The ethics of participatory processes: Dynamic flux, open questions

This essay arose from a workshop on ecological ethics.  It is a thought-piece about possibilities, more than an analysis of a actual practice.  But I have found myself coming back to it for the framing it provides in the combination of “five ideals for a ‘dynamic flux ethics’—engagement, participation, cultivating collaborators, transversality, and fostering curiosity.”

Yesterday, in response to a student’s term paper, I thought that, esoteric language aside, these ideals could inform education from an early age. Today, I am thinking that, despite the pressure to get active now in response to the radical right wing take-over of government power at many levels in the USA, any course of action could be evaluated in terms of whether it met all five ideals, described in brief here.

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Guidelines for personnel procedures giving value to the various dimensions of scholarship of engagement

This post draws attention to the guidelines for personnel procedures of the College of Education and Human Development of the University of Massachusetts Boston. They can serve as a model to be adopted and adapted for a) units that don’t have explicit or detailed guidelines; and b) giving value to the various dimensions of scholarship of engagement. Read more of this post

Evaluation of educational change

These notes capture the state of evolution at the end of Spring ’01 of a graduate course on Evaluation of Educational Change that later became Action Research for Educational, Professional and Personal Change (using a framework described in the book Taking Yourself Seriously, http://bit.ly/TYS2012). Read more of this post

Collaborative Explorations to improve the learning that museums try to foster?

It has occurred to me that Collaborative Explorations offer a model (i.e., something to be adopted and adapted) for improving the learning that museums try to stimulate through their exhibitions.  This thought came as I noted how underwhelmed I am by the efforts of science museums, even ones like the Exploratorium,  to engage visitors.   Even when I have fun with the interactive exhibits or enjoy the spectator ones I rarely emerge from the museum with a thread that I can build on and end up with knowledge and understanding that feels creative to have arrived at.
The CE model (adapted from http://wp.me/p1gwfa-x2) allows us to to experiment with ways to address the needs of learners who want to:
a) dig deeper, make “thicker” connections with other learners;
b) connect topics with their own interests;
c) participate for shorter periods than a course in a classroom (or MOOC); and
d) learn without needing degree or other credits for completion of a course.

I think we could do something interesting in this spirit with a group of 6 at a museum (with access to the internet) in say, 90 minutes.  (After all, even at the Louvre or the Uffizi, one’s eyes/brains don’t take in much after an hour.)  I haven’t worked out the details, but the thought seemed worth sharing.
(None of this speaks to the museum’s collection side, which I do appreciate.)

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: http://bit.ly/TYS2012. 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.”

Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research and Engagement

Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research and Engagement is the working title of a book by Peter Taylor and Jeremy Szteiter that assembles the tools and processes from research and writing courses taught in the Graduate Program in Critical and Creative Thinking.  The most up to date version of the book can be viewed at http://cct.wikispaces.umb.edu/TYS (and associated links, including a link to a full pdf of the book).

For your research and writing to progress well, your questions and ideas need to be in alignment with your aspirations, your ability to take or influence action, and your relationships with other people. Shorten these items to head, heart, hands, and human connections. Your efforts to bring these 4H’s into alignment is what we mean when we invite you to take yourself seriously.

Some comments from former students looking back on the influence of the research courses out of which this book has arisen:

Jane, 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 the space open to take in the 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.

(more comments)

Self-assessment on completing a project or a program of study

The assessment, which is adaptable to any project of research and engagement, addresses two sets of goals:

  • My Product [e.g. project report or final capstone paper or thesis] Shows That…
  • Developing as a Reflective Practitioner

For each goal you describe one example of Read more of this post

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