Always go sleeveless

Steve Chenoweth, RHIT

At some point in promoting change, we epiphanize that all the commitment, energy, processes, logic, and artifices put into our effort don’t guarantee success.  Change is not, after all, a sure thing.  Highly compromised ideas, other priorities, and inertia could still win the day.  What to do now?  Time to back off, get away, and reflect.

At Synectics,[1] where I once sought frequent idea help, we would stop thinking about our conundrum on purpose.  They call it an “excursion.”  After a long ordeal of trying to make the important thing happen, you Excurt by getting involved in something completely different:  Go for a bike ride, getting lost in Boston traffic.  Learn to play “London Bridge” on the accordion.  Switching your mindset eventually brings you back with fresh focus on the problem.

As a result, you may realize, perhaps, that everyone else at your institution possesses a mindset when it comes to your desired change, a mindset many won’t spontaneously leave behind just because you advocate for your change.  They may even relish engaging you in dear old academic disputation about it, winning points for their perspective by poking at yours.  Remember, these are your co-workers.  You respect one another.  Yet, for them, “new” equals “threatening,” in the Kurt Lewin[2] sense.  Their perspective is grounded in weak assumptions and anxieties more than by broad critical thinking, at least from your point of view.  So, wouldn’t it be helpful to inspire them to take an excursion too?

Continue reading “Always go sleeveless”

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Lever

Julia M. Williams,
Interim Dean of Cross-Cutting Programs and Emerging Opportunities & Professor of English, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

leversOn May 7 and 8, I joined a group of STEM educators for the inaugural “Levers for Change” meeting, sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).  The goals for the meeting were clear:

  • To capture a snapshot of the current state of research-based reform in undergraduate STEM instruction within six clusters of STEM disciplines: biological sciences, chemistry & biochemistry, engineering & computer science, geosciences, mathematical sciences, physics & astronomy.
  • To identify key levers of change that are seen to have been effective in reaching this state, and to identify additional levers—less-tapped or untapped—that may be useful for fostering further change in the next decade.
  • To convene a group of leaders with experience in research and practice on STEM instructional change in higher education, to learn from, inspire and connect with each other.

In advance of the meeting, certain individuals were asked to write a white paper in each of the six cluster areas, a paper that attempted to demonstrate the current use of research-based reforms, particularly the use of RBIs, or Research-Based Instruction practices, in STEM classrooms.  As the meeting commenced, “Faculty Focus” published a report on the work of one of the Levers attendees [3].  Dr. Marilyne Stains (University of Nebraska) and colleagues had just published the most comprehensive study of the use of RBIs in STEM education, in the journal Science (March 29, 2018).  In that study, “the largest-ever observational study of undergraduate STEM education,” researchers monitored “nearly 550 faculty as they taught more than 700 courses at 25 institutions across the United States and Canada.”  The results of the study were not promising:

55 percent of STEM classroom interactions consisted mostly of conventional lecturing, a style that prior research has identified as among the least effective at teaching and engaging students.  Another 27 percent featured interactive lectures that had students participating in some group activities or answering multiple-choice questions with handheld clickers. Just 18 percent emphasized a student-centered style heavy on group work and discussions. The predominance of lecturing observed in the study persists despite many years of federal and state educational agencies advocating for more student-centered learning, the researchers said. [3]

Continue reading “We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Lever”

Navigating Rough Weather: Emotion Regulation Techniques for Change Agents

Navigating Rough Weather: Emotion Regulation Techniques for Change Agents

Kay. C. Dee

Recently, I wrote a post about a change agent colleague who was working on reframing negative feelings into more positive, action-oriented points of view.  This isn’t an easy process.  Although I’d call myself a fairly experienced change agent, I still sometimes wrestle with impatience and frustration when faced with resistance to a change I believe in and am working to implement.  Today I’d like to share some strategies for handling those (perfectly normal) negative emotional reactions, and balancing those emotions with logic – which then allows deliberate reframing of situations, as discussed in the previous post.

The first suggestion is to practice coping ahead of time.  For example, you may know that you will need to have a difficult conversation about your change effort with someone who is highly resistant to change.  Drawing from dialectical behavior therapy skills[1], you might:

  1. In writing or verbally, describe the situation in which the conversation will likely take place. Be as specific as possible, and name the emotions you are likely to feel during that conversation.
  2. Decide what coping or problem-solving skills to use during the conversation. Plan ahead, and describe your coping strategy[2] in detail.
  3. Imagine the situation as vividly as possible, placing yourself in the situation as an active participant.
  4. Rehearse the conversation. Imagine your actions, your thoughts, and the possible responses of your conversational partner.  Practice (out loud) what you will say and how you will say it.  What is the worst, most catastrophic way that your conversational partner might react?  How would you calmly respond to and cope with that scenario?
  5. Relax after you’ve rehearsed, and let any residual negativity evaporate away.

The second strategy will be useful if you find yourself having a hard time coping with or relaxing after the practice outlined above.  It will also be useful if you find yourself experiencing strong negative emotions in anticipation of a meeting, presentation, or conversation.  This strategy is directly quoted from Linehan’s DBT® Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets[3] – “Examining our thoughts and checking the facts can help us change our emotions”.  How to check the facts: Continue reading “Navigating Rough Weather: Emotion Regulation Techniques for Change Agents”