Tag Archives: dialogue

Dialogue hours at Cambridge Science Festival (over the internet), 7 & 8 pm tonight

Wednesday, April 19, 2017
By google+ hangout at http://bit.ly/CCTEvent
(or in person at MIT — for technical and other details, see http://sicw.wikispaces.com/CSF2017 )
7pm “Genomic citizens and misfits in a digital age”
(Discuss the promises, fears, and claims being made about genetics in this evolving digital era. What and who is to believed?)
8pm “Science and literature exploring life on the near-future earth”

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Saturday, April 26, hour-long dialogues on Science in a Changing World

Join one or more hour-long dialogues in which participants will explore topics such as “Is the new genomics reconfiguring race?” and “the democratic control of science” (starting 10, 11.15, 12.30, 1.45, 3, Saturday, April 26, by google hangout (at URL posted to http://bit.ly/CSF2014url or face2face at MIT, building 56 room 154). Participants will gain experience of a valuable model for group interaction in education, policy, and other areas of civic engagement.  Details of topics athttp://sicw.wikispaces.com/DialogueHours . Hosted by the Science in a Changing World graduate program at UMass Boston.

Cycles and Epicycles of Action Research: Elaboration and Useful Tools

Elaboration on the Aspects of Action Research
in the Cycles and Epicycles framework.  Tools useful in the different aspects of Action research are described through the links further down in the post.

Evaluation is the systematic study of the effects of actions. You use the results of evaluations — of actions taken before you got involved or in another setting as well as actions you implement — to design new or revised actions and to convince others to implement equivalent actions in other settings. To establish the specific effect of a specific action a comparison is needed of a situation in which the action is taken with one in which it is not, with nothing else varying systematically between the two situations. Such a comparison may be hard to find or achieve. In any case, tightly focused evaluations need to be complemented by broader Inquiry to clarify what warrants change and action in view of what is known about this situation and others like it and to clarify what a potential constituency is.

Constituency building involves getting others to adopt or adapt your action proposals, or, better still, enlisting others to become part of the “you” that shapes, evaluates, and revises any proposals. Adoption/adapatation is helped by succinct presentations to a potential constituency of action proposals and the evaluations and inquiry that supports them. Enlistment is helped by facilitation of “stakeholder” participation in the initial evaluation and inquiry, in formulation of action proposals, and in planning so as to bring about their investment in implementing the proposals. If the actions are personal changes and the constituency is yourself, you can still facilitate your own evaluation and planning process to ensure your investment in the actions. Indeed, constituency building begins with yourself. In order to contribute effectively to change, you need to be engaged—to have your head and heart together. You need to pay attention to what help you need to get engaged and stay so.

Reflection and dialogue are valuable for: ongoing revision of your ideas about the current situation; for generating action proposals; and for drawing more people into your constituency. Through reflection and dialogue you can check that the evaluation and inquiry you undertake about the current situation and past actions relate well to possible actions you are considering and constituencies you intend to build. You can check that the results of your evaluations and inquiry support the actions and constituency building you pursue. You can review what actually happens when an action is implemented and it effects are evaluated and then generate ideas for the next cycle of action research.

Planning involves looking ahead at what may be involved before you settle on what actions to pursue. Planning is strategic when action proposals respect the resources—possibly limited—that you and others in your constituency have and elicit investment in implementation of those actions.

Tools useful in the different aspects of Action Research

  • RD = Reflection and Dialogue
  • CB = Constituency building
  • EI = Evaluation and Inquiry
  • P = Planning
…….. …….. …….. ……..
CheckIn RD CB
ClosingCircle (CheckOut) RD CB
Critical Incident Questionnaire EI
Dialogue Process RD CB
Evaluation Clock (review of past evals) EI
Evaluation Clock (planning future evals) EI P
Focused Conversation RD CB
Gallery Walk RD CB EI
Guided Freewriting RD
Historical scan RD CB
Jig-saw discussion of texts RD EI
One-on-one consultations in a large group RD CB
+Δ Feedback RD CB EI
Small group roles RD CB
Statistical Thinking EI
Strategic Participatory Planning RD CB P
Strategic Personal Planning RD P
Supportive listening RD
Think-pair-share RD

Extracted from Taking Yourself Seriously: A Fieldbook of Processes of Research and Engagement

Action Research: A cycles and epicycles framework

Action Research begins when you (as an individual or as a group) want to do something to change the current situation, that is, to take action.

  • “Action” refers to many different things: a new or revised curriculum; a new organizational arrangement, policy, or procedure in educational settings; equivalent changes in other professions, workplaces, or communities; changes in personal practices, and so on.

Action Research then progresses through stages of Planning and Implementing some Action to Evaluation of its Effects, that is, Research to show what ways the situation after the action differs from the way it was before.

To this traditional cycle of Action Research we can add reflection and dialogue through which you review and revise the ideas you have about what action is needed and about how to build a constituency to implement the change. Your thinking about what the situation is and what needs changing can also be altered by inquiring into the background (e.g., what motivates you to change this situation?) as well as looking ahead to future stages. Constituency-building happens over time like the basic cycle of Action Research, so we can think of this a second cycle. The other additions, however, often make us go back and revisit what had seemed clear and settled, so we can call these the “epicycles” (i.e., cycles on top of cycles) of action research.

In what follows, I expand on this brief introduction, then in the next post elaborate on the key Aspects of Action Research and list the Tools useful in the different aspects of Action Research. This text is deliberately brief–a summary more than a detailed guide–because it is primarily through experience conducting Action Research and practice using the tools that the interplay between the cycles and epicycles become clear. (See also a step-by-step presentation of this framework).

Again, Action Research begins when you (as an individual or as a group) want to do something to change the current situation, that is, to take action. To move from a broad idea of the action you think is needed to a more refined and do-able proposal, you may need to review evaluations of the effects of past actions (including possibly evaluations of actions you have made) and to conduct background inquiry so you can take into account other relevant considerations (e.g., who funds or sponsors these kinds of changes and evaluations). You also have to get people—yourself included—to adopt or adapt your proposals, that is, you have to build a constituency for any actions. Constituency building happens when you draw people into reflection, dialogue, and other participatory processes that elicit ideas about the current situation, clarify objectives, and generate ideas and plans to take action to improve it; when people work together to implement actions; and when people see evaluations of how good the actions/changes were in achieving the objectives. Evaluation of the effects of a change or action can lead to new or revised ideas about further changes and about how to build a constituency around them, thus stimulating ongoing cycles of action research.
These cycles are not a steady progression one step to the next. Reflection and dialogue “epicycles” at any point can lead to you to revisit and revise the ideas you had about what change is needed and about how to build a constituency to implement the change. Revision also happens when, before you settle on what actions to pursue, you move “backwards” and look at evaluations of past actions and conduct other background inquiry. Revision can also happen when you look ahead at what may be involved in implementing or evaluating proposed actions and building a constituency around them. Such looking ahead is one of the essential features of planning.

In summary, action research involves evaluation and inquiry, reflection and dialogue, constituency building, looking ahead and revision in order to clarify what to change, get actions implemented, take stock of the outcomes, and continue developing your efforts.

Of course, as is the case with all evaluations and research more generally, there is no guarantee that the results of Action Research will influence relevant people and groups (“stakeholders”), but constituency building–including dialogue and reflection on the implications of the results–provides a good basis for mobilizing support and addressing (potential) opposition in the politics of applied research and evaluation.

Extracted from Taking Yourself Seriously: A Fieldbook of Processes of Research and Engagement

Teaching dialogue process on the spot: A shared meaning that emerges from a group through listening, inquiry and reflection

Participants can learn about the dialogue process on the spot, with no prior preparation or introductory lecture, by following this script (which borrows from a script by Allyn Bradford (2001); see also Isaacs, W. 1999. Dialogue. NY: Currency, and a more detailed script.)  Best to allow 75 minutes for the script, check-in, and a dialogue process experience that indicates the potential of the practice.


Dialogue Process Session on facilitator fills in topic

Phase A Pass this sheet around, each person reading one paragraph of guidelines from Allyn Bradford and Peter Taylor

The Dialogue Process is an opportunity to listen—not only to the thinking of others, but also to our own thoughts and feelings that had been below the surface of our attention.

When a group does this together over a period of time, “meaning” emerges and evolves collectively through mutual understanding and acceptance of diverse points of view. In this short session, however, we cannot expect this to be the dominant experience.

The Dialogue Process works well when participants tolerate paradox and opposing views, suspend judgment and listen empathetically, and try to make their entire thought process visible, including tacit assumptions. Instead of imposing our views on others, we invite others to add new dimensions to what we are thinking, and strive to find ways to make un(der)expressed voices articulate.

In this spirit, balance advocacy—making a statement—with inquiry—seeking clarifications and understanding. In advocating do not impose your opinion, rather simply offer it as such. In inquiry seek clarification and a deeper level of understanding, not the exposure of weakness.

The Dialogue Process requires structured turn-taking. The overriding idea is to keep focused on listening well. If you’re thinking about whether you’ll get to talk next, you won’t listen well. Ditto, if you’re holding on tight to what you want to say.

Take a numbered card when you feel that you’d like a turn, but keep listening. When your turn comes, show your card, and pause. See if you have something to follow what’s being said, even if it’s not the thought you had wanted to say. You can pass.

There’s no need for questions to be answered right away. If the question relates directly to someone, they can pick it up when they next take a turn. This differs from usual conversations, but think of questions as inquiries that you’re putting into a shared space.

Try to make turn-taking administer itself so the facilitator can listen well and participate undistracted. When you finish speaking (or if you decide to pass), put your card on the stack of used cards so the person with the next card knows that they can begin. The facilitator’s role becomes simply to gently remind people to follow the guidelines.

Phase B. Check-in
Go around the circle with each person saying one thought that’s at the front for you before we go into the session proper. This need not be about the topic of the session.

Stop passing the sheet around at this point, and take turns in checking-in.

* * * * *

Facilitator reminds participants of the topic, then we move to
Phase C. Turn-taking dialogue about the topic for the time available minus 5+ minutes.

* * * * *

We keep the last 5+ minutes for

Phase D. Check-out
Go around the circle with each person saying one thought that you’re taking away to chew on after this session.

Calhoun’s Action research versus a cycles-and-epicycles framework

Since 1999 I have used Emily Calhoun’s 1994 book Action Research in the Self-Renewing School in a graduate course that has evolved and changed its name from Educational Evaluation to Evaluation of Educational Change to Action Research for Educational, Professional, and Personal Change.   The framework I introduce students to I call Cycles and Epicycles and the course now includes an activity in which students compare and contrast Calhoun and the Cycles-Epicycles framework.

It was noted this year that Calhoun may have evolved as well since 1994, so I conducted a web search.   This showed that she was most active in the 90s and co-wrote a 1999 book that is reviewed at http://www.jstor.org/stable/1188898.  The review indicates that the book pays a lot of attention to the multiple players involved in making school change successful (aka “constituency building” in the Cycles-Epicycles framework).  She is still cited often (see http://www.alliance.brown.edu/dnd/ar_websites.shtml) and her work is included in a 2009 anthology on Practical Action Research edited by R. Schmuck (whose own text we now also use in the course).  The following interview suggests that her directional approach is central to her work: “Action researcher narrows focus to broaden effectiveness,” http://www.learningforward.org/news/jsd/calhoun201.cfm

Reviewing the students’ contrasts I arrived at the following schema:

Calhoun book vs Cycles-epicycles framework

1.  School change vs. Education, Professional, and Personal Change

2. Straightforward vs. Explicitly includes full dimensions of Action Research in practice
[Calhoun’s simple schema invites frustration when full dimensions are experienced]

3.  “Just do it!” versus room for development and evolution, for more people to be involved
[but see note above on the 1999 book]

4. Reflection & dialogue: incidental & not examined vs. Integral to AR & needs to be addressed systematically (i.e., tools are needed)

5. Data-centric vs. Data collection & analysis included inside evaluation of past & current action (see Evaluation Clock)

6. results dictate further action vs. constituency building increases the chances that results of your AR will be taken up and extended.

Open Spaces for Changing Science and Society

What concepts and practices help us work in the arena bordered on one side by critical interpretation of the directions taken by scientific and technological research and application and on the other side by organizing social movements so as to influence those directions?  The metaphor of “open spaces” in the title of the post suggests that the issue is not so much to bridge the two sides as it is to acknowledge the value of discussion, reflection, and clarifying one’s identity and affinities with both sides kept in view.

Whereas the young Karl Marx proclaimed that the “philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it,” what happens when we allow for more dialogue and deliberation before—or as a complement to—jumping into campaigns for change? (In this spirit, open spaces has been used to characterize Social Forum meetings, which take place at the world, national, and regional levels.) Interpretations from science and technology studies (STS) often suggest that things could be (or could have been) otherwise, but when should effecting change be the litmus test of STS critique? What can we learn from examples of explicit and implicit open spaces and what can we share from our own experience?

This question has arisen, in particular, in follow-up discussions among recent participants of the New England Workshop on Science and Social Change (NewSSC).  How can NewSSC articulate and develop its role as a valued open space for participants, some of whom return many times for a recharge and affirmation of aspirations that are not well supported in home institutions and day-to-day interactions?

“Open Spaces for Changing Science and Society” has been chosen, therefore, as the theme for the May 2011 NewSSC, to be held in Woods Hole, MA, USA May 15-18. Applications are sought from teachers and researchers (including graduate students) who are interested in moving beyond their current disciplinary and academic boundaries to explore the theme.  Applications due 15 Jan. 2011.  For more details, http://www.stv.umb.edu/newssc11.html and http://www.stv.umb.edu/newsscarrange.html