Guided Tour of Peter Taylor's teaching

(28 Feb. '09)

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 continue to contribute actively, to new collaborations, programs, and other activities, new directions for existing programs, and collegial interactions across disciplines.

As a UMB professor I have taught twelve different graduate courses: six in my original specialty of science and its social context; four required courses in the Critical & Creative Thinking [CCT] Graduate Program on critical thinking, research, writing, and reflective practice; and another two concerning computers and learning/education. Each of these courses has involved development of a new syllabus (or, in one case, a substantial revision) and subsequent ongoing revision. In my statement for tenure review in 2001, I noted:

This "guided tour" to my teaching is divided into three phases, more to make use of the materials compiled for my tenure and promotion than to mark any disjunctures--experience gained in the earlier years feeds into actions taken in the later ones and the themes continue from one phase to the next.



In the statement for the tenure review in 2001, I discussed my teaching under the headings:
(Discussion of related themes and exhibits from a 1999 review can be viewed at
The last heading points the sharing of work I pursue in a number of ways:
Creating and maintaining a web presence for my work is one way my teaching is also characterized by

Related thought-pieces and compilations of exhibits
Guidelines about specific situations and specific ways in which specific technologies are of significant pedagogical benefit. (With case studies from science education)

"We know more than we are, at first, prepared to acknowledge: Journeying to develop critical thinking"

Review of Courses, aka Practitioner's Portfolio.


The eight strands above 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

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

Contributing to New Interdisciplinary, International, and Educational Projects


Although I have taught fewer classes because of course releases under research grants and for administration, the seven strands of the previous two phases continued, but with additions or extensions in four significant and overlapping directions:

Related thought-pieces and compilations of exhibits
Teaching/Learning for Reflective Practice

"Cultivating Collaborators: Concepts and Questions Emerging Interactively From An Evolving, Interdisciplinary Workshop" (with S. Fifield & C. Young) [an analysis of the effect of the interactive processes at NewSSC workshops]

An overview of Case- or problem-based learning, which begins from a Scenario in which the problems are not well defined.

Taking Yourself Seriously, A Fieldbook of Processes of Research and Engagement (with Jeremy Szteiter)