Innovations have a record of dissipating after a grant-funded initiative culminates; public policy has changed or is substituted with another new trend. However, if an innovation is worth continuing, it should be sustained. This research study reports on the way an initiative that was initially grant- funded comes to be institutionalized through the use of sustainability dimensions and feedback-based systems thinking in order to create a “win-win” partnership between a university and local elementary school.
As the incoming president for the AECT’s Division on Systems Thinking and Change, I had the privilege of planning this year’s conference. Since I have the skill of media design, I put myself to work in order to create this year’s minimag for the division. The minimag was very well received and I’m glad to have served in a such way. Many division members supplied content, input and modification suggestions. Thank you all for such fine work!
The AECT Conference is just around the corner! Find out what Systems Thinking and Change is doing!
What is purgatory for a professor? I suspect it is different for each; isn’t that the point of purgatory? November 2014, I began my purgatory. One of my students, one that I mentored, defended his work… at the defense, he did not display the results of a statistical method according to APA style nor were all the calculated results necessary. One could say, “This was not just your mistake, but your mentee’s.” That makes it worse! The person that I guided made an error due to my lack of oversight! Could there be anything so egregious to a professor! We don’t want to share our ignorance but rather, our insight!
Excuses – yes, I could make excuses. There was a deficiency of understanding by committee members, who did not complete their work prior to the defense. There was my inability to be insistent on following particular protocol. Regardless of pretexts, the end result was the same. My student was humiliated, and I, probably more so. It was my responsibility, my watch. It was my death.
Wikipedia writers note that Purgatory, is an “intermediate state after physical death in which those destined for heaven “undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (August 21, 2015). Officially, I don’t ascribe to purgatory, which comes from Roman Catholic doctrine. However, this idea is very convenient for me albeit changing it around – a bit. I didn’t die a physical death but a metaphorical one.
What I found out about this metaphorical death: I survived! It has forced me to re-evaluate goals, say “no” to some tasks, and emphatically state the appropriate protocol in a situation. Prior to this incident, I would easily capitulate to a person’s insistence on issues where I felt less confident. Now, I pause, think of scenarios, review contracts, ask more questions, and I hope, am a little wiser – seeking out advice of experts. I would like to metaphorically think that I was purified in order to move on, to be a better professor and better person.
I love being a professor, but it is challenging if taken seriously. Many of my friends have noted that I have busted the “mythical bubble of professor-hood” when they see me work. They see my long hours, disappointments, frustrations, and probably not enough of the joys. But, they see that I do the work willingly because I love it. Student successes are the best! I have learned that it is impossible to do all things well, which makes me mad. I want to do all things well, but I have my limits! That sticks! The new academic year begins in 3 days. I have learned important lessons, and am ready to move out of own internal purgatory.
This presentation at AECT was a lively discussion about the way that systemic thinking can influence that way that we create positive change. Regina Sayles Koilparampil, a former GA – now Alumna, was a great help to explain the roles of trust and how she was able to build the build trust between the university and the school. After this presentation, some in the audience asked that I write about the experience and thinking so that others can better identify leverage points, stakeholder involvement and pressures from supra-systems, peer systems and feedback. I will after the holidays!
I learn so much from one of my favorite teachers — nature. I walk down the slope to the local stream. I find a stable rock so to stand in middle of the rushing water. With eyes gently opened, I gaze at the water rushing, reminding me of life. Like water, life keeps moving, and there is not a second of a stillness. If there is less motion, it is really because the water gets stuck behind a rock. But, the water doesn’t stop; it revolves in a quick circle, finds an opening and quickly exits to continue finding its way down stream — where it is meant to go. Rocks do not detain water for long. In fact the rocks are shaped and smoothed by the water as it continues to move.
May my activity be like water in a stream. When reaching the rocky obstacles of time, money, and other ideas, may I gently roll over the rocks so that the rocks may be shaped due to my fluid and positive influence. While I move mentally, may beauty be created in the environment so that others moving through either desire to be part of the stream or may enjoy the milieu. May the stream of my life continue to lead me to where I am meant to go with beauty, persistence and part of the whole.
There is an observation, that most don’t like to discuss. But, after many years, I think that experience bares me out. The dissertation question is iterative. The question written,re-written and then, with input from a dissertation committee is often substantially re-written again. The question could be refined for many reasons. Maybe the way that author wrote the question, is not the way that others understood the question. Sometimes the question is written, but the observation instrument looks at something else, and the person says, “Oh… I really want to know this…” Sometimes, the question is even being determined while the instrument is being made a data collect. Ones looks at the data, and may say ahhh… “so, my data actually answers this question!” Why do I bother writing this, as it seems to be known? We should not admonish this evolution of thought!
I have worked with colleagues, whom I deeply respect, that seem to simplify the process. Professors sometimes get frustrated with students who do not have the question, just the way that the professor defines it. The oversimplification causes the student great frustration who self admonishes that he/she did not get it “right” the first time. It seems that some believe that the process is 100% linear. It would be clean if our brains worked that way, but they do not.
Our brains are a huge map or more like a web. We get inspired and make sense of information while we are in the shower, walking the dog, dreaming, making dinner… the list goes on. That applies to question writing as well. However, there is the expectation that the question is at the beginning, coming from the ideas of the scientific process. In the “scientific process” a linear process has been identified for experimentation: question, hypothesis, data collection, findings, conclusion with inferences and questions. Here is an awesome article from 1922 attributing our linear expectations and our desire for over simplification to the behaviorist: THE FALLACY OF EXCLUSIVE SCIENTIFIC METHODOLOGY which is not the way our brains work.
Whether we cast blame on the behaviorist or someone else, let’s admit that our brains are messy and make sense of information in linear and non-linear ways. The words we chose to write may or may not communicate what we want them to say. We communicate thoughts in a linear way only for others to understand us, where in our minds the thought or question can make perfect sense. We humans take a while to define what we mean which keeps us talking to one another, refining our thought and questions. That is the positive side; the disagreements keep us collaborating to discuss our questions.