Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Follow up on class today

I've become aware as of late that instructors and students often see the same thing quite differently and that some things instructors say that are intended as throw away lines get taken quite seriously by students while other things instructors mean in earnest get ignored. Taking that to heart, the rest of this post concerns three things:

1) goals statement,
2) topic choice of the reflections, and
3) the importance of the reflections.

On the Goals Statement, this is the post I made about it in the syllabus. If it is adequate, it might be referenced from time to time to assist in determining what course work would be effective a la Drucker. If it is inadequate, it might be helpful to critique it before producing a goals statement created by the class.

On topic choice in the reflection, below is the relevant paragraph from the syllabus post:
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 a matter of practice, to exercise your option to choose a theme of your own making, you almost certainly have to get to that earlier than Friday. If you are turning to the reflection only then, you are reactive/meeting a deadline/doing the writing out of obligation to course imposed rules. Being creative on your reflections makes for a different sort of obligation, to your own standards of producing something of worth and to the class in making something of relevance. That takes forethought.

On the importance of the reflections, please note that I believe the reflections are very important for your own learning quite apart from whether they are effective a la Drucker. I've articulated this often, but most notably in the post about Slowing Down, especially where it talks about identifying structure and then testing that out, and in the post A Reflection On Reflections On Reflection where there is specific reference to the work of Donald Murray and his notion of discovery through writing. Having reached the part of the course where we are doing the course project, we are much closer in structure to organizations that Drucker has something to say about than we were earlier in the semester. So it seems appropriate to me to bring in his notion of effectiveness, where it wouldn't have made much sense to do so earlier in the term.

One final point not on my list of 3 points. I have tried to conduct the class in two distinct ways. One in ensemble mode. The other in one-on-one mode with each of you. This parallels what I was saying at the beginning of class about the role of a whip in a committee. The instructor role is not the same as the whip role, but there are certain similarities, at least in my way of thinking about it. The one-on-one mode has been facilitated by the reflections, but it has also involved emails and some face to face conversations requested by students beyond those everyone had on the reflections. In the one-on-one mode, the student is much more of the driver than in the ensemble mode. I've been scratching my head for the last several weeks whether the reflections are necessary to make the one-on-one mode work, and indeed if something like them would be necessary for peer mentoring to working similarly. I still don't have a satisfactory answer for that. I'm writing about it here because I think it is an interesting question to ask and important to the class project.


  1. Reflections would be way to provide feedback to the mentors on the progress of the mentees. It would be an indicator of whether there is learning, right? Would the goals of these reflections be to stimulate intellectual thoughts and connections like in our class? If so, then there would have to be some kind of teaching of these skills, right? Also, how would the mentors be trained and evaluated?

  2. In our class students have written reflections, sure. I have written them too. (Some in posts with that tag, others in longish announcement posts.) If writing is the pathway to mentoring, both mentors and mentees would have to write reflections in my view. That would complement face to face conversation, some of which would occur in small groups, the rest as one-on-ones.

    Viewing this response as thinking aloud, not a fully fleshed through plan, I could envision this coming spring that some of the students in our class would try their hand at mentoring this way. I have no idea how mentees would be found for this to be an interesting experiment, but assuming that barrier were crossed, I'd be happy to play the role of mentoring the mentors.

    Then flash forward a couple of semesters. Students who as mentees flourished in that relationship might then become mentors. Would they need additional training? I don't know. My hope is that the training would be minimal, nothing like a full course. They'd have learned by doing. Would they still need a mentor. Sure. We all need mentors.

    Whether this can work, I don't know. I do believe that anything that will work must generate a certain intensity and commitment from the participants. The writing is possibly a path into that.