KAQ(F): pragmatic, interactive, pedagogical, STS

KAQ(F) is a schema in which the following items are considered in relation to each other:
K—What do I Know? (or claim to know)
A—Action: What actions could people pursue on the basis of accepting this knowledge?
Q—Questions for inquiry: What more do I need to Know—in order to clarify what people could do (A) or to revise/refine/support the knowledge claim (K)?
(F)—How to Find this out? (Methods, Steps…) Read more of this post


Critical thinking, Creative thinking & Gender

A. Consider this schema that I used to discuss the idea of creativity in context:
It is clearly complex: Many strands, many cross-connections, many things going on in addition to the focal outcome. Read more of this post

Fritz on creating (in contrast with ICA and Schwendener)

Continuing a series of posts on the development of the Collaborative for Exploration of Scientific and Political Change within the framework of Ben Schwendener’s Seminar on Creativity.


12 June ’11
Notes on R. Fritz, The Path of Least Resistance

  • Result you want to create (for its own sake; love the creation)
  • What currently exists
  • Take action (invention, not convention)
  • Rhythms of creative process
  • Creating momentum

Tension between what you want to create and what currently exists seeks resolution, rather than oscillates in the reactive-responsive orientation/mode

Contrasting with:
ICA process
Group does brainstorming (“cardstorming”) of a practical vision, clusters the items and gives them names. The group then repeats the process but this time for obstacles to realizing that vision, resulting in clusters with names that convey the underlying obstacles. These then point to strategic directions. (This approach allows the vision to emerge rather than be identified at the outset.)

Ben Schwendener’s approach
When the elements of the vertical unity are identified, change flows from that unity. (The elements seem like the strategic directions of the ICA process.)

14 June ’11
Q: How to identify the elements?

Possible variants of the ICA process:
a. Start with a single vision, e.g., the Collaborative, then use Future Ideal Retrospective to tease out a more multifaceted (re)vision, then proceed as above.
b. Start with cardstorming about all the different tasks on one’s plate in the messy present, then Strategic Personal Planning, which identifies multiple strands, out of which a single vision emerges, then proceed as in a.
Try the variants for myself and see how they work in practice,

Q: What coaching is needed to keep one at the ICA task? (I ask this because it’s been on my to-do list since the 1st June and I am procrastinating.) A: Doing it with others in a course. Protecting some hours each day for it.

Guided tour of my teaching ’01-’05: cross-fertilization of science in society interests & work on reflective practice

The eight strands in the previous post continued, but significant developments occurred in some additional areas, most notably the cross-fertilization of my science in society interests and work on reflective practice (which has become a second specialty in my scholarship). My 2005 book, Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago), develops a framework for the integration of research—in science and interpretation of science in its social context—with teaching and service—in the form of critical reflection on concepts and practice by researchers and students. Indeed, the framework is made clear in the last chapter, which builds explicitly from an approach to teaching interdisciplinary students. The opportunity and challenge of fostering the reflective practice of the diverse adults who come through the CCT Program has given me sufficient experience and confidence to push further in putting that framework into practice with diverse researchers. This integration of research, teaching, and service has led, in particular, to my establishing the New England Workshop on Science and Social Change (NewSSC), an umbrella under which to organize innovative, interaction-intensive workshops designed to facilitate discussion, teaching innovation, and longer-term collaboration among faculty and graduate students who teach and write about interactions between scientific developments and social change.

Guiding Research and Writing for Reflective Practice

  • From 2001-5 I was involved with 63 CCT students developing and completing their M.A. syntheses on a very wide range of topics. Four features of my courses on research and writing have come to fruition in meeting this challenge:
    • 1. A framework of ten phases of research and engagement that the students move through, then revisit in light of: a) other people’s responses to what they share with them; and b) what they learn using tools from the other phases. This sequence and iteration allows students to define projects in which they take their personal and professional aspirations seriously, even if that means letting go of preconceptions of what they “ought” to be doing. During the pre-synthesis course, CCT698, the students are introduced to range of tools for each phase, then practice using those tools in class and in assignments. A downloadable library of previous students’ work illustrates the different ways these tools can be taken up.
    • 2. A model of “cycles and epicycles” of action research that integrates evaluation, constituency building, reflection and dialogue, and can be applied to professional and personal change as well as educational and organizational change.
    • 3. Dialogue around written work—written and spoken comments on each installment of a project and successive revision in response —which allows me to accumulate a portfolio for each student in each course that facilitates generative interactions with students even when I am not an expert in their areas. By “generative” I mean students bring to the surface, form, and articulate their ideas.
    • 4. Making space for taking initiative in and through relationships: “in building horizontal peer relationships, in negotiating power/standards, in acknowledging that affect is involved in what you’re doing and not doing (and in how others respond to that), in clearing away distractions from other sources (present and past) so you can be here now… Don’t expect to learn or change—or to teach—without jostling among the five aspects.”
  • These four features form the basis of the “exit self-assessment” CCT instituted in which graduating students reflect on their development through the Program and identify specific areas for further work. The insight shown in most of these self-analyses gives the CCT faculty confidence that the graduates can continue learning without our superintending them.

Creating Problem-Based Learning Units and Other Innovations to Accommodate Students’ Diverse Interests Within Interdisciplinary Courses

  • Following the lead of my colleague, Nina Greenwald, an expert in Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and building on my involvement in BioQuest curriculum development workshops, I have introduced PBL or Action Research units in several courses, including one course at a doctoral level. I position the units at the start of the course, with the aim of allowing students to expose and coordinate a range of angles for investigating an issue, practice tools for rapid research, and gain a shared experience to refer back to during the discussions and activities that make up the rest of the course.
  • On another tack, I was pleased with the students’ response when I integrated the content of my scholarship with CCT-like reflective practice in an advanced graduate seminar that I taught at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The seminar theme was research, policy, and participation in issues of Conservation and Development. As well as critically reviewing literature on selected topics students also learned new approaches for developing their own writing and supporting others to write. I was able to link these two strands under the theme of paying attention to the challenges for individuals participating in collaborative endeavors.

Contributing to New Interdisciplinary, International, and Educational Projects

  • Bringing critical analysis of science to bear on the practice and application of science is not well developed or supported institutionally, so I continue to initiate or participate in new collaborations, programs, and other activities, new directions for existing programs, and collegial interactions across disciplines. In this spirit I contributed to four major grant proposals between 2001 &2005 (three UMB; one non-UMB) that link science, education, and professional development and to seven interdisciplinary anthologies, many of which that evolved from conference sessions or workshop series that I helped run. I also co-led the Curriculum development component of the 2003 Education for Sustainability initiative at UMB and the Ford Foudnation site visit that led to the grant for the new England Center for Inclusive Teaching (NECIT). Most importantly, I secured seed funds from NSF to initiate the New England Workshop on Science and Social Change, a workshop that has continued annually since with international participation aimed at linking science, science education, and science and technology studies.
  • The prospectus of NewSSC, which is evolving in response to evaluations and reviews of funding proposals, provides the following overview:
  • The choice of workshop topics and the innovative, interaction-intensive character of the workshops are designed to attract participants who will develop their knowledge, skills, and interest in promoting the social contextualization of science through interdisciplinary education and other activities beyond their current disciplinary and academic boundaries. Participants are sought from the various areas of Science and Technology Studies, the sciences, and science education and-with an eye to training “interdisciplinarians”-include graduate students as well as more experienced scholars.
  • For the 2006-7 workshops, participants were expected to submit new syllabi and curriculum units (primarily for college-level courses) or outreach activities (e.g., hosting a citizen forum on a science-based controversy) related to their workshop’s topic within six months of its completion. These are made available in an expanding compilation of Online Resources for Science-in-Society Education and Outreach.
  • Formative (during the process) and summative (after the fact) evaluations of the workshops provide a basis for developing the workshop experience from one year to the next and for establishing a model of workshops that can be repeated, evolve in response to evaluations, and be adapted by participants [evaluations are linked to the webpages and wikis for each workshop].

The critique of science during the 1970s

During the 1960s Bookchin (1962), Carson (1962), and Commoner (1963; 1971) linked ecology-as-social-action to criticisms of the dominant directions of scientific research.  Social responsibility in science was promoted by the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science, the Union of Concerned Scientists (in the U.S.), and Pugwash (which focused on reducing the danger of armed conflict in a nuclear age).

During the 1970s more radical, anti-capitalist critiques of science and social relations were developed in the U.S. by Science for the People (see especially the critiques of biological determinism in Science for the People 1977 and the related work of Chase 1977) and in England by the Radical Science Journal (see Levidow 1986, especially Young’s introduction on the origins of the “Radical Science” movement; Levidow and Young 1981; and Radical Science Editorial Collective 1977).  In this context Werskey completed his illuminating history of an earlier generation of left-wing scientists in England who saw “science, progress, socialism as equivalent concepts” (Young, p. xiv in the forward to the 1988 reprint of Werskey 1978; see also Werskey’s preface to the reprint, which reflects on the way the 1970s critique of science shaped his account.)  In contrast, left-wing scientists of the 1970s who saw their science as a political project recognized that science could bolster domination and inequality (Roberts 1979; Rose 1982; Levins and Lewontin 1985; see also Illich 1973 and 1976 for advocacy of de-professionalization and of “convivial” technology and medicine).

The critique of science also stimulated interpretation of science in relation to the historical and social context in which it was formed.  Kuhn (1970) was widely cited as opening up science to such contextualization, but younger historians and sociologists began to take the social interpretation of science much further than Kuhn had (see, for example, Young 1985).

Extracted from Taylor, P.J. (2005) Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press).


Bookchin, M. [pseudonym: L. Herber] (1962). Our Synthetic Environment. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Carson, R. (1963). Silent Spring. Greenwich, Conn., Fawcett.

Chase, A. (1977). The Legacy of Malthus: The Social Costs of the New Scientific Racism. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

Commoner, B. (1963). Science and Survival. New York: Viking Press.

—— (1971). The Closing Circle. New York: Knopf.

Illich, I. (1973). Tools for Conviviality. New York: Harper & Row.

—— (1976). Medical Nemesis: The Expropriation of Health. New York: Pantheon Books.

Kuhn, T. (1970). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Levidow, L. (Ed.) (1986). Radical Science. London: Free Association Books. [especially Young’s introduction on the origins of the “Radical Science” movement]

—— and R. Young (Eds.) (1981). Science, Technology and the Labour Process: Marxist Studies. London: CSE Books.

Levins, R. and R. Lewontin (1985). The Dialectical Biologist. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Radical Science Editorial Collective (1977). “Editorial.” Radical Science Journal 5: 3-7.

Roberts, A. (1979). The Self-Managing Environment. London: Allison & Busby.

Rose, S. (Ed.) (1982). Against Biological Determinism: The Dialectics of Biology Group. London: Allison & Busby.

Science for the People (Ed.) (1977). Biology as a Social Weapon. Minneapolis: Burgess.

Werskey, G. (1988 [1978]). The Visible College: A Collective Biography of British Scientists and Socialists of the 1930s. London: Free Association Books.

Young, R. M. (1985). Darwin’s Metaphor: Nature’s Place in Victorian Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

From Social Theory to enactable, contingent social theorizing

In the late 1980s Roberto Mangabeira Unger laid out a “constructive social theory,” which centered on “institutional and imaginative frameworks of social life [that] supply the basis on which people define and reconcile interests, identify, and solve problems.” He went on to note: “These frameworks cannot be adequately explained as mere crystallized outcomes of interest-accommodating or problem-solving activities” (1987, p. 4). Unger sought to present a view of how these “contexts [or frameworks] stick together, come apart, and get remade” (1987, p.5). At the time I was attracted to his efforts but found his work too theoretical, that is, too difficult to translate into practical action. In my thinking about scientific activity I was exploring a notion of representing-engaging, while Unger seemed to be presenting a outside representation of our “society-making powers.”

The same tensions are evident—not resolved—in the summaries I wrote in the notes of Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago, 2005) on social theory in relation to environmental change and the relation of agency and structure(dness), which are excerpted in the next two posts (Social Theory, agency and structuredness).   The tensions also run through my recent thinking about combining Intersecting processes (which has an outside representational emphasis) with Historical scan (produced by a particular group at a particular time) to generate enactable, group-specific praxis.

How so?

1.  I am interested in social theory (but critical of what I call Social Theory) and think that intersecting processes provides an approach that improves on the well-known structure-agency duality (i.e., actions of social agents are enabled and constrained by social structures and, in acting, social agents imperfectly reproduce those structure).

2.  At the same time my preliminary notes on these issues take more of the representational stance I note above in Unger’s work (see next two posts).

3.  I am also interested in people’s problem-solving and path-charting abilities in well-facilitated collaborative processes (which Unger might criticize as putting too much stock on “crystallized outcomes of interest-accommodating or problem-solving activities”), but have wanted to find ways to inject understandings of structures (or Unger’s structure-making) into these processes.

4.  At the same time I am critical both of a. discussions of the kind what Obama should do, what U.S. policy should be etc., as if the speaker (or the listener) could be transported into that position and act true to their principles without having been changed by the process of assuming this role in the structured system; and b. discussions of the dynamics of capital (or fractions of capital, such as the finance sector) dictating what is possible, as if no-one could assume a role within the structured system that could alter the dynamics and as if the human actors were blind to the real dynamics.  These latter discussions don’t address well the heterogeneity of things people do and say, nor the shifting associations and, to borrow Unger’s words, how they “stick together, come apart, and get remade,” nor the shifts in what any one person does and say from one micro-context to another.

5. I am interested in social theory that addresses the preceeding heterogeneity, shifting associations, and contingency–that brings the multiple strandedness of changing social life into the center (as against being the variation or noise around the deeper [more essential] Social Dynamics [capitalization deliberate here]).  That’s why the variety of responses in the on-the-spot, off-the-cuff discussion about race interested me.  And it’s reflected in my recent thinking about combining Intersecting processes (which has an outside representational emphasis) with Historical scan (produced by a particular group at a particular time) to generate enactable, group-specific praxis.

6. Something I would say, at this stage in my thinking, is that the focus should shift a. from shaping a better social theory to allowing for social theorizing, and b. from representing social dynamics to enacting the social theorizing so as to repeatedly define and pursue engagements in the heterogeneous dynamics that intersect in all kinds of society-making.  Enactable, contingent social theorizing maybe unsettled and unsettling, but should social theorizing be more something all that much easier to grasp than society-making?

Mapping: Can scientists become interpreters of science and bring the interpretations to bear on their science? II

Although the goals of mapping workshops were not fully met in the initial experiments described in the previous post, lessons can be drawn for the more general project of helping researchers reflect on their situatedness and act self-consciously to change their subsequent scientific practice.

1.  The workshop participants were self-selected and by no means representative of researchers.  Almost all of them were advanced graduate students willing to commit time to reflect on their research and possible future directions.  Having cut their teeth as researchers, they were now receptive to expanding the range of influences, both theoretical and practical, in planning their work.[i] The challenge for a workshop convener is to attract researchers other than students and to sustain their interaction long enough for maps to be revised and new collaborations to emerge.  On a simple level, revision could be helped by suitable computer software to draw and redraw maps, so that researchers would be better able to respond to the input of other participants in the workshop.  At a more fundamental level, workshop convenors who hoped to achieve wider participation and sustained interaction would need more institutional resources, workshop leading skills, and time than Haila and I had during these initial mapping workshops.

2.  Mapmakers may not be successful in modifying the directions in which they subsequently move. The original assumption behind mapping was that identifying multiple potential sites of engagement would help mapmaker change, but a successful outcome does not necessarily follow.  As it turned out, for example, E was not able to complete his study of urban carabid ecology.  Making a map or producing some other account of how research is constructed provides no guarantee that researchers will become able to mobilize different resources to their advantage.  Stanley Fish, an influential interpreter of legal texts and literature, takes this insight a step further and asserts that reflection on one’s situatedness is irrelevant to changing it (Fish 1989).

Not surprisingly given my view that all scientific agents “assess… the practical constraints and facilitations of possible actions in advance of their acting” (see post on imagination), I dispute Fish’s assertion.  It should be an empirical matter—one to be established through experiment and experience—which kinds of reflection, workshop processes, and modes of interaction and support contribute most to scientists modifying and restructuring the situations in which they undertake research (see Taylor 2005, Chapter 6, section C2 and C3, and Epilogue; also posts on workshops).  Of course, would-be workshop conveners who hope to experiment and apply the experience gained would need resources, such as those to which I alluded in the previous paragraph.

3.  The maps were centered on the individual mapmaker, tended to be idiosyncratic, and were not explicit about theory about the researchers’ situatedness in society and its implications for their scientific practice.  Again, further experiment and experience would be needed to promote more systematic map-making approaches and to assess their value.  What might happen if, say, workshop leaders urged a standard format, offered models from analogous situations, or promoted various theories or propositions about micro- and macro-social change?  Would some idiosyncrasy still have to be encouraged to ensure that scientists reflect freely on and consider changes in their own particular research settings?

Deciding the extent to which to seek regularized, theoretically explicit maps recalls all the conceptual and methodological choices identified in Taylor (2005, chapter 5, section A):  The boundaries of maps call out for negotiation—how far away from the individual researcher should the “horizon” of the map be drawn?  Should something other than the researcher’s issue be placed at the center?  If shifts in focus are entertained, the appropriate categories for interpreting and engaging with science are far from obvious.  The traditional focus that scientists and philosophers place on scientific claims can be stabilized only by separating research questions from research work and social support.  These realms are routinely traversed by scientists, however, even as they talk as if their scientific work derived only from the situations studied, not from their situatedness.  Moreover, once mapmakers acknowledge the existence of resources in their work situation or in the wider social context, should they look for regularities or structure in those resources?  Should they borrow from social theory and attempt to generalize about the situations in which research is done?  To the extent that generalizations discount or filter out the contingency and idiosyncrasy of scientists’ actions, do they inject a degree of determinism not apparent in the individual situations?  Finally, as answers to these questions are decided, mapmakers might ask what engagements or social actions they are privileging and facilitating.

The questions could be posed not only to mapmakers but also to anyone “reflecting on their situatedness” with a view to “acting self-consciously to change their subsequent scientific practice.”  Yet note the tension between pragmatic considerations and the logic of posing these as open questions (see discussion of practical reflexivity in Taylor 2005, chapter 5, section A).  It is quite a challenge for mapmakers to choose and depict the diversity of connections around their focal issue, without the additional task of reflecting deeply on the categories, boundaries, generalizability, and so on, of their maps.  Indeed, future workshop leaders may facilitate mapmaking by supplying a template of interpretive categories and themes.  Even so, there is nothing natural about the depth to which mapmakers (or other researchers) reflect on their situatedness in seeking to change their practice.  Any choice that mapmakers make or take for granted could be queried by their fellow workshop participants, who could ask how readily that choice could be modified.  Such probing would begin to expose diverse practical considerations that support such choices.

Mapping workshops offer a more direct path for bringing interpretation of science’s sociality to bear productively on scientific practice.  But they do not escape practical reflexivity’s tensions and complexities, which remain not only for the mapmakers but also for workshop conveners.  Conveners might want their workshops to distribute among others the work of interpreting and engaging with research, but this goal is unlikely to be realized unless the convenors have significant institutional resources, workshop leading skills, and free time.  Whether such resources can be assembled is a matter not of the workshop conveners’ will alone, but of their distributed agency.  In my own case, while waiting for an appropriate conjunction of circumstances for further mapping workshops, I used teaching and scholarly presentations to pursue another approach to encouraging researchers to reflect on their diverse resources,, which centered around the concept of intersecting processes.

Extracted from Taylor, P.J. (2005) Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press), chapter 5, Part B.


Fish, S. (1989). “Anti-foundationalism, theory hope, and the teaching of composition,” in Doing What Comes Naturally: Change, Rhetoric, and the Practice of Theory in Literary and Legal Studies.  Durham: Duke University Press, 343-355.

Novak, J. D. (1990). “Concept mapping: A useful tool for science education.” Journal of Research in Science Teaching 27(10): 937-949.

Taylor and Y. Haila (1989). “Mapping Workshops for Teaching Ecology.” Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 70(2): 123-125.


Mapping workshops and teaching

One participant of the Helsinki mapping workshop observed that “one question leads to ten questions—What is a lake? Why is phytoplankton one category?…” Another likened mapping to the process of writing and revising: “Like writing, out of mapping comes awareness of new parts of the map that need more work.”  Just as in a good graduate student dissertation research seminars, students raised a whole range of issues—from nagging uneasiness they feel about certain research directions to specific technical points—when these would have remained latent in a seminar dedicated to a specific theme.  Mapping workshops certainly warrant attention from other teachers as an approach to stimulating advanced students to define their research (Taylor and Haila 1989).  This approach, it should be noted, differs markedly from concept mapping (Novak 1990) in which the focus is on well-established relationships between concepts.  Mapping as described in the previous post allows mapmakers to explore what is not yet clear about an issue on which they want to take action.

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