Addressing responses to my introductions of tools and processes of refractive practice

Response 1: “I like to experiment and play with new tools and processes.  I then set out to learn more if the first experience intrigues me, then I find ways to practice the tools and processes in my real-life work.”

Addressing response 1:  That is my personal response as well, so it colors what I hope for in others.

Response 2.  “I want what I do and any changes that I make to my practice to count, that is, to relate to some engagement that matters to me and others.”

(This recalls advice given to me not to try to teach tools and processes outside of an actual work situation.)

Yes, but:

  • A focus on product often squelches process or perpetuates conventional processes even when they are inefficient.
  • Processes often need to be practiced (preferably in safe circumstances) because they do not work brilliantly the first time or are misunderstood or need to be digested, made one’s own.


I should flag for any group that I facilitate that we are in teaching/learning mode

(which is generally recognized and accepted, even when inefficient)


Teaching and learning tools and processes is best achieved through doing.

A series of tensions thus arise:

Seeking evidence that the tool/process will be useful before agreeing to join in vs. Best evidence is from experience of joining in wholeheartedly
Purpose is to learn the tool/process vs. Purpose is to address the scenario used for the teaching/learning activity
Time taken to experiment vs. time needed to get on with the real-life work
Someone has the designated teacher role vs. Other views of best process arise given the assumption of participatory processes that everyone has something to contribute
Tools/processes can trigger emotional responses that invite re-evaluation (given that they may be as much about past experiences as about the current one) vs. Protecting oneself from bad feelings by exiting, by disengaging, or by opting out beforehand
Simplicity (usually apparent, i.e., behind which there is hidden complexity) vs. Acknowledging the complexity throughout

Addressing response 2:

  • Flag for any group that I facilitate that we are in teaching/learning mode.
  • Acknowledge tensions that arise when teaching/learning is done through doing.
  • In any process, it is OK to pass and come back to you later.  Indeed, it is OK to opt out without providing a justification.
  • The teaching role is taken with a commitment to taking stock at various points and making changes in the future.
  • Elaborate on the theory about product often squelching process or perpetuating conventional processes even when they are inefficient and about processes needing to be practiced

Response 3.  “Before being asked to change my practice, I want to know who you are that is trying to get me to do that.”

Addressing response 3:

  • It is completely reasonable that prospective participant wants to know the person who says or implies that change is worthwhile.  That getting to know the tool/process exponent might involve building a personal relationship through dialogue or a shared purpose.
  • Show that I am in for the long haul.
  • Arrange for assistants who a) can have side conversations that multiply perspectives on what is going on; and b) can feed back their impressions of specific issues that need to be addressed for specific people.
  • Admit my limitations, especially when I will not be around lone enough to (re)gain trust, and thus invite people not to get involved if that is a concern.
  • Provide a schema that illustrates my awareness of the complexity of considerations involved in working with different people in new initiatives,

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" (

2 Responses to Addressing responses to my introductions of tools and processes of refractive practice

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