Adult 640 #1(Niestrath): Going the Distance

Hello, everyone in cyberspace!  In my “brief” introductory blog I shared a little bit about my background in with the Adult Learning program.  My transition from 20 years as a public school educator to that of an adult educator began well before starting the MEd program at VCU.  Through a myriad of volunteer experiences, Cub Scouts, Virginia Master Gardener program, Literacy Volunteers, UVA Art Museum Docent, UVA Hospital Volunteer and Auxiliary President, I have coached and instructed adults informally.

My elearning experiences are rather broad from that of “über” professional quality presentations to those that are cheesy and of poor quality. I’ve engaged in classes as both a peripheral learner as well as an engaged participant. I’ve completed four (4) MOOOCs:  #edcmooc-University of Edinburgh, #etmooc-University of Regina, one through the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MoMA) and one through the University of Virginia, The Kennedy Half-Century.  The two (2) elearning content courses were exhilarating.  It was so much fun to see how excited educators and learners from as close as VCU to those around the globe engaged in elearning and digital experiences.  Learning how to navigate time zones outside of the USA to participate in “Quad-Blogging” Google Hangouts was a little bit of a learning curve, but certainly well worth it.  The #etmooc exemplified how weak links are really willing to be helpful to virtual strangers.

I have taken one (1) course that was entirely online and have a son who participated in a Virtual Virginia AP course.  Both were a disaster and left a true distaste for distance learning.  My participation in this course occurs after three (3) years of healing.  My son has sworn to never take another online course.  I am willing to put the past behind me and give this method of instruction another try.

My goals for the course, in addition to becoming a convert to distance learning, is to be exposed to the seminal work of the distance theorists (if there can be any in such a short period of time) and to engage the goals for the course with my learning  through Adult Literacy & Diversity, Design & Delivery of Adult Learning Programs as well as those in Lifespan Issues of Adults with Learning & Behavior Issues.  Phew…

When I have free time I love to go to museums (DC), knit, garden, bake and read.  Much of my time during the last fifteen (15) years has been spent being a soccer parent and all that it entails.  I’ve volunteered in many aspects of the area where I live.  I enjoy giving my time and talents to others.  Most recently, I began volunteering at the Adult Learning Center in my hometown.

My impressions of the reading selection sans blogger overload

Historical and Conceptual Foundations: 

  • I assume that this course will have a high degree of transactional distance.  Will other tools in addition to Blogs and Twitter be employed to permit multiple perspectives to be seen at one time and in one location?
  • I “think” that the Community of Inquiry Framework is new for me.  I love frameworks and the use of a lens as a tool for how to consider events, theories, learners, and experience.
  • Connectivism is very powerful and one that I experienced first hand through two (2) MOOCs. It was not a learning theory presented in my Adult 601 course in 2011.  I hope that it is now included.

Current Trends in Distance Education:

  • When referring to a current trend, will technological pedagogical content knowledge place the knowledge in the center with the learner on the outside?
  • When a Distance Learning instructor employs the lens of self-regulated learning theory, does the instructor do so with universal standards?  Does the learner know what it means to engage self-regulation?


  • TPACK-  this phrase is one that I will use and probably talk about in my sleep.  My expectation is that the instructors of this course are well versed in TPACK and will model their specialized knowledge so that I will have scaffolding in place for me to be successful. Scaffolding is my “thing.
  • As a gardener I was taught, “Right plant, right location and the plant will thrive.” As a distance educator, I expect to follow this maxim when considering the best tool for the learning event that I am creating.  No “grab and go” here. I want my students to thrive.
  • Helping learners to develop a sense of agency along with the necessary executive functioning skills to complete a task independently is a head-scratcher.  There is no one concise answer, but one that I know will be of importance to the learning event that I’ll create for this course.

Double Loop Learning


  • Group development through distance education sounds challenging.  I am wondering if Schwarz included this concept in his Field Guide for Facilitating groups?
  • SRL-SELF-REGULATED LEARNING (yes, I’m shouting) How will the learning event provide for those with varying intellectual abilities?
  • Educator as the Reflective practitioner, where have seen this phrase before-Oh, all over Oliver Hall.  Welcome back an old friend from Org Learning, Chris Argyris and Double Loop Learning-how can I engage distance learners to consider their own beliefs and assumptions about the learning event?

Future Directions:

  • Distance Learning appears to have hit the floor running and is just now stopping to take a breath. In the future, will time and attention be given to how the key components of Teaching and Learning with Technology can reflect the needs of the learner with those of both the institution and the workplace?

This week’s activities:

  • Blogging is expected by those into the Adult Learning Program.  It has the ability to transform learning, discussion, and thinking.  It is valuable when individuals are willing to participate, including the professor.  A blog isn’t a place for professorial writing.  It’s an opportunity to engage your thoughts with others.  I find video footage and links useful ways to filter in a greater amount of content that I may not have considered.  Sometimes the presentation of questions or a topic by the instructor is a useful mechanism for those who either find it difficult to write or for those who suffer from digression.
  • Twitter can be very useful when I remember to open it up. I’ve found that individuals follow me when I use the tools and tags correctly.  The social scientist Brene Brown suggest that one “Have a strong back, a soft front and to be civil” when encountering those who have differing opinions and values.   I value civility and feel that it’s essential to the practice of inclusion and diversity.  I don’t have time to follow individuals, regardless of their academic or cultural worth, who use the tool irresponsibly.



Lab chewing a bone


I think that a screencast of how to establish a blog or Twitter account would be useful for those unfamiliar with those platforms. It’s a marvelous tool for this learning experience. I’m a visual person and scaffold, as you already know, is my favorite learning word!  How do you learn best? 



Adult 640 Intro

Hello, everyone

My name is Laurie Niestrath. It’s been quite some time since I’ve blogged about anything academic.  I completed the Adult Learning program in 2016 in the Human Resources Track.  As par for many aspects of my life, I took the Adult 641 class without the benefit of taking the first course.  I loved every moment of Social Media for Adult Learners.  The clocked seemed to move at record speed as the topic engaged me.

I am an “early adopter” in my thinking and philosophy. I consider myself to be a digital resident, have a digital footprint, use digital tools with confidence.  I look forward to understanding the theory and philosophy behind e-learning, andragogy and the design of digital learning experiences for adults.


Adult 688 #5: All it takes is one…

Task:  for the final reflection, what are your reactions to this course.I believe

To assert that a course can change one in a profound way is a rather affected way in which to consider this learning experience.  It is utterly true in the case of this lifespan issues course. On numerous occasions, I have maintained a sense of perpetual catch-up in comparison to others in my adult learning courses who possess a business background.  It was a fallacious assumption that my teaching experience in the public sector would better prepare me than my peers for the content of this course. I have a very basic understanding of learning and behavioral disabilities, yet was woefully unprepared by my undergraduate work to educate adults who learn differently from their counterparts.

Several components that provide a different lens through which to consider adult learners:

Shelter vs Supported employment is an interesting way in which to consider how society has moved from containing adults with intellectual and learning differences to a more progressive movement which embraces inclusion.  I was vaguely familiar with organizations in the communities where I have lived which trained, employed and produced products in a sheltered environment.  To embrace the philosophy and model of support, means to be more keenly aware of the unique ways in which adults contribute to the workplace.  I have recognized such an individual in a local organization where I volunteer.  I just learned last week that this organization supports his engagement as a support organization.  To understand the value and role that a job coach plays when assisting adult workers embraces the idea that there is a role for everyone in society.

In reality, the rules of the above organization, which remains vague in order to maintain privacy, find my manner of working unacceptable. The more complex an organization. the greater number of rules. I have an affinity for risk-taking when it means an opportunity to explore different ways to learn or assess.  As an adult educator, I am now able through training experiences to provide alternative ways in which to consider the services that an organization provides.

The new lens of lifespan issues asks me to re-frame not only the way in which I perceive the structures within my organization but to consider if I am paving the way for individuals with disabilities to become allies as opposed to passive receivers.  On numerous occasions during this graduate program, I have referenced Carol Dweck’s research.  In order to engage what’s best about the medical model with what works for this segment of the population, the minds of those within my organization must be willing to experience growth.  A growth mindset considers a variety of accommodations as tools to enhance the productivity of the individual and the success of a workplace.

The narratives in the book, Learning Disabilities & Life Stories are written from the heart and must be consumed in small segments; they are nothing less than heartbreaking.  If children with hidden disabilities can be so scared by a system charged to educate them what incentive do they have to divulge learning or behavior disabilities to an adult educator in a training setting?  Rodis suggests that the autobiographies help readers to understand what it means to be an expert in learning and behavioral disabilities from real life as opposed to expert knowledge through institutional learning (Garrod, Rodis & Boscardin, p. 194).  The insight and wisdom reveal through heartbreak and suffering are the stories that I will remember when working with adult learners. The narrators so candidly reveal the pain and isolation experienced in public education.

To consider that there are seven stages of identity formation for those with a learning disability, I must recognize that an adult may actually find relief with a diagnosis. Understanding that adult learners in my organization do not matriculate through identify stages by age, but rather at the time of diagnosis. When planning for and creating learning experiences for adults, I must consider that the schema may have relevance for those in my training and development.  If nothing else has touched me in this course, it is the necessity for adults to provide a more inclusive, loving and supportive place for those with hidden differences.  If I can begin by working with one educator or with one employee who attends a training, I can make a difference. All it takes is one.



Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House.


Garrod., Rodis, P., & Boscardin, M.L. (Eds.) (2001). Learning disabilities & life stories.

Allyn and Bacon.

Adult 688 #4: Searching for Islands of Competency

Task:  How do you see yourself handling a teaching-learning scenario where there are individuals with learning disabilities in a mixed group?

Teaching adults in a learning event where there are disabilities in a mixed group seems a natural progression from the questions asked in the mid-term process.  All learning groups are mixed.  I cannot recall working in one where everyone in the group learned in precisely the same manner and by the same method of instruction. Conversely, I recall very few instances where appreciation for intellectual diversity as well as diverse modalities of learning were offered to me in a learning event.  It is unclear to me if differentiation was offered to a specific individual, which is as it should be.  While I am rather astute in determining the processes employed by a trainer, I am assured that confidential was in play if diverse strategies, assessments, evaluations or formal assessments were offered.

As an adult educator, there are many frameworks from which we consider adult programs.  The frameworks I would employ when planning learning events would draw from androgyny, intellectual diversity, and dialogue education.

My assumptions about the adult learner in a training conducted by me would reflect an understanding that Knowles Six Assumptions are applicable for all learners. The reservoir of learning experience should be a resource for learning in problem-solving, internally motivated events (Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner, 2007).  The teaching strategies that would best engage learners and allow them to flourish are those that welcome intellectual diversity.  Adults with learning differences may approach learning events where respect for difference was not honored and where diverse learners were often unable to design, develop or execute their own learning. Events which welcome heterogeneity allows adult learners to succeed (Rodis & Witherell, 2001).

Human Resource Management:

The purpose of this meeting is to discover the previous learning and training experiences of the individual. I would meet with the team member along with the representative responsible for managing the initial intake of EEOC and ADA forms and procedures. We would begin by engaging the individual in a conversation regarding the previous training/learning participated in this organization in the past. Along with a discussion of what is a struggle, I would ask specifically where the “islands of competency (Rodis & Witherell,2001) lie.  The areas where an individual may shine is an opportunity to discover the type of learner, situation or where how a team member may be paired with success. A conversation of equal measure is one that encourages the team member to share the areas of success in learning in this employment setting.  At this time, I would ask the team member to share the types of accommodations that are in place to ensure a productive workplace setting. I would ask the extent of the involvement of the team member in planning for and in considering which accommodations or learning strategies would be useful.

Human Resource Development:

At the outset of program design, evaluation indicators should be established by those who conduct training and development. Evaluation indicators are designed into the learning experience that will be used to indicate that learning has taken place (Vella, 2008). When planning for learning, I would include the individual, the accommodations for work well for learning. The type (s) of assessments, pre, mid and post-assessments are a viable way in which to capture learning in the moment.  Assisted technology tools, which may already be a part of the individual’s plan, can help an adult during a learning event. Low tech assistance, in height of noise, interaction or conversation, the movement of instruction and the presence of the learning plan being offered ahead of time is simple ways in which to assist individuals who may find learning auditorily a challenge. As a member of training and development, it should be an integral component of the conversation to ask if there is a device that would improve, maintain or assist the functional capabilities of the adult in that setting.

At the conclusion of “Shimmers of Delight and Intellect,” Witherell & Rodis provide a very useful list of suggestions that could most certainly be considered when planning for instruction for intellectually diverse learners. Of the seventeen suggestions provided, all of which are quite useful, these resonate with my experience in adult learning where struggle resides:

  • Teach in ways that are cultural, linguistically, and developmentally responsive to all students.
  • Recognize and affirm the “islands of competency” that reside in every student.
  • Support copious and yet non-punitive practice in basic literacy skills.

Understanding a proclivity for confluence, in terms of creative and non-traditional problem-solving, I can foresee that a future role in training and developing adults with diverse learning styles and differences is going to be a challenge.  I have never found it difficult to do what is best for the learner.  Where I find a challenge, is in working within a system that is either unable or unwilling to consider diverse learning for adults.  The last bullet above is one that is so very important to all learners, but I assume even more so for those with a difference.  For example, the last year that I taught in a public school setting is one where a new assessment tool was unveiled to the faculty.  This new program was taught in a large group setting, using a power point, a lecture along with visual images of the computer program. One hour of training with a lack of diverse tools or strategies, with no opportunity to practice this new skill, was so very frustrating for the faculty.  Couple this event with the unveiling of two additional programs presented in the same format was such a poor way in which to train learners. There are diverse learning styles differences in each work setting, however, the thought that the children in classroom settings one day become working adults in an employment setting does not appear to surface on anyone’s radar.  How is this possible?  This was one important event that helped to tip my decision to educate, advocate and support adult learners!


Ultimately, at the core of any learning experience for adults is the learner.  When planning a learning event for an adult with learning differences, I cannot make assumptions about the individual and act on them without the learner.  The self-concept of the learner must be preserved.  Any prior experience that may be poor, exclusionary or collaborative is important to consider in order to allow for readiness to develop.  All adult learners can be motivated to learn in a positive, adult learner-centered, approach.

A new way to think about the word FAIL-first attempt in learning




Garrod, A., Rodis, P., & Boscardin, M.L. (Eds.), (2001).

         Learning disabilities and life stories. Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA.

Merriam, S.B., Caffarella, R.S. & Baumgartner, L.M. (2012).

         Learning in adulthood.  A comprehensive guide. John Wiley & Sons.

Vella, J. (2008). On teaching and learning: Putting the principle

          practices of dialogue education into action. John Wiley & Sons.

Adult 688: #1 In defense of the “Strong Willed Learner.”

STRONG-WILLED-CHILDREN-pin-683x1024I am considered a “Strong Willed Learner.”  This doesn’t surprise me.  I’ve been labeled as such for a long as I can remember.  This labeling is typically not positive as it suggests a desire on my part to do my own thing as opposed to that of doing what everyone else is doing.  As an adult learner, developing as a member of a group or team has been an essential component of the adult learning program.  To understand how I fit in a group as a participant is one that has caused great consternation in some instances while in others I have found participation to be seamless. Participation in the Adult Learning program provides an abundance of opportunities to work with others in a group setting.  It wasn’t until the last course of my study, Lifespan Issues for Adults with Learning and Behavior Disabilities did I understand more fully the best way in which I could contribute to a group.

The Learning Connections Resources inventory is probably one of the best tools that I have explored as a way in which to understand the way in which I function best.  As a “Strong Willed Learner” the resources suggest that I use three or more patterns at the first level. My interactive learning process engages me as highest in Confluence, with a score of (28), with Precise (28), Sequence (25) and then Technical as (21).  When considering the internal self-talk of learning, metacognition, the way in which I make learning work for me appears to be consistent with the way in which I responded to the questions on the survey.  I am not surprised that my learning styles are fairly balanced at this stage in my career.  I am curious about the way in which I may have scored as a college student or young educator.

Most recently, in several encounters with an individual in an organization setting, I noticed that the individual with whom I was speaking began to exhibit discomfort.  This individual expressed behaviors as well as verbal reactions during these discussions. When considering my penchant for confluence, I recognized that my responses were uncomfortable to the listener based on prior knowledge. (We have known each other for several years.) The Learning Connections Inventory (LCI) is a 28 item self-report instrument. As a focal point, teachers can use it to discuss learning with students. The survey suggests that I enjoy taking risks, I see situations very differently than others and that I don’t like doing the same thing over and over.  Hello…how did a survey know this about me?  I am very comfortable being a “confluent” learner.  In order for learning to work for me, I need the opportunity to use this strategy as well as the others in order to consider how best to learn.

Work assignments that are frustrating for me as those that I consider boring, lack creativity, are not well thought out or are devoid of well-documented research.  I value a balanced approach to my own learning and the learning that I do in group settings.  As an adult learner, I recognize that learning on my own is the way in which I self-select the tools from each of these measures that will work for me.  When approaching a work in a group setting, I now feel comfortable expressing how this resource supports the way in which I will both learn and contribute to the work completed by a group. I understand myself as a learning, and quite frankly, like having my own style.  I value confluence and see it as a strength.

I understand myself as a learner, and quite frankly, like my style.  I value confluence and precision see it as a strength. However, I do recognize that this style is uncomfortable for some individuals, particularly those who are unfamiliar with a questioning culture where asking questions is a way to learn and advance critical thinking.  I can now recognize this discomfort visually in others and understand that to use my style for my own learning is perfectly suitable for me, however, must be tempered for others who are without understanding.

In an adult learning setting, the interactive learning processes surveyed through this assessment is one that would provide greater validity when describing how the individuals in a class setting learn.  For example, professors frequently share the “working draft” of a syllabus for a course of study.  This tool provides a working vocabulary for responding to future requests by instructors as well as to when evaluating my own learning in a class setting. I wish that I had this verbiage in my adult learning toolbelt in the beginning of my course of study.

When designing and developing learning for adults, this is an essential tool that I look forward to using in the near future. I am really intrigued by the concepts described in the “Let Me Learn” program that Dr. Webb referenced in class. Exploring how the brain and the mind connect these concepts appears to be a natural way in which to consider the work of Carol Dweck’s “Mindset,” which I’ve referenced on numerous occasions during class discussions.

Something to Chew on…    Lab chewing a bone

  • As a participant in an adult learning setting, how will I help my instructor to see the value of sharing the learning patterns of the instructor and the class with each other?
  • As an instructional coach, I am excited about how this new knowledge will strengthen conversations that I will have with those whom I instruct.








Adult 623#6: Here I go a Coggling…


An important component of 21st-century learning is the transition from consumers of information and knowledge to that of creators. I tried on several occasions to enlist my classmates from other adult learning courses to participate in a Google+ community.  As a member of several MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), I engaged with others from around the globe.  Here are the benefits of using a platform with visual access to other participants:

  • The community could be private and would allow classmates to interact with each other when adding content relevant for the class.
  • Communities can form for almost any topic of interest.
  • Using a response set-up like FB where comments build upon each other encourages participation. Notice that I said like.

When I took the E-learning and Digital Cultures course from Coursera in 2012, the engagement was exhilarating.  Our professors “suggested” that registrants become familiar with digital tools “prior” to the beginning of the course.  What followed was an outpouring of digital interaction 3 months prior to the beginning of class.  Hey, a former professor signed-up, participated and engaged with professors and students across the pond.  He had a blast!

When the MOOC Facebook page began to reach the thousands, subdividing into special interest groups was necessary.  Individuals sought to interact with those of similar language or cultural groups.  Some of us created “quad blogging” groups as a way to practice the VCU SOE praxis of “Educator as Reflective Practioner.”   I am still FB friends with members of my group, all of whom are college professors with far more education than I have mastered. They are incredibly busy with their teaching schedules. Through a private group on FB, we are able to continue academic discussions.

What I discovered is that a crucial component of cyberculture is the willingness to share.  Those who share freely are typically referred to as “weak links.” Discussions using Coogle did not appear to happen outside of the class time prepared by the professor. This comment is not meant to criticize my classmates.  I am simply assessing my ignorance, AKA Schein.

I was absent the night that a decision was made to create a learning site for the Organizational Learning and Culture class, so I was not there to provide feedback. I am not complaining, just considering the value and the worth of the site beyond the expectations of the course. I’ll go through the links and determine if I wish to keep an artifact or document.  The button on my Chrome tab allows me to bookmark items, label, and sort by topic. I can also determine if a document should be private or not. The information that I provided for the first Coggle on Organization Learning was based on items that I saved in Diigo.

My encounter with Coggle for the culture component was a little smoother. I still struggle with the navigation tools and wonder if I inadvertently deleted or moved a classmate’s contribution.  If this has happened, mea culpa.

Here is an image of the Culture Coggle-


The components that I added were:

Follow the Leader: Shaping Organizational Culture

Thoughts:  What are the qualities of a highly spirited organization? Are you interviewing for a job? If so, this article is a good reminder to ask if actions and policies run with the espoused values or against them.

Useful quote:

“Culture is experienced and felt even in the absence of a well-articulated manifesto. Employees know when they are genuinely valued, their ideas welcomed and their contributions reflected fairly in pay and career opportunities. When actions and policies run counter to the values posted on the company wall it creates a fissure in employee confidence and loyalty.”

Twenty-eight keys to unlock


  • A lengthy list of interesting ideas to consider particularly when looking for a new position.
  • How many prospective employees study the culture of an organization prior to applying for a position.
  • The author did cite Schein and mentioned his Corporate Culture Survival Guide

What Great Bosses Kow about Changing a Culture

Thoughts: The complete list of podcasts is available FREE from Apple.  I love useful podcasts.

  • Scroll down to locate the podcast-cites Schein
  • The Invisible Barrier-assumptions basic underlying
    • Asking questions allows one to unearth the hidden assumptions.
    • What is it that people don’t even bother to talk about

Strategies for Learning from Failure (seems appropriate after reading about Steinberg Grocery)


Building a Learning culture-

How can leaders help to avoid the “blame” game?  Understanding what happened as opposed to “who did it?” Are opportunities in place to experiment?

The video is 12 minutes in length, but worth the time to consider.

“…a culture that makes it safe to admit and report on failure can—and in some organizational contexts must—coexist with high standards for performance.” (from website) Interesting look at “A Spectrum of Reasons for Failure” chart.  If failures go unreported, what is it about the culture that prohibits the organization from doing so?  How does an organization show that they value learning from life lessons?

Inside Google workplaces, from perks to nap pods

The company studies everything that it does.

Thoughts:  If I wanted to live in the Silicon Valley, was an extrovert and was uber techy I would apply to Google in a heartbeat.  The idea that the company is interested in doing everything that it can do to keep their “Googlers” happy gets my vote.

“Inside the living lab” Treadmill Desks, 1,000 bikes, garden space, free food, unlimited snacks, and nap pods

Nudges-small interventions, color-coded food choices, salads to the front of the line, to extend the life of the average “Googler”

So back to Coggle.  There are components of learning that we could have done IF someone, like me, spoke up.  I will do so the next time and try, try, try again.

Something to Chew on-

I have lots of great ideas to consider when it comes down for a job interview.  All of the resources that I located as well as those shared by my colleagues are certainly useful when preparing for the big “I” interview next spring.



Adult 610 #6: Becoming the CEO of my bus

Energy Bus ImageThe project that I selected for this class was neither a glass half full nor half empty.   I saw the presenting problem as a glass as entirely full and one of great interest to me. As a college student, I worked as a Resident Advisor, a student worker in the Dean of Students Office as well as the Summer Conference Program. I thought that it was one with which I could be of assistance as well as of interest to me.


This is a quick and easy read for leaders to use with their team. 

When meeting with the client early in the project, she indicated that her team had read Jon Gordon’s The Energy Bus. She expressed how the book enabled the negative energy that once permeated her department to dissipate.  Gordon’s book, a Wall Street Journal Bestseller, illustrates how an encounter with a bus driver engages an individual with ways in which to fuel his work life with positive energy.  Embedded within the story are rules for positive energy, an action plan as ways in which to love one’s passengers or members of a team.  I chose to read this book in the hope that it would open the door to connect with the client and to engage her in conversation about her team.  I have selected the model as one in which to share my reflection of the culmination of the consulting project and this course of study.


The consulting project suffered several significant problems early in the semester; the transition from a team of four to three when a team member became a client altered the dynamics of the group in September. The disassociation of one member of L Cubed consulting in October meant that cohesion for the team was challenging. When this member withdrew from the course, it posed a lesser difficulty, but one never the less. Our team became a partnership with relatively little if any time to consider what it meant to be so. The fundamental task presented by the client, was broad in scope, providing a challenge when creating goals for the client and consulting partnership to consider.

I soon began to find that I empathize with the character Jon Gordon

Flawless consulting fieldbook
This is a WONDERFUL resource to add energy and life to one’s praxis!

created. The glass that I saw as entirely full in September slowly began to drain of all possibility by mid-October. (okay, perhaps a little bit melodramatic on my part!)  My energy and enthusiasm for the presenting problem began to dissipate.  When searching for ideas to sustain my interest, my professional energy bus became The Flawless Consulting Fieldbook. I found expertise from several consultants, from the case stories and techniques selected by Block, necessary for the vitality I desired.  Schein’s reminder that the most important relationship is the one that goes on inside my head is one that I needed to maintain with care (Schein, 1999).


Concepts and theories find a home, for me, in stories.  Storytelling in the workplace engages me in ideas and scenarios that resonate with me as a reader and teacher. I selected several entries from the companion book around concepts that I felt would give me the energy necessary to complete the course with enthusiasm: partnership, courage, conversation and engagement, capacity building, advice giving along with learning and teaching.

Gordon suggests that managers invite team members to explore topics crucial for to navigate the bus in the right directions.  These invitations, in the form of a bus ticket, can be mailed electronically.

The energy tickets I created for my brief presentation for the last class highlight ideas selected from essays in the field book.

edit-ticket-template-hi  Practice #1:  Partnership

So, What’s Working Here?  A conversation with Elizabeth McGrath

Energy Takeaway: Be clear about your wants and needs.

Be Understood & Understand Others




Practice #2:  Courage

Talk is Walk Language and Courage in Action by Peter Koestenbaum

Energy Takeaway: Use the consultant voice that asks, “How about…”

Thought:  How can I live a courageous life as a consultant and manage the anxieties that redoubtable surface in the helping profession?

edit-ticket-template-hi  Practice #3:  Conversation & Engagement

The Power of conversations at Work by Joel Henning

Energy Takeaway:  Engagement begins with discovery.  Ask “What works here?”

edit-ticket-template-hi  Practice #4:  Capability Building

Consulting as Capability Building by Lou Ann Daly

Energy Takeaway:  Look for opportunities for growth. Build the client’s capacity to make a change sans consultant.

edit-ticket-template-hi  Practice #5:  Advice

What should I do? by Peter Block

Energy Takeaway: Avoid Advice Giving-Recommendations typically sit on the shelf.

edit-ticket-template-hi  Practice #6:  Learning and Teaching

Homeopathic Consulting  Learning if Free Teaching is Not by Cliff Bolster

Energy Takeaway:  Protect the learning space for the client. Learning events + small doses equilibrates the relationship.



Something to chew on…


It’s been a very busy and demanding semester.  I am so glad that I chose to take this course right before the Capstone Class.  I know that the ideas and energy takeaways will be more accessible because of the short time frame between courses.  I look forward to the new challenge it will present AFTER a long and well deserved break!


Block, P., & Markowitz, A. (2000). The Flawless Consulting Fieldbook and Companion: A guide to understanding your expertise. John Wiley & Sons.

Gordon, J. (2010). The energy bus: 10 rules to fuel your life, work, and team with positive energy. John Wiley & Sons.

Adult 610#5: The Gift of Help


Tis’ the season for gift giving and helping is like a gift. In Adult Learning, we hear with great regularity that “Feedback is a gift.”  How often have I heard a student say that they didn’t wish to read what was written on a feedback sheet?  How often have I struggled to know what to write that would be of help to the presenter? Quite often, unfortunately.

As a public educator, for twenty years I gave parent-teacher conferences, participated in child study teams and assessed student work.  My training occurred sans instruction.  It was a “learn as I go” and “grow as quickly as I could” situation. Towards the latter half of my tenure, I asked students to set goals for their learning which proved to be rather challenging.  “Getting an A” typically tops every student’s list. Evaluation prior to conferences engaged students in assessing their work habits and behaviors.  The feedback collected from students provided the means to begin a discussion with parents. But what can one accomplish in ten brief minutes?

I have been rather silent in terms of discussing the actual consulting project outside of the checklists submitted privately to the professor.  In a public space such as my blog, I feel that it is important to protect the privacy of my client, thus no identifiers.

My consulting team prepared one “mini” feedback meeting to share the results of a survey created for student workers. As there were just 13 responses from October 21-November 16, the feedback was skeletal at best. The client has now postponed our feedback meeting scheduled for December 4 to December 11. We were prepared with a power point and a modified “Blockish” presentation to fit the one-hour period.  After a week of attempting to communicate with our client, we discovered that the staff has determined that they would only be available for half of the time necessary for the presentation.

Schein indicates that as a helper, I need to understand that there are “…hidden dynamics in trying to develop communication processes that will enhance learning processes” (Schein, 1999:125).  So how does an aspiring process consultant practice her skills when the client is unable to secure the time for feedback?

One of the questions that posed during the Adult Educator as Consultant lesson on Monday asked learners to consider the act of conserving honesty when teaching.  I use consulting and teaching interchangeably here, as process consulting is a method of helping that must be learned. I find it difficult to provide truly honest feedback without the basis of a strong relationship. I have almost no relationship with the client. The client does not respond to emails, avoids telephone calls and skillfully provides a rather limited period in which to meet.  My desire to conserve my honest is, in part, a reflection of both my lack of experience and a distaste for conflict. I am careful when considering my words.

Successful mutual face work is a skill that I have spent years perfecting.  At a very young age, I was told that I wore my emotions on my sleeves. The deeply held cultural rules that I was taught as a child, to use my words carefully so as not to hurt others, makes feedback challenging for me.

“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.” Dwight Goddard

It is not uncommon for me to be in a confiding communication situation as I have been told that I am easy to talk to and am a holder of confidences. I have experienced the “unwitting communication leakage” described by Schein, during a feedback meeting with a parent. It can be rather unsettling to the equilibrium that is meant to occur between parent and teacher. When I become aware of an individual’s blind spot without their knowledge, it becomes information that may inform the work that I do with a student.

The deliberate feedback that I will hope to provide to our client in the near future should help to inform the staff regarding the work that they do. In hindsight, I wonder if pressing for greater inclusion into the communication process between client and staff would have yielded greater interest and cooperation on the part of the staff.  The project belongs to the client, who passively avoided our offer of help.

The L Consulting team will regroup and continue to prepare the stage for a “Deliberate Feedback” meeting a la Schein.  As Block reminds us to show care for the client in all that we do, we will continue to be patient with our client.

Something to Chew on-

Schein says, “The key to semantic clarity is specificity.”

How can I better anchor feedback in behavior that the giver and the receiver have both observed?

This act may be the key to unlocking misunderstanding!




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

Adult 610 #4: Creating safe space for dialogue

Community-of-Practice-finalJSThe instance to create a space for conversation is sometimes difficult for adults.  As a graduate student, I find that I have more time now to engage in lengthy conversations with my friends as we schedule coffee or lunch gatherings frequently.  The dialogue in this space is open and hospitable. Our meetings allow us to know and be known by each other. In few situations, though, does dialogue occur where we create shared knowledge about our learning. We do not necessarily share the same space during the day as we would in a work setting.

When I was an educator in a public setting, I rarely talked in depth with any of my colleagues. An exhausting work schedule left little room for anything of depth or quality.  Dixon, in Perspectives in Dialogue, suggests that “…people long for a more authentic kind of interaction with their co-workers but that they are not sure that it is possible, or even if their longing is legitimate” (Dixon, 2). My longing is legitimate. Unfortunately, I find that many colleagues are unaccustomed to  a conversation that surrounds praxis. I find this rather paradoxical in an educational setting.

The developmental dialogue described by Dixon suggests that if people cannot be themselves at work, they cannot develop at work.  Wow!  What a novel idea.  An adult who spends 1/3 of their day working must find an opportunity to voice a concern or perspective.  My current work, as a graduate student, affords me time to engage in deeper levels of conversation. Discussion occurs  as part of a planned topic for class, however, it does not necessarily continue beyond the setting of the class.


The dialogue from Monday’s class Adult Educator as Consultant and The Heart of the Matter gave voice to the perspectives of my classmates. While not a part of any particular conversation, I found it beneficial to listen to the way in which classmates framed their views. While we may have used the term “dialogue,” I imagine that what occurred were discussions about separate points of view. When and where is there space to move from discussion to dialogue?

Dialogue education brings the adult educator as consultant into a new role. Vella suggests that the educator becomes the listener and designer of learning experiences. She references Freire’s ideas regarding dialogue between the teacher and the student in the epilogue of her book. The concept of becoming jointly responsible for the process by which each individual learns encourages accountability and engagement which allows for shared meaning (Vella, 2008:2014).  When blurring the roles of teacher and student talk transitions from discussion to dialogue.

Parker Palmer, in the chapter Learning in Community: The Conversation of Colleagues, suggests that if one wishes to grow in one’s practice, that there are two places to go: (1) the inner ground from which good teaching comes (meaning inside one’s self) and (2) the community of fellow teachers from whom we can learn more about ourselves (Palmer, 2007: 146).

Bohm’s guidance for dialogue is minimal, according to Dixon (1996:12). He suggests that we meet without purpose or a specified goal so that everyone can talk freely.  This would be a novel way to grown one’s praxis as a process consultant. In one specific instance last spring, my classmates and professor sat and spoke freely about ourselves first and then about organizational change.  The dialogue was engaging and the community feeling allowed us to learn more about ourselves as adult educators. It was a conversation that Palmer would have enjoyed! As I come to the end of the semester, I am reluctant to let the conversation end.

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

How do I engage other adult educators in keeping the conversation going in the midst of the demands of life? 


Dixon, N. M. (1996). Perspectives on Dialogue: Making Talk Developmental for Individuals and Organizations. Center for Creative Leadership, PO Box 26300, Greensboro, NC 27438-6300 (Stock No. 168: $20)..

Palmer, P. J. (2010). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. John Wiley & Sons.

Vella, J. (2008). On teaching and learning: Putting the principles and practices of dialogue education into action. John Wiley & Sons.

Adult 623#5: The House of Cards


Imagination, risk and trust are important cultural values of many organizations.  Imagination and risk engage individuals in seeking new ideas for problems, possibilities for technological advances and a playing field for creativity. “Ask why,” as espoused value of the Enron Corporation, certainly sparked interesting conversation in class when viewing, “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.”  

“Ask Why,” is precisely what some individuals asked and what others should have asked more frequently when questioning the behaviors of those in leadership. Imagination, Risk and Trust are three espoused values that captured my attention when viewing this film.


Enron leaders operated in the world of magic and let’s play pretend when considering the role of the company. Ideas are everything.  An espoused philosophy, “If it is a good idea than you should be able to book the profits of this idea right away” navigates the behavior of leaders. The value of earnings before scruples moved leadership beyond the mart-to-market idea of accounting to one of Hypothetical Future Value. Andy Fastow found that the culture of the organization encouraged financial fantasy. When creating a scheme to generate money, fictitious companies, such as LJM, generated income for top management and the Enron Corporation.


The employees of Portland General Electric, PGE, placed a significant amount of trust in Enron.  Their stock was stamped with the seal of Enron, ultimately becoming worthless.

Employees trust is encouraged through a series of meetings with Kenneth Lay. On several occasions, he assured them that the company was doing well.  Rocks were being thrown at the company by misguided and irresponsible journalism.   His wife, Linda Lay, was used to convince employees to move all of their stock into Enron, while Jeffrey Shilling was quietly moving his funds out of the company.

The Performance Review Committe was created to provide a grade of 1-5 for employees.  Each individual was given a rating.  Someone had to be a 5, which meant that the procedure of “Yank and Rank” would follow.  How can an employee sign over their investments one day only to be ranked a 5 and yanked another day.


The idea that fraud is not fraud if you can keep the perception going fueled many of the risks assumed by Enron.

The Dabhol power plant in India was a huge risk assumed in part by the company. The drinking water in this area is undrinkable, while produce and livestock are dwindling.

The Broadband trading market was slated to earn 53 million in the mart-to-market form of accounting and investing.  If broadband wasn’t being utilized from 7pm – 7am, why shouldn’t Enron become involved in marketing this resource?

Traders for the Enron Corporation recount the myriad ways in which they swindled millions of dollars’ worth of utilities from the state of California.  Blackouts during the winter months, when the consumption of electricity is only half of that used in the summer, forced business owners to close during the outages.  To paraphrase one trader, he didn’t ask why enough when making decisions about the lives of these citizens.

Something to chew on-


While not everyone’s occupation requires imagination in order to do a job well, a culture that expects employees to trust them may be too much risk to assume after the scandal at Enron.