Against plenary sessions

Listening to what is said in a plenary session is my least favorite aspect of a conference or workshop. In fact, let me assert that there should be no time spent in plenary sessions, only activities that elicit reflection, making of connections, and new insights. Logistics and other announcements could be made in written materials or only after sessions in which participants have first experienced “connecting, probing, reflecting” (CPR).
Some suggested CPR activities follow:

Freewriting on hopes for the workshop
Autobiographical introductions, followed by
Connections and extensions feedback
Five-phase dialogue hours
Definitional ceremonies
Jig-saw discussions of pre-circulated readings
Sense of place mapping
Supportive Listening
Future Ideal Retrospective
Historical Scan
One-on-one consultations
Work-in-progress presentation


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, On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012,

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