Recently I attended a session with a very clever person on blogging. He explained how he had started, and now maintains his blog. It was in relation to research rather than work (although for him they are one and the same) but the principles are the same for me and this blog.
He said “You have to blog regularly. It doesn’t matter how frequently but it has to be regularly.” I have not abided by this instruction and upon reflection I think it’s a policy I should adopt.
This blog was to help me think through and manage a change management process. Blogs are helpful for remembering things you’ve done, achievements, set backs and generally reflecting. Turns out that the change management process I was tasked with changed me more than the organisation. Something for which I am very thankful as it has enabled me to begin a new change management process with a different mind set. I am clearer in my understanding of context and ensuring I plan out for myself how I see I can achieve a good outcome and not expecting substantial ‘buy in’. I am thinking more carefully about networking, and leveraging supportive mind sets. I am seeking the ‘levers’ that can influence change, rather than assuming I know.
In light of this new approach to change management, I am going to attempt to follow the advice of the Master (thanks Michael) and blog more regularly. Time does have a habit of getting away from me, but that’s what reminders in the calendar are for, so hopefully this is new practice that will actually get in place!
I was told today that I didn’t get a job that I had gone for as there was someone with more experience. I like that. I like that I got beaten because there were so many strong candidates that I wasn’t good enough. It’s much better than not getting a job because you weren’t good enough to get it in your own right.
I’m also glad that the person who got the job is so experienced. It was an education role and we need good educators. We need strong people in these roles because universities are not full of strong educators. They have good educators, but they aren’t full of them. Interestingly, I’m not sure they should be.
Surely universities should be ‘full’ of researchers. Isn’t that the point of universities? Or should they be full of administrators? After all universities are now a business and should be run like one. Or should they actually be full of educators as universities are the producing the future inputs to production for the economy? Wouldn’t we prefer graduates who have been trained by the best? Or would we prefer graduates who have had access to the best researcher in the field? Is it possible to have both?
Hmmmmm I need to think more about how I can improve the world for academics so they can be both. How can I use my experience (which is less than someone else’s!) to support academics who want to be educators become so, or who are okay educators to become better? Hmmmmm time to rethink the approach in my current – especially as I’m going to be there longer than expected!
Throughout my working life I have changed jobs on average every 18 months. My dad is concerned by this as he comes from the generation of having a job for life. I’m concerned about it because it makes me reflect on my attributes in the workplace. Why do I change jobs? What motivates me? Well, sometimes I change because I get tapped on the shoulder for a really cool job. Happened a bit in the public service but not so much now. Mostly though I change jobs because I get tired of banging my head against the wall. But what if I worked with the wall instead?
What if I could assess the wall, consider it, identify points of weakness and then slowly chip away. What if over time I could coax, coerce, convince that wall to go away? Now, that would be very cool.
So what attributes in the workplace do I need to make that happen? The greatest is probably patience I’m thinking. For those of you who know me, you know that’s a big ask. But I have been on a path of self improvement lately, maybe I could have another a go at attacking this wall. Alternatively maybe I should just go.
Thanks to Brian today I have remembered there is a forest.
My job has got to the point where the ‘to do’ list exceeds my memory banks and I’m reliant on the kindness of Microsoft task list to keep me on track. The list is all worthwhile and productive outcomes, but somewhere it became a list full of trees and not any forest.
Brian today was talking to me about a range of issues but one that came up was academics who are adverse to the use of technology. I restated my position that technology supports the learning outcomes and the teaching philosophy of the academic and that sometimes no technology is required at all. Brian pointed out that some people see ‘technology determination’ driving their teaching. They are having technology imposed on them and this makes them adverse to trying new technologies.
This statement led me back to my forest. He’s right. We aren’t communicating why technology is being imposed. We aren’t explaining how it supports outcomes because we aren’t supporting the implementation. Somewhere I forgot to talk to academics and explore technology in their world. Thanks to Brian I’m going to return to my forest, somehow, by booking time aside in my diary to walk to academics and talk to them. If I lose sight of supporting the uptake of technology and academic engagement, my list full of trees will be useless. Well, it will be worth the paper it’s written on – remember how I record my tasks!
The last few weeks have been fun filled with a range of start of year issues including the ongoing failing of ICT (seriously – it’s the key stone for our very existence can someone please get it to work?).
Of course part of the failing is that we don’t actually know how to use what we have and what we have we only use to a fraction of it’s capability and that little program that no one thought anyone would use is actually the most overworked application in the joint.
So, just like the academics I work with I’m now thinking about how to measure what I have taught/instructed/informed them about in relation to ICT. How do I know that they know that they know. It’s not like I can just set them a test (although there was a complete epic fail this week because I had assumed that an academic would know to log off one virtual classroom session before trying to enter it again at a different computer – but the question is did I fail the test because I didn’t tell her to log off, or did she fail because the test was to operate a product that she has been trained in?). Or can I test them? Is it appropriate to test? Should I have actually benchmarked the whole faculty before I began training? I do run skill sharing sessions but attendance is dropping off. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a focus anymore and so academics can’t target their skills the way they want – there is no measure of their success. They do not know when they have learnt because I’m not giving the environment in which it prove to themselves they are progressing.
Thinking about all this and doing some reading led me an interesting article on assessment. I know there are a lot out there, but this one took my fancy. Perhaps it’s time for me to stop whinging about ICT and just fix what I can fix!
PS Thanks to Katie for picking up the error of the missing word…..*sigh* I should know better
Lately I have seen amazing people do amazing things in spite of the systems and technology that surround them. I love this job and I love the people, but the systems, well, they are crushingly stupid.
Like all large organisations, the university has grown organically over time. Systems are put in place to address gaps or issues that arise as the business context changes. Unfortunately, with a large scale reform, such as e-learning, systems cannot afford to be disjointed and ungoverned. There must be clear paths of accountability and transparent business workflows.
Lately I’ve seen decisions made centrally that made perfect sense until the outcome reached a faculty. Once that happened, everything went completely wrong. There were many lost hours of additional work and the stress levels went through the roof, all because there was no transparency around workflow. If the person in central had understood the ramifications of the decision that was made, they could have chosen a different path that wouldn’t have affected enrolment of students.
If there had been clarity of governance, the staff member who fixed the issue in the end, wouldn’t have had to lose a day finding a solution as she could have pushed the task back to where it truly belonged. Unfortunately, with no governance, there is little accountability, so there is little incentive to actually do your job, particularly if there is someone else willing to do it for you. Of course, a lack of governance also means freedom……and that can be terribly intoxicating!
So what does this little gripe of mine mean in the big picture? It means I’m surrounded by amazing people and stupid systems. I think that makes it business as usual for any large organisation. However, it also means that I have an opportunity to make a difference here. I can identify the roadblocks and identify how to overcome them so that the amazing people can get back to doing what they really should. Hmmm…..now to make it happen!
This week I had a meeting in Melbourne where I was privileged to see great brains in action. There was a concept that the Dean outlined and then over the course of a few hours, the meat was put on the bones until something very real (and totally awesome I think!) was crated.
During this process and more so, once it was complete, we began reflecting. Why do we have the courses we offer? Are they the courses we should offer? What is it that students really want? What should they really be getting?
This thought process ties in with the ‘at elbow’ work I do with individual academics. They are being asked to become more flexible and engaging and sometimes without understanding why. It’s easy to give the party line of greater engagement leads to better learning outcomes leading to better retention which is better for everyone, students and university alike. But why would one academic change their approach if their approach works? Well, the question then becomes how do we know something works?
Currently the performance framework for academics is, from my governance background and business planning and strategy development work, counter productive. A large percentage of their teaching success is based on the popularity contest of the student satisfaction surveys. This is skewed as they are not compulsory to complete and so will often be completed only by those people who are unhappy with the unit. It also encourages behaviour from academics to pander to weak students so as to keep satisfaction up. We are undermining the whole point of rigorous higher education. But then, you see, I do some googling (not nearly sophisticated enough to call it research) and then I find Chapter Three of this report. That then leads to me to the AUSSE site. And I find that lots of people are thinking about how we measure engagement, how we respond to that measurement, and well, understanding why we do what we do.
Chapter Three (Alexandra Radloff & Hamish Coates) states that we need to measure not just student satisfaction to understand why we do what we do and why we change, but their engagement. A happy student is not enough. “..learning is formative and the effects are for life, while consumer happiness and satisfaction are ephemeral in any domain.” I need to work out how to support the academics I work with to measure engagement, so they can understand why change is needed, or more fundamentally, to determine IF change is needed at all. It is important for me to understand why I do what I do – that is to help understanding in others, not force them to ‘flip’ for no reason at all.