Puzzles about Process: Audio reflection after a 4-day workshop

30-minute audio reflecting on puzzles or conundrums about organizing, facilitating, and evaluating a “Connecting-Probing-Reflecting” space, in this case, the 2014 New England Workshop on Science and Social Change:

  • How to bring people back to the base of the ‘ladder of inference,” when some of the observable facts involve people’s emotional responses to words, arrangements, etc.
  • Is it necessary to separate organizer and facilitator roles?
  • Emphasizing time discipline versus allowing conversations in the moment to take precedence?
  • What does delegation entail?
  • Why is it important to take stock of any activity, change, or structure; moreover, to record and make available that stock-taking?
  • Why is that important to me personally?
  • Emphasizing protecting time to make progress on the projects each person came to the workshop with (including digesting any evaluation of work-in-progress presentations) versus accepting that making connections is equally or even more important even if it reduces the project time.

Additional reflections may be added after digesting the critical incident questionnaire responses from the end of the workshop.

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).

One Response to Puzzles about Process: Audio reflection after a 4-day workshop

  1. Teryl says:

    Thank you for this reflection. I found it especially helpful to think of the meaning of the word delegate–how much and why. The ladder of inference for organizing and facilitating sort of branch out from there…what we learn from the blurring of the roles and from the boundaries. In some ways ladders are not linear when taking stock is included.
    I think there are different kinds or levels of taking stock (a whole class worth), some of which are better to move a person forward. The puzzle for me was not as much in the tension of doing projects or connecting to people as a matter of time, but the decision of where to change–not just socially or academically, but recognizing the pattern of the road normally taken toward people or project oriented growth. If the participants had to map out their time for independent thinking or connecting on the fourth day of the workshop-to delegate the organizing and facilitating of taking stock to them which maybe is already done, where would they tilt the uneven distribution and why? Could they be trusted to record or go back to take stock in an upward spiral rather than merely circling back–or using my ladder of assumption–are workshops in general a bit like unaccountable “moving on” without people realizing “they are saying the same things they did six months ago?” How do you keep a workshop working or is that counter to its purpose?
    In some ways the lack of paper and the decision of what to do and some not recognizing the problem was a good analogy of the struggle. A person could also choose not to do the activity, to use other material, to directly ask the presenter to provide or even see if the other participants would share theirs–all various forms of delegation I suppose. It could even become one of those anxiety rich PBL exercises where the lack of paper or “uneven distribution” is deliberate.

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