Slow and Move mode in a graduate program for personal and professional development

An attempt to clarify what I think we do in the graduate program in Critical & Creative Thinking at UMass Boston.  I think we can claim to prepare students for the roles just above the edge of the red oval, but not for the two MOVE roles across the top. Moreover, I don’t think the Program can or should compete with organizations and people who focus on the MOVE mode in government, corporations, consulting, and education.


Thoughts welcome — do you see yourself in here? what is left out? hidden?  Does this warrant updating of the following overview statement for the Program?

The Critical and Creative Thinking (CCT) program at the University of Massachusetts Boston provides its students with knowledge, tools, experience, and support so they can become constructive, reflective agents of change in education, work, social movements, science, and creative arts.

Critical thinking, creative thinking, and reflective practice are valued, of course, in all fields. In critical thinking we seek to scrutinize the assumptions, reasoning, and evidence brought to bear on an issue-by others and by oneself; such scrutiny is enhanced by placing ideas and practices in tension with alternatives. Key functions of creative thinking include generating alternative ideas, practices, and solutions that are unique and effective, and exploring ways to confront complex, messy, ambiguous problems, make new connections, and see how things could be otherwise. In reflective practice we take risks and experiment in putting ideas into practice, then take stock of the outcomes and revise our approaches accordingly.

The rationale for a distinct Masters and Certificate program of study in CCT is that an explicit and sustained focus on learning and applying ideas and tools in critical thinking, creative thinking, and reflective practice allows students involved in a wide array of professions and endeavors to develop clarity and confidence to make deep changes in their learning, teaching, work, activism, research, and artistry. By the time CCT students finish their studies they are prepared to teach or guide others in ways that often depart markedly from their previous schooling and experience.   In these processes of transformation and transfer, CCT students have to select and adapt the ideas and tools presented by faculty with diverse disciplinary and interdisciplinary concerns.


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" (

9 Responses to Slow and Move mode in a graduate program for personal and professional development

  1. I like the progression from micro (personal) to macro (corporate production). It seems to me that the meso-level spaces you’ve detailed are the key in helping individuals link and contextualize their personal pathways with larger forces. When I think about engagement processes is this development from individual self-interested to social and community change that is critical and the meso-level or intermediary spaces that help smooth and strengthen the ability for individuals to come together collectively.

    I think this is one of the strengths of the CCT program. It respects individual growth and development, but always in the a context and larger forces. There are lots of potential and existing structures that help link individual to society. What is it about CCT and the tools and methods it uses that might be more creative, productive, and impactful? Or are they? What does CCT offer that other systems and structures don’t?

  2. > is the idea that the emphasis in CCT is the area of the oval, where students might move in some way through that region and progress toward some points on the edge of the oval?


    > And that an open question to be pondered right now is about how/if/whether the boundaries of the oval might stretch/change to cover the region of the axes differently?

    good question.
    i’m thinking the oval could get stretched to the right so that we got students into the program with design-like life and work projects, which they would advance by weaving in the items inside the oval.
    the schema (and discussions with MassArt) have also made me see that we need to give explicit attention to teaching/coaching students to build “studios” (see

    however, in general, i’m thinking that CCT faculty being clear about our limits — that we’re not specializing in preparing students for any of the change agent roles — could be positive. not going after all opportunities would leave us time to build and maintain studio spaces for our own life and work projects, which are not coterminous with running the CCT Program.

  3. I like the schematic–it is elegant and contains a lot in a simple form. It helped me to have the comments to reflect upon and wonder if maybe in some way this diagram could be included with the CCT overview.

    • Perhaps:
      In these processes of transformation and transfer, CCT students are expected to bring their emerging work/life projects into play as they select and adapt the ideas and tools presented by faculty with diverse disciplinary or interdisciplinary concerns and work/life projects of their own.

  4. Perhaps the CCT Program could be seen as a process of slow design for producing slow designers?

  5. I’m also thinking that the “virtues” of slow design also flow from its limitations. Building on the post (, if a person is always already embedded in entanglements then they start above the red oval and need to be drawn down inside it to add tools & processes to their way of navigating that embedded entanglement. If a person sees themselves as designing something that they have to get others to take up, then they may begin from inside the red oval and see if they can build up to a place where they can emerge out of that oval. (Or, in the language of adoption of innovations, cross the gap or chasm and get taken up.)

  6. How interesting to have the two different designers in the process–one to get out of his entanglement by going into the space and one to draw others into it by working out of it into the gap. The virtues of designing slow designers may take awhile to be appreciated–people are slow to believe in taking their time about anything but I like that this answers Felicia’s question about what CCT offers that other systems and structures don’t.

  7. A quick animated & narrated version of the schema:

  8. Todd Erickson says:

    Perhaps it is a result of the order in which I took courses, with Metacognition taking place about halfway through the program, but I find that the ability to think coherently about one’s own thinking is really the center of the CCT program. Even in circumstances when that ability is believed or felt to be absent, one applies metacognition in executive thinking to make adjustments (indeed, upon recognition, one already is applying it). Metacognition (to me) seems to be implied by all of the components within the red circle. I wondered how the chart might indicate this, as well as the program description. What CCT has done for me, is make me aware of my own metacognition–it shifts the balance into more conscious awareness of one’s own thinking, which ultimately requires and enables reflection, slowing down, the comfortable doubt of philosophy. Strangely, though, I don’t often see the term itself come up very much outside of that particular course. A Masters in Metacognition might not have the connection to more popular and less technical connotations of critical and creative thinking, but in truth I think that’s what I’m working towards.

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