Adult 623 #2 “The Light and Warmth of Hospitality.”

Looks yummy, doesn't it?  Professional Buffet Eaters, PBE's, live for Friday night in some hotels.
Looks yummy, doesn’t it? Professional Buffet Eaters, PBE’s, live for Friday night in some hotels.

Like many young people, I have a long list of jobs that comprise my list of part-time jobs, one of which was to be a hostess in a hotel restaurant.The work was fast paced during Friday night buffets.  Early morning shifts to host for breakfast, particularly during the winter, meant braving the cold and dark at 4:30 in the morning.  Hotels run 24/7.  The work is hard and not for the faint of heart.  The training that I received for my position was mediocre at best.  The way that I learned how to do my job was by shadowing a peer who did the same job as me.  I was given a general description of the position and was then placed with several different individual who worked the various shifts. Explicit knowledge occurred through a process of shadowing different hostesses. As expected, each employee possessed a different take on how to complete the tasks for the position.  After several weeks of employment, I found that there were always small tasks that I either didn’t know that I was expected to do or that I completed incorrectly. Tt was apparent that training was typically laced with undertones of implied understanding.  Transfer of knowledge from one shift to another was incomplete. While this hotel was a member of a much larger chain of hotels, we possessed little understanding of our place within the corporation. Learning in this organization did not encompass an understanding of the relationship between the part and the whole from neither the standpoint of the organization nor the corporation as a whole. The internet was not a reality for us during this time in my life. A career in the hotel industry is one that I was certainly not interested in pursuing as a result of this experience.

My team’s selection of Hilton Worldwide as an exemplary model of organizational learning certainly intrigued me. My understanding or learning within an organization is limited to staff development that is often preselected for me.  It is not uncommon for an educator to be unaware of the work that occurs within a different department or grade level in the same building.  Schools can be the poster child for siloed learning.  The frame with which to understand how Hilton, a corporation with hotels and brands in over 90 countries is one that doesn’t exist.  I entered this project with neither a predisposition for or prejudice against the company.

Adlt 623 #1: Organizational Learning-reframing my previous lens

If I die

Typically, educational Institutions are in business to provide an education for children between the ages of 5 and 18 years of age.  Teaching and learning for adults, occur in the form of pre-school week orientation, staff development, and recertification training.  To say that I come to this course as an open slate would be to dismiss over 20 years of learning about my role as a teacher.  However, I have a relatively weak set of the schema with which to adhere what I consider about adult education and learning in an organizational setting.

Organizational learning situated in a public, classroom experience, encompasses meeting the needs of learning in a specific discipline for a set of state mandated objectives.  Phew…sounds like a very technical set of tasks to be completed in a very prescribed manner.  The field has transitioned from highly creative and welcoming of diverse opinions and ways of learning to one that’s rather behavioral in nature. The artifacts produced and the language used focuses on the practice of working with and engaging learning on the part of students as opposed to that of adults.

With each adult learning course, a query regarding my goals and expectations is posed. I typically respond that I expect to read the seminal works of those in a specific field. On numerous occasions, I’ve remarked that those theorists whose work is the essence of our learning seem to engage in the reading and understanding of each other’s work.  This experience reassures me that everything that I am learning and will learn is interconnected. This is a given expectation and one that I should no longer postulate as something new.  What I need is exposure to adult learning in settings outside of the business model typically presented in our readings.

When perusing through the literature selected for this class, I conclude that the field of management considers learning in adult settings of value to the growth of an organization. These exposures might allow for me to consider how to facilitate learning for adults. I’m particularly intrigued with the idea of transfer of learning and how adults who do work that is similar to my work could learn from each other. My work as a public educator meant that my exposure to learning with other adults as a collective, a community of practice, occurred infrequently. When departments met once a month, an agenda is established for us.  The department chair received marching orders from the administration.  Meetings during the last tenure of my work focused on accreditation, No Child Left Behind and the Virginia Standards of Learning.  Learning to sustain the members of a department featured artifacts generated for us to use with our students or to be completed by us.

Instructional Fairs occur during planned professional development and when staff members are willing to participate.  It is a routine procedure to expect faculty members to state how they’ll share learning derived from attending a workshop or conference or when receiving financial remuneration for the completion of a project.  I participated in a  mini-grant program in one organization on several occasions. Showing my work at a fair, completing paperwork to be assembled in a large publication provides substantial meat for a resume and now a Linkedin account.  Personal professional development, research and grant work can inadvertently encourage Silo-like behaviors in those who participate.

Many of the educators that I meet outside of the physical organization are bruised, beaten down and feel as though they are running ahead of their breath.  When listening to me share adult learning with them, a sense of relief that someone is interested in their learning is expressed. This relief is followed by a lack of schema with which to consider what I propose when transitioning from teaching children to teaching adults.

It’s a widely expressed belief that those in the Adult Learning program are life long learners.  Moving beyond the expression to becoming a community that practices their passion for learning is my new presenting possibility for change in both myself as well as others who may join me in the new future.

Learning in an educational organization is an onion like any other organization. When peeled away, there is a landscape and culture that is unique to the organization.  In his post, Courage to Teach Online, Britt Watwood describes how he applies Parker Palmer’s work, The Courage to Teach to his own practice.  The “what” and the “how” of teaching and learning in an organization may frequently overshadow the “why” and the “who.”  After all, the “who” of organizational learning is the adult learner. The “why” I would assume is in direct relation to learning that meets the needs of the organization. In the SoundCloud recordings between Britt and his former VCU colleagues, the practice communal engagement of ideas surfaced while learning in a higher organization.

I consider my thoughts about adult learning in an educational organization.

Then-passive recipient in an organization Now-active learner in a learning organization

I am positioned to ask questions about my work and learning in the organization in a prescribed manner.

I am positioned to receive learning for my role in the organization   rather than engage in my learning.

I am positioned to accept learning that is prepared for me sans my engagement

I am positioned to be a conveyor of organizational knowledge in a mechanized setting

I consider what I will bring to the learning event.

I am expected to ask my own questions about my learning in the organization.

I consider learning that’s meets my professional needs in conjunction with those of my organization.

I am a member of a community of practice with those in my profession, common work or position within my organization.

I hope to garner from this course an opportunity to engage in conversation with others about how adults in their organizations, both profit and nonprofit learn, how the concepts postulated by learning theorists can translate to the field of public education and ways in which to link ideas, individuals and practice together. dog-from-chewing-e1438880851338

Something to Chew On-

The 10th edition copy of Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach includes a 70-minute discussion with Palmer and two other members of the Center for Courage and Renewal.  Each time that I have listened to it, I come away with a sense that teaching is truly a relationship between soul and role.  I’ve passed the CD along to a fellow classmate with the ideas of bringing another into the conversation.  I’ve three more individuals that I am considering for a community of practice of adult educators who wish to continue the conversation of organizational learning beyond the course.

Adlt 610 #2: Coming up for Air

gopher-blog-illustrationI’ve been a gopher this semester.  I am busy working underground, digging tunnels and trying to connect this project with the concept of Flawless Consulting. I’ve been rather silent in the area of reflective practice and my blog. I find it difficult to provide concrete details about projects, individuals, situations and my reactions in a public space. I chose to make my blog visually accessible as a way in which to engage with others in a more authentic way. Being authentic is a very public space asks me to consider what I know about myself and the way in which I perceive and react to others. My struggle is an intervention that surrounds my need to protect and preserve the privacy of the client and the project while making my learning more visible to others.

Two of the tunnels through which I have traveled this semester-

Relationships- When engaging in the act of “Flawless Consulting,” Peter Block maintains that personal relationships are critical to technical and business success.  The need to know oneself as an individual is directly tied to being authentic (2011: xviii). Building relationships in my personal life is a value that I place above completing tasks and executing projects. In an academic setting, I struggle to consider how to balance the need to care about the client and build relationships with the need to complete the tasks of the course in a timely manner.  Authenticity, Block contends, presents its own share of frustrations and challenges.  “It swims upstream in a culture of control…it also demands some faith in ourselves; we have to be tuned into the feeling dimension of our connections with others” (2011:xix).

Our meetings are poised and controlled. A limited period of time is established, typically an hour at most, which is adhered to by client and consultants. While professional and technical, I find that authenticity is lacking in our conversations with our client. My consulting team works to ensure that time is given to the technical and business problems, goal #3 of The Consultant’s Goals (2011:20). The ability to manage the ambiguity between resistance to completing the work of the project and the development of lateral relationships is a continual challenge. If I consider Block’s reminder, that resistance means that something is going on, then I am also reminded that during the discovery and inquiry stage of the consulting phase, that resistance to sharing information must be identified and expressed (2011:42). Our team did so with care.

Failure to follow through on agreements, communication or requests on the surface resemble resistance. It was my understanding, as a consulting class,  that we eschewed the role of expert consultant over one of collaboration in order to practice process consultation. Knowledge of the organization has not been forthcoming on the part of the client.  It is a challenge to contribute the specialized knowledge we are developing when organizational understanding is lacking (2011:26). The timeframe, coupled, with the intervening behaviors and needs of my client challenge my schema for relationships.

Reframing- On numerous occasions, I’ve needed to step back and reframe my beliefs about listening and helping as a by-product of relationship building. Intervention is a concept that I’ve wrestled with through this consulting project. Personally, I needed to reframe my definition of intervention from that of a noun, an intervention. to that of a verb, to have an influence on what happens. The way in which my behavior, actions or reactions can influence what happens, in this case through process consultation, can frame the way my client reacts to the process that I am proposing. In reframing relationship building from a personal to a professional level, the need to care about the needs of the client does not change.  The reality of this project is that it is an instance to practice some of the behaviors of Flawless Consulting while understanding that it is not possible to process through each phase as thoroughly as I would in an actual consulting situation.

Resistance-The concept that we are never to be neutral, objective observers (2011:42) means that no matter how sticky the issue may be, I need to confront my own personal resistance to name it.  Block presents a clever technique to refocus and recover from being a player in the game of resistance.  Do I have the courage to act on my own doubts if I leave the Feedback meeting?

Something to chew on-dog-from-chewing-e1438880851338

When I fail to participate in the discussion, am I contributing to the overall problem?  

Is my lack of questioning behavior really a passive way to cover up my own resistance?  

Reference:  Block, P. (2011). Flawless consulting: A guide to getting your expertise used. John Wiley & Sons.

Adlt 610: #1 Wearing a new lens of possibilities-

Lucy is certainly devoid of authenticity.
Lucy is certainly devoid of authenticity.

I grew up watching the Peanuts.  One of my favorite characters is Lucy van Pelt. Lucy’s psychiatry booth serves as a source of comical relief for adults viewers.  All of the characters in the comic come to see her at one time of another seeking advice for their problems. Lucy dispenses advice which is frequently incorrect and devoid of compassion. Lucy’s primary goal for helping is to collect a nickle for the best insult that she can inflict on her client. While her need may be met, she lacks the capacity to move beyond Schein’s first operating principle, “always try to be helpful.”  It’s obvious to the viewer that she has no desire to consider her own ignorance of the reality of the client.  Charie Brown, typically the recepient of her advice, still owns the problem, yet has little in the way of tools to process through to a solution.

Adult learning courses typically include expectations and previous experience when making introductions. While many individuals ask for advice or for my opinion, instances to sit and listen for long periods of time are less frequent.  I hear the term “consultant” and “consultation” used frequently in every day life. Individuals who supply everything from beauty products to craft supplies refer to themselves as consultants.  When I meet with someone in the medical field, the consultation fee that I pay provides little to no time to build a relationship with a potential provider.  When considering the number of ways in which I have either sought help or provided help to others, often it has been conducted on the fly.  When parents attend conferences, they look for guidance, advice and help in educating their child.  Ten minutes is certainly an inadequate time to accomplish even polite formalities.  Helping takes time, attention and skill. Consultants posess the expertise.  Clients own the problem and need assistance in processing to find the solution on their own.

With just two weeks into this new course, “Consulting Skills in Adult Learning Environments” I find that the lens with which to consider how to be helpful to others will certainly need a dramatic change in prescription.  My concept of consultant was of one who prosessed expertise for which others would contract to receive it.  An individual or organization would hire a consultant, describe the problem and off the consultant would go to brainstorm ways to “fix” the problem.

Several pivotal changes in my thought processes engage the defintions and distinctions proposed by Peter Block in his work, Flawless Consulting.  For example, understanding that as a consultant, I would have some influence over others, however, I would have no direct power to make actual changes. The clients is now the individual who does the work of making the change happen because he owns the problem or the possibility. My role as the consultant is to help the client to be able to do the work.

The concept that form follows function, a principle that possibly shaped modern architecture of the 20th century, is a useful reminder to me as a consultant-in-training. What I gather from an initial exposure to Process Consulting, is that when I offer help to others that product should follow process.  This concepts appeals to me as an educator.  I enjoy the opportunity to teach.  I find it gratifying to empower others to take charge of their situation or environment. Schein’s suggestion that that some consultants risk overworking a situation and unfortunately providing more help than is needed or wanted is a good admonition for me. While I’ve developed a greater capacity for listening over the last several years, to be a skilled consultant I will need to listen to access my ignorance.

The act of learning how to work through, or process through each phase is not only the business of the client, but mine as well.  When Block suggests that “Too often consultants understand their wants and client understate their offers,” I know that the instance to help means that my personal needs are important.  My work needs to reflect a balance between opportunities to help and instances for personal growth.  Block’s engagement strategies will help me to think differently about my role as a helper.

The first several chapters of both Schein and Block provide much food for thought, primarily the need to develop a new schema for the concept of consulting.  The idea that I should not judge how well I am doing by the way others are reacting to me is quite liberating.  Of the first 5 principles discussed in class, the concept that “everything that you do is an intervention” is a powerful reminder to think before acting.  In acting, am I willing to own everything that I do?  The consequences be positive if I move clients to consider what is possible for them or their organization rather than what is wrong with them.

Something to Chew on-dog-from-chewing-e1438880851338

As a new consultant, I want to work and to be effective.  How would I articultate to a client that the outcomes may not fit my goals for creating a helping relationship?

How much practice is necessary to be proficient in “nondirective” interviewing?  Is this a skill that takes a long time to acquire?  Are there other ways to keep the client in the driver’s seat and engaged in telling their story?

Works Cited: 

Block, P. (2011). Flawless consulting: A guide to getting your expertise used. John Wiley & Sons.

Schein, E. H. (1999). Process consultation revisited: Building the helping relationship. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

EDUS 660 #12: Building a muscle

Determining what is of value is often the most challenging aspect of completing a               "Self-Assessment."
Determining what is of value is often the most challenging aspect of completing a “Self-Assessment.”

This blog is a self-assessment. Use these prompts to help describe your learning process. What did you learn by being active in this course? How much did you know about research before we started? Did working with an interdisciplinary group interested in all forms of Social Research enhance your learning? Did you do your work the way other people did theirs? Did conversation during collaboration strengthen your learning? What changed your mind about research? What do you still need to learn to do quality research? Or write your own prompt and respond about your study. Tag self-assessment.

  1. What did I learn by being active in this course.  I’m not sure what this question is implying, perhaps nothing at all.  Active as opposed to being passive?  All of the classes that I have taken in my graduate courses at VCU and through other universities (9 courses/5 universities beyond VCU) require me to be active.  Quite frankly, the medium of an online course required the least amount of activity on my part.  What I did learn from this experience is that I love technology and using it to support my learning. I do not like taking an online course.  I love coming to class, interacting with my professor and my classmates. Relationships are important to me.  I told the women that I worked on the proposal that the project was like navigating through a closet or tunnel without a flashlight.  My reaction had nothing to do with them.  They were wonderful.  What I really enjoyed were the interactive programs during the discussion of Ethics and Research Integrity.  I’m a visual person.  I will remember my participation through that activity particularly the errors that I made.
  2. How much did you know about research before we started?  I think that I knew more about research than I realized or admitted to knowing before the course began.  I participated in a research study where I was part of an experimental group and enjoyed doing so.  What I realize now as a result of this course is how much I would have benefited from the research with all of the knowledge that I now possess.  I have a new lens through which to consider research.  This spring, I noticed a research project in the VCU TelegRAM.  The paperwork that was required of the participant was overwhelming.  At the time, I was rather preoccupied with my coursework.  The researchers contacted me last month to see if I was still interested.  I will reconsider and use it for an opportunity to use what I have learned.
  3. Did working with an interdisciplinary group interested in all forms of Social Research enhance your learning? My “overall/generic” learning was greatly enhanced through the integration of sociology and social work into the coursework.  I was disappointed in being segregated from others who are part of my graduate program.  While our program is small and personal, we do not work as a cohort. Working on a research proposal with others from my program would have engaged our learning with a project that could generate knowledge from seminal leaders. This proposal would allow us to consider where the gaps in our field of study lie.   If we walked away with a research proposal from our discipline, we would have done the ground work necessary to participate in the Graduate Research Fair, for example, or to present at a national conference.
  4. Did you do your work the way other people did theirs? Did conversation during collaboration strengthen your learning? I really don’t know how others in my section did their work.  I do know that the individuals in my group did their work and worked cooperatively with each other.  We use Google Apps for collaboration, which was very helpful. I appreciated my group’s willingness to use those tools.
  5. What changed your mind about research? I live in a university town where advertisements for investigational studies are announced using both the television and the radio.  It’s easy to tune out the studies without a firm understanding behind the science and methodology of research. Where I have either grown in my thinking or have a new perspective-
    1. The way in which I view a research program now certainly engages what I’ve learned.  The CITI training, while rather long and sometimes tedious, helped me to feel more comfortable about participating in research. While too much government influence in other areas of life is constraining, the knowledge that there are policies and procedures to protect participants shows evidence of our society’s desire to contribute to the greater good through research.
    2. The word “research” in an academic setting implies an understanding of and a willingness to adhere to an establish set of procedures.
    3. The literature review is crucial when determining what to study.  Research scientists are looking for gaps to fill rather than a way to advance their curriculum vitae.
    4.  Research needs to contribute to a body of knowledge, again, not pump up one’s job prospects.
  6. What do you still need to learn to do quality research? I have a head full of facts and details that really need some form of a schema.  As an educator, I participated in internships and student teaching. My friends have participated in moot court while studying the law.  My doctor proctors the medical student who meets with me prior to my appointment. As a student of social research, a simulated research project would enhance my learning and provide a place for me to ground my experiences from this semester.  Our work was intense and covered a wealth of topics that are crucial building blocks for a research foundation.  An instance to work with a social research scientist where I physically do what I am learning in class would have enhanced my experience.Do I have a talent for doing social research right now? No, probably not until I have all of the patterns in place necessary to grow a talent for doing so.  I have a good foundation as a result of what I’ve learned in this class.

Something this time for “me” to chew on-fly

Consulting Skills class beings in two weeks.  I’m anxious to see how what I’ve learned this summer  can translate when working with clients.

EDUS 660: #11 Literacy…the buck stops no where

As you think about all the many types of public/social programs there are out there (literacy, teen pregnancy prevention, delinquency prevention, wellness, etc.), which ones do you know have actually undergone a rigorous program evaluation and have demonstrable outcomes? Which ones do you feel have not been adequately evaluated and need to have some greater scrutiny put on them?  Why?  Tag evaluation.

We've come a long way in our reading instruction for both children and adults.
We’ve come a long way in our reading instruction for both children and adults.

Learning how to read was such an adventure….NOT!  In the 1960’s while many educators were embracing new teaching philosophies, theories about reading instruction were stuck in the 1950’s.  Stories with dogs named Spot and with a brother and sister named Dick and Jane were so far removed from my reality.  I didn’t know anyone who looked like the characters in the Little White House series of primers.  I learned how to read, however, the expectations for literacy were rather low in during this time period.

P. David Pearson writes and researches on educational issues. “While No Child Left Behind has done a credible job of helping educators make sure that all students have basic literacy skills, it hasn’t given us the types of thoughtful and critical readers and writers we need”  (The Washington Post, March 9, 2012). He continues on in his article to talk about how the flaws of the NCLB initiative failed to provide thoughtful, critical readers and writers. Where others could see a “period” after the flaw, he sees a semicolon asking us to take a longer time to think than a pause.  We need to think about how assessments allow society to understand the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the current system.

The No Child Left Behind initiative amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).     It made changes in the way that Federal programs supported the education of the nation’s youth. According to the State Council of High Education for Virginia emphasis was placed on the quality of the teacher when improving student achievement.  According to the U.S.Department of Education, this revision to Johnson’s initiative received bipartisan support.  Congress reauthorized it, George Bush signed it into law and public educators began to get nervous. When teachers become nervous students take notice.  It’s not a good thing!

Those students considered underserved became more vunerable to public exposure when being compared to their peers in more affluent regions.  So how do we know what is and is not working?  When considering whether the intended results are achieved, evaluation research must occur.  Babbie contends that the purpose of research is “to evaluate the impact of social interventions such as new teaching methods or innovations” (Babbie, 2013:354). How do you evaluate the impact of opportunity for every child in the form of a test?  How can we evaluate children or a school system that does not have the same opportunities and resources to do the work of educating our children. Programs on a national level would most certainly be held to rigorous standards of evaluation. A brief overview of the Evaluation of Flexibility Under No child Left Behind provides citizens with useful information in a palpable format.

Secretary Duncan’s speech reminds Americans that we need to take the path toward equity. He believes that we need to begin a conversation that discusses how students achieve.  As a former educator in the public classroom, I know that a generic assessment frequently misses the mark when assessing the interventions conducted. The beliefs postulated by the Secretary in this speech are worthy ideals for success in life.  It will be interesting to see how the administration behind the new ESEA will evaluate the new social interventions.
Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle

As an “Adult Educator in training” I look for instances to engage my classroom skills with real world experiences. As a Literacy Volunteer, I work with an adult English Language Learner each week.  My interest in doing so was sparked several years ago after conversing with an ESL educator. The Literacy Volunteers in my community are a member of the ProLiteracy organization. The LVCA provides instruction to those individuals in the community who have either low literacy or no English literacy.  This organization exemplifies a social intervention that works. The 30 years of service to adults in the community strive to continuously move students from achieving basic literacy skills to engaging in critical reading and thought.  The staff and tutors are recruited, trained and governed through a Board of Directors. One of their publicized goals is to evaluate their program and make improvements.  At this point in my relationship, which is almost one year, I am uncertain of the instruments employed to do so.  Being aware of these instruments, the frequency of assessment and its impact on the program would be of interest to me as a result of learning in this course.

Here is an infogram of those served in 2012-2013:

Tutoring an adult is one of the most rewarding ways that I spend my time. It’s so gratifying to learn from the director that my student exceeds the benchmarks established by the program. An instance to develop not only the literacy skills of my student, but that of her family members, is so gratifying. After twenty years of teaching, I have a student who always does her homework!

Something to Chew on-

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.
“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”  Mark Twain

Society is concerned about illiteracy and with good cause.  How do we evaluate “aliteracy”, the quality or act of being able to read but being uninterested in doing so?

EDUS 660 #10: From the First Aid kit to the Tool Box

Now that you’ve explored Community Based Participatory Research (Action Research) and read about an actual example of how this approach was used to bring about change in a community, think about a community problem.  This could be a problem in your home town or one in the City of Richmond or wherever.  Describe the problem and discuss how an Action Research approach might be used to address this problem. Would you be interested in participating in an Action Research initiative like this?  Why or why not?  Tag action.

When I lived in Philadelphia it was common to see individuals who lived on the street.  Shopping carts packed to the brim accompanied an individual from location to location.  These individuals line the walks leading to the subway.  The pace of most commuters, like me, was rather fast paced.  Everyone in a city has someone that they needed to be 10 minutes ago and rarely does one see individuals meandering along the streets interacting with those individuals sleeping on benches or along the base of a building.Panhandler

I’ve lived in Charlottesville since 1996 and saw individuals panhandling on the Downtown Mall, however, I had not seen them on the corner of an intersection until two years ago.  Area residents encounter individuals standing on several key intersections of the city on a daily basis now.The Urban Dictionary defines panhandling as a synonym for begging, sponging and spanging. Aggressive panhandling could engage an individual in soliciting donations in an inappropriate or intimidating manner. While I have never witnessed aggression, that is not to say that it doesn’t happen.

Early in 2015, a judge in Charlottesville ruled that panhandling is protected by the 1st Amendment, which guarantees an individual’s right to free speech.  It seems to me, that there are greater social issues and concerns at stake here that may be masked as Free Speech protection.

Our community probably isn’t any different than others when stating that there are individuals who are genuinely homeless. I am sure that there were students in my school who were homeless.  Guidance Counselors and administration are careful to protect the privacy of students and family members, which is why I can not bring a name to mind.  What I can recall, is a concerted effort on the part of members of the Charlottesville community to provide temporary shelter for such individuals.

Homelessness is a community problem as opposed to an individual problem. Those without the means to shelter themselves or their family members may struggle on many levels. My friend’s son is disabled and unable to work at this time.  He doesn’t panhandle for his support because he has a strong family that embraces him. What happens to those individuals without a safety net?

The issue of homelessness is one that affects many members of this community.  PACEM is the latin word for Peace.  Congregations in the Charlottesville area created “People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry” as a way to provide shelter for homeless individuals during the winter months.  According to their website, there are 80 faith congregations (inclusive of all out there) and 3,000 volunteers who come together each year.  Intervention is a crucial first step when providing assistance to those in need.  Unfortunately, it is often a social band-aid that covers a problem rather than as stepping stone to lead towards prevention. The issue of homelessness, that “may” lead to panhandling would make a suitable topic for a Community Based Participatory-Research program.

The Community Tool Box, organized by Kansas University, suggests that research should “enlist those who are most affected by a community issue-typically in collaboration or partnership with others who have research skills-to conduct research on and analyze that issue….” The checklist provided in the second section of the toolbox is an effective tool for someone who is considering how this social problem could be addressed by the community.

A few of the key components of the check-list that struck me as important to consider beyond the normal scope of planning

Why?  Action research trains citizen researchers who can turn their skills to other problems as well.-

  • transitioning from homeless to resident brings a different set of problems to solve.  Citizens need tools at their disposal to help solve new problems.

Involvement in CBPR changes people’s perceptions of themselves and of what they can do-

  • we all act on our perceptions-those who become empowered to make their own changes change how they view themselves! Individuals who are or were homeless provide a new lens through which to view the issue.

A participatory action research process can help to break down racial, ethnic, and class barriers-

  • barriers are evident in all communities, even those created by homeless individuals

Who should be involved in community-based participatory research?

  • how often are decisions made for individuals affected by an issue rather than including them in the planning?
  • the CITI training opened my eyes to the importance of including academics in the decision planning, someone needs to know what is and is not allowed, someone needs to carry the banner of “Do No Harm!” The training was very specific regarding several subgroups of the population, however, homeless individuals may need consideration as well.
  • the individuals who agree to engage in CBPR are a team. They need a facilitator who is trained to work with them!

The community toolbox was a nice surprise as this social research course nears completion.  I found many useful ideas, such as the Windshield and Walking Surveys section in chapter 3/section 21, that I might suggest that a team use to consider if homelessness is legitimately an issue worth pursuing-

There's much one can learn about a community by simply looking through a windshield.
There’s much one can learn about a community by simply looking through a windshield.

The easiest and quickest way to get an overview of the entire community-what is the nature of the community?

It might help me to get a better of the areas where homeless individuals may congregate, but how would the team do so without being obtrusive? How can a team do this?

Would a team be welcome to observe the communities where homeless individuals live? Is there any value in doing so?

Kurt Lewin’s theories of participatory action research is an interesting component of Change Strategies for human resource development.  Lewin suggested that there must be a “felt need” strong enough to propel the group to move forward. In order to analyze an issue correctly, it would be important to include those individuals who are directly involved in or who have knowledge of homelessness. Those involved in the issue have a perspective that’s necessary to drive change.

Considering the skills needed to facilitate a group or team are also components of the Adult Learning program at VCU.  I enjoy the processes that an adult educator would use as a member of a Community Based Participatory Research program.Homelessness as an issue is not one that is pressing concern for me at this stage in my life.  In the event that it does become so, I know that I have the skills necessary to serve as a participant on a team.

As far as the issue of homelessness is concerned, I believe that this type of program would be a suitable step to transition from intervention to prevention.  It’s time to move from the band aide to the toolbox as a way to solve problems.

Something to chew on-

How did you select the “issue” that you wrote about in your blog?

What might you learn about the issue if you conducted a Windshield or Walking survey through your community?


Gallos, J. V., & Schein, E. H. (2006). Organization development: a Jossey-Bass reader. Jossey-Bass.