End of Semester Reflection

As I reflect back on my learning throughout this semester, I find that I have gained important foundational knowledge about designing and delivering adult learning programs.  One of the most important things I learned was that planning programs is not a linear process, but rather an interactive, non sequential process that necessitates flexibility.  Therefore, the first step in the planning process may be different depending on the organization, the budget, the stakeholders involved and the learners that are being targeted.  Even in the same organization, some program plans may have historically received funding, so the first step may be developing program objectives.  On the other hand, if the organization has never offered a particular program before, the initial planning step may be to build a solid base of support.  My learning in this area was enhanced by hearing about the diverse organizations my classmates work for, and how some have to worry a lot about marketing the program while others are in an environment where they are doing annual required training so getting participants to attend the program is not really an issue.

The interactive program planning process described by Caffarella was based on seven assumptions, and the one I found to be the most enlightening was the need to discern the importance of context and negotiation.  Since program planning is such a complex process with various organizational factors and stakeholders involved, the final program is really a negotiated product.  I found this to be an important reminder of the need to not only have the ability to organize and design programs, but to also be aware of and work with the political interests involved in the program planning process.  I also learned the importance of considering adult learning principles such as the desire of adults to apply their learning to present situations, to learn things that are meaningful to them and to be involved in the learning process.  Sometimes as a program planner it can be easy to get into the details of the planning process and let these adult learning principles be put to the side.  Therefore, I think it’s really vital to constantly put yourself in the learner’s shoes when making decisions about the design and delivery methods to use for a program.  We have all attended programs that do not use adult learning principles and should make sure we are always keeping the learners’ interests in mind from the beginning to the end of the planning process.

Another central point I learned this semester is the need to form well thought out program and learning objectives because the objectives guide the learning process and are also used in the evaluation process to determine if learners achieved what the program planners had hoped for.  Creating objectives also provides an opportunity for program planners to sort through the proposed ideas of what should be included in the program and narrow this list down the most vital items the learners should be able to accomplish within the designated timeframe of the program.  This can be a timely process depending on how many people are involved in the planning and impacts many other parts of the planning process.

Although a challenging process, I really learned a lot from Vella’s text on dialogue education.  I enjoyed learning about the design and delivery of programs from both Caffarella and Vella’s perspectives.  Learning about dialogue education is truly learning how to keep the learners at the heart of the design and planning process because they are considered in each and every step.  Vella’s four “I”s creates a focused step-by-step process of ensuring transfer of learning and considering the context of the learner’s environment.  It was also neat to hear how PowerPoint slides can be used as a base for the “input” process – providing the new information to the learners – but that this is only one of the four major parts of the learning task.  Creating implementation activities requires time to think about how the learners can apply their new knowledge, but is so critical to the learning process.

Another aspect of the class that I learned a lot from was applying the design and delivery concepts to designing my own program.  I liked how parts of the project were turned in throughout the semester and coincided with the topics we were learning about in class.  By planning my program I was able to experience the reality of being constrained by resources and how these impacts the time allocated to the program delivery and evaluation process.  I also learned about the importance of considering the context of the learner when designing the program.  This was especially important in my program plan because the learners are new to the culture and context of the U.S., so I had to consider this when designing learning activities.

I truly, truly enjoyed the Skype learning session we had with Jane Vella at the end of the semester.  It was such an invigorating experience to read about her concepts in the book, apply them to our own program designs, and then talk in more detail about dialogue education from the creator of it.  To be able to ask questions about using the process, to hear her insight and suggestions of incorporating it into diverse settings, and especially to hear her passion for the topic was such a meaningful experience.  Besides that, Jane Vella has such spunk; it was so fun to talk to her.  I enjoyed her “axioms” of dialogue education because they’re short, clever phrases to keep in mind during the planning process.  My favorite axioms are “Don’t tell what you can ask”, “Beware of having too much what for your when” and “The more teaching, the less learning”. These axioms really speak to me because they defy what I have been exposed to in many of my learning experiences and were also reinforced in this class throughout the semester.  The learning activities and large amount of group discussion really helped identify and solidify planning ideas I had for my program.  The diversity of our class created such a meaningful learning experience and reinforced the idea of flexibility and complexity involved in the planning process.

Blog #6

Research Question:

To evaluate the effectiveness of an urban elementary schools pilot program “Know Your Veggies” in increasing children’s nutrition knowledge and preferences.

Implications:

The evaluation of this program can have significant impacts on the school curriculum of public elementary schools.  Our nation is currently faced with rising obesity rates resulting in major healthcare expenses for individuals, families, and the government.  Public schools have been identified as an organization that can help create positive change to reduce this problem.  Elementary schools have been of particular interest because of how early children develop their taste preferences for certain foods.  However, despite this known fact, many schools are unsure of where to start and what methods are worth trying.   Many schools are in the trial and error phase to determine what impacts the health behaviors of children in our country.  If the pilot program discussed in this paper proves to be effective, schools will have a framework to utilize for their own school, tailoring it is as needed to fit their own environment.  If there are schools with additional funding available, they can use the framework of this pilot program as a base and add on other dimensions to enhance the nutrition knowledge and preferences of elementary school children.

Blog #5

Research Question:

How will monthly newsletters about a featured fruit/vegetable, interactive monthly cooking classes with local chefs, education about gardening/harvesting vegetables and twelve wellness classes implemented in second grade impact fruit and vegetable preferences, knowledge about nutrition and attitudes towards nutrition when the students gets to fifth grade?

Design:

These research questions will be answered utilizing a case study of a public elementary school located in an urban setting with  a demographically diverse population.  Participants would be selected from a population of approximately 80 second grade students at this elementary school.  Students would be selected to participate in the study as long as they provide written consent from their parent or guardian.  The study will be conducted through observations of the students at lunch, semi-structured interviews with the students, and questionnaires completed by the students and their parent or guardian when the student is in second, third, and fifth grade.  Lunch observations would record the participant’s consumption of a fruit and/or vegetable during 10 lunch periods.  Both the interview and questionnaire would ask participant about their consumption of fruits and vegetables at school lunch and outside of school, their overall preference for fruit and vegetables, and their attitude towards eating nutritious foods.

Limitations:

Since this is a case study, a limitation would be the generalizability of the study to broader populations in various locations.  Another limitation is bias created from the researcher’s own values and presumptions.  This occurs in qualitative research because of its reflexive process that is present through every stage of the research.  Also, qualitative research can cause reactivity,  which is when the researcher influences participant’s behaviors in trying to obtain results they were looking for.  This is why it is important the researcher to be aware of their own personal attitudes towards the area being studied and make sure to phrase interview questions in a non-biased manner.  Another limitation is since this is a long term case study, some circumstances may prevent being able to obtain data from all participants that originally begin the study because they may transfer to another school or move by the time they get to fifth grade.

 

 

 

Blog #4

Research Question:

Will fifth grade students make healthier food choices than when in they were in second grade if they receive the following: a monthly newsletter about a featured fruit/vegetable, interactive monthly cooking classes with local chefs, education about gardening/harvesting vegetables and twelve wellness classes?

Measure #1:

One possible way to use measurement for data collection is semi-structured interviews.  The interviews would measure students’ attitudes and behaviors towards eating healthy foods. Therefore, the interview questions would ask questions about their views on eating healthy (i.e. do they think it matters, why they think it matters, etc.) as well as asking about their most recent food consumption of school lunches.  The interviewer would have a copy of the previous day’s lunch menu and ask the participant what they chose to eat that day.  The interviewer would also ask what the student plans to eat the day of the interview.

Interviews would be conducted before starting one of the monthly cooking classes by trained interviewers.  In order to get the students comfortable to being open with the interviewer, the interviewer would come to at least four classes before conducting the interview and participate in the class.   The interview questions will be tested for validity by being reviewed by experts in the nutrition field and the child development field.  The interview questions would be tested for internal consistency by ensuring there are at least five questions addressing the same attitude being measured.

Measure #2:

Another possible measurement method is to observe the food choices made by the participants in the cafeteria during lunch.  Observers would identify the participants’ consumption of fruits, vegetables and healthy drinks (i.e. fruit juice or skim milk rather than soda and flavored milk).  Consumption would be measured by recording “Yes” or “No” for each participant’s choice of a fruit, vegetable and/or healthy drink.  The observer would then record how much of those food items are left over at the end of lunch.  The amount of food left over would be classified as “some, little or none”.  “Some” means half or more was left, “little” means less than half was left and “none” means the participant finished the entire serving of the food item.  The amount of healthy drink left over would be weighed since the containers are not transparent and compared to the original weight.

Observers would be trained for 30 days prior to the actual observations.  Observations would occur four times a week for three weeks in the middle of the school year from  second grade through fifth grade.  Inter-observation reliability would be measured to ensure adequate consistency exists between different observer results.  This training period will also allow the students to get accustomed to having the observers in the cafeteria with them.  Each observer would measure up to 20 students.  Validity would be supported by theory that indicates the relationship between knowledge about nutrition and healthy food choices.

Measure #3:

A third method of measurement is to utilize taste tests of various fruits and vegetables each year from when the participants are in second grade through fifth grade.   The tasting will take place before a monthly cooking class and occur six times a year for each grade level.  The participants to try four types of fruit in months one, three and five and four types vegetables in months two, four and six.  The participants will be measured on a scale of whether they tried the food and finished it, they tried it but spit it out, or they did not try the food.  Once this was determined, those that tried the food and finished it would rate whether they liked the food a lot, they liked the food, they liked the food a little bit, or they did not like the food at all.  Participants who did not try the food did not receive a score for that tasting session.

Content validity would be established by having the survey methods and classifications evaluated by nutrition and child development experts and ensuring the survey was comparable to tested surveys used in other studies.  Stability would be tested by having the participants rate the same fruits and vegetables in months five and six as were rated in months one and two.  Therefore, the participants would try a total of eight fruits and vegetables each year – the first four in the first two months, the second four in the months three and four.  The last month would be the same four fruits and vegetables from months one and two.

 

Blog #3

Research Question:

Will fifth grade students make healthier food choices than when in they were in second grade if they receive the following: a monthly newsletter about a featured fruit/vegetable, interactive monthly cooking classes with local chefs, education about gardening/harvesting vegetables and twelve wellness classes?

Random Sampling:

The proposed research question could be designed utilizing random sampling for the population of second grade students at a local elementary school.  A pro of random sampling is that all participants are given an equal and unbiased chance of being selected for the study indicating fairness in selecting participants.  This method is also intended to be as representative of the population being studied as possible which would lead to making generalizations about the population.  Disadvantages include the difficulty in utilizing this method for large populations and the need to have a full, up-to-date and complete list of the population.

Proportional Stratified Sampling:

Another method that could be used for the proposed research problem is proportional stratified sampling in order to separate participants by demographic characteristics such as socioeconomic status, gender or religion.  Pros of this type of sampling include the ability to ensure all subgroups of a particular population are included in the sample and more statistical precision compared to simple random sampling.  A con of this technique is that if an incorrect fraction is assigned to a subgroup, the results of the study may be skewed due to a subgroup being overrepresented or underrepresented.

Convenience Sampling:

This type of sampling can be used for the proposed research question.  Advantages of convenience sampling are that the subjects are readily available to be studied by the researcher, it can help detect relationships between various phenomenons and may be useful for  obtaining basic data and trends.  A con of this type of sampling are that it is less precise and therefore less likely to be generalizable to a population.  Also, the results may be biased based on the nature of the technique.

Maximum Variation Sampling:

Maximum sampling may also be useful for the proposed research question so that students of varying demographics can be studied.  An advantages of this sampling technique is the ability to study participants with specific characteristics that sometimes may be hard to access.  Disadvantages are reliability of the sample and potential bias because everyone in the population did not have an equal opportunity of being selected.

Best Sample for the Proposed Research Question:

Since there is a readily available population of students that are receiving the variables discussed in the research question at a local elementary school, it seems that convenience sampling would be the most ideal technique to use.  Furthermore, proposing the research question for schools that do not currently have healthy food programs would be difficult to implement due to the political processes in public school lunch programs.  However, I think it would also be useful to use proportional stratified sampling so that a proportional amount of specified demographic subgroups can be included.  This would help the results be more generalizable than if just using convenience sampling.

 

Blog #2

Research Problem:

Will fifth graders who are offered healthier school lunch menu options and have received biweekly interactive lessons incorporating current technology about cooking and wellness since second grade make healthier food choices than fifth graders who  have only been offered healthier school lunch menu options since second grade?

Review of Empirical Research: Study 1

The purpose of this research was to measure the self-efficacy and social norms of fifth-graders related to eating fruits and vegetables in a school lunch setting after being introduced to alternatives to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) such as a school snack bar.  The site for this study was a middle school in Houston, TX with a total population of 422 students, approximately 24% of which qualified for free lunches.  The students in this middle school only have access to the NSLP and a snack bar and were given at least two fruit and vegetable options to choose fromData was collected from food records the students completed after 10 meals, five in the spring semester and five in the fall semester.  Participants also completed a 27-question psychological questionnaire the same day they completed the food records.  The study found that for the 275 participants, fruit self-efficacy was significantly related to fruit consumption; vegetable self-efficacy was positively related to low-fat vegetable consumption and negatively related to  high-fat vegetables consumption.  The social norms of students were positively correlated with total vegetable, low-fat vegetable, fruit and total fruit and vegetable consumptionThis research study relates to my proposed research problem because it indicates the correlation between students’ self-efficacy and social norms related to healthy food choices.  Since this is a factor in the choices that fifth grade students made in this study, it provides a reason to study whether social norms and self-efficacy can help be shaped through interactive lessons as well as healthy menu options.

Review of Empirical Research: Study 2

The purpose of the second research study was to evaluate whether  token reinforcement, peer participation and food choice would increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables of elementary school students.  The sample included 188  students (median age was 8 years old) in a rural Pennsylvania countyParticipants were given a brief survey requesting demographic information and parents also indicated their knowledge of their child’s food preferences.  Then students were observed when provided the token reinforcement during lunch and lastly students were interviewed on their fruit and vegetable preferences at the time they were provided token reinforcement, two weeks after and seven months after.  The study found that students’ fruit and vegetable preferences increased across all ages through the duration of the program.  However, when students were interviewed seven months later, their preferences returned to the original preferences stated before the program began.  This study will contribute to my research problem because it shows that changing children’s food preference is a challenge even in elementary aged children.  Therefore, changes to school lunch programs need to start early and include multiple strategies of impacting food preferences.  It also indicates a method that was increased fruit and vegetable consumption for the short-term, so adjustments can be made to create more long-term changes in food preferences.

Problems/Questions

As I work on refining my research proposal, I want to make sure there can be a feasible study done a population diverse enough to be able to generalize to as many schools as possible.  The above studies had a high percentage of Caucasian participants which can impact the results of the study.  There is also the feasibility of how much can be done given budget constraints of public schools and resistance from people that don’t feel they can change the system.  I also want to make sure the method provides results that can help shape future methods of trying to revolutionize school lunch programs.  After talking to a contact who is involved in the school lunch program of a Richmond City elementary school, it seems to be important to see if attitudes change after a few years of learning about nutrition and wellness.

Blog #1

Obesity in America has been a growing problem with a variety of cited factors contributing to its exponential increase over the last several years.   The  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that in 2009 Colorado and D.C. were the only two states in the U.S. with obesity levels less than 20% (CDC, 2011).  Even more staggering is that thirty-three states had obesity rates of over 25% in 2009 (CDC, 2011).  An identified contributor to the increase in obesity is the assortment of high-calorie, low nutritional value items offered in school lunch programs.  A study of sixth grade students in Michigan found that compared to students that brought their lunch from home, students who ate school lunches on a regular basis were 29 percent more likely to be obese.  Furthermore, food preferences are formed in those early childhood years and people tend to choose food which they are familiar with.

A quantitative research problem related to this area is whether second graders offered a revised school lunch menu offering more healthy options and fewer unhealthy options combined with weekly interactive lessons incorporating current technology about nutrition will make healthier food choices than those who are only offered a revised school lunch menu.

A qualitative research problem in this area addresses these questions:  What factors impact the attitudes formed by elementary school students towards food choices?  Once attitudes are formed, how do students describe the ease at which they are willing to change their attitudes?

One of the primary difference between quantitative research and qualitative research problems is that qualitative research problems are more general and open to exploration.  The research problem is stated in general terms to ensure the researcher is not influencing the reader to be biased towards the researcher’s beliefs or expectations about the topic.  However, the research problems do need to specify the phenomenon being studied, the population being studied, and the setting of the research.  Due to the evolving nature of qualitative problems, researchers may find their original research problem changes as they discover new information about the topic being studied.  These types of research problems are intended to study the process of the stated phenomenon rather than discover a specific outcome.

Quantitative research problems on the other hand are very specific, clearly defined and focused on discovering the outcome of the stated problem.  The research problem also clearly states the variables that are being studied.  Sometimes researchers will use a hypothesis to help provide a framework for developing explanations, to confirm or disconfirm a theory, and to synthesize related literature.  A hypothesis is a proposed expectation of the solution to the stated research problem and can be classified as a research hypothesis or statistical hypothesis.  A research hypothesis is declarative and directionally stated whereas a statistical hypothesis can be tested statistically.

 

 

 

What I’ve Learned about Organizational Change

As I think back about what I’ve learned about organizational change this semester I was drawn to look back to my personal credo to see if any I still felt the same about the areas I identified as most important.  What I found to be really neat was the quote I referenced in my credo by Charles A. Garfield, “A mission could be defined as an image of a desired state that you want to get to. Once fully seen, it will inspire you to act, fuel your imagination and determine your behavior,” coincides directly with a key underlying assumption of the three large group facilitations we studied this semester – Open Space Technology, Future Search and Appreciative Inquiry.  After being a participant of two of these strategies and helping facilitate one of these large group strategies I learned about the value of bringing a diverse group of people together to establish common ground, build commitment and create ideas on how to achieve a desired future state.  As a facilitator with the help of my group members, I was also taught the delicate art of keeping the facilitation process moving without conveying our own ideas to influence the direction of the collective thinking.  A facilitator’s duty is to provide a group/organization/community the framework and resources to create an atmosphere receptive to change.  The major themes I found to be consistent and significant throughout the semester include commitment, open/whole systems, culture, dialogue and imagery.

Commitment

This semester I have learned that organizational change is a thorough, well-planned effort to move people in the desired direction of the organization through concrete actions and adjustments in behavior.  Since many people’s initial reaction to the idea of change is fear, discomfort, and uneasiness it is pertinent for organizations to generate commitment from people in all levels of the organization.  As emphasized by Kotter, a reason that organizational change efforts often fail is the absence of a powerful coalition to lead the change efforts and keep the fuel for change going in an organization (Gallos).  My interview with a change agent helped me see how important this is for successful change to occur.  Unfortunately the change agent was working for an organization that started out with strong support from top leaders, but the lack of a strong coalition was one of the factors that contributed to the lack of organizational change.  The process of change is a long-term effort, making it all the more important to have a group of people strategically focused on carrying out the change.

In addition to a strong coalition, organizations must have the commitment of top leadership.  Organizational change is bound for disaster when the actions of leaders do not match their communications.  Members of organizations are more likely to take change efforts seriously when they believe leaders are also taking it seriously.  Learning about the three large group facilitation strategies helped emphasize this point, as all three strategies advise organizations to receive commitment from top management before diving into the planning and facilitation.  Although all three strategies need this commitment, it seems incredibly important for Open Space Technology (OST) as this is the most ambiguous of the three strategies and creates the most intentional chaos.  Owen provides an example of a Fortune 25 company that considered using OST but received negative feedback from senior leaders because they were so uncomfortable with the loss of control.  Leaders may also feel this way when approached with the idea of a Future Search or Appreciative Inquiry facilitation, which is why receiving their commitment is crucial.  APT’s change credo provided a great perspective on the importance of leadership in change efforts, as she pointed out that well managed change may go unnoticed, but change that is poorly managed rarely goes unnoticed.

Whole System/Open Systems

My thinking about organizational change developed significantly this semester in regards to viewing organizational change as a whole, open system process.  The Burke chapter on organization change provided great insight on how organizations operate, take in energy and expend energy.  I have found an understanding of systems theory is vital to understanding how to successfully implement organizational change.  Viewing change as a holistic, integrated process creates a clear foundation for change agents to construct effective strategies.  The movie we watched this semester, Mindwalk, also articulated the overwhelming presence of how interconnected our world really is, emphasizing the fact that fixing a broken “part” will only provide temporary relief to systemic challenges.

Our readings and large group facilitations this semester stress the importance of approaching organizations as an open system.  As organizations have evolved from top-down management to participative management, perspectives on organization dynamics have evolved from a micro perspective to a macro perspective.  Reading about Dr. Farmer’s work in Haiti provided a great example of the thorough, systemic approach he took to addressing the issues facing the people of Haiti.  Dr. Farmer took the effort to first work in a hospital system to understand the country’s healthcare system and surveyed the Haiti population to develop an understanding of the challenges they faced that went beyond healthcare.  Based on the information he gathered he understood the need to build schools, build homes, provide health education, improve the water systems and increase women’s literacy rates.  Dr. Farmer knew he had to address various aspects of the Haitian economic and social systems if he wanted to promote long-term change and improvement to the country’s health epidemic.  Dr. Farmer’s knowledge of the systems perspective to change was also displayed when he said “But white liberals think all the world’s problems can be fixed without any cost to themselves.” (Kidder).

The significance of the “whole system” approach to organizational change was also evident in the three large group intervention strategies.  Each strategy has its own nuances but each one is based on the foundation of gathering people from across departments and from all levels to address organizational change.  Bringing together this diverse group of people brings all perspectives to the forefront and helps people see the big picture of what is going on in the organization.  The synergy created from this process is remarkable.  It was great to be able to see this in all of the large group facilitations this semester.

Dialogue & Communication

Another critical factor success I learned is needed for effective organizational change is open dialogue and clear, consistent communication.  Communication is essential to help people understand the basis for the changes desired, the process that will be utilized, and the commitment needed from each person involved.  Chapter 22 of the Gallos text provided a great example of using dialogue to clarify the reasons for change and also get people on board with the change efforts.  This chapter discussed how one of Kodak’s divisions approached changes to their structure by providing a safe place for people to communicate their concerns.  The leaders of the division had several town hall meetings to give people the opportunity to voice their fears, frustrations and work through the conflicts at hand.  Eventually people were able to understand why the changes were occurring and got on board with helping create the change.  Communication is also essential in the change process because unexpected problems are bound to arise throughout the process.  When these problems come up, people should be able to rely on effective communication to address issues and create solutions.

We also learned about the benefits of open dialogue when reading Chapter 35 of Gallos’ text which discussed an approach to creating a community of leaders.  Various examples were provided of top leaders coming together to help communities in need while also engaging in open dialogue with each other about their backgrounds and their experiences that make them the leaders they are today.  APT’s personal credo blog post also touched on this when she talked about how “change requires individual authenticity.”  Organizations are made of individuals, and each individual’s mindset and behaviors are influenced from a diverse array of experiences.  When leaders are able to understand themselves, they become more effective leaders and change agents.

The value of dialogue was also seen in the large group facilitations.  OST facilitations thrive on dialogue as there little structure to this process and participants create their own agendas.  Appreciative Inquiry and Future Search have more structured processes to use, but each of these is also fueled by the dialogue among small groups and then with the large group coming together.  Future Search emphasizes the importance of discussing the organization’s past and present before talking about how to get to a desired future state.  Appreciative Inquiry focuses on reframing dialogue in a positive, affirming way to promote sustainable change.  Dr. Farmer spent a large portion of his time interviewing residents of Haiti to understand their struggles and the things that motivate them.

Imagery

I learned much of the importance of imagery throughout the large group intervention strategies.  A key underlying assumption of these is that images create action.  Whitney & Trosten-Bloom identify the theoretical roots of image theory are derived from the work of Elis and Kenneth Boulding and Frederik Polak.  Appreciative Inquiry and Future Search provided great examples of the power of our imagination.  Future Search approaches the creation of images by provoking people to think use knowledge of the past and present to create images for the future.  Appreciative Inquiry focuses on combing the power of creating desirable images with affirming dialogue as a method of achieving successful change.

Culture

The significance of understanding an organization or community’s culture prevailed in so many ways throughout the semester.  We began the semester learning about the theoretical reasons by reading about Lewin’s work on group dynamics and field theory.  Lewin’s research showed that, “As long as group standards are unchanged, the individual will resist change more strongly the further he’s expected to depart from group standards.  If the group standard itself is changed, the resistance which is due to the relation between the individual and group standard is eliminated.”  Burke states that this dynamic present in groups means that change efforts should focus on the norms related to an organization’s culture.  We also learned about an important equation: behavior = person x environment.  This equation is a simple way to identify the impact of the environment on a person’s behaviors.

This was reiterated when I interviewed a change agent who worked for an organization that struggled with implementing successful change.  Her experience taught her the value in learning about an organization’s culture before diving into the planning and implementation of change as it provides insight into why people may or may not be interested in participating in the process.

I also learned about the importance of culture when Tom Epperson from Luck Stone visited our class to discuss his organization’s transformation to become a values based organization.  He emphasized lengthy process the organization took to impact the various aspects of the organization’s culture to create a more innovative and effective organization.  As discussed in one of Laura’s blog posts, Luck Stone took measures to adjust their physical work spaces to create an atmosphere that matched the culture and values they were working to create.

Closing Thoughts

This semester I gained a lot of knowledge on the theory behind organizational change, and the “must haves” of achieving successful change.  My career change to human resource management is based on my passion to help both individuals and organizations work productively together to build a successful organization.  Organizations are only facing tougher competition from the global market and people are needed to create innovative ideas to keep up.  I have learned this semester the importance of creating a culture that promotes open and honest communication across all levels and functions of an organization.  I have worked for organizations that had extremely low levels of morale and have seen first hand management’s struggle on how to “fix the problem.”  This class has taught me the systems mindset that is needed to accomplish an organization’s desired goals.  I know now that helping management see this is one of the first steps to the long-term project of organizational change.  The interview with a change agent combined with the experience of facilitating a large group intervention taught me the essential qualities and resources needed to implement change.  The readings, projects and interview from this semester have opened my mind and created a refined sense of how to be an effective change agent and methods for approaching the challenges faced by organizations working to attain a desired state.  As I gain experience in the human resource field I plan to utilize the knowledge gained in this class to help organizations build a quality workforce readily adaptable for the world’s challenges.

References

Burke, W. Warner. (2011).  Theoretical Foundations of Organizations and Organizational

Change. In Shaw, L.C. (Ed), Organization Change: Theory and Practice (pp. 55-72). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Gallos, Joan V. (2006). Organization Development: A Jossey-Bass Reader. San

Francisco, CA: Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Kidder, Tracy. (2004). Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A

Man Who Would Cure the World. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.

Owen, H. (2008). Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide. Third Edition. San

Francisco: CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Whitney, D. & Trosten-Bloom, A. (2010). The Power of Appreciative Inquiry: A

Practical Guide to Positive Change. Second Edition.  San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Appreciative Inquiry Facilitation

I thoroughly enjoyed our group’s Appreciative Inquiry Summit on Robust Health and Wellness.  I knew I was interested in learning more about this type of facilitation because thinking about things in a positive light seemed like it could be a powerful tool.  I also have a sincere interest in health and wellness and hope to ultimately be involved in this area in my career.  Our group worked really well together bringing in different perspectives and ways of thinking and processing things.  I think this really enhanced our ability to create a facilitation that would reach out to all our participants.  The Affirmative Topic choice was certainly our first hurdle to overcome as it was challenging to choose a topic we thought would have an impact on each participant attending.  We knew this was one of the most important decisions to make as this choice determines the direction of the change process.  Once we reached to a consensus on the topic choice we were able to move productively through the remaining planning stages.  Our topic choice had the essential characteristics described by Whitney & Trosten-Bloom: positive, desirable, stimulate learning, and stimulate conversations about desired futures.  Each of us as individuals has an optimal state of health and wellness we would like to attain, and sharing stories and dialogue with others can help us get closer to our desired destination.

It was very exciting to see all of our participants at the facilitation really open up with each other and share their ideas on health and wellness.  There were diverse outlooks and ideas of what each person attributed to health and wellness but there were also many commonalities that were identified.  I think Appreciative Inquiry takes a logical step by step process in first interviewing people – which gives everyone a change to speak and be heard – then come together in the large group and share the high points they heard in their interviews, and working to identify common themes.  When people  see their ideas, stories and thoughts being heard they are more likely to hold themselves accountable to the change efforts.

There were times we probed participants to reframe ideas in a more positive, affirming way as this is one of the keys to appreciative inquiry.  We could see how the process of reframing helped participants see there really is more than one way you can choose to view something, and focusing on an affirmative outlook can help bring about sustainable change.

One of the key principles of Appreciative Inquiry that makes it different from other change strategies is its focus on imagery.  This is based on the notion that creating images of a desired future state influences the actions we take in the present.  It was so great to see each of the two groups of participants work together to illustrate their thoughts of an ideal weekend.  The process seemed to bring about creativity that people didn’t realize they had.  Overall it seemed that the participants enjoyed sharing their stories with each other, identifying ways to accomplish robust health and wellness and illustrating their ideas.    The foundations of Appreciative Inquiry are sound, and I can see why they have helped so many organizations, communities and relationships surpass their goals.

Appreciative Inquiry in Practice

I read an article for my Public HRM class I am taking this semester which I found to utilize many aspects of appreciative inquiry.  The article discussed the state of Wisconsin’s cooperative approach to addressing issues regarding labor relations and public sector bargaining.  While the article referred to its approach as both cooperative and problem-solving interchangeably, which contrasts  appreciative inquiry’s theory of avoiding problem-solving, deficit based approaches, the state’s methods and practices were well aligned with those of appreciative inquiry.  For example, Wisconsin’s consensus bargaining focuses on positive labor-management relationships.  Instead of assuming each party in the negotiation is fundamentally different and has conflicting interests, consensus bargaining operates on the idea that both parties have common interests.  The process begins by including all necessary members to focus on interests of mutual concern to both parties so negotiations begin on a more positive note.   Consensus bargaining was implemented to address a crisis environment in which the state was incurring astronomical costs due to ineffective bargaining.  Success was proven when the bargaining process was shortened from 14 months to two months.  This article provided an example of how useful and practical of an approach appreciative inquiry can be in such a wide variety of settings.