EDUS 660 #2: Sign me up for the undertaking

“To err is human; to admit it, superhuman.” Doug Larson

I selected this image for several reasons.  It makes me shake my head and laugh.  Humans are gullible and some are more so than others.

When considering what to post for an article, editorial or blog regarding errors, I thought about how our history lessons remind us of times when believing a reassuring lie was far too easy for society to do.  Each time  I hear Orsen Well’s rendition of War of the Worlds I am reminded of how inconvenient truths, such as those that may surround the government, religion or science, are difficult to swallow regardless of the research behind them.

It's easy to believe a well crafted lie.

It’s easy to believe a well-crafted lie.While this radio broadcast was terrifying for many, our understanding of Martians was not based on scientific fact, but rather on cultural ideas.

In this week’s  “Food for Thought” blog, I am asked to consider the common errors of human inquiry. While I have relatively little experience in these errors as far as research is concerned, I have seen them unfold in novels, movies and nonfiction work.  As a public educator, I collected experiences of students in annotated format for Child Study purposes as well as for educational research purposes.

While Orsen Well’s radio broadcast was well before my time, scandal regarding the Nestle Corporation and the marketing of baby formula to mothers in underdeveloped countries was within my time. Business Insider’s Every Parent Should Know The Scandalous History of Infant Formula reminds us how mother’s around the world trusted the research to help them to become Westernized in the way in which they cared for their children.  In 1982, New Internationalist magazine drew attention to the way in which science, business, and marketing used babies to promote products.


In her blog, All Parenting, Janelle Hanchette, continues to ask, “Is Nestle Still Making Poor Choices with Baby Formula?” Nearly 40 years later Nestle, one of the largest food distributors in the world, is still being scrutinized for these behaviors.

Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error.

Marcus Tullius Cicero

A Degree of precision vs. inaccurate observations-

Measurement devices guard against inaccurate observations and allow the researcher to be more deliberate when making observations.  Ask two individuals what they saw and you’ll get two different responses.  There’s no guessing in science.

Babbie presents a selection of  errors common to social science research  for novice research students (2015). Rather than simply regurgitate the examples, I consider how I may apply the solutions he presented to both this course and future research.

Failing to plan may mean planning to fail-

This is an old adage. It’s one that I’ve used to when speaking to my students and one that I have used when admonishing myself. New ideas regarding research ask me to consider how have I reacted to pressure to come to a conclusion in the past?  I also need to consider now how to plan for ways to avoid capitulating to pressure, if faced with it in the future.   My research inquiry may be misdirected if I give into the pressure to just find an idea and then move on.

Babbie’s example of the reporter who failed to wait long enough to get “the whole story” is a good reminder to allow time to conduct thorough research and investigation.  Skimming the top for basic ideas can result in highly inaccurate results. The editor with egg on his face will think twice before assigning another important story to a rookie reporter.  A foundation or department will think twice before allowing an inept researcher to participate in an important study if s/he takes shortcuts when drawing conclusions.

A swat to “pithy” sayings 

There is always one person in every crowd who delights in breaking the rules.  The concept that there is an”exception that proves the rule” is illogical.  Where do rules come from and why do individuals perpetuate them?  Group stereotypes may help to diffuse cognitive dissonance, yet impede accurate observations. Robert Wooley‘s post What is the “Gambler’s Fallacy” illustrates the example provided by Babbie regarding illogical reasoning. Engaging my research with others around me will help to not only keep me honest, but remind me to use logical reasoning when considering observations. Babbie reminds us that science “…attempts to protect us from the common pitfalls of ordinary inquiry.” He goes on to say that “observing and understanding reality is not an obvious or trivial matter.” Pithy sayings and science just don’t jive well.

Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow!

Babbie cautions me to remember that scientific understanding of the world is ever changing.  When old knowledge is replaced by new knowledge the importance of continuous research on the part of social scientists provides me with hope for tomorrow.  Babbie referenced the work of Sam Arbesman at the conclusion of the section regarding errors in human inquiry.  While twelve minutes in length, it’s worth the time when considering how vital research is to the advancement of our society.

If what Arbesman suggests about old knowledge and new knowledge is true then young social researchers would benefit from the replication of research study.  In doing so, we would learn how to conduct testing, determine how the results were derived while suggesting new methods to explore the topic.

When considering how you know what you know-

  • Which aspect of your knowledge of human behavior have changed since the beginning of your graduate course of study?
  • Which aspect of your knowledge have either decayed or may do so over time?

Work Cited

Babbie, E. (2015). The practice of social research. Cengage Learning.

EDUS 660 #1: Growing the Seeds of Change

Hello, everyone

I am a student in the Adult Learning program in the SOE.  My track of study is Human Resource Development. I have worked in public education for twenty years.  The last four years I have concentrated on work in the non-profit sector.

My teaching skills and love of education didn’t cease when leaving the traditional classroom.  As a Literacy Volunteer, I provide English Language skills and tutoring weekly for an adult student.  This is the first teaching experience where my student does all of her homework and more than I ask.  It’s very exciting to work with someone who wants to learn!

As a Master Gardener, I have worked with children as part of an after school gardening program.  I am hopeful that the program that I create for the Design and Delivery of Adult Programs will come to fruition with the creation of a parent-child gardening class.

I am a volunteer at the University of Virginia Medical Center I have worked in the surgical family lounge, the gift shop and the flowers for patients program. In June, I will be the president of the organization. An auxiliary in a large medical center is like a small corporation. The work of this organization ties hearts and hands to work that supports the medical staff.  This role is the perfect medium to cultivate the seeds sown in the Adult Learning curriculum.  My most recent course of study in Organizational Change has ignited a desire dig deeper into the theories and research of the management experts we explored.

I have general ideas regarding the process of research, however, I have not participated in research where new ideas were generated. My experiences are limited to exploration of passions within a field of current study in my program.  In my last blog entry for Organizational Change, I indicated that what I knew about the topic could fit on an index card.  While I am not an entirely blank slate, I imagine that I would be hard pressed to fill one side of that index card with knowledge about the “correct” processes and procedures for research.

Dr. William Muth, my Theories of Adult Learning professor shared that Learning from Strangers, The Art and Method of Qualitative Interview Studies by Robert S. Weiss was important to his growth as a researcher.  I immediately purchase it and hope that this course will provide a balance between quantitative and qualitative research.

My current interest is in creating communities of leaders through mentorship.  I am also interested in compassion and mindfulness in organizational life.

One of the last readings from Adult 625 was about compassion in organizational life.  I was intrigued by the discussion of the dynamics of organizational compassion.

“An organizations’ capacity for collective noticing, feeling, and responding thus derives from its “mindfulness” (Weick, Sutcliffe, & Obstfeld, 1999), The compassionate Organizations Quiz, from Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, is a good place to start when considering how leaders model and cultivate pockets of compassion in organizations. Are all the organizations in my life compassionate?  Do the leaders model compassionate behavior?

Ultimately, I would like to use my graduate studies to be an educational consultant. I feel certain that further study in both of these areas will certainly enhance my skills as a consultant.

The image that I’ve selected to represent research is one of a row of Tennis Ball Lettuce. Thomas Jefferson kept precise records with his daily observation of what was growing and happening in his garden.  His copious notes have allowed the foundation to recreate his garden, as it would have looked in the 18th Century. We believe that he planted a thimble full of lettuce seeds each week from February to June to ensure an ample crop.  Visitors are astonished that a seed as small as a lettuce seed could produce a head of lettuce.

With the right conditions, a “thimble-full” of significant ideas, facts and data could produce something of quality.

I took this image at Monticello where I  am a Garden Ambassador with the Revolutionary Garden Program.

Tennis Ball Lettuce-Monticello
Tennis Ball Lettuce-Monticello

Adult 625 #5: What I’ve learned about organizational change…it’s bigger than a breadbox!

What I knew about the process of organizational change in January could probably fit on an index card.  Organizational change for HRD encompasses so much more than just a few strategies designed to create and stimulate change.  I knew I would consider how groups of individuals form to create systems for work.  The historical and theoretical background along with strategic ideas was unclear to me. 

When considering the roots of organizational development, Burke’s (2006) overview of ten theorists, ideas, and applications fit neatly into three manageable groupings for me to consider. An interest surrounding individual expectancies and values supported further investigation with Vroom, Lawler, and performance.  I found Lewin’s ideas regarding how groups change through three processes helped me to understand more clearly the change event described by the agent that I interviewed. The norms and values of those that participated in the change, while painful to consider, showed evidence that unfreezing and moving are essential before individuals can embrace new behaviors and values.  I am hopeful that not all “unfreezing” processes are full of pain and anxiety.  I know that the research is there to support the process and to clarify misunderstandings that I may experience in future change events. 

I have an affinity for change, which I described in my  Change Credo.  I crave change as a way in which to stimulate my mind and my environment.  While this approach is suitable for me as an individual, change within an organization must be about and for the benefit of the organization and the individuals within it.  Organizational change must be planned and involve the whole system.  One of the strategies that I used when working with students involved understanding what “was” and “was not” an example of something that we studied.  I found Kotter’s discussion of the eight steps to transformation a compelling proposition for why thoughtful planning must integrate research and theory.  Like many of my classmates, I found that this linear approach became part of my thinking and consider for organizational change. 

This journey began with a desire to learn to lead myself through the history and theory of organizational change while I considered my role in the change.  With a lack of a schema to adhere these new ideas, I needed to trust that the process would provide the scaffolding necessary to capture all of the knowledge. 

The journey transitioned to learning to lead from within when participating in two change events, Open Space Technology and Future Search, and planning for one event, Appreciative Inquiry.  I know have a few strategies ti lead from where I am (thanks, sphardy!). Participating in a positive change event such as Appreciative Inquiry, renewed an interest in storytelling and work experiences for adults learners (Adult 601 research paper/Adult 650 adult literacy) as a way to remember the past while consider one’s place in the future of an organization. 

Learning to lead myself

Learning to lead myself

“Learning to lead yourself requires you to question some core assumptions, too about yourself and the way things work (Boaz & Fox, 2014).

Several of the key ideas or core assumptions that resonate with me-

Organizations don’t change people do.  When attempting to mobilize individuals for change, I am reminded that change engages a diagnosis with a plan for improvement (Beckard, 2005). The concept of a grassroots movement, while spontaneous and organic, must engage by in from the top in order for change to be long lasting.  When personal investment from the top couples with intentional work planning and effort, systemic change can occur.  This is a transition from grass roots to strategic position. Strategic position, as a location for systemic change, is a change in one of the core assumptions that I brought to class in January. 

The felt need for change-In six weeks, I will be in a position of “strategic importance” within an organization.  Historically, the president of this organization plans for monthly meetings and learning events, which include instances for organization change.  the concept of “felt need,” as described by Beckhard, in my organization is manageable.  The concept of something as “hurting” in my organization, presents a greater challenge to consider.  This is an area where I will wrestle with how to respond when individuals question the need to consider change within the organization.  it is also an instance for me to remember Kotter’s first step, establishing a sense of urgency in terms of an opportunity for growth. 

Problem Solving as a professional strength-I have always identified me as a problem solver!  A thorough explanation of my problem-solving skills has consumed significant portions of past interviews.  organizations want to hire individuals who will help with change initiatives.  When I approached this course, I assumed that I would learn about programs to help strengthen my skills in this area.  Kotter’s 8 Steps, coupled with Lewin’s 3-pronged process address problem solving from both a theoretical and practical lens. 

Learning to lead from within

Learning to Lead from Within

I have presented numerous programs and hosted a variety of events as a public educator.  Being thorough and organized are two qualities I consider vital when preparing for an event.  Owen’s ideas (2008) about creating and holding time and space in relation to being visible is an idea worth considering. Being visible is a realistic expectation for me as a presenter.  Being “present” for an event is often more challenging.  My body is present while my mind is trying to juggle many tasks at one time.  When Owen says that he arrives 2-3 hours before an OST event in order to be “present” he acknowledges that presence for the client is important. 

The concept of multitasking impedes concentration and task performance is the result of a study read for my research project (Hunter & Scherer, 2009). While I do not think that my behavior is that unusual, if I wish to lead from within, I think that being mindful of my thoughts, actions and behavior will become a reality if given space in which to do so.  I am excited about the possibility that time and space will give to me as a facilitator.  An instance to “be” rather than to “do” opens the door for greater possibilities for learning from others as opposed to focusing on time and task. 

In this scene from Eat, Pray, Love, I am Julia Roberts sitting in the meditation room waiting for the minutes to pass, wondering how my roommate can “be” in the moment while I am actively planning the rest of my day. 

The simplicity of the Open Space Technology event was a welcome and relaxed diversion from the complexity of the Appreciative Inquiry event.  I forsee using it with my nonprofit organization.  I have selected a larger, more “open” space to hold our meetings.  The building opens two hours before this event; I will challenge myself to consider greater personal preparation for this event and “be” like Owen…maybe.

Learning to lead from where I am 

Learning to lead from where I am

The countless hours reading, discussing and preparing for the change event, Appreciative Inquiry, presents a unique opportunity for me to engage in conversations with others.  The way in which I am transitioning from problem-solver to one who champions for appreciation is a new lens for perceiving organizations.  I can model appreciation by leading a coalition of others to do likewise.  While my elevator speech is still in the rough draft stage, my resolve to react to my organization with greater appreciation is in a final draft form.  Education leads me to a new paradigm of thinking while expanding my ability to be a resonant leader. 

Where Future Search engages the “whole” system in a transformation quickly, Appreciative Inquiry does so over an extended period.  What I found so compelling about FS is the premise that everyone is welcome to enter the conversation.  All voices are considered, all resources are valuable.  when relating world events with personal events, an individual can recognize patterns more easily.  Cause and effect relationships between events in the organization and events in national and global arenas encourage other to consider relations with multiple projects in one large setting.  I think that it would be exciting to participate in such an event. 

The VAHHA, Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, Legislative Day is held each February.  In 2014, the newly elected Governor, Terry McAuliffe, energized the audience with a provocative plea to accept funding from the federal government to expand coverage for uninsured Virginians.  It didn’t take an OD practitioner to know that what was missing from the discussion was the physical presence of ALL of the stakeholders!  The audience, comprised of highly educated and well-insured individuals, was moved and ready to stampede the General Assembly.  The GA did not approve this measure.  It would be interesting to conduct Future Search events across the commonwealth to discuss important issues such as universal health care for all Virginians.  Ah, in my budding OD practitioner’s dreams!

So where does this leave me? One semester of organizational development does not a practitioner make.  The long list of qualities that were given to our class several weeks ago appears daunting at best.  I am energized by the knowledge and skills that I developed over the last semester.  I am ready to consider where and when to use the skills with my organization.  Concluding the study of change strategies with a look at leadership is uplifting.  When I consider how I look inward to exam my own method of dealing with a change, I recognize that I must consider how my natural tendencies and conception of change influences the way I lead others.

Onward to Organizational Learning…Yeah!

Rabbit Holes for the summer-

EDUS 660-possible research on learning cultures and leadership

Digging deeper with Mirvis and Gunning-Creating a Community of Leaders

Reading Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence by Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee

Coursera Class-Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence

Adult 625 #4: it’s all in the way that you frame it!

It's all in the frame, baby!
It’s all in the way you frame it, baby!

Have you ever noticed that actors of Asian and Western ethnic backgrounds are often stereotyped?  Asians businesspersons are portrayed as reserved individuals, who are serious and incapable of taking a joke while those individuals from the west are portrayed as boisterous, idiotic and incapable of being serious.  My first reaction to the viewing of this clip from the 1986 film, “Gung Ho” was to recognize the blatant stereotypes. Under the direction of Ron Howard, my assumption is that the stereotyped characters and situations will reveal universal truths about individuals and organizations.

While the above reaction was sociological in perspective, my next reaction was to consider the angle of the camera and the placement of characters in the scene. What was the director trying to say?  What was the purpose of the exaggerated stereotypes beyond making the audience laugh? Why were some characters dressed in clean professional clothing sporting conservative haircuts? The majority of the characters in the open courtyard are sloppy, unshaven and wearing dirty or messy clothing. Reframing the scene through the lens of an organizational practitioner is a new lens for me. It is one that is useful when considering how an organization works and where to begin when instituting change.

The Four-Frame Approach to Understanding Organizations, as described by Gallos (2006) asks the OD practitioner to consider the structural, human resource, political and symbolic components of an organization.  My small group looked at the symbolic components of the organization asking what the group exercise might mean to those involved, how did each individual interpret it and it what way might these exercises represent the values and beliefs of the organization? 

 This organizational event, where employees are gathered in a large, open space as a group, could become a part of the group’s culture, where the event expresses what’s important to the group.Through a symbolic frame, this activity, ritualistic in nature, is not what is most important.  What is important is what is means to the people in the organization.  By the comedic way in which the character initially react to the cal esthetics, one can only imagine the dialog that transpires in the next scene. 

The selection, Reframing Complexity in Gallos, was very useful to me when writing the Change Agent Interview paper.  At times, I found it very challenging to remove the human resource lens, where I attend to people. My natural inclination is to consider how the individual fits within the organization, as well as how the culture of the organization reflects the needs and values of the individual. Looking at the organization through just one frame presents a rather skewed image of the organization.  

Remembering to “frame” details to tell about the change event forced me to engage the skills of a practitioner more intentionally by looking at how the underlying assumptions behind the change event was a logical path to maintain the structure of the organization.  The school system in the change event as an organization exists to achieve the goals established by the State Department of Education. The “Four-Frame Approach to Understanding Organizations” encourages me to wear each lens of Change Agent Practioner, structural, human resource, political and symbolic when analyzing a change event. All four frames present a complete image of the organization. 

When considering this scene, I wonder how Michael Keaton is going to ensure the integration of all of the group efforts in the manufacturing plant.  Will the factory workers pull together as a group in order to meet the goal of producing 15,000 cars in one month?  They’ll certainly need to operate as a “machine,” with a clear division of labor.

Adlt 625 #1: Balancing the See-Saw of Change

People who love change are so irritating, aren’t they?

The Broader the Base the Higher the Tower

The credo that guides change in me

     A large oval of grass rests at the bottom of the steps to the library.  I notice it each time that I visit my friend at the institution where she works.  There are no plants, sculptures or fountains in this oval.  The lack of visual stimulation ironically maintains my interest.  Why was this space free?  Upon entering the library, I notice the lack of plants as well as the lack of artwork.  The wheels of change begin to move in my head.  I consider ways to use the oval as well as how subtle changes to the visual appearance of the library would create positive change.  After a brief greeting, I question my friend about my observations.  I believe that change is exciting and invigorating.  For me, it provides the impetus for growth and productivity.  I cultivate my creative energies by making changes.

     Teaching is a playing field for those who crave change.  Each academic year brought change to my life as an educator.  A change in students, a classroom move, a different schedule, teammates who transition from department to department, or an enhanced curriculum ushered in a new year.  Thirty-six weeks of teaching, four marking periods, two semesters and a wealth of units bring change.  Administration provides a curriculum to adapt to one discipline with the edict to create a new program for a different discipline.  I balanced the see-saw between innovation and adaptation with fluidity.  The ban wagon of change moves through public education with regularity.  The mantra, “If it ain’t broke, break it” is a habitual ride on this bandwagon of change. As a teacher, I learned to embrace change or to become engulfed by it.  These changes occurred at an administrative level with no inclusion of me as the recipient of change.  This is a common practice in public education.

     When I began teaching in the 1980’s, the phrase “life-long learner” was not one that I heard in academic or professional settings.  Professional development offerings through human resources cultivated my desire to learn.  The reactions to my participation, which would extend well beyond my contractual obligations, were skeptical. My co-workers could not wrap their brains around my behavior. Participation in new learning on my part meant an instance of new learning on the part of my students.  Students polarized in their reactions to these changes: some eyes would roll while some would sparkle with excitement.  My attention to their polarization, as an inexperienced teacher, attributed negativity to opposition.  Those on the welcoming side of change affirmed the inclusion of a change as complimentary. My interpretation of these reactions engaged the lowest level of inference.  I based reaction to change from data that I could observe directly.

      When I enrolled in the introductory adult learning course at Virginia Commonwealth University, I noticed that students referred to themselves as lifelong learners.  They did so with great conviction. learning beyond the basic recall of facts to that of the integration of learning to new contexts was the expectation.  This engagement was a change from other graduate courses I encountered in diverse settings.  As a leader in an organization, the instance to learn continuously is one that I would employ when facilitating organizational change.  While I believe that lifelong learning translates beyond a traditional classroom setting, my understanding of polarization has changed. I cannot attend to every piece of behavior that adult learners exhibit.  As a well-seasoned professional, when I make inferences, I move from translation to evaluation before I decide how to respond to adults in an organization setting.

     The credo, by which I live my life, is one I embraced early in my career.  While a belief that the broader the base, the higher the tower, sounds trite, the principle behind it is not.  I value a growth mindset that leads me to believe that one’s traits, intelligence, and capabilities are not set.  When developing for the needs of my learners, regardless of setting, I consider the tools necessary to reach a higher goal.  In one of my early work settings, my school system welcomed opportunities for students to broaden their education base.  Exposure to rich learning events outside of the classroom does not occur naturally in all home settings.  My classroom environment and the learning events that I created was the medium through which change occurred.  I did not tell my students how to change, but rather illustrated models through which thinking and behavior could changed.  When I engage in learning events for adults, my skill as a networker and my ability to recognize opportunities will enhance change events.  I recognize this model as valid for young learners.  Time and opportunity will determine the efficacy of this credo for change in adults and organizations.

     Cultivating a relationship with those engaged in change creation is of equal importance to me as cultivating a relationship with the recipient of change.  The role of president-elect in one non-profit setting is rather ambiguous.  In preparation for the role or president, I have elected to learn about each program within the organization. I meet with those who manage the programs to understand the relationship between the auxiliary and the medical center.  Within each program, are board members and volunteers who welcome the occasion to share their positions and their expectations.  The feedback indicates that this time is well spent.  In a hand-written thank you note, I reflect on the personal life of the volunteer before I recognize their contribution to the organization.  It has a remarkable return rate for me.  An organization that relies solely on the goodwill of volunteers recognizes that time building relationships is a crucial component in facilitating change.  Volunteers who invest in the organization expect a high rate of return on their investment.

     Through self-reflection, I know that my desire to enact change is sometimes a mechanism that I engage to deflect boredom. This behavior can unintentionally invalidate adults.  At times, they have expressed that my desire or interest to consider change springs from my dissatisfaction with life.  I have heard that my questioning reflects negativity on my part.  I am aware that some members of my non-profit organizations view my behavior and actions as malaprop to the mission of the organization.  This knowledge of how others view change is of substance when contemplating change in an organization.  I cannot change others; I can only change how I react to them.  A judicious reflection of my motives is the necessary pause between the stimulus for change and the appropriateness of change in each situation.

     The exchange between my library friend and me transitions to a more congenial topic.  I thank her for the instance to visit her at work.  I enjoy the view of the library as I return to my car.  This organization, nearly 200 years in existence, does not need to ride the bandwagon of change for plants, artwork and fountains.  At times, continuity is comforting.