Weekly Writing 4.2, Bob

In your writing post this week, discuss the value of taxonomies for defining student learning, with specific examples from your subject area. Attach your learning objectives and concept map. (Don’t forget to provide the title or topic of your lesson plan.) It is particularly important that you review classmates’ posts this week and provide feedback on their learning objectives. Identifying outcomes and writing clear objectives is a challenging task; I’m confident you will all benefit by giving and receiving critique on this assignment!

This is the first time in a long time where I have floundered with an assignment.     The concept map tools were just perplexing for me.   I went to each website and tried each interface.   I placed shapes and drew links between them in order to see how the tools worked.   Then I stared blankly at the interface.   I simply could not see how or why to use them to accomplish work — this work.     Therefore, I have no conceptual maps to submit.   Obviously, I feel some defensiveness — what is wrong with me?   I talked with my wife about how she might use them.   The process she described was helpful in developing an understanding of the tool.   Alas, it was an alien process for me.   I might doodle some circles and lines on a notepad, or create category headings.   Conceptual models for me grow out of sentences, and paragraphs and finally essays.   I may edit those down to bullet points for professional writing, for final presentation.   I might use the mind maps afterword to create a diagram or a flowchart to illustrate a workflow analysis — but probably not.   I am just never likely to use these tools.   Perhaps it is good for me to know about them in order to share them with learners or co-workers….

Turning to the objective builder, I resonated with the Radio James Objective builder tool.   I see two related uses: one in writing job descriptions and tasks in a workflow, second, in creating employee training.   I love the simplicity and interactivity of the tool and once you have outcomes drafted you simply highlight, cut, and paste them to a working document.   Interestingly, I find that for most tasks in our workplace I do not need the highest-level functions from entry-level employees.   I do not need them to create, or evaluate, and only occasionally to analyze.   Rather, I need high functioning with application, understanding and remembering.   My supervisors will operate more frequently with analysis, and evaluation yet only occasionally at the creation level.

A related difference is that rarely in our workplace do we engage in creative work alone.   It is usually in a group.   In addition, this was another hang up with this week’s assignment.   “Write three learning outcomes’ — this is work done in a team in our workplace.     I also struggled with the scope of this assignment.   I selected:

  • Emergency Procedures
  • Photocopier/Printers
  • Professional Demeanor

Trying to write this in entirety in six hours was just not possible, and I missed my team and their energy and insight.   Two of these are easier to write outcomes for; emergency procedures and troubleshooting and maintaining printers/photocopiers, as both have “correct’ answers.   I can be quite behavioristic in my formulation of these outcomes.   For example, evacuating the building has one right outcome and one right process.   Similarly getting paper jams out of a copier, filling paper trays, and exchanging toner cartridges all have specific steps and a single final decision either the machine is working again, or it is not and an out of order sign is affixed to it and the matter reported to a supervisor.

However, in including “professional demeanor’ I vastly exceeded what could be done in the allotted time.   Yet, this is perhaps the most interesting of the outcomes I identified.   It is inherently subjective, inherently situational.   Offering feedback to employees on this skill is an art, and an iterative process as they self-correct to approximate an improvement on subjective outcome.    I selected eight elements to address; appearance, reliability, competence, ethics, phone etiquette, written communication, self/workspace organization, and accountability.   These were selected after Googling the topic and reviewing a number of blogs and online articles — a very different, but very realistic way that a lot of work in the workplace gets started.   The point in academic writing is to create original or uncommon knowledge, however, the point in writing for the workplace is to find a norm and build around that.   Likewise, there is no point in attributing common knowledge and I am certain that various documents and web pages that we have created have likewise been appropriated — and I cannot care.

Turning to Appearance, my first stab at writing outcomes sounds like this:

  • Exemplify professionalism through dressing appropriately for this workplace,
  • Understand that smiling when you greet customers and co-workers can convey confidence, enthusiasm and may begin to diffuse difficult conversations.
  • Apply this understanding in using appropriate facial expression in the matching communication situation — do not smile or laugh while a customer is obviously angry or upset, for example.

Appropriate dress in a college work place tends to be more casual, though at times ties, coats and pantsuits are called for.   However, we understand that students are not going to return to their rooms and change for work.   Therefore, for young men we ask for colored shirts, young women we ask them to avoid or to cover tank tops, for examples.   We actively discourage showing up in gym clothes or pajamas.   Our point is not to die on this hill but rather to start to sensitize the young people to the issue.   I asked one of my student supervisors to come in early this morning because the new President was hosting an event in the library — on his own he offered that he would dress up a bit.   That is a successful outcome.   To my mind, it shows competence at the comprehension level of Bloom’s taxonomy.   I do not need the Supervisor to evaluate or judge the merit of dressing appropriately — I need them to judge the situation and dress appropriately for it.

Perhaps then, the employee is actually operating significantly higher level then I imagined….

Turning to the next performance indicator:

Reliability

Exemplify professionalism by —

  • Showing up for your shift a few minutes early, working through your checklist of chores immediately, and communicating about sharing the chores with your co-worker.
  • If you need to miss a shift for legitimate reasons arrange for shift coverage as soon as you learn of your need.
  • If you are ill contact either or both your student supervisor or Branch coordinator at the earliest possible time and ask for shift coverage.
  • If you offer to cover a co-worker’s shift make certain that you follow through.
  • Any service promise you make to a customer needs to be executed upon and completed. This may involve clearly communicating with a co-worker or supervisor since the actual work maybe done by another.

To my mind a young person who behaved in these ways would be competent in behaving with professional demeanor as regards reliability.   Extending this and returning to Bloom’s taxonomy I think they would be at the analysis level.   My reasoning being that if I asked them to tell me why these behaviors were important they would be able to explain.   The occasions we see student employees achieve synthesis is on their return from abroad or from internships where they compare their workplace experiences or experiences with service providers and demonstrate insight into why we prioritize reliability among our employees.   They may continue and evaluate these differences but in truth I am not seeking there feedback on what we have determined to be workplace appropriate.   Said differently I am not looking for them to evaluate but to abide by these norms.

So what I am struggling with here is that we may well be successfully teaching to a higher level, but we do not need to evaluate performance at that level….

This gets us back to a question asked by Owen in a comment — he wondered how I would apply cognitive and constructivist and connectionist theories of learning to workplace behavior.   I am wondering about that as well.   I suspect the value of such a theoretical enterprise is in being self-reflective about our process.   I am struggling a little bit with these taxonomies and theories.   It is interesting to realize that my employees may be actually learning at high levels, synthesizing, evaluating and judging but I do not see it because I am not looking for it.   I need them to operate at the mid-level for most functions and that is sufficient.   However, I wonder if higher order outcomes are occurring; so then what more can be accomplished were we to pay attention to that?   Alternatively, if our evaluation of excellence might be more objectively informed by these higher order levels of learning.   I wonder if it might be more repeatable if we are using better theories to interpret behavior can we in turn get better behavior more frequently.   Given the pressure, we are under to generate customer enthusiasm I suspect I have some hard work to do in more precisely recognizing and capitalizing on student employee’s work in analysis, synthesis and evaluation.   This bends back around to generating rubrics as well.   Creating rubrics will probably break me as well.     I have to say this is humbling.   It is also starkly revealing in how different the work of teachers and employers is.

Above I say: “For example, evacuating the building has one right outcome and one right process.’   And I ask now do I really mean it?   Nothing is more subjective than emergency response; nothing is more dependent upon correct judgment.   For example, evacuating during a drill is a rote routine.   However, imagine clearing a building with a real fire burning.   All of a sudden, my behavior may change radically.   I may carry a fire extinguisher with me.   I may access floors through cut-through or stairwells previously not used.   My goal is to empty the building completely and systematically and to get myself out safely.   If I limit my employees to rote protocol, I might kill them or a customer.   If I encourage them to operate at higher levels, I might save lives and speed the process.

Emergency Procedures

  • Locate First aid kit, fire extinguisher, Light switches, panic button, and emergency call list
  • Explain how to use; First aid kit, fire extinguisher, Light switches, panic button, emergency call list
  • Properly execute a building evacuation for fire alarm,

This is inadequate.   I have to dig deeper.   I have to explore objectives that employ verbs, like solve, use, prepare, or infer, question, select, even more, plan, modify, and rearrange, and again, evaluate, interpret, and justify.

I do not think I can do this in the time allotted or on my own or once and for all.

 

 

7 thoughts on “Weekly Writing 4.2, Bob

  1. lsowa

    Bob, I can sympathize with your struggle with the concept map. Although I did produce one (using PowerPoint), it took me a little while to figure out exactly what purpose it would serve. That’s not a criticism of the assignment, rather taking a bit of time to orient to this mode of thinking. I don’t think there was one correct way of using the concept map.

    I do believe that you have a challenge in that your course will be more of a training module than an academic course (please correct me if I am wrong). You’ve outlined many valuable and detailed learning outcomes. While you may not be evaluating your employees at the “highest” levels of learning or understanding, a job provides experiential learning that is valuable in many contexts, and certainly provides opportunities to achieve this higher level learning. So having lofty goals is probably a good thing. I found Fink’s taxonomy to be useful because it was more inter-related than hierarchical. When you discuss your desire for employees to be able to recognize a situation and adjust their demeanor accordingly, perhaps this is “caring” and the “human dimension” from Fink’s taxonomy, or “empathy” (McTighe). In my humble and not very experienced opinion, I would say that you could write a broad objective for each of your first three bullet points, the first two being more knowledge and application based with your third venturing a bit further into the taxonomies. Good luck!

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  2. Owen

    Bob…

    “what is wrong with me?” Made me laugh. Nothing – of course. The purpose of this assignment is just what you’ve done. To spend time thinking about what you’re trying to accomplish. To begin being purposeful in your design – and you’ve done just that. Some find the mind map exercise valuable in revealing areas or types of understandings that they’ve traditionally ignored in their teaching.

    For instance, it is easy for an anatomy instructor to get wrapped up in making sure their students memorize all the various structures and their names. Sometimes, “functions” get less emphasis, or how those anatomical structures relate to our own, and/or how they are similar in every living thing… You get the idea. “Remember” gets more usage than “apply” which gets more attention than “empathize” and so on.

    I would say your scope is perhaps a bit large. Feel free to narrow it down to something more comfortable. Any of your top three would work – the Professional Demeanor one sounds juicy and complex. But a unit on troubleshooting photocopiers and printers could be satisfying as well… If it were me, I’d probably go with the former – and based on your post, that seems a rich area for you to explore. But the choice is up to you. Maybe a collection of readings and some mini lectures followed by some role playing exercises on the subject of “professional demeanor” would be sufficient for your needs? I’d shoot for instilling self knowledge in your employees and help them to empathize (as Lori suggested) with their customers. ?

    In this project, you have to navigate the space between the concepts behind what you are doing, and what you are actually doing and try to align everything via purposeful process.

    I think you’re on track for a great unit – there are often messy beginnings.

    Reply
  3. Jenny

    Bob,
    I can empathize with the difficulty of writing good objectives that are measurable and meaningful. I have been taught to use the following template when creating objectives and I find it quite helpful. This is just a suggestion:
    SWBAT(Students will be able to) +Bloom’s verb+content+by +action.
    For example, using your objective “Exemplify professionalism through dressing appropriately for this workplace” you might say,
    “SWBAT demonstrate professional dress standards by producing photographs of themselves in 3 professional outfits.”
    Just an idea.

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Weekly Writing 4.2, Bob, Online Pedagogy, ED 655 – Scholarship

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