The global Paleyian university

For this case borrow the internet further so that offices, classrooms, or the university can be retrofitted. Not rebuilt from scratch, but respecting the infrastructure that is already in place.  (source)

Instead of a retrofit, this design sketch promotes inversion or turning inside out or perhaps gastrulation. (In the embryological process of gastrulation the initial ball of cells invaginates so that some of the outside is now inside and that new inside is in interaction with the outside, creating a new interactions.)  Unpacking that picture, we have three steps:  Read more of this post

Educational Association, a proposal from 1985

Found in the basement archives:

Read more of this post

Comparing graduation in 6 years is a way to penalize colleges that serve students with lower average SES & SATs

A. Two colleges; one has retention rate 90% of the other. After 4 years, the graduation rate of the lower-retention college will be 66% of the other. 66% looks much worse than 90%.

B. Retention rate is easy to calculate, so use this to compare colleges and for any particular college to set a target. Read more of this post

Transformational education — a contrast or tension

A connection between personal transformation and social change has characterized “transformative learning” since Mezirow’s original 1978 formulation of this approach to adult education.  This connection is, as schematized in figure 1, that beliefs, values, ways of thinking, assumptions, frames of reference, or self-awareness are called into question and transformed; the resulting, more critical and inclusive perspectives at the personal level are then applied to promote wider change through education, institutions, policy, and social movements. In my view an additional level, between the personal and social, is important (figure 2): well-organized, sustainable studios or work spaces in which creative projects, collaboration, and reflection on wider engagements are fostered.

Figure 1.  Transformational learning emphasizes students changing beliefs, values, etc. and on this basis influencing justice in society (perhaps through organizational change)

Figure 2.  Creative and Transformative Education emphasizes lifelong development of inquiry and engagement that centers on the studio or workshop space as a base from which to advance inner and organizational changes and reflect back on them.

Some thinking on creative and transformative education

A. Tension and provisional response

“After training and experience in their original fields or specialties, many professionals are ready to extend their reach so as to take well-researched and thoughtful roles in teaching and collaborating with others to be creative and transformative in diverse settings…”  (personal notes on creative and transformative education)

“A few years ago an experienced facilitator admonished me not to think too much about how to support the translation into everyday work and life of tools and processes introduced in a workshop setting. The advice was to the effect that tools and processes are taken up only if they are introduced in actual work settings….”  PT, from

Provisional response to tension:  Read more of this post

“What’s the use of it?” (PBL in graduate education)

Is project-based learning (PBL) in graduate education useful? asked a very productive and engaged researcher and teacher. Some responses and further questions:

1. PBL allows some students to identify paths that they want to follow, in contrast to doing what they think they should be doing (or think that other people think they should be doing). In this sense PBL is a form of “refractive practice” (, in which we stop and take stock (through reflection, dialogue, and other processes), and thereby

“prepar[e] for any step before proceeding either:

  • from one phase to another,
  • on from an activity or event,
  • into dialogue with others, or
  • at a branch point, when choosing an activity or path to pursue.”


Recurrent episodes or even creative habits of refractive practice provide opportunities to “not simply continue along previous lines.” PBL is useful to the extent that continuing along previous lines keeps us on paths that, in the end, we are not happy with, or that we would have preferred to have diverged from.

2. PBL courses are a form of “CPR space,” where CPR stands for connecting, probing, and reflecting, which “while keeping in view the realms of critical academic work and participation in social movements, is separate from them” ( This is useful for the same reasons as in #1.

3. The tools and processes used in refractive practice and creating CPR spaces provide models for adoption and adaption into other areas of work and life.

4. The experience of participation and collaboration in PBL courses “buoys participants’ enthusiasm, hope, resolve, and courage for creating change and making transitions in situations that may–at least at first–feel far from the spirit of the [course]” (

5. This last claim–or hope–warrants scrutiny. From

A few years ago an experienced facilitator admonished me not to think too much about how to support the translation into everyday work and life of tools and processes introduced in a workshop setting. The advice was to the effect that tools and processes are taken up only if they are introduced in actual work settings.

In contrast to dominant theories of innovation and diffusion of innovations,

the default situation [becomes] one in which people are entangled, but open to change through new encounters. Efforts to innovate outside those contexts can be seen as stepping away from entanglements. What do people (such as myself) lose by positioning themselves in that way?

(Contrasting diagrams: conventional, entangled)

Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research and Engagement, now published

Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research and Engagement by Peter Taylor and Jeremy Szteiter is now available.  This is a “field-book of tools and processes to help readers in all fields develop as researchers, writers, and agents of change.”

(For more details and how to purchase: Printing and distribution in Australia and Europe is being arranged.)

This is the first of what I hope will be more books published by the new press, named after a 1980s Somerville-Cambridge discussion group, itself named after an old Pumping Station on the Charles River in Waltham with a gesture to a quote by Henry Moore about one of his sculptures: “it had great drama with its big heart like a great pumping station.”

Comments on the Taking Yourself Seriously approach to developing as a researcher, writer and agent of change

a healthcare professional and story-teller
“I learned is to ‘hold my ideas loosely’, which means accepting my own idea
as a valid one but always leaving space open to take in counterarguments.”

“I learned to give myself permission to be circular and come back to previous steps or thoughts, and I actually became more comfortable doing so.”

“I was able to get engaged in a project that I was able to actually use in work, which was extremely satisfying. The whole process encouraged me, and I felt very empowered as a change agent, which could be an exhilarating feeling.”

a biologist-turned-web designer
“I really had not been used to thinking about my own thinking, so learning
to do that also helped me to slow down and start to look away from the career path that I had been taking for granted.”

“Many of my colleagues… went to school to become web developers but
[this approach] allowed me to believe that traditional classes are not always necessary to learn. [The] teachings, which included networking, self-study, research, meta-cognition, and enjoying the process (in an organized way),
kept me believing that I could learn what was necessary to succeed on my own.”

a teacher
“Doing good research involves not just letting the information of others supersede your own, but thinking about your own understanding as lying at the top of past research, standing beyond it but also being supported by it.”

“I found that my experience in the courses helped me to accept feedback
from other professionals. I am more comfortable with listening to why my own ideas might not work or need further evaluation. This even happens to the point where I find reasons now to seek out this kind of feedback.”

“I have become much more patient with people, recognizing more fully that people have their own timelines and that students need to have some
freedom to say when they have had enough during a learning experience.”

“I now consider reflection and sharing an important part of evolution of a person in their learning. Reflection means not only thinking about our own experiences and retrieving memories or feelings, but also then sharing reflections with others as a way of allowing the self to receive feedback.
Doing this shows a sophistication as a learner.”

an adult educator
“I took away the idea of putting one’s action into a ritual, where the ritual is
a way of helping oneself create some consistency in organizing the process of work and even developing habits of work that have a sacred quality.”

“I had viewed research as a process of collecting information into a sort of database and reviewing it effectively. I have now revised my notions to
include a more broad understanding of interconnectedness between people and ideas. An important part of research is to keep relationships going.”

“I liked the way that [I learned] to play with confusion and to consider this
in my own teaching. I have come to see confusion mostly as an indication that people are uncomfortable with freedom and want to get comfortable by knowing what is expected.”

“[The approach has] had a profound effect on my professional development
as an educator. The “system”… for getting graduate students to “take themselves seriously” cultivates graduate students’ ability to work through big projects of diverse forms. The methods I learned from [this] approach have been a tremendous benefit to me as a writer, educator, presenter, and in organizing my personal projects as well.”

a teacher, currently working in publishing
“One of the most useful idea from the courses was the use of dialogue,
which helps to slow down the procedures used by the company. There’s a tension between management’s need to make quick decisions and desire to have real dialogue around proposed changes—changes to the internal company operational procedures as well as to evaluating the quality of what the company is doing with its publications.”

“[This approach has] instilled in me a sense of responsibility and empowerment to be an agent of change for the betterment of my professional and personal communities.”

a college librarian
“I was asked to pay attention to what I actually could do instead of what I could not. This enabled me to (1) step back and let go of a huge technical problem (that I really had no ability or interest to solve), and (2) identify where my actual interest rested and actual skills intersected with what
needed to be done. I realized that I could unite my passion to advance visual
thinking with my skills in communication and group facilitation.”

%d bloggers like this: