Guided Tour of Peter Taylor's service
(work in progress, March 2015)
Although my training is in the life and environmental sciences, critical thinking and critical pedagogy became central to my intellectual and professional project as I encouraged students and researchers to contrast the paths taken in science, society, education with other paths that might be taken, and to foster their acting upon the insights gained. Bringing critical analysis of science to bear on the practice and applications of science has not been well developed or supported institutionally, and so I have contributed actively, to new collaborations, programs, and other activities, new directions for existing programs, and collegial interactions across disciplines. In this sense I have always pursued service in the broader spirit of institutional development.
Since arriving at UMass Boston in 1998 I have extended the theme of service as institutional development. This approach is important not only to initiate and sustain new projects concerning critical reflective practice in science and science education, but also to respond in existing programs to the shifting resources, priorities, and other challenges we persistently face in public education. When preparing dossiers for promotion in 2001 and 2005, I articulated the qualities I value in service, one of which is finding coherent principles to guide our efforts (Table 1). While serving as Chair in 2006 of Curriculum and Instruction—a department consisting of several graduate programs with administrative responsibilities met solely or primarily by faculty members—I formulated a set of priorities when faced with competing demands on our work time (Table 2).
Table 1. Qualities to Pursue in Service and Institutional Development
that takes into account the often-limited and uncertain state of resources, guides where we put our not-unlimited energies, and seeks to make the result sustainable or cumulative;
, not only for the sake of a sustainable product, but so participants/ collaborators value their involvement in the process;
• probing what has been taken for granted
or left unarticulated until coherent principles emerge to guide our efforts;
• transparency and inclusiveness
of consultation in formulating procedures and principles and in making evaluations available;
process, product, and evaluations to make institutional learning more likely
, including efficient use of computer technology, to support all of the above.
Table 2. Priorities when faced with competing demands on our work time
The way I like to think about our "work" is that it is about:
1st supporting students' intellectual & professional development;
2nd supporting each other as colleagues in doing #1;
3rd the research, writing, teaching, and organizational development activities that excite us (that led us to be academics);
4th the operating, planning, and ongoing development of the graduate & undergraduate programs we're affiliated with;
5th dealing with the administrative & other mandates (e.g., licensure, accreditation, AQUAD review) in ways that don't detract from #1-4.
These principles and priorities should stand out in the examples of service and institutional development given in this Guided Tour. Of course, I do not claim to have been successful in every instance. In particular, I am learning that something beyond “collegial interactions across disciplines” and “community-building,” namely, persistent coalition-building among diverse parties is required to secure and maintain the conditions for our institutions to serve us well in serving students, colleagues, and the wider publics.
I. Building a Basis for Interdisciplinary Science, Health, and Environmental Education and Research
A. Beyond UMass Boston
1. For discussion of my service and institutional development beyond UMass Boston, refer first to a recent wikipage
prepared to support a nomination for a service award for the International Society for History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology
(ISHPSSB). In brief, ISHPSSB was the most significant venue for my work outside my formal appointments in the 1980s and 90s. Although I continue to organize sessions at the Society's biennial meetings, my ISHPSSB-style efforts have shifted more to the smaller and more focused New England Workshop on Science and Social Change
(NewSSC), with spin-off workshops in Australia
), Canada, and the USA
2. The NewSSC workshops represent an integration of my 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 (consistent with the framework presented in my 2005 book, Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement)
. The opportunity and challenge of teaching—or fostering the reflective practice of—the diverse adults who come through the Critical and Creative Thinking
Graduate Program gave me sufficient experience and confidence to push further in putting that framework into practice
with diverse international researchers through NewSSC. The innovative, interaction-intensive NewSSC workshops were 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. The ongoing evolution of the workshops has been stimulated not only by written and spoken evaluations (linked to the webpages for each workshop
), but also by an extended debriefing immediately following each workshop and advisory group discussions, such as one in 2008 that addressed the question of what moves people develop themselves as collaborators. Our conjecture was that this development happens when participants see an experience or training as transformative. After reviewing the evaluations we identified four “R's”—respect, risk, revelation, and re-engagement—as conditions that make interactions among participants transformative (see Taylor et al. 2010
for elaboration and supporting quotations from the evaluations).
The integration of critical thinking about science and reflective practice is also evident in the blog
I began in 2010 and its subsequent spin-off
3. Roles in interdisciplinary educational, professional, and program development
(outside UMass Boston, since 1998)
Centro Regional de Investigaciones Multidisciplinarias, U.N.A.M., México: Consultant and Commentator on development of doctoral program in "Society, Environment, and Sustainability," November 1998.
"Changing Life" (working group on fostering critical thinking about life and environmental sciences); Convenor, 1999
Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, Honors Faculty Development Workshop, Invited Workshop Leader, June 1999.
workshop on Teaching College Biology, Invited Presenter and Participant, June 1999.
University of Tampere, Finland, International Collaborator in the "How does nature speak?" project, 1996-; Workshop facilitator, 2000.
NSF Workshop on a Research Agenda for Linking Ecological and Economic Systems, Tempe, Invited Participant, June 2000.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Panel Member, "Teaching Thinking: Looking Backwards, Looking Forwards," March 2001; Teaching for Thinking Network Board member 2001-4.
Massachusetts Board of Higher Education and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professional Development Program in the South River/South Coastal Watershed, Co-PI 2000-1 and Workshop Leader, "Building a Professional Development Learning Community," November 2000 and "Developing Unit Plans for Inquiry- and Problem-based Learning," May 2001.
External reviewer, Centre for Social Studies
at the University of Coimbra, Portugal, 2002
Pembroke Center Seminar on Theories of Embodiment
, Brown University: Workshop leader, December 2002.
Invited Facilitator/Participant, Middle East Environmental Futures Project
, Brown University, July 2003.
Organizer of the New England Workshop on Science and Social Change
Workshop leader & consultant, Global Perspectives Curriculum Development Project
, Mt. Mary College, May 2004.
External Evaluating Committee for "Management of Ecosystems and Human Development" Megaproject of UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico), 2005-
Advisory Board, UMass Lowell Center for Sustainable Production
, 2006; Invited participant in Faculty seminar on "Responsible Development of Emerging Technologies," 2008.
"Democracy and its Critics," short course, American Political Science Association, Boston, August 2008, guest facilitator
Visiting Theorist, Center for Drug Use and HIV Research
, National Development and Research Institutes, New York, January 2009
Workshop Participant to develop a Research Collaborative Network in Undergraduate Biology Education, Emory University, May 2010
Andamios group (for "Creative & Transformative Responses to Crises," collaborators from Portugal, Mexico, USA), July 2012-October 2013
(month-long, open collaborative learning), July 2011-present
B. At UMass Boston
1. Science, Technology & Values Program.
When I became assistant director of this zero-budget program in Fall 2002, I created a program website
that provides up to date information for students and, when printed out, doubles as a flyer to advertise during registration periods the upcoming course offerings. Since becoming STV director in January 2004, I articulated and pursued many concrete steps grouped under four overall goals
• build the students numbers in the Program;
• maintain a regular and rich set of courses to fulfill STV requirements;
• build a community of faculty and students around the program; and
• build external recognition for the program.
Community-building is the goal I made most progress towards. I helped initiate monthly discussion meetings of interested faculty while assistant STV director, then built on this in organizing a semester-long thematic Inter-college faculty Seminar in Science and Humanities
, which started in spring 2004 and has continued most semesters since. ISHS is a “forum for discussion and interaction among faculty at UMass-Boston. Faculty from different disciplines and colleges come together to focus on topics of common interest, exchange ideas, renew their intellectual energy, and advance their work in a spirit of adventure and collaboration.” As well as building community around the STV program, ISHS was designed to bridge the Humanities/Sciences gap after the separation of the College of Arts and Sciences into two colleges. As an early and regular participant noted: “This is the only game in town.” (This statement is no longer strictly true, as cross-college seminars and discussions are also sponsored by the Faculty Professional Development office, the Center for Innovative Teaching (CIT), the Center for the Center for the Study of Humanities, Culture, and Society (CHCS) [formerly the Research Center for Urban Cultural History (RCUCH)], the Center for Science and Math In Context (COSMIC), and the Community Engagement Research Cluster also sponsor.)
2. Curriculum development for Education for Sustainability.
In fall 2002, Chancellor Gora and Dean Kibel reactivated Education for Sustainability initiatives at UMB and appointed me chair of the committee to Infuse Sustainability into the Curriculum, assisted by Steve Rudnick of Environmental Studies. The committee developed a vision of sustainability
that integrated an environmentally sustainable (“green”) economy, with just and equitable governance, and an engaged populace. The corresponding teaching mission
was that curricula should seek to develop students' ability to:
• appreciate and monitor the state of the environment, social structure, human health —to become "environmentally literate";
• understand and analyze the complexities of phenomena that link economics, politics, culture, history, biology, geology, and physical processes;
• be involved in dynamic, vigorous exchange across the traditional disciplinary boundaries within and between natural and social/human sciences; and
• work within specific communities to facilitate self-conscious, reflective engagement with linked socio-environmental processes.
The plans of this committee
progressed as far as hosting a pair of faculty curriculum development workshops, from which some new curriculum units or courses
arose. Since these workshops, however, we were not able to sustain our efforts; my judgement was that we needed to pause until the reorganization of the Environmental Science and Studies units was completed and until what became called the Center for Environmental Health, Science, and Technology had taken shape. While this was happening, the administrators who had sponsored the Education for Sustainability initiative left the University. When I was made director of STV, Steve Rudnick took over primary responsibility for further work of this committee.
3. Health in Society Research Discussion Group.
While I was developing a doctoral course on epidemiological thinking for the Public Policy and Nursing programs, I came to see that there was a critical mass of UMB faculty and doctoral students who had (or were developing) an epidemiological focus (broadly construed) to their research and teaching. Given our diverse institutional locations (and distracting administrative demands), it seemed we might benefit from regular exchange with each other. This discussion group took the form of a monthly meeting of 1.5-2 hours from November 2007 through Spring 2009, where we took it in turns to share a manuscript or grant proposal, lead a discussion on a published paper, or discuss a syllabus. Distracting administrative demands for several members, unfortunately, led to HisReDG going into hibernation.
4. Transdisciplinary Research Workshop Proposal
. In the proposal, which I initiated in spring ‘08, a group of faculty and graduate students would have sustained interaction about their research interests over a semester (like ISHS), but with topics shaped to support the University's research cluster initiative. The motivation was that University's research cluster initiative should build in support for transdisciplinary interactions that draw in personnel not directly involved in externally- and internally-funded cluster-based research. Depending on the mode of such interactions, they could have all or some of these benefits:
a. Generating novel ideas and initiating collaborations to pursue them and submit funding proposals;
b. Maintaining a pipeline of personnel from outside any cluster into its projects. (Doing this for junior faculty is an important component of mentoring them);
c. Acknowledging the intellectual work of faculty who are not well aligned with the clusters (and preempting any insider-outsider ill-feelings);
d. Facilitating work at the overlap of clusters (e.g., public health and developmental science); and
e. Promoting critical, social contextualization of new research developments (without making the common move of placing such discussion into a separate "Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications" box).
The proposal was well-received by the incoming Provost, but got left on hold until the research clusters were launched. In the meantime, the Provost convened a cross-college working group to initiate a cross-college Science and Society graduate program.
5. Science in a Changing World
. The initiative to create a cross-college Science and Society graduate program ended up taking the form of a graduate Certificate and M.A. track within CCT on "Science in a Changing World," which was approved in spring 2009. Steps continue to create visibility for the track (through twitter
, a blog
, a “Changing Science, Changing Society” Expo
of Boston-area groups, and international collaboration with Science, Technology and Society Research Group at the Centre for Social Studies
at the University of Coimbra in Portugal (with seed funding from the OITA at UMass Boston and a Fulbright fellowship in Fall 2012). In the fall of 2010, University College agreed to fund a 50% assistant coordinator position for this track contingent on the Program scheduling more sections of required courses and electives so that the M.A. in both the regular CCT track and the new track could be completed by students entirely by taking sections offered through University College, now CAPS.
II. Running small, interdisciplinary programs at UMass Boston
: Multi-departmental and multi-college graduate programs get created because there are valuable educational endeavors that cannot be pursued by a faculty that lies fully within one department in one college. Such programs achieve remarkable things at UMass Boston, but, in order to hold these programs together, the service of some (many?) of their faculty members involves inequitable workloads, petitioning a changing cast of administrators for resources, postponement of leave due to them, and so on. In many programs, a faculty member can rotate out of the leadership position when they need “R&R” (recovery, research, and relationship time), but this is not always an option if matriculated, fee-paying students are to continue to be served. The latter has been my situation in the CCT Program after the other faculty member dedicated full-time to the Program took medical leave during my first year at UMB and eventually retired without being replaced. The qualities listed in Table 1, especially planning, organization, and community-building, have been important for me, as well as keeping a clear sense of the priorities in Table 2. A program's needs may be subordinate to the demands of other higher-priority programs, but as long as students are being matriculated in the program they have to be served by someone. (Note: To the extent that background conditions are described in the items that follow, this is not to criticize the decision-makers, but to set the scene for my service and efforts in institutional development.)
2. Ensuring a Viable CCT Program without another Full-time CCT faculty Member
Since the Graduate College of Education (now College of Education & Human Development) became the home college for the inter-college CCT Program in 1996-7, the core teacher preparation priorities of the College have taken precedence; resources of all kinds for CCT have progressively declined, especially after January 2001 when most program directors in GCE lost their formal status and course release (partly restored since 2007). Service done without formal status is not always acknowledged in personnel reviews, but it is no less real. CCT students continued to be admitted—in record numbers for the years 2001-3—and it fell to me, as the sole regular faculty member since 1999 dedicated to CCT, to ensure that the College's responsibilities to serve the matriculated students were fulfilled. My annual faculty reviews
describe the many routine administrative and advising duties performed as a program director/coordinator (or as back-up to Nina Greenwald, a lecturer who was program coordinator from fall 2004 through 2006). At the same time, I have undertaken concrete steps directed at additional, program-sustaining goals, namely, to:
i) streamlined the administration of the Program so it could run without Administrative assistance (e.g., online Student Handbook
and parallel version for program coordinator
ii) arrange community events and orientations as ways students could get more support and input from each other and from alums (in recent years under the umbrella of the CCT Network
iii) address problems around moving students through to completion and reinforce guidelines
to prevent those problems in the future.
At the same time, the program needed to maintain its enrollments, so I continued to work on
iv) outreach for recruitment;
v) clarifying and strengthening CCT's role in the GCE [see II.4 below]; which eventually led to
vi) moving the formal home of the Program to University College/CAPS after the 2011 AQUAD review.
. The Programmatic efforts above took place in line with a set of specific Objectives under six broad Goals (see below) laid out in the AQUAD (Academic QUality Assessment and Development) plan for CCT
, which I drafted and the CCT faculty submitted in June 2000. These goals were:
A. To provide graduate students with an understanding of the processes of critical thinking and creativity, and with ways of helping others develop these processes in a variety of educational, professional, and social situations.
B. To establish planning parameters that allow CCT faculty to determine the best use of their experience and energies and adjust operations to work within those parameters.
C. To contribute to increased cross-program collaboration in the GCE.
D. To contribute to increased collaboration with and contributions to other units within the University.
F. To support CCT faculty and students in research on and publication of their distinctive contributions to the fields of critical and creative thinking.
G. To evaluate and continue developing the Program.
The goals and associated objectives became the basis for the Program's self-study as part of the 2002-3 AQUAD review of CCT
(described in the next section), and again in the 2010-11 review
4. Clarifying and Strengthening CCT's Status in GCE and UMB
The 2002-3 AQUAD review was seen as an opportunity to resolve the long-standing uncertainties about CCT's status in the College and University. The self-study
I coordinated was, by all accounts, exemplary. (Indeed, I hoped it would be seen as a contribution to “documenting
process, product, and evaluations to make institutional learning more likely.”)
The external review was very favorable, recognizing “the leadership in innovative multi- and inter-disciplinary pedagogy represented by this Program,” but restoration of resources for CCT did not match the priorities of the College or the Provost. Post-AQUAD proposals the Program explored included: 1) a Center for Applied Psychology advocated by a new GCE Dean; 2) a smaller admissions cohort that could be served without additional resources; 3) a Center for Science, Education and Society that incorporated existing CCT and STV initiatives and strengths (eclipsed by the formation of COSMIC); 4) incorporation of appropriate CCT courses as substitutes for required courses in the Teacher Education programs that had been redesigned to meet State Department of Ed. requirements; and 5) a certificate partnership with the Division of Continuing Education to preserve a program identity and a basis for courses needed by Teacher Education students even if the M.A. admissions moratorium continued. With respect to service, what is important in these and subsequent proposals is that I continued to take initiative and respond constructively to possibilities floated by administrators, and did so in the context of continuing uncertainty about the institutional status of and resources for CCT. Through all this, I also continued to seek a secure planning frame in which to recruit M.A. students and offer courses (as evident in the Annual Program reports
and options for the future outlined in the 2011 AQUAD review
5. Developing CCT in New Directions
Of the proposals listed above, the one that has born most fruit has been the partnership with the Division of Continuing Education (CCDE; now University College) that began by promoting the 15-credit CCT graduate certificate with a marketing focus on “Creative Thinking at Work
.” (This focus subsumed the popular “Dialogue and Collaboration in Organizational Change” focus I had built up since Summer 2000 once I saw the history of CCT efforts and student demand in that direction.) The partnership agreement required CCT to develop several online sections so that students could, in theory, complete the certificate from a distance. I recruited faculty who could teach these sections in ways consistent with CCT's tradition of innovative and interaction-intensive teaching and each semester I shepherded the instructors through the shoals of getting online courses up and running and their full complement of students on board. This partnership has grown to a level where U.C. supports (since January 20110 a full-time professional staff member (with teaching responsibilities) for CCT and a half-time staff member for the new Science in a Changing World track. Gradually the work training these assistants is paying off in terms of sharing the administrative load with them.
For me to continue in a mostly unsupported administrative role, I have needed to foster a wider community around CCT, first to support students as they change their work and lives, but also to sustain myself. In this spirit, I initiated the organization of a Reflective Practice Support Group
in 2005 to support CCT graduates in putting into practice, taking stock of outcomes, and extending what they learned during CCT studies and afterwards. This group was intended to meet a long-expressed need of CCT graduates for a community to support their steps after they graduate. Arranging such support matches the emerging emphasis in education programs on mentoring and support of recent graduates. On a personal level, I valued the opportunity to experiment in such a supportive setting with new approaches for individual reflection and group interaction. The group eventually morphed into the CCT Network
at the start of 2008, which hosts monthly evening events with the goals of:
- organizing, in a sustainable fashion, personal & professional development, community building, and educational-innovation activities beyond the formal CCT program of studies.
- supplementing students' education through the involvement of alums.
- continuing alums' education by their involvement in the education of students and each other.
The richness of the Network events is evident in the podcasts
, especially the “Our Lives and Other Worlds
” series, in which graduates come back to explain their work and reflect on how this has developed in relation to their CCT experiences.
Another direction of development in CCT has been Science in a Changing World, first as a wikispace
documenting a range of projects, and then as a cross-college graduate track formally within CCT, as described above.
6. Strengthening the
Learning, Teaching, and Educational Transformation M.Ed. track, ltet.wikispaces.umb.edu
III. Leadership in Regular Service
Once I began to serve as interim Department Chair in 2006 (while the re-opened search for an outside Chair took place), I solicited overdue administrative matters from department members (such as, honoraria not yet received for guests speakers in classes), but then invited each faculty member to meet for a chat about their work, keeping administrative matters off the agenda. I learned so much about the experience and motivation of colleagues, including part-timers, who met with me and was embarrassed how much I hadn’t known. When I subsequently articulated priorities for department members “when faced with competing demands on our work time” (Table 2), I saw that I had addressed priority #2 when setting out to clear up the administrative backlog and priority #3 when inviting colleagues to talk about their work and lives. Other steps I took relate to the “Qualities to Pursue in Service and Institutional Development” (table 1), such as:
• establishing a departmental wiki
to make information about committee assignments and established procedures accessible (e.g., GCE guidelines for personnel reviews) and keep a record of meetings for those who couldn’t attend or who came later [qualities of: documenting, transparency, organization].
• combining information and news in regular email bulletins
(backed up on the wiki), eliminating the time-consuming information-transmitting part of meetings and making room for more learning more about each others' work and lives [organization and community-building]
• instituting the required (but rarely undertaken) annual staff reviews so as to provide a basis for improvement (or, if need be, dismissal) [documenting]
• articulating the principles
that might govern our departmental work, both at the particular level of equitable committee assignments and the more visionary level (such as Table 2) [probing].
Perhaps most importantly, I created a well-organized CD of relevant documents, spreadsheets, etc. for each of the three subsequent C&I chairs and made time to support their learning and planning [documenting, organization].
Similar qualities informed my leadership of the College Academic Affairs and Curriculum Committee
(2000-2, 2005-6), College Personnel Committee in 2003 and 2008-10 (especially when some contentious issues of process arose), as well as many personnel reviews at the Department and College level.
3. Modeling and mentoring in teaching innovation and administration
Documentation of tools and processes from the Critical & Creative Thinking Graduate Program, cct.wikispaces.umb.edu
, which provided the basis for the book (with J. Szteiter), Taking Yourself Seriously
AQUAD reviews and reports between reviews for CCT and LTET, www.cct.umb.edu/programreviews.html
Teaching for Transformation and other C.I.T. sessions (incl. 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010)
Academic Life wiki entries (including entries on e-etiquette, consensus decision-making, collegiality), www.faculty.umb.edu/peter_taylor/AcademicLife
Teaching as Reflective practice session for pre-tenured faculty, http://wp.me/p1gwfa-iJ
Probe-Create Change-Reflect blog, http://pcrcr.wordpress.com
Notes on consensus decision-making
Some practices and principles that help a department be supportive, collegial, and congenial
What comes first -- a hierarchy of responsibilities
What principles govern our service in the institution
Etiquette in email-mediated interactions
Guidelines for educationally justified and sustainable choices of when and how to integrate technologies
Use of wikis
Themes, Practices, Resources for Faculty-initiated Mentoring
5. Mid-career student and faculty professional development at UMass Boston
Directing the Graduate Program in Critical & Creative Thinking
Task Force on Educational Technology
, MEET Technology fellow, Instructional Technology Center Senior Fellowship (2000-2)
Co-organizing the initial site visit that secured the initial $350K Ford Foundation grant for N.E.C.I.T. (2002)
Co-organizing and co-leading the Curriculum Development workshops
for the Education for Sustainability Initiative (2002-3)
Initiating and leading the Intercollege Faculty Seminar in Humanities and Sciences
Teaching across colleges (at various levels) and across campuses (since 2005)
Initiating and leading the Health In Society Research Discussion Group
Preparing a proposal for a Transdisciplinary Research Workshop
Co-organizing and co-leading the CCT Network
(online and monthly events that connect current and former students of CCT) (since 2008)
Organizing and sometimes leading a Writing Support Group
for graduate students (2009-11)
Leading a C.I.T. faculty seminar on "Engaging Students in a Changing University
Organizing and leading Workshops on Supporting Students' Writing Development throughout the Graduate Curriculum (2014)