Thursday, December 18, 2008

Stages of Organisational Development?

Bill Torbet et al in Action Inquiry list 7 developmental stages for organisations – useful reading since we now have a CEO, a Board, Directors… and soon 35,000 students.

Is the fledgling Tasmanian Polytechnic about to enter Tolbert’s fourth stage: Experiments?

The stages are:

1: Conception – Dreams, visions and informal conversations about creating something new to fill a need not now adequately addressed. Critical issue: Timeliness.

2: Investments – Champions commit to creating the organisation; early relationship-building among future stakeholders. Critical issue: Authenticity and reliability of commitments.

3: Incorporation – Recognisable physical setting established; tasks and roles delineated; goals and operating staff chosen. Critical issue: Display of persistence in the face of threat.

4: Experiments – Alternative strategies are practiced, tested in operation, and reformed in rapid succession. Critical issue: Truly experimenting.

What happens next will be interesting because 4 more educational institutions join the organisation after 2009. Does this mean the organisation will remain at the Experiments stage longer than it would have otherwise? Or will it go back to the Incorporation stage as new staff join the organisation? Or will it move on to the next stages?

5: Systematic Productivity – Attention is focused only on systematic procedures for accomplishing predefined tasks; marketability or political viability measured in quantifiable terms is the overriding criterion of success.

6. Social Network – Strategic or mission-focused alliances formed among a portfolio of organisations.

7. Collaborative Inquiry – Explicit, shared reflection about mission; open interpersonal relations with disclosure, support and confrontation of apparent value differences; systematic personal and corporate performance appraisal on multiple indexes.

How quickly should the new organisation develop to the Collaborative Inquiry stage? 2010? 2011? 2012? Does the organisation need to move through these stages in strict sequence? Can stages overlap a little?

Should a large multi-site state-wide organisation like the Polytechnic operate concurrently at stages 4-7? Or even stages 1-7 with a focus that cycles through the stages depending on growth and environmental factors?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Can Flexible Learning be Agile?

The book Leadership Agility (Joiner & Josephs, 2007) makes the point that today’s managers/leaders need to be more than flexible and adaptable in rapidly changing environments. They need to be agile.

Agility is about being proactive, making strategic choices, developing collaborative partnerships, making the most of sudden opportunities… with a clear direction and purpose in mind.

After my previous post I wondered if flexible learning helps to develop ‘agile’ learners… And to what extent is the provision for flexible learning itself proactive? Is flexible learning mostly about playing ‘catch-up’?

Much is written about learning, teaching and assessment being responsive to students, being responsive to business/industry, being responsive to changes in technology… being flexible… But are there proactive as well as reactive elements to ‘flexible learning’? Do we need to talk about ‘agile learning’?

I think we already know about proactive forms of flexible learning. We have action research, action inquiry, self-directed inquiry… We have transformative learning, futures learning…

Have we integrated these more proactive elements of learning into our conception and implementation of ‘flexible learning’? What would flexible learning look like and feel like if it was both responsive and proactive?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Flexible Learning - Mapping the Territory

Click for expanded view

Learning in the new Tasmanian Polytechnic will be "flexible" - but what does that mean?

Principally it's about being 'learner centered'. Learning needs to be responsive to students - most of whom are adult or near-adult learners. Learning must cater for the needs and interests of learners and the differences between learners in areas such as learning styles, culture, gender and current life circumstance.

But learning also needs to be responsive to the needs of business and industry who require learning to be available in appropriate places, times and forms. Learning must adapt to provide the skills required where there are shortfalls - and for new industries. Higher-level skills in thinking, innovation and collaboration are also required.

And there is a bigger picture. Learning needs to be responsive to global change - environmental, economic, technological, cultural... Sustainable, productive and purposeful lifestyles can no longer be lived in isolation from global events.

To achieve the above in the Tasmanian Polytechnic learning needs to be personalised. Learners need choice and control over the time, place, content and products of their learning. Learners need to have their existing knowledge and skills recognised - and any missing essential learning identified and supported.

Learning, teaching and assessment principles need to be based on contemporary educational research and underpinned by 21st century worldviews. Structures to support learning need to be adaptive and fit for purpose.

Hmmm... no problem - we know how to do most of this. Well we can map some of it... and see what others have done...
We just need to coordinate educational provision across a large state-wide organisation in such a way that it can change and grow while setting up structures and processes to support flexible learning :-)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Flexible Learning - Asking the right questions...

What are the needs of learners in the new state-wide post-year 10 Tasmanian Polytechnic? Before jumping to possible answers - and just as quickly to tools and strategies - it might pay to take some time to ask more questions...

As Jamie McKenzie says: "The question IS the answer."

Who are the learners?

Students as learners - full-time, part-time, on campus, remote, Gen Y, Gen X, whole-person - with current competence and new goals

Staff as learners - teachers, support staff, mentors and leaders/managers - with expertise and new challenges

Organisation as learner - the Tasmania Polytechnic is a new institution - with much to learn and many relationships to build.

What kind of learning?

Adult Learning - in the Tasmanian Polytechnic students and staff are young-adult and adult learners - they require choice, personalised learning, self-directed learning and support for transformative learning.

Quality Education - applied learning, connected learning, supported learning and flexible learning - for students, staff and the organisation as a whole.

Futures Focus - new jobs, global challenges, creativity and innovation for the 21st century.

How will relationships be formed?

Building Identity - social and professional for students/staff/organisation - face-to-face and online.

Communities of Practice - work, inquiry, special interest - physical, augmented and virtual spaces.

Folios and Workspaces - individual, group, learning commons - for working and showcasing.

Finding Voice - active citizenship, advocacy and leadership for students/staff/organisation at local, national and global levels - through face-to-face, traditional and online media.

Where will learning happen?

Blended Learning - Informal, classroom, workplace, home, simulated, virtual, play, distance...
Learning, Teaching and Assessment - values, principles, journeys, desired outcomes...

Communication - information, consultation, collaboration, co-construction.

Evaluation - benchmarks, research (quantitative, action research, research partnerships...), publication/presentation/celebration.

What other questions should we be asking before we look at ways in which we might facilitate flexible learning in this new institution?


Friday, December 5, 2008

Polly Waffle

The shape and size of the new Tasmanian Polytechnic emerged as a whole for the first time yesterday as we filled the Tailrace Convention Centre in Launceston.

CEO Belinda McLennan and a bevvy of Directors introduced themselves and their vision for the new post secondary educational institution for Tasmania. Much was said but for me some of the points that stuck in my mind were:

Challenging existing paradigms and cultures
This is possibly the biggest challenge of any organisational change - the more things change the more they stay the same. We are involved in a significant systemic change and while we may solve the logistical challenges unless we question our worldviews, assumptions and values little will change for students. While many are frustrated with the present lack of clarity in the roles, structures and processes of the emerging Polytechnic I see this as a positive sign that the nature of systemic change is well understood by those currently leading it.

Consultation - Collaboration - Co-construction
Several Directors spoke of entering a new phase of change now - one where the processes are more collaborative than consultative for most staff. As this happens more people are likely to begin to explore the possibilities and hopefully co-construct new ways to meet the educational needs of students and the community.

Applied, Supported, Connected and Flexible - Learning, Teaching and Assessment
It was good to hear new educational metaphors as Belinda and other Directors speak of connected learning and learning ecologies. This language and its underpinning 20th/21st century worldviews are essential if we are to move from an educational system founded on 16th-19th century materialism and reductionism.

Belinda also asked that we adopt a futures perspective and consider for example the jobs that are yet to be invented - or indeed have just been invented - that lead us forward into healthy, creative and sustainable lives at a time with many global challenges. I think this futures perspective deserves further exploration: How can we help students develop skills in problem prevention and problem posing as well as problem solving? How can we ensure social foresight informs our thinking and actions?

Adult Learners and Adult Learning
Ron Nash reminded us that we are dealing with adult or near-adult learners and that we now know much more about how adults learn and the flexibility and support that they require. We also need to address transformative learning which is a key element of adult learning that is being addressed in many leading tertiary educational institutions.

ICTs and Learning, Teaching and Assessment
Belinda noted the need for Web 2.0 and LMS technologies to enable and support learners and teachers in the new institution - something that resonated with me since it has been an important aspect of my work over the last few years. Of course I would add Web 3.0 - not that everyone needs a 'second life' but it has become clear that there are significant learning and employment opportunities in virtual worlds and serious games that are just starting to being realised.
Someone with a sense of humour convinced the organisers to give out Polly Waffles as we left - a treat and a challenge!