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Commitment to Learning to Learn

From our reading this week we read that “We basically do not know what the world of tomorrow will really be like, except that it will be different, more complex, more fast-paced, and more culturally diverse” (Schein 2010). Because of this, our leaders will need to be committed to learning and creating learning environments within their organizations. WHen reading about what a Learning Culture might look like, I was interested in number 3, that the culture will have positive assumptions about Human Nature (theory Y). I was recently revisiting McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y for my final reflective paper, and I remember how much I related to Theory Y. When we were reading this in relation to Organizational Culture, Schein did a great job of tying the two together. Schein says that “Learning Leaders must have faith in people and must believe that ultimately human nature is basically good, and in any case, malleable” (Schein 2010). The School of Education has been going through a new Dean search recently, and as a staff member and student I have had the opportunity to meet with the final four candidates in a group setting with questions. In every session, the topics of culture, professional development, and leadership style have come up in the questions to the candidates. The candidate that I was most impressed with said that in order to be a good leader, he needed to inspire the faculty, staff and students, and he inspires with leadership, teamwork, and building a culture towards excellence. Wow – if that didn’t speak right to what we have been learning, it’s like he had just finished reading Schein himself. He also mentioned something that I hadn’t thought of before when it comes to leadership – which was that the best leaders also make sure that they are mentors. I’m interested in hopefully finding some reading or having a conversation with other leaders about their views on leadership compared to mentorship.

What Space says about Culture

“In most organizations, the best views and locations are reserved for the highest-status people. Senior executives are typically on the higher floors of building and often are allocated special spaces such as private conference rooms and private bathrooms” (Schein pg. 137)

While working on my Organizational Culture project, I was really interested in re-visiting the Schein Chapter about Time and Space in an organization. The Organization that I’m writing my paper on is called snagajob, they are located in Glen Allen and have almost 300 employees. What’s interesting about their office layout is that it is completely open. There are no cubes for employees or offices for managers and executives. In fact, there are only three private offices in the entire building – and the CEO is NOT one of the employees with an office. There are a lot of “break out rooms” around the building so that employees can have private meetings when they need to. Beyond, having a completely open space/open door work area, Snagajob has alternatives where employees can work without being at their desks. When it’s warm outside, employees are able to go outside to picnic tables to do their work. There is a large open area that resembles a cafeteria, there is even a space with huge bean bag chairs if employees want to go somewhere comfortable. All snagajob employees have a laptop computer so that they can easily move their work space as they need.

Below is a link to an article that was done by the architects that worked on the building with pictures. It’s quite an interesting work environment. What do you think? Would you be successful in an open work environment like this?


Time Concepts in Different Societies

While reading Schein this past week, I was surprised by how many personal examples or anecdotes popped into my head of different time concepts and their meaning ( as well as new understanding now that I have read about the Nature of Time and Space). During Capstone last semester, my group was charged with working with the VCU Global Education office to assist them with their New Student Orientation to students that are coming into the English Language Program (ELP) at VCU. The ELP is targeted to students who are not proficient in English, the goal of many of the students is to complete the ELP and be able to transfer into a degree seeking program at VCU (or another University) as an International student. When the students arrive, it is usually their first time in the United States and they do not know a lot about the culture in the United States. The lack of cultural understanding is what was causing some of the issues that we were trying to help the global education office work with.

A few Issues relating to the Time Concepts:

  1. Students were not arriving to the Unites States on time for New Student Orientation or for classes to start – at times they were arriving a week late.
  2. Students would miss class or come to class late without understanding that it was a problem for teachers

Where the students were from, showing up late or canceling without notification is not a big deal. If something comes up, it is expected that you take care of what you deem the most important to you.

Different concepts of time are not just limited to people from different cultures, but it can also be raised on how people are raised or the environment that they work/live in. I’ve worked at places where showing up 3 minutes late is considered late (punishable) and I’ve worked at other jobs where showing up 15 minutes late is just fine. These are things that you have to learn when you are coming into a new environment – what are the societal and cultural norms for that place.




How to make Learning within an Organization a Higher Priority

While it was great to research a learning organization for our group project, what I really learned about MGM and about the other companies that presented is that organizational learning is still not as high of a priority as it should be (in my opinion!) MGM is one of the top learning organizations out there, yet for 62,000 employees they only have 27 full time employees that are in learning and development. This from a huge company that in its mission says that their people are at the top of the priority list. VCU is an institution with 10,000 employees, yet our learning and development department is made up of 3 employees. While these employees do the best that they can, it’s impossible for them to reach the entire VCU community.

How can organizations (large, small) make organizational learning more of a priority for their people? When you look at the four elements of Organizational learning (below), what do you think is the most important element? No surprise probably, but for me it’s having supportive leaders in the organization. Without supportive leaders, organizational learning (change and development as well), just doesn’t stand  a chance in my mind.


Back to Organizational Learning

I have found that in the past, when people ask me what my ideal job would be, most of the time I say that I want to be Organizational Learning and/or Organizational Development. I have usually said it just like this, and with confidence, even though I didn’t really always know what it meant. Since I have been going through this program learning the different skills that it would take for someone in the adult learning field to help facilitate development and change in an organization, and I find it fitting that my last class in my masters program takes me back to something that I find so interesting and would still like to pursue as my “ideal job” in some capacity.

I enjoyed reading about the relationship between change and learning in our textbook, The Organizational Learning Cycle by Nancy Dixon. I like the idea that while learning is most often preceded by change, there are instances where change can be preceded by learning. I don’t have a lot of experience working in organization that is going through change, but it seems to me that if an organization can stay ahead of it’s need to change, it will help the learning process of the company in its entirety and help to keep the company ahead of it’s competitors. It’s clear that I sound somewhat naive when it comes to learning and change, but at east I can pretend it’s that easy 🙂

World Within Final Reflection

When I wrote my educational biography at the beginning of the semester, it was easy for me to just type away and tell my story. Now that the semester is coming to a close, I still think it’s easy to sit and type away and tell my story, but I have gained new perspectives and understandings throughout the semester. For me, it wasn’t the readings (sorry!) that really got my interest this semester, it was the class discussions that we had about the readings. Some of the discussions were so lively and intense that I would have to go home after class and sit by myself for awhile to unwind from it. I think it was really helpful to the discussions and learning experience that so many of us were willing to open up and talk about our own history and education experiences. I’ve been in this program for two years, and I’ve learned more about my classmates this semester than I have the rest of the time in the program.
For my first world within reflection, I wrote about the humanist lense, and how it most congruently aligns with my beliefs when it comes to teaching and learning. I think that a lot of people in our class, program, and adult learners in general, might consider the humanist theory one that they relate to. The simple fact that we are all back in school to continue our education and acquire new knowledge should help to validate that. We all have different backgrounds and different stories, yet we all ended up here in this program because we figured out that we weren’t finished with our educational journey.
When I was reading back over my educational biography before writing this, some of what my experiences reminded me of Rita. I really liked Rita’s story and felt like I connected with it and with her. I went back to school, because I needed to go back and get a degree in order to have choices when it came to my career. If I hadn’t gone back to school, I would have continued working jobs that didn’t require a degree and hope that I got lucky with these positions. With a degree, it gave me the ability to choose which direction that I want to go in. I understood her misery in the beginning of the movie, because there was really nothing wrong with her life, except that she felt she had no choice in it. I’ve felt like that and I’m sure that many others have felt the same way. It’s empowering to be confident in decisions that you make about your life because you know you have actually made a decision and not just settled somewhere that you could.

Transformative Learning

Mezirow defines learning as “the process of using a prior interpretation to construe a new or revised interpretation of the meaning of one’s experience in order to guide future action”. (2000, pg 5). I was re-reading this chapter and trying to find some inspiration for this reflection when I came across this definition. I don’t know how I missed it during my first reading, because it quite remarkably pertains to the work/life experience of one of my closest friends, Cassie. Cassie and I have been close friends since high school and she is like family to me, so I feel comfortable speaking about her on this topic.
Cassie is an artist. She was a brilliant artist in high school; she went to JMU where she got her BFA and then she went to RIT and got her MFA in Photography. Cassie won tons of awards in college and graduate school and was a standout student. When Cassie finished graduate school we were all excited to see what she would do. Move to New York City and get an amazing job in a gallery is what we all assumed. Cassie came back to Richmond, where she got stuck. Cassie had always known that she wanted to be an artist, so she knew exactly what to do when it came to school, she just didn’t understand what “being an artist” actually looked like for herself. Cassie had this great education and great talent, but she absolutely refused to get a “real” job. Everything that was suggested to Cassie, she considered it “selling out” or “joining the rat race”. She was convinced that if she got a “regular job” it would be a disservice to her education and all of her hard work. Instead, Cassie got a job waiting tables and stopped doing art completely.
This went on for about two years, until Cassie met a recruiter and was presented with an interesting opportunity. Capital One was looking to hire a temporary contractor position, the job would last for 2.5 weeks and she would be developing a micro site for one of the Credit Card Accounts. It was temporary and paid well so Cassie decided to give it a try. When she got to Capital one she was surprised by how much she liked it (aha!). She had creative freedom, the people she worked with smart and talented, and she was challenged constantly with the work. Cassie wasn’t doing the type of art that she ever thought she would; she had a boss, she was going to a 9-5 job, and she had Health Insurance (The horror!). But still, she had felt something that she really enjoyed. Cassie started working on a 2.5 week contractor position at Capital one, five years, and a few promotions later, she is a Senior Creative Director with Capital One. She is still very much an artist; however, her interpretation of what an artist was and could be did change. This is my example of Cassie’s transformational learning experience. She was able to change the lense from which she viewed and interpreted her idea of being an artist, and ended up with a perspective and career that she loves.

Catch Up!!!

I can’t believe it’s almost March and I’m just writing my first blog post for the class – fail!  I don’t know why I didn’t blog earlier, I was caught up in getting the project started and have been concentrating on everything that goes along with it. First of all, I’m really happy that I got the GEO project. While both of them sounded interesting, I was immediately interested in the GEO project. It just seems more “up my alley”. I was also happy with my group assignment. Before, we had our team and project assigned, I was getting so anxious about what the turnout would be. I didn’t have a super positive experience in our Consulting Skills class, and I was stressed that something similar could happen this semester. Alas, I’m super happy with both the project and the group.

We’ve gotten a lot done with our project so far, and I think that our team is working really well together. Something that we do at the end of class is to make a lie of things that are going well, things that we need to work on, and a task list for the upcoming week. This has been extremely helpful when it comes to the process of action learning. We’re all trying to trust the process, and actually writing down what we think is and isn’t working. This also helps to be honest and have a format and place to discuss things. Almost every week on the “things we need to work on” list someone says “interrupting and talking over”. We bring that up in the beginning of class now to help us be more mindful of when someone else is talking.

Right now were in the process of interviewing – I’ll be interviewing Emily Ferlis and I am super excited. I was really impressed with her when Lisa and Is at in on the New Student Orientation last week and I can’t wait to pick her brain .


I did not know what a microaggression was before this reading and assignment, however I have noticed something in my workplace that I now realize could be a microaggression. I share an office with one of my co-workers who is an African-American male. He is without a doubt one of the nicest, friendliest, and most helpful people I have ever met. Because we share an office, generally our work and phone conversations can be overheard. Since we work in benefits for employees, many questions that people ask are personalized questions about their benefits or retirement plans. To log into an employee record in the state system we can either use their name, SSN, or state ID number; the easiest identifier to use is the SSN since we have a lot of employees with the same name and many employees don’t know their state ID numbers. If we do use a name or state ID number, we still confirm the employee’s identity with the last four digits of their SSN. I have worked in my position for over two years and have never once had anyone question my request for their SSN when I ask over the phone. My co-worker however, has people question why he needs their SSN on a regular basis. They will question his need for their SSN and often decline to give it. We joke about it since we still have to confirm the SSN once we have access to the employee’s state record, but I’ve wondered in the past why people are resistant to give him their SSN and have always had no problem giving the information to me. Could this be considered a microaggression? Being hesitant to give such highly confidential information to someone based on a certain unknown (or known bias) that you have. If the same person called me and I asked for their SSN over the phone, would they give it to me or would they have the same hesitancy?
If conscientization becomes a commonplace word and practice among people, will we even have the ability to become aware of our own “social myths” about people? I recognize other people’s actions regarding certain contradictions, but I wonder what I am doing and what contradictions I am making that are sub-conscious to me but visible to other people. I believe that conscientizaion is a great thing to be aware of and strive for, and maybe I’m just being negative (or I’m not fully understanding the concept), but I don’t see how it could actually become so main stream that it would make a difference in the adult learning environment. I know that at VCU, part of what our learning and development team does is try to help employees become more culturally and socially aware which I think is a great help to many people. I do think though that it would be great for all people to have a better understanding and awareness of their own personal micro aggressions.

Learning Theories

When it comes to this assignment and my “lens”, I must first acknowledge my bias and my naivety. I have never taught before, children or adults, so I’m sure that there are many other people with teaching experience that could read my views on these learning theories and dismiss them due to my lack of experience. My bias comes from the fact that I went to college as an older student. I found something that I was passionate about and went to school because I wanted to learn more. After I finished my undergraduate degree I wanted to learn even more, about a specialized field, which is why I’m in graduate school. Where I am now, as an adult that is constantly striving to improve, it’s hard for met o put myself in the place or thought process of someone who is content to be stagnant in their personal growth.
From the readings, I find that the humanist theories most align with my beliefs when it comes to teaching and learning. I have learned about Maslow’s “triangle hierarchy” in the past, and from my personal experience I find it to be accurate. I believe that there is a part of every person that wants to challenge themselves and continue to grow. One of my classmates in this program introduced me to the term “growing in place”. The goal for some people when it comes to self-development is going to be for money, success, notoriety, etc. However, for some people, their goal in self development is just to improve themselves. The individual getting a masters degree to be better at the job that they’re doing, not just so they can be promoted to a different higher job is an example of this. I do believe that a lot of people are motivated by money and success, but I think that there is still a part of people that want personal growth for themselves.
I could find things that I agreed and disagreed with when it came to all of the theories that were covered; the one that stuck out in my mind that I disagreed with the most was the behaviorist theory. What I disagreed with about this theory was the repetitive reinforcements. I can see this as a learning theory in Children, but I do not agree that it is an effective learning tactic for adults. In my opinion, adults learn better if they are invested in what they are learning. You can have any type of learner repeat something over and over again until it’s memorized, but I think that when it comes to adult learners, they care more about the whole picture of what they are learning and why they are learning something. I know that personally, if someone wants me to learn something I always want to know “why am I learning this?” and “what can I do with this knowledge?” For me, learning is something that I do because I want to, not just in the classroom but at work and any other time that I’m learning from people. I think that learning is not just something that can be turned on and off and this theory sort of makes me think of learning like an on/off switch.