations and workshops, both at UMB (under the auspices of CIT) and outside; and
  • posting on my website of teaching and learning thought-pieces, tools, and activities (linked to each syllabus) [supplemented in recent years on wikis, such as this page].

Creating and maintaining a web presence for my work is one way my teaching is also characterized by

  • H. Making educationally justified and sustainable choices of when and how to integrate technologies

Related thought-pieces and compilations of exhibits
Guidelines about specific situations and specific ways in which specific technologies are of significant pedagogical benefit. (With case studies from science education)

“We know more than we are, at first, prepared to acknowledge: Journeying to develop critical thinking”

  • “five passages in a pedagogical journey that has led from teaching undergraduate science-in-society courses to running a graduate program in critical thinking and reflective practice for teachers and other mid-career professionals”

Review of Courses, aka Practitioner’s Portfolio.

  • For each course taught at UMB since 1998 I include a review of:
    • the original objectives for the course (which should be read together with the description and goals stated in the syllabi);
    • challenges encountered and my responses; and
    • future plans.
  • Each review is followed by:
    • the syllabi;
    • summaries of the GCoE evaluations;
    • summaries from the written course evaluations I designed; and/or the originals of those evaluations.

Graduate Program in Critical and Creative Thinking: Preamble to a periodic review

Critical thinking and creative thinking are defined or construed in many different ways; there is, moreover, no standard definition of what it means to combine the two pursuits.  This has allowed the mission of the Graduate Program in Critical and Creative Thinking (CCT) at UMass Boston to grow and develop over thirty years in response to the personal interests and professional needs of the students in the Program and in response to the changing make-up and ongoing personal and professional engagements of the faculty.  Such engagements build on, but have often extended some distance from, their original disciplines of education, philosophy, psychology, mathematics, and the life sciences. To convey the flavor of CCT as an evolving entity, we start with historical background for the Program as a whole and set the scene for the current periodic (AQUAD) review.  [The reviewers' site visit takes place today [postponed because of snowstorm to 29 Mar 11].  The historical background to follow might be interesting to others who work to keep interdisciplinary programs afloat.]

The Program’s journey

When the Master of Arts degree in Critical and Creative Thinking at UMass Boston was established in 1979-80, three interrelated objectives were stated:

  • to improve the critical and creative thinking skills of the program participants;
  • to help the participants achieve an understanding of the phenomena of critical and creative thought, and to think through the problems and issues concerning these phenomena… explored in the intellectual community; and
  • to translate this understanding into significant classroom or other educational practice in various subject areas.[1]

The founding faculty—Bob Swartz, Steve Schwartz, and Delores Gallo[2]—came from philosophy, psychology, and education, respectively.  When the program began, there was only one specialty area, Moral education and moral issues, and participants were teachers and administrators from local schools.

By 1986, two additional specialty areas—Literature and Arts, and Mathematics and Science—had been added and faculty members Arthur Millman and Carol Smith had been hired in Philosophy and Psychology, respectively, with a 50% commitment to CCT.  Theses and capstone syntheses completed since then have shown students pursuing their personal and professional development in the creative arts, government and social services, and the corporate sphere, as well as in education, broadly construed.  A gradual evolution has continued.  By the time of the scheduled review in 1994-95, dialogue had emerged as an exciting new theme, which led to the addition of the fourth specialty area, which came to be called Workplace and Organizational Change.  The original emphasis on critical and creative thinking in mostly philosophical and psychological terms has been enriched by the faculty and students paying more attention to the social influences on critical and creative thinking and to the supports needed to foster such thinking—or, more accurately, to foster critical, creative, and reflective practice.

A number of strands have contributed to the evolution of the Program towards social concerns and organizational change, including: Larry Blum’s contributions since the early 1990s to antiracist education; Peter Taylor’s emphasis on the life and environmental sciences in their social context since his appointment as the second fulltime CCT faculty member in 1998; and Nina Greenwald’s work on problem-based learning, especially in the biomedical sciences. Student interests in facilitating organizational change have grown substantially over the last decade, but a wide range of students’ interest persists.  Significant numbers of CCT students still work in areas such as writing and the creative arts and general classroom teaching—sometimes in combination with organizational change!

The Program Review in 1994-95 under the leadership of Pat Davidson was very favorable.  However, during a University budget crunch the following year it was decided to reduce the resources for the Program. The Program’s home was moved from the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) to the Graduate College of Education (GCE; now College of Education and Human Development), with a concomitant increase in teaching load and decrease in the number of faculty members assigned full-time to the Program (from three to two).  Other details of the move were not formalized, but it was expected that CCT would continue to offer courses that had been taken by many students in education programs.  The 50% faculty teaching load contributions from the Philosophy and Psychology departments continued, as did Philosophy’s contribution of Larry Blum’s teaching of one section every third or fourth semester.  Resources within the GCE turned out to be less stable.  There was a delay in replacing a retiring full-time CCT faculty member during the 1990s; an extended medical leave of Delores Gallo then her early retirement in 2002 (with no replacement search authorized); prioritizing of GCE resources towards teacher preparation and national accreditation; and a GCE policy from January 2001 making Departmental Chairs the nominal Graduate Program Directors (GPDs), thus eliminating the course load reductions and stipends for the faculty who continued to fulfill all the responsibilities of GPD.  All these circumstances notwithstanding, CCT admissions returned to high levels before the last AQUAD review in 2002-3.

Ongoing adjustment to changing circumstances was reflected in the goals and objectives spelled out in the Program’s June 2000 AQUAD planning document, which were assessed in great detail in the 2002-3 self-study.  By reconfiguring CCT’s operations and achieving greater efficiencies the Program sought to:

  • maintain its strength as an interdisciplinary program with a strong focus on individualized learning, growth, and mid-career professional development;
  • develop a clear and constructive role in GCE, coordinating with other GCE graduate programs and outreach initiatives; and
  • address the 1994-95 review committee’s recommendations, in particular, that of presenting a higher profile, within the university and in the wider community, for what is distinctive about CCT’s work.

The 2002-3 self-study report and supporting material documented an impressive level of planning, innovation and accomplishment, especially given the reduced resources available to the Program. The Review Committee “found that the CCT Program is providing high quality and innovative education to non-traditional students who are unlikely to find substitute degree programs at UMB” and recommended “that a relatively small amount of resources be invested in this program to ensure that UMB [could] continue to provide the leadership in innovative multi- and inter-disciplinary pedagogy represented by this Program.”   The interim GCE Dean and the Graduate Dean formally recognized the strengths that the Committee had found. However, the GCE Dean saw the Program as outside the College mission and discontinued a 50% lecturer position that had been funded (first by the Provost, then by the College) for the previous three years to compensate for Delores Gallo’s absence.  Deciding that only one faculty member dedicated full-time to the Program was insufficient, the Graduate Dean halted admissions to the M.A. Program. The Program initiated a partnership with the Division of Corporate, Continuing, and Distance Education (CCDE, now University College) to promote the 15-credit CCT Graduate Certificate and develop sufficient online sections so that the Certificate could be earned fully online.  Initially the electives offered through CCDE allowed students to pursue a focus on “Creative Thinking at Work,” but a second focus on “Science in a Changing World” was planned.

Admissions to the M.A. Program were re-opened in 2004 after the new GCE Dean appointed Nina Greenwald as a sabbatical replacement for Peter Taylor in 2004-5, giving her special responsibilities for rebuilding student numbers and program promotion.  Her position was renewed by subsequent GCE deans until this academic year (albeit at a less than full-time level from 2007). In 2004 Peter Taylor became director of the University’s undergraduate Science, Technology and Values program.  Nina Greenwald’s teaching load in CCT created opportunities for him to teach across colleges and campuses in the area of science in its social context and, in 2009, with the encouragement of the current Provost, Winston Langley, to initiate a cross-college Science and Society graduate program.  This initiative has ended up taking the form of a graduate Certificate and M.A. track within CCT on “Science in a Changing World” and is beginning to attract students.  In the fall of 2010, University College agreed to fund a 50% assistant coordinator position for this track and to increase to 100% the CCT assistant coordinator position that CCDE had begun to fund in fall of 2009.  This latest support was contingent on the Program scheduling sections of required courses and electives so that the M.A. in both the regular track and the new track can be completed by students over a 2.5 year period entirely by taking sections offered through the College.[3]

The 2010 self-study documents ongoing adjustments to changing circumstances and resource limitations.  At the same time, readers will also find in tits pages—and even more so in associated links to websites and wikis—evidence of a graduate program that pays continuous attention to evaluations and other performance data, serves its students very economically, offers courses that serve more students outside the program than any other program at UMass Boston, contributes to the University and wider communities, provides models of ways to adapt and develop in response to new challenges and opportunities, and produces graduates who are constructive, reflective agents of change in education, work, social movements, science, and creative arts.

(Extracted from the Self-study, available at http://www.cct.umb.edu/aquad10appendices.html.)


[1] Cited in the 1994 self-study.

[2] Bob Swartz left the Program in the late 1980s.  He and Delores Gallo retired from the University in 2002. Steve Schwartz retired in 2005.

[3] As of December ’10, permission for CCT M.A. students being able to take more than 50% of courses online is subject to final approval at the level of Graduates Studies and above.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 128 other followers