Tuesday, December 16, 2008

One post, many thoughts

Today is the first day that I've been able to make time to update this blog ... so much seems to have happened. I just hope I can recapture the essence of some of the events, and my reflections on them, since last I blogged.

I've been involved in both annual moitoring discourse and self assessment validation meetings, all of which provide huge scope for reflective practice ... and yet again and again the 'so what' factor keeps coming through. The 'so what' factor' is, for me, an indication that the impact of an action or consideration had not been sufficiently clearly expressed.... and it occurs to me that when I come back to use my reflective blogs to write up a report on the kiwi activity that I need to be aware that not all my postings have had a 'so what factor'. I wonder why that might be ... is it because when writing for oneself you just record the feeling - or have I gone further than that? I don't know ... I haven't yet looked back - and deliberately so. In our report we are asked to reference relevant literature and I guess I will be looking at the 'so what factor' there too. And then of course I have to think of another mini-project. Wooooo, urgh!

Three of us have been working hard, with the help of other colleagues, to resolve a data anomaly that was of the appropriate potential severity to cause sleepless nights for at least two of us. The work started in a co-operative fashion, through data cleansing and updating and causal and comparative analyses ... and the situation seemed to improve. It was only, however, through collaboration that we solved the problem; we constructed sufficient knowledge to understand more clearly the underpinning issue, were able to benefit from the co-operative work and collaboratively find a solution to the problem. (And I slept on Friday night). I dont feel we have sufficiently problematized Action Research to be following that pattern in the kiwi to date; maybe this is because our initial knowledge base did not have sufficient grounding to anable more than co-operatiion in the first instance. This is where longevity of the activity will help - and I'm so pleased that we are to be allowed to continue our work on this area. As we start to consider personal/professional applications of Action Research we will be better able to problematize the construct and thus collaborate more effectively on 'solving the problem'.

Yesterday I ran two identical staff development sessions which at one point asked participants to consider 'risky' activity i.e development outside their comfort zone and with a knowledge that their own skills would be challenged. In both groups, despite their very different approaches to the activity, the notion of Action Research as a potential change agent came through. This is really exciting for me as we have hitherto supported only individual research projects. Encouraging innovation through participative and iterative research activity will be very exciting. I will need to be more aware of the critiques if we are to monitor progress in these areas. Wooo!

There's other stuff too ... but I can't write about it here. I'm not sure as yet how it has benefited me (from a reflective point of view). I do, however, have a very difficult meeting tomorrow morning with some of the two-legged sources of the problem. I am not sure how this will work as in theory we should be both co-operating and collaborating and yet the former has broken down completely. This leads me to consider the role of trust (as well as symmetries) in collaboration. Justin (I think) has mentioned this before and certainly our group has discussed getting to know peers and develping trust as being an important aspect of collaborative activity - but is it a pre-condition? Does co-operation allow a test of trust before collaboration? Hmmm - food for thought ...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Letting off steam

Today I'm tired. No, let me correct that - I feel completely shattered. Juggling soap has been the order of the day (thanks Debbie - that expression has been sooooo useful) and the multiple identities of worker, mother, student and partner have become too fuzzy round the edges to retain any aspect of complementarity.

The activity on which we are working is not well timed; this is not to say that it is not timely but that the constraints on time for the activity are frustrating in the extreme and might only work effectively for a full time student cohort.

We have generated huge quantities of reading and I am struggling to get through anywhere near the amount I feel appropriate ... though these will provide a very useful resource for future reference. The saving grace is the determination amongst our group to maake the activity serve our own purpose - a decision made in the context of a lack of clarity of required outcome. But then that's part of the game.

We suspect that we may be part of some Action Research and we know that we have been asked to participate in research interviews in the latter part of this module; is this part of the same activity?

My group is great. We have had a couple of Skype sessions which have provided for both work and fun too. This is all part of the hidden agenda ....

Too tired now and this posting is probably full of errors - but hey - that's a free writing journal for you!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Group dynamics, symmetries, synchronicity et al

The kiwi activity is making me think about group dynamics - a topic also in my thoughts at work - and the way in which the composition of a group can impact on learning and/or working. A balanced group, in terms of accessibility, motivation, knowledge, cognitive and transferable skills with mutually satisfactory levels of synchronicity can make collaborative (or co-operative) activity work well. Imbalances in any of these aspects can adversely affect the group dynamics and thus the effectiveness of any resultant activity.

I decided to have a look at the wiki changes for each of the group kiwis today and it showed an interesting tale. I wouldn't want to make any conclusive comments relating to the histories but suffice to say that the balance of each group differs not only from group to group (level of output, organisation of wiki et al) but within each group ... and I have to wonder whether perceived symmetries (Dillenbourg 1999) between group members has been one of the impacting forces.

Monday, December 01, 2008

I really mean it this time!

Having had the intention to blog very regularly, I have found myself sufficiently deluged that said good intentions have flown by. That is not to say that there hasn't been considerable reflection on events. This has been ongoing. The trouble is that reflexivity is often temporary in its verbal or written expression even though it embeds itself into daily practice. So - have I missed the opportuity to make the subconscious or even the unconscious become part of a more conscious stream of learning. I don't believe so. Well, not completely anyway.

One of the key features of my learning experience over the past few months has been the variety of different types of engagement and therefore the development of a more varied multi-faceted learnspace. Some time ago I started to use Facebook and found that it opened up a very supportive, amusing and engaging dialogue with (initially one of) my peers in the learning community. This has grown and developed and has (hopefully) made me some friends for the long term. This friendship is grounding and motivating and will underpin a determination to boldly go (haha) further with this endeavour. More recently we have been working on a wiki (kiwi) and using Skype; both are new to me, both are proving interesting (kiwi) and energising (Skype). I have been forced out of my comfort zone and have learned from this experience.

Interestingly, I type in an environment physically and role-wise outside my comfort zone and am really beginning to appreciate the activity of a fellow staff member. I am on evening duty and we have been recently charged with spending the first two hours on Reception (as there are issues of 'lone working' for the staff should we not join them). This immediately took me from the 'expert' role to that of a 'novice' and a new type of learning activity. So here I am, an absentee mum, reflecting on my academic activity as an apprentice in a Ph.D community, working as a Director, but being part of the College Reception team. How can this experience ever be measured through positivism?