Connecting-Probing-Reflecting Spaces: The New England Workshop on Science and Social Change (NewSSC)

Originally posted on Intersecting Processes:

This post is my submission for a new form of presentation at its next conference of the Society for Social Studies of Science:

The STS [*] Making and Doing initiative aims at encouraging 4S members to share scholarly practices of participation, engagement, and intervention in their fields of study. It highlights scholarly practices for producing and expressing STS knowledge and expertise that extend beyond the academic paper or book. By increasing the extent to which 4S members learn from one another about practices they have developed and enacted, the initiative seeks to improve the effectiveness and influence of STS scholarship beyond the field and/or to expand the modes of STS knowledge production. [* STS = science and technology studies]

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My graduate courses use simple but unfamiliar requirements and processes, which leads to a period of getting adjusted and sometimes hesitation or resistance. This post reflects on that. Read more of this post

An indirect approach to promoting critical thinking

Instead of asking a person to defend their thinking–to examine their evidence, assumptions, and reasoning–or put it under the spotlight–how does the idea/practice look like from this angle, that angle…?–the following process shifts the focus to helping the person shape inquiry. Read more of this post

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If you want to become a Reflective Practitioner, acquire a Growth Mindset, or become a Lifelong, self-directed Learner, you have to take initiative in relationships, such as those with your teachers, advisors and peers. At the same time, it is through the relationships you develop as you pursue these goals—including your relationship with yourself—that you find support for the risk-taking and change that is involved in taking initiative in relationships.  Read more of this post


A journey into unfamiliar or even unknown areas involves risk, opens up questions, creates more experiences than can be integrated for site, require support, yields personal change, and more.

In philosophy of science the distinction between context of justification – formulating testable hypothesis and testing them – and context of discovery – generating ideas, which may eventually become hypotheses – has in practice meant an emphasis on justification. Even if we accept that published research has to center on justified ideas, everyone’s work and life operates with many more ideas than can be put to an immediate and decisive test. Discounting that dimension of work and life is to suppress or discourage the spirit of journeying and to inhibit the development of capacities to get the most out of the journeys that we are, nevertheless, all undertaking. For this reason, the planned revision of Taking Yourself Seriously may include a set of journey stories, told without apology for presenting tools that have not been subject to clear-cut evaluation.

CPR space

A Connecting-Probing-Reflecting (CPR) space is a workshop or learning activity that fosters carryover of outcomes into participants’ work and lives in the following manner. The CPR space has a topic the participants explore in relation to their own interests, aspirations, and situations. The exploration introduces and makes use of tools and processes, not only for the exploration, but also to develop connections among participants – connections that help participants open up, probe into, and flesh out their contributions to the topic. While pursuing the tangible goals of learning and practicing the tools and processes, developing connections, and making contributions, the experiential goal is that doing so is sufficiently positive that the participants continue afterwards in practicing the tools and processes, sustaining and deepening the connections, putting into practice the contributions to the topic of the CPR space, and drawing support for the latter from the tools, processes, and connections.


The salience of the issue of carryover derives from the CPR space being a space away from immediate demands of scholarly or activist life, a space where participants can support each other’s explorations without having to arrive at a joint contribution to the topic or obliging themselves to collaborate in extending their product after the end of the workshop or learning space. In terms of refractive practice, CPR spaces of the refraction to the practice that a participant brings to the workshop.


Forms of CPR space include Project-Based Learning, online Collaborative Explorations, and multi-day 4Rs Workshops.

The relevant alternative to the CPR space is to bring into a group of people who work together tools and processes that they learn and practice as they generate and implement shared plans for action in the workplace or project. Indeed, there are facilitators who warn that running workshops to teach or introduce tools and processes for group work is unlikely to be to bear fruit, to result in carryover to participants’ work and lives. Is lack of carryover also to be expected for the connections made and for the contributions to the topic – the insight, plans, projects that the participant produces— in the CPR space? Perhaps, yet what makes a CPR space attractive to participants is that they re-engage with themselves as avid learners and get a reminder that it is possible not to continue along previous lines.

(A possible new entry in a revised edition of Taking Yourself Seriously,

Response to Shared Reading

In this process each participant, except the author, takes an equal amount of time, say, five minutes, to convey how a pre-circulated article intersects with or stimulates their own thinking. The emphasis is on participants teasing out their own thinking, not on digging into the details of what the author has written. The author stays quiet – listening, taking notes, but not responding to what is said. When everyone has spoken, the author then has the opportunity to respond what they have heard. Discussion can continue for the time available through the turn-taking method of the dialogue process. The author may also speak briefly at the very beginning if needed to position the article in relation to their current project or to provide some pertinent background. Preferably, however, the positioning and background is provided in advance as a cover note to the reading.

The virtues of this form of response to a shared reading are:

  1. the participants learn more about each other, exposing points of potential interactions;
  2. the author gets a chance to see their work through diverse prisms, with the focus moved off the written text and into the realm of wider and less direct influences;
  3. one-to-one exchanges are avoided – when the author joins in the discussion, too many points have been made for the author’s response to attend to each, one at a time. The risk is greatly reduced of the author focusing on a single point of limited interest to the group as a whole – something that happens in regular formats in which the author addresses comments from audience members.

This form is an adaptation of the practice at the Agrarian Studies Colloquium at Yale University, where the author is only allowed to speak after the end of the first of two hours devoted to discussion of their pre-circulated paper. In that colloquium, however, the focus stays on what the author has written and there is no quota of time for each participant to talk. The Colloquium practice derives partly from a feminist session group whose identity is now unknown.

(A possible new entry in a revised edition of Taking Yourself Seriously,


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