Guided Tour of Peter Taylor's mentoring

(work in progress, 30 March 2014)


Four considerations underlie my mentoring of students, graduates, and junior colleagues--at UMB and elsewhere:
1. The program of studies for Critical & Creative Thinking (CCT), especially the final three research and engagement courses for which I have had primary responsibility, requires individually customized guidance in order to fulfill its mission of providing students from diverse fields "with knowledge, tools, experience, and support so they can become constructive, reflective agents of change in education, work, social movements, science, and creative arts."

2. My intellectual and professional project centers around encouraging 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. Given this, I have contributed actively to the development of society-at-a-small-scale, through new collaborations, programs, and other activities, new directions for existing programs, and collegial interactions across disciplines and regions. Consistently working on such institutional development as well as experimenting in teaching and group process has followed from and fed into the analyses of ecological complexity I made as a scientist as well as the interpretations I made, as a science and technology studies (STS) scholar, of equivalent, ecological-like complexity of influences shaping science.

3. To ensuring a viable CCT Program without another full-time CCT faculty member (since my 2nd year at UMB, with the exception of 2004-6), I worked to foster a wider community around CCT, not only to support students as they change their work and lives, but also to sustain myself.

4. In any endeavor, I seek to articulate coherent principles to guide my efforts and make it visible to others. In mentoring, as in my service and institutional development more generally, the qualities I value and pursue include:
planning 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;
community-building, 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;
documenting process, product, and evaluations to make institutional learning more likely;
organization, including efficient use of computer technology, to support all of the above.


My mentoring has included many initiatives, each reflecting one of more of the four considerations above. They are arranged below in approximate chronological order of when I began working on them. Of course, not all of the initiatives have been successful or sustainable.

Preparing students to put their learning into practice beyond the CCT program of studies via my teaching and further development of the three precapstone and capstone research and engagement courses, for which I have had primary responsibility most years since I began at UMB.
General advising of students, from their first inquiry through to graduation (ably assisted since 2009 by Jeremy Szteiter)
Monthly CCT news since Fall 2009 (first by email, then listserv, wiki, and mailchimp; see and
  • The CCT News includes Student Matters and News about the CCT Program, Upcoming Events, News from the alums and the CCT community, Opportunities, Resources, Food for Thought, and Humor
Forwarding relevant readings, news, job possibilities to students and graduates.
  • This depended on bringing up to date a CCT database and keeping information current.
Preparing a CCT Community Directory starting in 1999-2000, designed to foster on-going support, communication, and the sharing of resources among current and former students, and others who have been associated with the Program (
Modeling and mentoring in teaching innovation and administration
Regular evening and weekend events centered on experiential activities, open to students, alums, the wider CCT community, and the public (starting with weekly CCT in Practice sessions in 1999 and evolving, with some gaps, to monthly CCT Network events since 2008).
  • For example, 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 compilation of session recordings at 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.
Convening a Thinktank for community-college critical thinking teachers in 2000 and documenting its meetings
  • To explore issues of interest to each of us in our quest to promote effective thinking and problem solving in our professional lives and communities.
  • To consider ways to share the results of our explorations with wider audiences.
Completing a Handbook for students and moving it online (with links to specific informational pages kept up to date).
  • This is arranged in an order that takes people through the sequence of issues they have from when they are first interested in the program to when they are ready to complete their studies.
Initiating an online Thinking for Change Fieldbook in 2001, which evolved from 2006 into a wiki compilation of tools and processes from the Critical & Creative Thinking Graduate Program,, to which alums have contributed.
  • My contributions and Jeremy's were published in 2012 as Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research and Engagement (
Providing web access to abstracts of students' capstone projects dating back to 1980 and, in more recent years, with student permission, to full text pdfs (
Working on the challenge of enhancing diversity in and through the CCT Program,,,
  • Intentions notwithstanding, CCT's efforts have been on and off in this regard, with the major sustained results have been support to address problems around moving students through to completion (see below) and hiring faculty of color to teach some courses included in the online and summer offerings.
Bringing graduate students into the New England Workshop on Science and Social Change, which I have organized annually since 2004 at Woods Hole and in Portugal (, and securing funding subsidies for travel and accommodation.
  • 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 CCT 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).
Organizing "Marathon Days" in which students get support from each other and me in completing incomplete papers and capstone projects.
Addressing problems around moving students through to completion and reinforcing guidelines to prevent those problems in the future.
Implementing a Reflective Practitioner's Portfolio expectation for students and a mid-program check-in.
  • The RPP is "designed to be a self-customized tool box and set of reminders that students intend to use in their on-going learning and practice (including their work beyond/after CCT)" (
Strengthening the Learning, Teaching, and Educational Transformation M.Ed. track, Co/coordinator, 2008-2012.
  • In particular, a) creating a wiki ( and a database to ensure that students are efficiently advised and b) arranging the opportunity for LTET students to join a seminar with CCT students to undertake a written capstone.
Organizing and sometimes leading a Writing Support Group for graduate students (2009-11), then incorporating that support practices in the capstone seminar and allowing "ABDs" to participate in the weekly "Writers Workshop" so as to move them along towards finishing.
  • A student and an alum have gone on to convene a Writing Support Group (face-to-face and online, respectively), with my support and a stipend from the Program.
  • In Spring 2014, I am leading Faculty development workshops to take this beyond CCT and build the community of faculty members at UMB who design their courses with the idea that graduate students' development as writers as integral to their development as scholars and professionals (
Opening the Inter-college faculty Seminar in Science and Humanities (ISHS) to doctoral students and professional staff, from 2010
  • In 2003, I helped initiate monthly discussion meetings of interested faculty while assistant STV director, then built on this in organizing ISHS, semester-long thematic seminars, which started in spring 2004 and have continued most semesters since. ISHS is a “forum for discussion and interaction among faculty at UMass-Boston. Faculty [and now doctoral students and professional staff] 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 and Science in a Changing World graduate track, ISHS was designed to bridge the Humanities/Sciences gap after the separation of the College of Arts and Sciences into two colleges.
Making use of social media and digital tools to build community that includes online students and alums who cannot attend on-campus events.
Collaborative Explorations (CEs)
  • The goal of CEs for CCT is to support and build community beyond the formal programs of study and engage others outside of the programs in deep and meaningful self-directed learning inquiries.
  • CEs are "an extension of Project-Based Learning (PBL) and related approaches to education in which participants address a scenario or case in which the problems are not well defined, shaping your own directions of inquiry and developing your skills as investigators and prospective teachers (in the broadest sense of the word). The basic mode of a CE centers on interactions in small groups over a delimited period of time, designed to sustain the face-to-face PBL experience of re-engagement with yourself as an avid learner and inquirer. An online CE consists of live sessions for an hour over 4 weeks and exchanges on a private community between sessions" (