Vertical-unity—a listing of possible elements

Continuing a series of posts on the development of the Collaborative for Exploration of Scientific and Political Change within the framework of Ben Schwendener’s Seminar on Creativity.


6 June ’11
Angles and themes
1. Mutual aid and free association
2. Critical thinking and reflective practice.

  • CT involves holding ideas and practices in tension with alternatives [vs. accepting what is taken for granted]. From
  • Critical thinking at this level should not depend on students rejecting conventional accounts, but they do have to move through uncertainty. Their knowledge is, at least for a time, destabilized; what has been established cannot be taken for granted. Students can no longer expect that if they just wait long enough the teacher will provide complete and tidy conclusions; instead they have to take a great deal of responsibility for their own learning. Anxieties inevitably arise for students when they have to respond to new situations knowing that the teacher will not act as the final arbiter of their success. A high level of critical thinking is possible when students explore such anxieties and gain the confidence to face uncertainty and ambiguity.

3. Engagement with unruly complexity

  • situations that involve heterogeneous components, develop over time, and are embedded in wider dynamics

4. Flexible engagement
5. Open spaces (between activism and academic research)

  • practicing with tools and processes and building connections and, on this basis, making contributions to the topic

6. Respect -> Risk -> Revelation -> Re-engagement
7. Opening up access to the production of scientific knowledge and technologies.
8. Facilitator in #4, 5,6 is also a learner.

  • That is consistent with #1.

9. Vertical unity versus horizontal-change
10. “Mandala” = 5 aspects of Making space for taking initiative in and through relationships = “negotiate power/standards,” “horizontal community,” “develop autonomy,” “acknowledge afftect,” and “be here now” plus “Embrace diversity”
11. Heterogeneity (e.g., of elements in vertical-unity, in the Rs of the CCT experience, in conditions for a successful workshop)
12. We know more than we are, at first, able to acknowledge,, especially a-j on teaching & facilitating critical thinking
13. Sense-making contextualization

  • a) The essence of the project is…
  • b) The reason(s) I took this road is (are)…
  • c) The best of what I have achieved is…
  • d) What has been particularly helpful to me in this project has been…
  • e) What has hindered me has been…
  • f) What I am struggling with is…
  • g) What would help me now is…

14. Reevaluation of emotions at the root of a response so as to better take initiative


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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