Guided tour of my teaching ’05-’09: community-building, wikis & documentation

Although I have taught fewer classes because of course releases under research grants and for administration, the seven strands of the previous two phases [see previous posts] continued, but with additions or extensions in four significant and overlapping directions:

  • Sustained faculty discussions & community building around interdisciplinary research and teaching
    ISHS — Intercollege faculty Seminar in Humanities and Science, since 2004. “A forum for discussion and interaction among faculty at UMass-Boston. Faculty from different disciplines and colleges come together to focus on topics of common interest, exchange ideas, renew their intellectual energy, and advance their work in a spirit of adventure and collaboration.”
    HiSReDG — Health in Society Research Discussion Group, since 2008. “Monthly meetings for interaction among UMB faculty & doctoral students who have (or are developing) an epidemiological focus (broadly construed) to their research and teaching.”
    Themes, Practices, Resources for Faculty-initiated Mentoring, Feb. ’08 presentation to GCE tenure-track faculty about teaching having a value in itself, not only as the tenure review committee evaluates it.
  • Use of web2.0 to extend interactions during and beyond face2face classtime and other activities
    Wikis (CCT, including an evolving compilation of “Summaries or Substantive Statements”, Science in a Changing World, course wikis).
    Social networks, e.g., CCT “ning”
    Podcasts (e.g., CCT Network events)
  • Developing the “vertical” community of students, alums, and part-timers
    The CCT Network, initiated in 2008 (building on previous thinktanks & outreach activities) aims to: 

    • organize, in a sustainable fashion, personal & professional development, community building, and educational-innovation activities beyond the formal CCT program of studies.
    • supplement students’ education through the involvement of alums.
    • continue alums’ education by their involvement in the education of students and each other.
  • Fostering a “Science in a Changing World” emphasis in undergraduate & graduate courses, faculty discussions, and workshops, including
    New graduate-level courses serving students from a variety of programs and backgrounds (Science, Technology & Public Policy [now, Scientific & Political Change], Epidemiological Thinking & Population Health, and Gender, Race & the Complexities of Science & Technology (offered through the inter-campus Consortium for Women’s Studies and experimenting with the use of PBL throughout the course)
    Faculty discussions (see above)
    Workshops (especially NewSSC [described above] — the workshop is now in its 6th year)

Related thought-pieces and compilations of exhibits
Teaching/Learning for Reflective Practice

  • snapshots from Peter’s journey teaching research and other courses for the Critical and Creative Thinking (CCT) Graduate Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston. CCT, despite the “thinking” in its name, is about changing practice. [An essay included in Taking Yourself Seriously, see below]

“Cultivating Collaborators: Concepts and Questions Emerging Interactively From An Evolving, Interdisciplinary Workshop” (with S. Fifield & C. Young) [an analysis of the effect of the interactive processes at NewSSC workshops]

An overview of Case- or problem-based learning, which begins from a Scenario in which the problems are not well defined.

Taking Yourself Seriously, A Fieldbook of Processes of Research and Engagement (with Jeremy Szteiter)

  • Why another book on research and writing? In short, because the approach presented here is not well covered by other texts. Whatever your level of confidence and comfort in research and writing, this book provides ways for you to become more “engaged.” There may be a specific question or a general issue that you think is worth investigating, but how important is that inquiry to you personally? Does it reflect your aspirations, or is the inquiry more directed to meet the expectations of others? Will it help you take action to change your work, life, or wider social arrangements? Will it help you build relationships with others in such action, in pursuing the inquiry effectively and communicating the outcomes? For a car to run its gears need to be engaged with each other; so also your research and writing will progress well if you can bring into alignment your questions and ideas, your aspirations, your ability to take or influence action, and your relationships with other people. This integration of the 4H’s—head, heart, hands, and human connections—is what we mean by taking yourself seriously.

About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor teaches and directs programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He studies the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context as well as innovation in teaching, group process, and interdisciplinary collaboration (see He is especially interested in conversations with others who are, in diverse ways, "troubled by heterogeneity" (

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