Making Space for Taking Initiative In and Through Relationships ( a video)

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,

Autobiographical Introductions

In extended autobiographical introductions at the start of a workshop, discussion group, or CPR space, each participant takes the same amount of time, say five minutes or 15 minutes, to describe how they came to be a person who would join a workshop, discussion group, or whatever on the topic it has. The form of the autobiographical introduction will differ from person to person – some may choose to start with their childhood and move forward; others may choose to elaborate on recent activities before making reference to some formative experiences. Some may emphasize events; others how events were experienced.  The focus is on listening so the speaker should not be questioned except to clarify and name or point that did not come across clearly.  If a participant finishes the introduction before the allotted time, the facilitator invites them to elaborate on some aspect. The additional material that then emerges often provides new richness and depth to this story.

When participants have the opportunity to introduce themselves in this way, many points of potential interaction are exposed. To foster connections, participants are encouraged to take notes when they see intersections with themselves and areas that spark other interest or curiosity. After each introduction, participants can provide the speaker with “connections and extensions” feedback (on a piece of paper, a chat box, or a pre-prepared online form if the meeting is online). This might give one point of intersection with the listener’s interests and one direction the listener could imagine the speaker’s work being extended. Time permitting, the connections and extensions sheet can include also a question the listener would like to take up with the speaker.

When introductions are long, say 10 or 15 minutes, it helps to take a break after every third speaker and have discussions in pairs about what is emerging for the listeners. At the end, pairwise discussions can allow participants to air what they forgot to say that is significant to them. If time permits, the group as a whole can use the turn-taking dialogue process to share what arose in the pairs or otherwise to respond to what was being said.

When autobiographical interactions work as intended, a group not only has an abundance of points of potential interaction to build on, but a basis for trust and taking risks with the other participants.

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

What is it that it is (producing)?

To any graduates of theCritical and Creative Thinking (CCT) graduate program, I would be grateful for your contributions to a project of mine this winter/spring, which is to convey well what it is that the CCT program produces. As I mentioned in an earlier post, an Instructional Design program produces instructional designers.  An Applied Sociology program produces applied sociologists – people who can apply the theory and methods of the discipline of sociology to real-world problems. The Critical and Creative Thinking program produces, so we say, people who can “use the tools of critical thinking, creative thinking, and reflective practice to change this schools, workplaces, and lives.” What kind of “people” is that – what is their distinctive identity? In a world in which knowledge and credentials in a specialized field positions the person to take up opportunities and continue developing one’s knowledge and competencies through practice, how can the CCT program and its graduates explain to others – and to themselves – what is distinctive about CCT studies – what identity we develop?

In the earlier post, I coined the term “slow mode co-coach” for what the product of the program is.  Perhaps we’ll come up with a new term.  Anyway, what will help me develop my thinking about and explanation of the idea behind the term is for CCT students and graduates to post phrases from course projects or dialogues to convey your insights about how you changed through the course of your CCT studies. Thank you.

Making time and taking the time

All my friends and colleagues feel pressed for time.  There’s never enough of it—for work, family, friends, activism, staying healthy, eating well, household projects, or having time off.  Yet we also feel that we waste a lot of time—in unproductive meetings, sifting out junk email, clicking on links, and so on.  And we also slip into time wasting when we feel dissatisfied, distressed, disconnected, or even depressed because we haven’t made time for our important work, for hanging out with friends, and so on.

One response to this situation is to implement regime change: “From now on, I only do emails from 3-4 in the afternoon.”  “I will stop working at 5pm and keep evenings and weekends clear for preparing dinner, family visits, household maintenance,…”  Such measures sound good, but, like New Year’s Resolutions, don’t often get followed for long.

Another response is to acknowledge each of the different personas you have and assign time for each every day.  Your roles might include, for example, dog walker and child’s homework supervisor, writer and reflective dreamer, administrator and teacher, household fix-it person and more.  If the waking hours in your day only allow 50 minutes for your writer persona, at least you have kept it from being reduced to 0.  (Why 50 minutes?  Because it is necessary or, at least, healthy to take a 10-minute break every hour to get up and stretch, look out the window, make yourself a drink, change gears.)  Conversely, if you confine your administrative role to 50 minutes, a long to-do list of tasks won’t eat at your relaxation during dog-walking time or at your attention during writing time.  You will have done as much as your time allowed; what’s left will have to wait till the next day.  If the “urgent” tasks don’t get done as soon as other people might have hoped, you are sending them a message not to assume that you are a super-person.  At the same time, you are affirming to yourself that you value your other personas enough to protect time for them.

When you send to others that message about not being a super-person, you are also sending a message to yourself.  The limits of what can be done in the time you can make available may lead you to decline requests to take on some additional task.  You may factor into household budget funds to hire someone else to fix the broken downpipe; you may temper your ambitions about what writing you can complete, and so on.  When this message to yourself sinks in ,you might move from frustration at what you are not getting done to appreciation of the quality of what you are doing when you take the time it takes.

(This post is a draft of a possible addition to Taking Yourself Seriously with a view to an expanded second edition.)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 160 other followers