Monday, August 31, 2009

Perserverance in pursuit of known best practice

1. H1N1 Contingency Planning
2. Quick Review of Reflections/Encouragement for next pieces
Before we get to 3, who is Gawande
3. Hand washing - what's the problem, why is it important?
4 Hand washing - why doesn't it happen by itself?
5. Generalizing - the Handwashing lesson to learning, what translates?
6. Polio eradication in India - what art the characterisitics of the the diligent practitioner?
7. Survey
8. Assigning teams to projects.
9. Show Compass - team names.

1. Discuss lessons from Friday morning meeting with Peter Mortensen and IT Pros.
2. Anyone read Argyris? Mea culpa - first non-Econ class, first writing intensive class. I was feelng defensive. Try to be your advocate. Don't want to be a policeman or your mother. Value casual tone in the writing but precision in expresion. Also value subtlety. There is benefit in digging deeper on a subject and not just touching surface level.
Ask students if they knew of Gwande before this class.
3. Before talking about hand washing, ask if anyone is a univeristy employee. Talk about the ethics training requirement. Use as a way to illustrate it isn't diligence per se that is the value. It is diligence in pursuit of good ends that are hard to achieve otherwise.
4. Then ask why medical professionals don't always wash their hands when they see a patient. Ask about gloves. Ask if they can go beyond what's in the book for reasons. Is it rational behavior? Is there an intellectual problem that needs correcting? What about solutions, can we talk things through on solutionss?
5. Is there a diligence issue with being a student? What is best practice? Do many students miss achieving best practice.
6. Switch to talking about the character of a practitioner of best practice. Use polio eradication as an example. Let the student discuss the features of the guy Gawande rides around with.

Take a break

Go to computer -
7. Show survey
8. Get teams assigned to projects.
9 Show Compass

Survey for after class today

Please complete this very brief survey after class today. The results will be posted when everyone has responded. In the comment area, one particular thing I'd like your opinion on is whether we are asking about the right things in what we are measuring. If you have suggestions for other items to measure, please write about those. That would be very valuable to receive.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


We have liftoff. Everyone in the class has a blog. All are listed in the sidebar. Everyone has done the first reflection piece. Each should have a comment from me. Hooray!!!

From here on out I encourage you to track the writings of your classmates and comment on them where you see fit. You'll recall an earlier post about getting a reader to do that. Here I will provide the OPML file that you can import into your reader to get a subscription to each student blog. Right click on the link and then save it to your desktop. Then you can import that file into your reader. Right click here

There were a variety of approaches to the first reflection, some focus on the subject of the course, others on the writing, and a few on the nature of open ended classes. Quite a few of you weren't sure where the course is headed. Let's see if this coming week helps in gaining focus. If it doesn't, please bring up the issue in class because we should talk it through.

Some of you did want to learn about how to affect change in society at large and perhaps reading The Tipping Point over the summer created the impression that we'll spend significant time on change at a macro level. At the risk of disappointing you, I must tell you that we won't be doing that. Our focus will be on change in a small organizational unit - a class, a small company, some volunteer organization, etc. If you've spearheaded effective change in that setting the next obvious question to ask is this. If it worked here, why can't it work elsewhere? The very first think to do at that point is to get the word out about the change. Gladwell's book is there in the readings to get us to think through whether there are good ways to get the word out. There are no guarantees that after the word has gotten out that the idea will spread. The only guarantee is that if you don't get the word out, it definitely will not spread.

Apart from reading each other's writing, I ask one small thing. Please put a line space between your paragraphs. Text is best read online if there is plenty of white space around the text. That makes it stand out more. It will aid my reading, for sure. And it might help your other readers as well.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Perhaps an interesting read for your team work

I subscribe to a listserv called The Tommorow's Professor. This is a post from last spring about gender based communication styles among engineering students. I thought you might find it amusing/informative and perhaps a cautionary tale for your own team interactions.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's a date

Most of these are now in the class calendar but I'm listing them here for your info. We need to assign teams to the Guest Visits and Student Led Class Discussions. Teams will get one of each. Let's do that in class on Monday.

Due Dates for 396 Writing Projects:
Book Review - October 9
Multimedia Project - November 6
Final Project - December 15

Guest Visits Where Teams Will Interview (Apart from the interview itself teams will need to produce a script of questions in advance and a summary of the discussion afterwards).
1. College CIOs - Sept 30, noon till 12:50
2. Deans Watkins and DeBrock - October 7, some time after noon till we're done.
3. Campus Coordinator for Programs on Teaching and Learning - November 11, 1 - 1:50.
4. Director Writer's Workshop - not yet scheduled, late October or early November.
5. Other Guest, not yet invited. Does the class have a preference?

Student Led Class Discussion (This will be for a 50 minute segment segment, typically starting at noon. A lesson plan must be produced ahead of time. )
1. Bruner on Readiness for Learning - September 16
2. Bruner on Motivation - September 21
3. Argyris on Double Loop Learning - September 23
4. Drucker Chapters 1-3 - September 28
5. Drucker on non-Profits - October 5

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Non Compos (Compass) Mentis/Group Work Space

You guys are an eager bunch. I see that some of you got into the "Journal Topic" in Compass called Student Reflective Posts. Let me explain how I'd like to use that space and also briefly discuss group work space for you.

First, a few of you mentioned that the Compass site says only 395 and not 396. I'm not sure why that is but if you can log in when you need to that is all you should worry about. I know who is in which and will track your work accordingly.

On occasion I will give written feedback about your posts that I can't do as a comment on your blog because it contains some assessment of your work, whether letter grade, numerical evaluation, or what have you. I'm not supposed to do that by email either - it's not secure. Compass is, so that is where that sort of communication will occur. We still have a few more weeks before any of that will happen. Sometime before then, no rush, you should log in once into that discussion topic. Once you do it will show up on my screen so I can post to you or make comments on something you post. Until then it is invisible to me.

Likewise I will do the same for group work and I'm making a journal topic for each team. Team members should see their own topic. Non-team members should not have access. So far I've made groups and discussion topics for Action (A) and Best (B). While each of you have your own team to look at, I've got the list of teams, which explains my first letter requirement on naming. You don't have do to anything on this score at present. I do see the team discussion topics after they are created.

Also, you don't have to check Compass for these messages. I will alert you in class and via announcements on this site that such messages are there for you. You should monitor this site regularly, not Compass.

Now let me switch to the matter of group work space. You don't have to do anything about this immediately, but when you do start doing written work in the team, you'll need a space both to archive team work in progress and to deliver drafts and final product to me. One option for that is to make a group blog. If you go that route, I leave it to you. There is also a course wiki. (If one brave soul wants to login and verify s/he can do that, I'd appreciate it. If you are the brave soul please let me know that it worked.) The wiki is (should be) set up for each of you to have read/write access while the rest of the world has read access. Your team can make a team page and then have children pages for the projects, or some other schema of your own choosing.

Eulogizing Ted Kennedy

A different spin on effective change.

Class Calendar

Here is the class calendar in html format. Likewise, here the the link to copy and paste into your own calendar application for the same calendar in iCal format.
And here is the link to the same calendar in XML format. This should work in any feed reader.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Reading and Commenting on Student Posts

You can follow the posts of your fellow students from the blogroll in the left sidebar. But there can be some difficulty in doing that because it doesn't personalize for you there and hence doesn't track whether you've already read that post or not. There is other software which does that sort of thing. Those applications are called "readers" or "aggregators." Here's a site that lists a variety of good ones. Some of these are stand alone "clients" while others just run in your browser. I use Bloglines for my other blog reading and am trying out Google Reader for the student posts in this class. Both of those are browser based. When the class gets completely set up, I can provide a file (it's called an OPML file) with the list of all the student blogs. You can then import that file into your own reader and follow the student posts that way. This doesn't mean you "have to" read everything your classmates write. If you are curious, however, this makes it easier to do so.

Writers typically appreciate comments from readers. It gives more meaning to the writing activity and makes it seem more like a conversation and less like a broadcast. In our class setting it will help us to feel like a community rather than like a bunch of individuals who happen to meet together on occasion. So I encourage you to comment on each others posts. You can do that directly or in your own blog by making reference to that post, in which case you should link to it. Commenting directly has the benefit that the author will almost certainly see the comment and may very well respond to it with another comment. Commenting indirectly through your own blog shows how the original post influences your own thinking by tying it into your other ideas.

Unfortunately, spam is a reality with blogging. So you need to take some steps to block it. There are different degrees of protection you can take. These include who can make comments as determined by their login, whether commenting requires word verification, and comment moderation. Keeping the spammers out, however, makes it more difficult for legitimate comments to get through. In particular, if you moderate comments, you should set up an email alert so you know there is a comment that awaits moderation. I believe Wordpress is more sophisticated than Blogger on this score in that once a login has made a comment successfully after moderation the same login is given free access to make comments without moderation thereafter. (Especially if you use Gmail, Blogger does have some benefits over Wordpress in its integration with other Google applications.) You do want to encourage your readers to comment. Assuring that legitmate comments appear in a timely fashion is part of doing that.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Absent minded professor

Sorry - I forgot to put a tag on the Writing to Learn Reflections post, so it didn't show up when I covered the syllabus. It is pretty important, so you should have a good read of it.

Since the question came up in class, my suggested topic is a suggestion only. You are free to vary the topic, just as long as you think it ties in.

Likewise, I forgot to put a tag on the Panel Discussion with Guests post. You need to have a look before we do the team allocations to interviewees.

Professor Arvan Contact Info

Office: 474 Wohlers Hall
Phone: 265-7140
Email: larvan at or prof.arvan at
Office Hours: Since we have some scheduled during regular class time, I'm not going to schedule others. I'm happy to talk outside of class, either individually or with your team. Just set something up.

A suggestion about decorum online from CNN

This one is pretty timely for our class.

From An Interview with Hillary Clinton

The topic is the new Gender Agenda. Interesting how micro lending figures so prominently.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Getting Ready

Setting this site up, I've been wondering whether it might be overwhelming or even worse, like making all the preparations for a big birthday party when it turns out that none of the guests show up. This must be the writer's equivalent to performance anxiety and I suppose it is inevitable. There is no way for me to tell ahead of time how students will react to the site. I suppose we'll just have to roll the dice.

Last night I was watching some of the video from the Nobel Prize site on Muhammad Yunus. The interview and brief documentary were fine but with his speech, the video stalled about 2/3 of the way in. I felt compelled to find an alternative, so posted the video interview from Charlie Rose. I don't recall how I first learn things very well, but that Charlie Rose interview is likely the way I became acquainted with Yunus. I watch Charlie Rose a lot. Sometimes he is a little too much, offering up his opinions when he should let his guest speak instead, but the diversity of his guests is excellent. I watched most of that interview again last night. Rose and Yunus linger for some time on why the recipients of microcredit are mostly women. We'll talk about that in class.

Here I want to use that observation as a launch point to ask about differences in student inclination and performance that are gender related. I don't write about gender very much at all. On my main blog I've got only one post on the topic, with well over five hundred posts in total. The reason I don't write much on it is that I'm not comfortable doing so. Sometimes I generalize from my own experience when it's not appropriate and then might cause offense. Once in a while, however, those generalizations are right on, so here goes.

Intellectually I believe we all have a math/analytic side, a dispassionate part of the persona, and a humanistic and expressive side, a compassionate other part of the persona. In many of us one of these sides trumps the other. When I was in high school I was a math nerd (high scorer on the math team my senior year)! Looking back on that time, I had opportunities for my humanistic side to come out more, but I didn't know where those opportunities would lead so I chose not to pursue them. I started the blog I mentioned in the previous paragraph soon after I turned fifty. Now I'm convinced that it is my humanistic side where most of the exploration occurs. It's not that my analytic side is dead. It's just that in the main I find those sort of questions less interesting. The switch over happened somewhere later in life.

There may be guys who in high school are quite at peace with their humanistic side, but looking at the population as a whole I'd guess most guys have arrested development in this area while the women are further along. Even if that is not true in general, it probably is true for those with pronounced math/analytic abilities. A disproportionate number of the students in the class are engineering majors. Draw any conclusions from that fact that you will.

I'm belaboring this because the skills required for instituting effective change are mostly of the humanistic variety, a lot of which is the ability to listen and express empathy, and this often must be accompanied with some demonstration of personal vulnerability. Expressions from the analytic side convey something else --- insight perhaps, competence certainly, but also coldness if none of the humanistic self shows through.

So I'm guessing that emotionally the women students in the class are likely more ready for it than the men. And if that is right, I'm wondering what can be done to even things out. After thinking about effective teaching for more than a decade, I've come to believe that among the most important things I can do as a teacher is to help get students ready for what is to come next and I look to create certain experiences that will encourage the right mindset. In teaching economics, I felt on more terra firma in this regard. With this course, I'd welcome suggestions about what we might do.

Second Class - August 26

1. Cover the basic economics of borrowing and lending. Get students to understand the role of colateral and of interest payments.
2. Reason through the paradox of why there have been so many mortage defaults in the last couple of years yet micro credit has flourished with a very high repayment rate.
3. Talk about motivation and learning from the viewpoint of Yunus.
4. Talk about conventional wisdom and micro credit.
5. Talk about effective change and empowerment.
6. Discuss the issue in moving from micro credit to micro finance.
7. Get the students into teams.
8. Work through how the reflective posts will be graded.

1. Talk through why there is a spread in interest rates between what savers can receive and what borrowers have to pay. Discuss loan default. When is it rational? When do rich borrowers default? When do poor borrowers default?
2. What does the word micro mean in the context of micro credit? Why do micro loans work when macro may not loans may not?
3. How did Yunus come up with the micro credit idea? What was his motivation to keep at it. Why do most micro loans have women as the borrowers? Are there any broader generalizations we can draw from that?
4. What stereotypes existed before micro credit came into existence. Discuss effective change as insight in light of contrary conventional wisdom, first, and then discuss implementation issues that ensue thereafter.
5. What is the relationship between morale and effective change? How do the micro credit borrowers change as a consequence of the experience? What happens to their own confidence.
6. Discuss the financial institution that makes micro loans. What is the difference between such loans made by for profit institutions and loans made by banks such as the one Yunus founded, the Grameen Bank. Explore the consequences of this.
7. Sit students by 395 and 396. Get two teams of four from 396. And three teams from 395, one with four students, the other two with three. Have them pick a team name. Tell them the first letter of the team name.
8. Talk about portfolio approach. Talk about measuring level versus measuring growth. Talk about not knowing what to expect in student performance.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

First Class - August 24

1. Icebreaker. Need to get the class relaxed and willing to open up.
2. Learning. Do informal data collection by getting students to talk about their own experiences. Make a point of noting whether the students concur on their assessment or if there is a difference of opinion. Use data collection as a launch point for asking about implications and for a way to get harder data on the issues.
3. Taking pulse. What if any of the books did students read this summer?
4. Administrivia. Make sure the students are aware of class the Web site and are up to speed on the immediate next things they must do to get on track for the class.

1. Icebreaker. Rearrange furniture in the room so we can see each of us can see all other's face. Remind them we have to get the furniture back to how it was at the end of class. Talk about having a break about 50 minutes in. Indicate whether the restrooms and vending machines are. Ask students if their parents went to the U of I. Among those who said yes find out if any had me as their teacher for intermediate micro. Do another survey of the students to identify which colleges they are in. Ask whether they know each other. Do my mea culpa about having little formal education on the topics of the course.
2. Learning. Mention that you like to start in the middle when discussing issues and then iterate toward the beginning and then end. Use as the focus question: How do other students on Campus compare with CHP students? In essence are they the same or are there noticeable differences? Ask what experience they base this on. Try to get everyone to give an opinion on this. Ask about ethical behavior. Then begin to draw out implications of what they've said. If there are differences, can they hypothesize as to the cause. If there are no differences, can they hypothesize as to why the CHP program exists? If there is some disagreement in the responses, can that be explained, perhaps by the colleges where the students major? Only near the end of this should I mention my own prior held beliefs.
3. Taking pulse. Talk about student impressions from the reading. What are the lessons learned? Ask if they read my post on Schon and Gawande.
4. Administrivia. Show course site. Implore students to create a blog if they haven't done so already. Encourage them to make comments on the course blog and on other students blogs. Mention the site in Compass. Cover the parts of the syllabus where students receive course credit. Mention that for the next class they should be ready with Yunus and that they need to have their first reflection done for Friday at 5 PM. Tell them that in the next class we'll assign students to teams and then we'll have a discussion about grading. Talk about using some of the class time for office hours.

Why lesson plans?

I haven't done lesson plans in the past in my regular teaching. Early on I had lecture notes that I used. Then I stopped doing that. I found that I'd go too quickly through the content if I relied on lecture notes, because it all seemed transparent enough for me. So I found instead it was better to derive ideas from first principles. That approach matched my disposition. Incidentally, I'm using lecture notes just to refer to the content itself while with lesson plans I have in mind less of the content and more on goals, sidebars, and overriding issues.

All of that stuff would be in my head, but not written down anywhere. Even when I co-taught with other faculty we didn't make lesson plans. Instead we planned in advance in office visits, divided up the work, and then we each had ownership of our own piece. Common exams forced some integration of those pieces but within broad guidelines we were free to vary how we covered things based on our own discretion.

More recently, I've been involved in a week long professional development activity for learning technologists. I've done that for each of the past three years as one of the six "faculty" for the institute. We do a lot of planning for this and in the planning the lead faculty and the organization that sponsors the institute want plans for each session. Part of the reason for the plans is to communicate to the others what is intended so they can comment and advise. Another part of the reason is to create assurance that we're ready for the sessions. Here is a plan for a sidebar on budgeting I did. I ended up not sticking with the plan. And I never told the joke on opportunity cost. In fact, I'm not very good at sticking with a plan. I know that if I'm over prepared I'll be stiff. I don't want that.

But we are going to have teams conduct class sessions. Lesson plans make sense in that context, for communication among team members and as a getting ready activity. I will try to model that for you, though there is certainly room for improvement in my demo. For instance, I note that I've got a bulleted list there, which I critiqued elsewhere, wanting sentences instead. Let's see if with the next few there is improvement.

Jim Collins Interview on the Charlie Rose Show

From time to time I will make posts about things that touch on what our course is about and are interesting in their own right but that we won't discuss in class. If we as a group go off on tangents we might have fun doing so, but I fear there will be less coherence afterwards. But as individuals, by all means do that if you are interested. The payoff can be huge, though likely it will not be immediate.

In this particular interview Collins talks about why great institutions decline. He believes there is a consistent pattern to the decline and describes a 5 stage process, with hubris at the first stage and over reaching somewhere after that. The interesting thing for us is that if you reverse his stages you get an awful lot of what Drucker and Senge argue for and a pretty good model of Effective change.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

For 396 Students - The Second Writing Assignment Is a Multimedia Project

Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion from a Screen Movie about with images, music, and caption text.When you are ready, click the image on the left to a blog post I wrote last summer that has the video and an explanation for what I'm trying to have you accomplish with the video. The second assignment is to make one of these. Choose a suitable theme and then produce your own creation, from soup to nuts. You must also produce all the supporting documents, as indicated in that post.

Here I want to give a different justification for this assignment. Among the more important skills to learn for your future career is how to write an effective memo. A related skill, also quite important, is how to write a good executive summary of a longer document. In other words, knowing how to communicate important ideas with a very limited amount of text is requisite for career advancement.

I could have given you an assignment to write an effective memo, but it would be hard to come up with a setting where that sort of assignment would really grab you. Absent the compulsion to really nail it, you would find the exercise far less instructive. I'm hoping you can immerse yourself in this media creation project and thereby get something of substance out from the time you put into doing this work.

And then you'll have something to show your parents and friends from having taken the course. ;-)

Attendance and Academic Integrity

Class attendance is expected (except in the case of illness, where if possible please notify me by email). If a student has to miss class because of another obligation, the student should alert me in advance of the date. This is relevant for the team activities. They will be scheduled so no team member anticipates missing class.

Violations of university standards of academic integrity will result in appropriate disciplinary action. See

Course Grades

Course grades will be assigned based on the following cutoffs:

95% A
90% A–
85% B+
80% B
75% B–
70% C+
65% C
60% C–
50% D

During the second class session, Wednesday August 26, the class will discuss how student performance gets translated into measured scores. There are some decisions that I'd like the group to make as a whole regarding this assessment.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

For 396 Students - The First Writing Project Is A Book Review

Book reviews are for a slow Sunday morning, where you have a hard copy of the Sunday NY Times and have to decide which section to read first. You stare at the Magazine section to see if the featured articles are on topics that interest you or if you are familiar with the authors and like other pieces by them . In either case, that's where you head first. Otherwise, you head for the Book Reviews. The pieces are shorter there. But the variety of topics is bound to interest, the way opinion gets expressed intrigues, and the writing is far better than in most of the rest of the paper. The contributors are specialists in their area and often professional writers themselves.

One slow Sunday follows another and then you find that you want to feed the craving. So you start to read general interest periodicals and the reviews in those or perhaps you start reading periodicals that are mostly if not exclusively devoted to book reviews, such as the New York Review of Books. Then, because you feel you need a break from slugging through the reading in your discipline, the slow Sundays creep into your lunch hour during the week, perhaps breakfast time too. You find that you can both unwind and learn about things outside your speciality. Its a way to get thoughtful commentary on a diversity of topics.

This, then, provides a glimpse of the goal, what you want the reader to feel from the piece you have created. What follows is a different approach to this requirement.

You are to write a review of one of the books for the course. Almost certainly, you'll be able to find reviews of the book you choose elsewhere. You are not in competition with the authors of these pieces. You will produce a different sort of review. In what you write you will create connections between the book under review, other shorter readings in the course, and the general course theme. What implication is there in this book for effective change? You will further tie the book to your own experiences. By personalizing your narrative, you will create a unique story, one that differs from prior published reviews.

Ultimately, what you produce should be at least 3000 words. You'll get to that in stages. First you need to get me a precis of what you plan, 500 or 600 words that describes the general ideas. Please don't give me a bulleted outline. I like sentences. They are better for communicating your thoughts. Plan for a day or two of turnover so I can read and give you feedback. You can start on you draft straight away, without waiting for the feedback. Ultimately, however, you'll need to incorporate it into the first draft. I do expect you to proofread your draft ahead of time for general readability.

We can iterate multiple times within the four weeks that the project is due. If you think you've nailed it after the first pass, and my comments suggest likewise, you can stop then. Don't linger on that possibility however and use it as a reason to try for the perfect first draft. It is better to get something workable out there and then reconsider it afterwards. Also, the writing requirement demands revision. That is the expectation.

Here is a tip, especially for those of you who have not done much writing on your own before. Read as many book reviews as you can the first few weeks of the semester. If you find the same reviewer for multiple pieces and you like the style, try to imitate that. When I first got started writing my blog, I tried to emulate Stephen Jay Gould writing in the New York Review of Books. (I loved his essay called The Streak of Streaks.) Imitating the master is a good way to get started. Your own personal style will come out from trying variations on that.

I would like the precis and the final draft submitted to be on your blog. If you want to send me earlier drafts differently, that is ok. It's also ok to put those on the blog too. If you ever go back to your own writing later, it will be interesting for you to note how the piece changed from draft to draft. You are welcome to write one of your weekly reflections on that.

Class Participation

(10% of the Course Grade) Though this category gets a relatively small amount of the overall course credit, it is actually quite important. The low percentage reflects my inability to monitor you well while I'm also conducting the class session and to have both imperfect perception and failing memory regarding the value of your own participation. We will try to do something to monitor overall class participation to encourage everyone to participate well, where you participate in the monitoring, but on an individual level I'm afraid we'll come up a bit short. Do note that this category also includes online participation, as you make comments on the work of other students or likewise on the class Web site.

Final Course Project

(20% of Course Grade) The grand project that the class as a whole will work on is to develop a plan for a peer mentoring program on Campus. There will be a project wiki where the plan is housed or some other technology that we choose together. The instructor will work on the gateway part of this site. Students are invited to contribute, but their contributions here won’t be graded. Students in their teams will be assigned subsidiary projects. One such project, for example, is to work through the argument whether an effective peer mentoring program can be implemented entirely through voluntary contributions of the mentors. The subsidiary projects will be evaluated on the basis of the sort of evidence that can be brought to bear to address the issue, the way the issue is framed, and the quality of the argument to support the plan.

For 396 students - General Thoughts about Writing Requirement

From the Campus Guidelines for General Education:

1.2.4 Courses approved to meet the Advanced Composition requirement must involve writing assignments that (a) demand analysis and synthesis of the subject matter of the course, or in the case of writing courses in the rhetoric and communication disciplines, application of the principles under study; (b) require substantial original composition (typically totaling at least 20 to 30 pages over the course of a semester); and (c) involve multiple drafts throughout the course of the semester. By special permission of the General Education Board a two-course sequence may be certified as fulfilling the Advanced Composition requirement, if the writing component of the sequence meets the standards specified for certification of a single course; credit for Advanced Composition will not be given for completing only one course in the sequence.

We will stick to both the letter and the spirit of the requirement. The reflective writing will achieve some of this, but there will be no revisions on the reflections. So we will do some other work as well that will entail multiple drafts. There will be 3 additional "writing" projects. The first two will be in a preassigned formats. The third will be you choosing to do another in one of the first two formats.

Schedule-wise, divide the semesters into the following chunks:
First three weeks - do extra reading to prepare for the first assignment
Next four weeks - work on first writing project.
Subsequent four weeks - work on second writing project.
Final four weeks - work on last project.

Grading-wise, each of the projects will be worth an additional 10% of the grade. The shrewd student will note that for students in 396 we have now allocated 130% of the grade. We will simply divide the total points earned by 1.3 and thus re-norm accordingly.

Brown Bagging It

Because our class meets over the lunch hour, you may want to bring your lunch to class. That's fine from my point of view. Also note that there are vending machines close to the classroom. They have promised a cafe in the building, but it isn't there yet.

Panel Discussion with Guests

(20% of Course Grade) After a brief introduction by me, the guest(s) will be interviewed by a pre-designated team, using a format akin to a panel interview for a TV news show. I will serve as moderator. The rest of the class will play the role of audience and may be able to ask additional question after the panel concludes. Each team will be given a rubric to guide them in coming up with their panel questions. In response to the rubric and the underlying issues that the guest has been invited to address, the team will draft a plan for asking questions, including which members will ask which particular questions. This plan is due at midnight before the panel discussion is to be held. As with the class discussions, the panelists will be encouraged to promote good flow, provide follow up questions for the guest, but also to stick with the plan.

The classrooms have the capability of recording audio for later playback. We may decide to podcast these interviews along with the other materials that the teams create. Subsequent to the inteview, the team will write up a summary and provide other relevant content to understand the issues raised.

The current slate of guests is:

1. September 30 - Some College CIOs

2. October 7 - Dean Ruth Watkins (LAS) and Dean Larry DeBrock (Business)

3. November 11, 1 PM - Mary-Ann Winkelmes, Office of the Provost

4. Unscheduled (but late October or early November) - Libbie Morely, Director of the Writer's Workshop

5. Slot not yet filled - the class can express opinions on whom to get.

Leading Class Discussion

(20% of Course Grade) At the beginning of the course, I will lead the discussions. From that students should get an idea about when discussions work well and what sort of questions or commentary the leader interjects to promote a lively discussion. Later in the course each team will have the opportunity to lead the discussion based on a reading to which the team has been assigned. The team members will construct a lesson plan for the discussion so they have a prior view of topics to cover and points to emphasize. The plan is due at midnight before the class meeting is to be held. The discussion leaders will be encouraged to promote good flow, universal participation by the rest of the class, and to embrace provocative comments by class members. But they will also be encouraged to stick with their plan. Balancing these perhaps competing objectives will be part of how they are evaluated. We may have both peer evalutation and instructor evaluation. We'll decide that as a class well in advance. The particular readings and dates are still to be determined.

Flu Preparedness

In case you missed the massmail on this, you should have a read. In the just-because-your-paranoid department, this is one I take seriously. If you are bordeline healthwise, please err on the side of caution and stay home. I will accommodate you when you are better. We also should have the ability to handle an online class if necessary.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Writing to Learn Reflections

(30% of Course Grade) These will be done individually and on a weekly basis. They are due Friday at 5 PM. I hope you have better things to do with your time late Friday afternoon so I encourage you to get it done early. You don't need to ask for an extension if you miss that deadline. Just get it done asap. But if you steadily miss deadlines, we'll need to have a talk.

The expected flow is between 600 and 1200 words per post. If the lower limit seems daunting here's a suggestion. Go to a room by yourself and talk aloud about whatever the issue is. Just reason it out. Then go back to your computer and write that up. That will be about 80% of the battle. You can do that talking in your head instead of aloud (if you have a roommate that might be the preferred approach so your sanity is not brought into question). It is very difficult to write about something without having thought about it ahead of time. On the other hand, if it is the upper limit that appears to constrain, be forewarned that you have some of the tendencies of Professor Arvan and then seriously ask yourself whether you should indulge them or put a lid on. There is no penalty in going over, with the exception that if the reader is not quite as enamored with the subject as you are, you might risk losing him.

Subject matter-wise, I will try to give you suggestions as to a general theme, but you are always free to choose another as long as you can make a good argument that it is relevant to the class. The main purposes are to get you to reconsider the recent readings, attempt to identify the gist of the arguments being made if we haven't already hit the nail on the head in class discussion, pose questions that haven't yet been answered, and especially to flesh out where your own experience speaks to the issues under consideration.

As the course progresses some of the pieces can also tie together what has come before with the current readings and also make ties with ideas/issues that are external to the course. I will occassionally comment on your posts, but not always. I encourage you to read the posts of other students and comment on them as you see fit. Some of the connections you may make are with what your classmates have written. You don't have to agree them. There is learning in giving voice to alternative views and then in trying to reconcile differences of opinion. I do ask that you treat everyone in the class with respect and do so in your comments, as you would have them do to you. The Golden Rule is a good maxim for our class.

Writing Style

Much of this is up to you. Finding your "own voice" is very important. It doesn't happen overnight. It takes a lot of attempts at trying different approaches and doing that fairly regularly so you can see what feels right. Many of you haven't done much if any reflective writing before this course, so you won't be a pro at it right form the start. That's ok. After all, we do learn; that's an important point.

When you're not so proficient at something and you are aware of your shortcomings, there is a tendency to try to cover up. With writing, if you believe your ideas are wishy washy the cover up can come in the form of using fancy language to deflect attention from the ideas. (If you're so smart to use those words coherently in a sentence, then the ideas have to be good, don't they?) You should combat this tendency. Think of your audience as intelligent non-specialists. Jargon when used excessively confounds rather than illuminates. Please use it sparingly and then make sure to define terms in plain language ahead of time.

Here is one other piece of wisdom on writing from my prior experience teaching Econ 101 to CHP students. Their writing frequently created the impression they were making a list rather than weaving thoughts into a coherent narrative. Some of that is a consequence when students do group projects. There is a tendency to divide up the work with nobody responsible for the whole. Another part is that some of the ideas they were writing about were pretty sophisticated and they may have not yet mastered them, so producing a coherent narrative was a tough thing to do. And then there is a third part about their immaturity as writers. A writer's job is to make things as easy as possible for the reader. If the reader has to work too hard, the meaning will almost surely get distorted and the reader might give up before reaching the conclusion. Immature writers think that having produced a first draft they are done.

So after you've written something let it simmer for a bit and go back to it. Of course do a spell check, but beyond that ask how it sounds to you and whether you can say things better. I have a tendency to use passive voice in my own writing so really have to fight that. You likely have your own peccadillos. If you are aware of them, you can take appropriate counter measures. Also, providing attribution for ideas is a good and ethical thing to do. Online, you can do that via hyperlinking. There is a fascinating piece by Jonathem Lethem in Harper's from a couple of years ago talking about how we are interconnected in our ideas and most of ours are stolen (in a good sense) from our ancestors. We won't talk about that piece in the course, but it is well worth the read.

I hope you have fun with the writing. There is learning in the doing. So enjoy.

Online Writing

I would like each individual member of the class to set up a blog for the class. At a minimum these would contain the weekly reflections that are required. For students registed in 396, it will also contain the additional writing for that. The blog might also contain other formative work, tidbits of projects, and possibly reference to external items that seem relevant or interesting. A few reasons for wanting your writing to be public follow:

a) Doing so signals that you'd like commentary on your work. So it is a step toward promoting the open exchange of ideas.

b) Functionally, it is actually easier for others to be notified that you've created new work that they might be interested in.

c) Outsiders to the class can become aware of what you are up to and if they are interested in it might participate themsevles.

d) Because of (a) - (c) there is potentially a performance effect on what you produce. In other words, your apt to put in more effort to make your work appear well done, if it is publicly available.

e) You have an archive of all your work after the course concludes.

Those are all good reasons. However, owing to government regulation about student privacy, notably FERPA, you have the right to keep your identity in the class private to those outside the course. So if privacy is a concern of yours you can take a modest step of identifying yourself by first name and last initial. If you want more privacy than that, I can make a site in Compass for you where you can do your course work.

The approach we'll take is that you opt into having a blog, in which case you send me the url for that and then I'll include it in the Student Blogs section on the course site, or notify me that you want a space within Compass instead.

On the technical issue of how to make a blog, two free sites for doing this are Blogger or WordPress, and another popular host though it charges a modest fee per month is TypePad. If you have trouble with this, I'm happy to lend a bit of tech support if I can.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Students will be placed in teams with 3 or 4 students per team to perform much of their project work. Team members will receive a common grade on the project work. If all teams seem to be functioning smoothly membership will remain intact for the entire semester. If there is mutually agreeable swaps across teams, that can be done but only with instructor approval. Students are otherwise encouraged to work through team problems. This page might be helpful for that. The instructor will meet with teams regularly during the in class office hours period and get some sense of team function. If there are irreconcilable differences between team members the instructor will make some adjustment, but do so only reluctantly and after other attempts at reconciliation have failed.


Required Books: These have been selected not because they are comprehensive on their respective subjects but rather because they are well written (several could readily be enjoyed for pleasure reading outside the scope of this class) and because they articulate a strong point of view on their subjects. Students should purchase these books, though we’ll try to have a copy of each on reserve. It would be fine for students to share the books so each student doesn’t have to purchase them all. Below they are listed with links to their pages and current price quotes.

Better Atul Gawande $11.20
The Process of Education Jerome Bruner $17.10
The Essential Drucker Peter Drucker $12.21
The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization Peter Senge $16.17
Declining by Degrees Edited by John Merrow $10.17
The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell $8.99

Other Readings: These are there either to supplement or contrast with the books, to acquaint the students with other contributions in the area, and to encourage a multiple perspective view on the underlying issues. All of these should be available online, either through the Library or because they are generally available, and hence are free to the students.

Microcredit - Muhammad Yunus (Enterprising Ideas on PBS, NPR pieces, Charlie Rose Show, Nobel Prize site) Microfinance New Yorker Article
How People Learn – National Academy Volume (Chapters 1 – 3)
The Role of Deliberate Practice – Ericsson, Krampe, Tesch-Romer (Pyschological Review)
Facilitation of Autonomy and Intrinsic Motivation – Ryan and Deci (American Psychologist)
An Institutional Framework for Change – Douglass C. North
The Executive Mind and Double Loop Learning – Chris Argyris
Dealing with the Future Now – Guskin and Marcy (Change Magazine)
What We Are Learning about NSSE – George Kuh (Change Magazine)

And other readings that come up during the offering of the course.

Course Approach/Goals

About three quarters of the course will be devoted to foundational material. The remaining one quarter of the course will be a class project done collectively. The belief is that irrespective of the field these students will ultimately find themselves in, many of them will devote a significant amount of their work time to design for change in their field of endeavor. The course aim is to provide the students with frameworks in which to consider that challenge. The final project is meant to ground those frameworks in an actual design for change.

The foundational material itself will be partitioned into three parts, each with some defining questions. Part 1, meant to serve as motivation, considers some examples. What does effective change look like and can it be contrasted meaningfully with other practices that are less effective? Part 2 focuses on learning of the individual. What do we know about learning, how can we encourage students to learn and think about their own learning, and what are the main impediments to deep learning? Part 3 focuses on the organization and management of the organization. How does learning happen in an organization and in the community that the organization serves, how can such learning be encouraged, what needs to happen culturally to promote this type of learning, and why do some organizations not learn and hence fail?

The project we’ll consider is the possibility of implementing a Campus sanctioned program of peer mentoring, aimed at encouraging students to immerse themselves in their own learning and at countering the alienating effects of large class instruction. We’ll consider the case where more experienced students mentor their junior peers and eschew the alternative where the mentoring happens between students taking the same class. We’ll ask how this might work for the benefit of the mentees, how to elicit participation of the mentors, how the program integrates with the planned instruction, and what will it take to get it started. Timing-wise, we’ll start in on some of the project content about midway through the course, while continuing with the foundational material till the course concludes.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Check out this site

We'll use this as a course site. There is a Compass site too, but we'll only use that for private communication.

Dummy Post for Syllabus Tag

Just a quickie here to get this up.

Demo Lesson Plan

Lesson plans are like meeting agendas and as such there is value in learning how to make a good lesson plan. That skill will be usable down the road. The lesson plan differs from a meeting agenda in that is mainly for the instructor. So it might have notes, goals, and justifications that might be omitted if the lesson plan were distributed to the students.

a. Broad Overview of Lesson Plans (See above).
b. Pacing and how much time to spend on an item. ( See Eisenhower quote below.)
b.1 Cut off discussion to stay on schedule?
b.2 Will there be carry over to the next class session?
c. Is there a main idea to the Lesson? If so, what is it?
c.1 Sacrifice the main idea or some subsidiary idea?
c.2 How much drill down should there be in the plan?
d. What activities best support the lesson?
d.1 Small group work or ensemble discussion?
d.2 Are there tangible products produced in the process?

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

How this course came into being

In the 2007-2008 Academic Year, I participated in a seminar led by Walt Hurley and Prasanta Kalita called Undergraduates Engaging in Inquiry. Walt and Prasanta were Campus Distinguished Teacher/Scholars and the seminar was part of their project for the year. Among others who attended was Bruce Michelson, the other Campus Distinguished Teacher/Scholar that year. CHP students obviously know Bruce quite well. I had known Bruce for about ten years, having supported one of his courses with a grant for learning technology back when the SCALE project was a hot thing on Campus.

I participated in this seminar mostly because Walt is a good friend and colleague and I wanted to support his efforts. So I shot off my mouth even more than I usually would have in attending a seminar and did some other things as well. (The blog for the seminar was my idea.) I know from chatting with Cheelan Bo-Linn (part of her job was to support this seminar) that at least some of this commentary was on target, because she expressed appreciation at my participation. Bruce must have also reacted positively to some of what I offered up. Somewhere in the spring semester 2008 he invited me to design my own CHP course. He suggested I have fun with it. I let that suggestion simmer for a while.

Around that time, my Dean told me there would be a retreat of the Council of Deans where they'd discuss proposals for Campus initiatives that would require little in the way of financial resources to get started but would have big impact if implemented. My Dean asked me to write up such a proposal. I came up with this one on peer mentoring. I was told it was favorably received, so I assumed I was onto something. The ideas behind the proposal were not new for me. A few years earlier I had written a series of blog posts on Inward Looking Service Learning (there are 7 posts in all and they should be read from 1 to 7, not vice versa). And, really, many of the ideas dated back to the time of the SCALE project, except then we were in the boom so nobody really was concerned with the cost of college education. Now, of course, that's a big deal.

It occurred to me that I could somehow teach a CHP course and use that to advance the agenda in the peer mentoring proposal. I asked my Dean about it. Since I'm an Associate Dean, teaching is either an overload or takes me away from my administrative responsibilities, and I therefore needed his approval. He is a very publicly spirited guy and supported the idea whole heartedly. So I came up with a proposal along those lines and sent it to Bruce and then we talked it through.

Coincidentally, the faculty member from the College of Business who had been on the CHP Advisory committee had just retired. I ended up replacing her. At the first meeting of this committee, near the end of the meeting, there was a preliminary review of the proposal. I can't recall a more excruciating experience. They started to critique it then and there. Time ran out and Bruce asked for more commentary from them by email. A week or two later Bruce gave me some feedback to the effect that the focus had to be the students in the course rather than the proposal on peer mentoring; there needed to be rigor and academic purpose with a well thought through trajectory and set of readings. I stewed on that for a while.

Ultimately I scrapped the original proposal entirely and came up with this proposal, much closer to what we will be doing this semester. Bruce liked that one and here we are.