Cultivating collaborators, revisited

This post assembles a short-list of measures that enhance the building of a trust-full, generative group interested in personal, professional, and institutional change.  It feeds back into face-to-face group meetings items from an earlier post “on integrating face-to-face dynamics into the structure and expectations of online platforms.” Read more of this post

What is “something” for the Critical and Creative Thinking graduate Program?

A 22-minute video on what it is that students have become by the time they graduate from the Critical and Creative Thinking program, how that happens, and ways it contrasts with alternative models. This exposition builds on recent posts about teaching critical thinking and previous posts about studios and a slow mode.

Repeated reflection as part of development as a critical thinker (and more)

What would be a relevant set of initial guidelines if a person were to begin a regular plus-delta reflection process concerning their development as a critical thinker (and beyond to a sense of “ITS CAPL” [see previous post])? Such a reflection process is described, then possible guidelines are floated. Read more of this post

How to evaluate the effect of a reflective-practice promoting workshop

Consider a workshop designed to foster reflective practice.  How to evaluate the effect of the workshop on reflective practice?  This could be evaluated by asking participants to record when they undertake a post-workshop reflection process.  This process could use guidelines recorded on an individually customized and evolving template (along the lines below).

As noted, the substance of the reflections is private—participants are not asked to share this.  However, submission of the googleform allows assessment of the frequency of participants undertaking the process and of substitution of new guidelines.  These data could then be used to compare the effect of a given workshop in comparison with previous versions of the workshop or with other kinds of professional development workshop that also aim to foster reflective practice, and to compare the same workshop run with different nationalities or experience/status of participants. Read more of this post

Taking stock as an ethical imperative

Recently I stated a feeling that taking stock of any group interaction (including a class, a workshop, a meeting) is an ethical imperative.  After thinking through how to support that notion, as laid out below, I have concluded that the ethic of taking stock derives from the ideal that people should not be coerced.

First, what do I mean by taking stock?  A: Making space to reflect using various tools or processes before proceeding either from one phase to another or on from an activity or event (see Refractive practice).  This space makes it more difficult to simply continue along previous lines, opening up possibilities of alternative paths to proceed.

1.  If a person takes stock as a routine they will end up less likely to look back with regret on a path they persisted on — less likely because any path will have been chosen in tension with alternatives.

2. If a group takes stock so that everyone’s voice gets raised and acknowledged, then, even when the group decides to move along a certain path, doing so will be less like a workhorse with its blinkers on and more like someone who can look left and right to remind themselves of the wider context and tensions even as they move along that path.

2a. Moreover, in conjunction with #1, a participant clarifies whether they are in the group wholeheartedly or on what terms.  Participants may realize that the group’s path is one in which they no longer feel creative or hope-full.

3. Group convenors ask for many person-hours of time and, as acknowledgement of that, should show whether the goals of convening the group have been met.   Taking stock of that requires the goals to be defined and made explicit beforehand.

3a. As a bonus, given #2, taking stock with the group as a whole may allow new or revised goals to be articulated.

4. Convenors of some experimental group process are not only asking for person-hours of time (see #3), but, because they are asking for participants to learn something new, they should build in taking stock to show that they too are prepared to learn so as to improve.

4a. As a bonus, building taking stock into experimental group process encourages participants to convene their own experiments by providing a model of the “social contract” (#4) that links the request of others with the responsibility of the convenor.

Now, the ethics of all this seems easier to articulate negatively:  If a person does not do #1, it is more likely that they will end up regretful.  (Recall “I have left undone the things I ought to have done and done things I ought not to have.”)  If a group does not do #2, it is more likely that some member will feel coerced by the path chosen.  If a group convenor does not do #3, it is more likely that they will end up having wasted people’s time.   Ditto for #4 and people may feel toyed with.

This negative articulation leads to a sense that the positive ethic in taking stock is respect. Respect for: internal personal heterogeneity (#1); heterogeneity within a group (#2); time devoted to the group (#3 & #4); and everyone as learners (#1, #2a, #3a, #4a).  This last item points to the need for group support for a person to learn through trying out something new (#4).  That support can be more readily given if participants in the experimental process know that there will be stock taking.

Ad additional angle on the ethics is that taking stock of multiple voices (#2) may or may not be well reflected in subsequent goals set by a group convenor (#3).   Being able to see this helps a group member define the conditions of their participation or withdrawal (#2a).  Indeed, in practice, the absence of taking stock is one way group convenors (#3) — including the boss, administration, or so-called leaders — coerce people into continuing along paths that are not creative or hope-full, which they end up regretting.  In this light, the ethic of taking stock follows from the ideal that people should not be coerced.

Having been asked for a guest blog post about creativity

I direct an unusual graduate program called Critical and Creative Thinking (  I think we do quite well in achieving our goal, which is to provide our mid-career or career-changing 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.”   Before explaining my sense of creativity, let me explain why critical thinking is combined with creative thinking and also, ‘though it is not in the name, with reflective practice.

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.

Against this backdrop, my thinking is that creativity comes not out of individual inspiration, but from borrowing and connecting.  The more items in your tool box—the more themes, heuristics (rules of thumb), and open questions you are working with—the more likely you are to make a new connection and see how things could be otherwise, that is, to be creative.  Yet, in order to build up a set of tools that works for you, it is necessary to experiment, take risks, and reflect on the outcomes.  Such reflective practice is like a journey into unfamiliar or unknown areas—it involves risk, opens up questions, provides more experiences than can be integrated at first sight, requires support, and yields personal change.  We might then say that creativity is part of what happens to “journeying inquirers.”

As an educator, I like to play with the 3Rs (only one of which actually starts with an R).  Here (from page 257 of Taking Yourself Seriously) are the many Rs that journeying inquirers might pursue—sometimes focusing in, sometimes opening out—in their personal and professional development as critical, creative, and reflective practitioners.



Reasoning w/ respect to evidence & alternatives

Relationship w/ oneself (moving towards autonomy)

Reflection & metacognition


Relationships w/ peers & allies (dialogue & collaboration)

Risk & experiment


Rearrange, adapt & create

Reception: being Read, heard, & Reviewed

Relationships w/ authority (negotiate power & standards)

Revision (incl. dialogue around written work)


Research & evaluation (learning from the work of others & your own)

Respect (explore difference)

Responsibility (concern w/ aims, means & consequences)


Recursion & practice (address same concern from many angles & in variety of settings)

Reevaluation (of emotions at root of responses) so as to better take initiative

Reconstruction (personal/organizational/social change)

Critical, Creative and Reflective Practice: Contents of a possible booklet

The previous post introduced a possible booklet on supporting the development of critical thinking, creative thinking and reflective practice.  Here is a possible Table of Contents (drawn from article as well as from the book Taking Yourself Seriously).

Part 1
Sense of Place Map (with diagram or example)
Daily writing
Phases of Research & Engagement
The many Rs of personal and professional development
Making Space for Taking Initiative in and through Relationships
Developing a Critical Thinking manifesto (with example)
Supportive Listening
Varieties of feedback (excerpts from Elbow with permission) & example of believing and doubting
Challenges of supporting critical thinking
Avid learning/Probe-Connect-Reflect-Create Change
Dialogue Process
5-phase format
Small group roles
“Office hours”
Conditions for a successful workshop

Part 2
Stories of people developing as reflective practitioners

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