April 13, 2015 Leave a comment
We Know More Than We Are, At First, Prepared To Acknowledge: Journeying to Develop Critical Thinking, a paper from 2002, is now available at http://scholarworks.umb.edu/cct_ccrp/1/. Read more of this post
critical thinking & reflective practice
February 12, 2015 2 Comments
If you want to become a Reflective Practitioner, acquire a Growth Mindset, or become a Lifelong, self-directed Learner, you have to take initiative in relationships, such as those with your teachers, advisors and peers. At the same time, it is through the relationships you develop as you pursue these goals—including your relationship with yourself—that you find support for the risk-taking and change that is involved in taking initiative in relationships. Read more of this post
January 23, 2015 1 Comment
To any graduates of theCritical and Creative Thinking (CCT) graduate program, I would be grateful for your contributions to a project of mine this winter/spring, which is to convey well what it is that the CCT program produces. As I mentioned in an earlier post, an Instructional Design program produces instructional designers. An Applied Sociology program produces applied sociologists – people who can apply the theory and methods of the discipline of sociology to real-world problems. The Critical and Creative Thinking program produces, so we say, people who can “use the tools of critical thinking, creative thinking, and reflective practice to change this schools, workplaces, and lives.” What kind of “people” is that – what is their distinctive identity? In a world in which knowledge and credentials in a specialized field positions the person to take up opportunities and continue developing one’s knowledge and competencies through practice, how can the CCT program and its graduates explain to others – and to themselves – what is distinctive about CCT studies – what identity we develop?
In the earlier post, I coined the term “slow mode co-coach” for what the product of the program is. Perhaps we’ll come up with a new term. Anyway, what will help me develop my thinking about and explanation of the idea behind the term is for CCT students and graduates to post phrases from course projects or dialogues to convey your insights about how you changed through the course of your CCT studies. Thank you.
December 27, 2014 3 Comments
All my friends and colleagues feel pressed for time. There’s never enough of it—for work, family, friends, activism, staying healthy, eating well, household projects, or having time off. Yet we also feel that we waste a lot of time—in unproductive meetings, sifting out junk email, clicking on links, and so on. And we also slip into time wasting when we feel dissatisfied, distressed, disconnected, or even depressed because we haven’t made time for our important work, for hanging out with friends, and so on.
One response to this situation is to implement regime change: “From now on, I only do emails from 3-4 in the afternoon.” “I will stop working at 5pm and keep evenings and weekends clear for preparing dinner, family visits, household maintenance,…” Such measures sound good, but, like New Year’s Resolutions, don’t often get followed for long.
Another response is to acknowledge each of the different personas you have and assign time for each every day. Your roles might include, for example, dog walker and child’s homework supervisor, writer and reflective dreamer, administrator and teacher, household fix-it person and more. If the waking hours in your day only allow 50 minutes for your writer persona, at least you have kept it from being reduced to 0. (Why 50 minutes? Because it is necessary or, at least, healthy to take a 10-minute break every hour to get up and stretch, look out the window, make yourself a drink, change gears.) Conversely, if you confine your administrative role to 50 minutes, a long to-do list of tasks won’t eat at your relaxation during dog-walking time or at your attention during writing time. You will have done as much as your time allowed; what’s left will have to wait till the next day. If the “urgent” tasks don’t get done as soon as other people might have hoped, you are sending them a message not to assume that you are a super-person. At the same time, you are affirming to yourself that you value your other personas enough to protect time for them.
When you send to others that message about not being a super-person, you are also sending a message to yourself. The limits of what can be done in the time you can make available may lead you to decline requests to take on some additional task. You may factor into household budget funds to hire someone else to fix the broken downpipe; you may temper your ambitions about what writing you can complete, and so on. When this message to yourself sinks in ,you might move from frustration at what you are not getting done to appreciation of the quality of what you are doing when you take the time it takes.
(This post is a draft of a possible addition to Taking Yourself Seriously with a view to an expanded second edition.)
December 19, 2014 Leave a comment
Now consider this simpler image, where the light bulb stands for an idea or inspiration that a creative brain comes up with:
Even that additional elements of this logo from the Critical & Creative Thinking graduate program present a simple image:
B. The contrast between the first schema and the simpler images speaks to my sense of critical thinking as thinking that depends on inquiry being informed by a strong sense of how things could be otherwise. We understand things better when we have placed established facts, theories, and practices in tension with alternatives (Taylor 1995, cited in Taylor 2001).
C. Now consider the following three levels of analysis of gender in relation to knowledge-making (based on previous post [originally made 3/3/13 on a blog for a course Gender, Race, and the Complexities of Science and Technology ])
#2. Biases in knowledge and technologies [and language] that claim to represent progress, efficiency, or other universal interests,
but in practice promote the unequal social status of men over women.
#3. The pervasiveness of gender-like dualisms in which one category is subordinate to the other and complex spectra are purified into dichotomies.
The suppression of overlapping ranges, multiplicities and hybrids that trouble these conceptual schemes.
D. These three levels provide a set of tensions on which to build critical thinking. For example, if we observe under-recognition of contributions of women, we might look for places where women’s contributions are recognized and compare the two situations. Moreover, the set of tensions as a whole exists in tension with a fourth level, namely:
#4. The contribution of gendered resources among the heterogeneous resources that knowledge-makers link together over time as they construct and reconstruct established knowledge and reliable technologies.
What is a “resource” and what makes one “gendered”? A: “[R]esearchers establish knowledge and develop their practices through diverse and often modest practical choices, which is the same as saying they are involved in contingent and on-going mobilizing of materials, tools, people, [themes] and other resources into webs of interconnected resources” (Taylor 2005, 225). A gendered resource is, therefore, some material, tool, group of people, theme, and so on that is associated with one gender more than another (as in #1) or biases against women hidden underneath what is supposedly universal (as in #2) or viewing the world in dualisms that resonate with the preceding (as in #3). Lest this sound too negative, a very significant source of resources has been the existence of a feminist movement(s) that provides solidarity and support around efforts to contest the inequalities.
A further tension (for critical thinking) is that people talk about angles #1-3 as if they have weight on their own, not as part of the complexity of #4. Yet another tension is seeing such talk as a resource, among others, in the heterogeneous construction.
E. Look back at the initial schema. The *’s denote multiple points of engagement. Using the critical thinking tensions above can be a way to insert gender into the intersection of strands (or heterogeneous construction). No engagement on its own suffices to change the focal outcome; they need to be linked together and even then there is no guarantee that the outcome will shift the way intended. Linking engagements together means collaborating with others given that each person’s position, skills, and resources prepares them only for a subset of possible engagements.
F. The idea of collaboration in linking multiple, partial engagements within intersecting strands that do not guarantee an outcome recalls a metaphor from my paper, “We know more than we are, at first, prepared to acknowledge“: “One’s development as a critical thinker is like a personal journey into unfamiliar or unknown areas. Both involve risk, open up questions, create more experiences than can be integrated at first sight, require support, yields personal change, and so on.”
This picture is different from the view of critical thinking as scrutinizing the reasoning, assumptions, and evidence behind claims. And from critical as judgement and finding fault according to some standards. Journeying draws attention to the inter- and intra-personal dimensions of people developing their thinking.
G. This picture of critical thinking parallels the picture of creative thinking as a process in context that led me to adapt a schema for the heterogeneous construction of knowledge into the original schema in this post:
Each of us navigates the distributed complexity in part by trying to impart order according to our sense of our self—our identity, aspirations or goals, and will to choose among goals and move towards them.
We achieve some goals and then have greater capacity, knowledge, skills, plans, and direction to keep moving and developing.
We also have setbacks and revise our goals. Indeed, our self-directedness can be buffeted or even threatened by the order-imparting efforts of other people navigating their distributed complexities.
Yet relationships with others are a source of resources and support (material, emotional, etc.) from outside ourselves, which help shape how far and in what directions our movement and development happens.
Relationships are also a source of unplanned conjunctions or intersections that we draw from.
Such connections can help us to not simply continue along previous lines and, at the same time, to clarify our sense of directedness as individuals.
H. In one sense this picture is about the complexity of angle #4 on gender in relation to knowledge-making. In another sense — a sense in tension with that — the picture reminds us of a simple theme often associated with feminist analyses: interdependency and interrelatedness is the foundation for our existence — from the single celled zygote to the newborn and onwards.
I. Two parting questions, repeated from the previous post: a) What case studies and situations in the material world to engage in in order to complement the abstraction of A-H? b) How does this all translate into the terms used by feminist teachers now and in previous decades?
Taylor, Peter J. (2001) “We know more than we are, at first, prepared to acknowledge: Journeying to develop critical thinking,” http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/journey.html
—- (2005) Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.