Vertical-unity—a bio for the person behind the creative project

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.  One of Ben’s requirements is to write a bio for the person behind the creative project.

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6 June 2011
Bio-First draft
“Now it is no longer possible simply to continue along previous lines,” remarked one participant at the close of a workshop for ecological researchers and students I co-organized in the late 1980s. Participants had identified and mapped the diversity of things that motivated, facilitated, or constrained their inquiries and their action. The ideal was that they woudl become able to self-consciously modify their social situatedness and their research together, perhaps in collaborations formed with other workshop participants.

The ideal was hard to realize, but the workshop prefigured the combination Probe-Connect-Create Change-Reflect that I now see as central to my efforts to foster critical thinking and reflective practice in the life and environmental sciences, teaching and learning, and institutional/organizational development. From the late 1990s to the present I have pursued this work from a base in UMass Boston’s Critical & Creative Thinking (CCT) graduate program. In CCT we challenge and support mid-career and career-changing students to take themselves seriously. One track in CCT is “Science in a Changing World,” which is also the umbrella term for several initiatives I lead in and beyond the University in which researchers and students develop ways to make contributions to topics concerning the sciences and their social contexts.

There is an ambiguity at the heart of this work. I am persistently critical thinker, raising alternatives that can be held in tension with what others had accepted as established. I allow this to distance me from the sustained negotiated collaborations in less-than-ideal, real-world contexts. In my teaching and workshop settings you can learn about and gain experiences of tools and processes for Probing, Connecting, Planning for making Changes, and Reflecting. You can also get my encouragement for Creating Change.  But don’t expect me to be so helpful in demonstrating how to realize change in your particular situations. You might say, “No problem—that’s my responsibility.” But let me warn you that opening up possibilities of change while moving on to further critical thinking is a shadow (in Parker Palmer’s sense) that accompanies my work and life; there’s some unfaithfulness there that detracts from what I offer.

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About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, http://bit.ly/NNN2014). On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012, http://bit.ly/TYS2012).

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