The following links go to my post cycle reflections. These are progressive reflections specific to the cycle.
Cycle 2 & 3
Robert Allen said, “There is no failure. Only feedback.” My action research did not go the way I initially planned. In some ways, I felt like I had failed in my goal. My initial desire was to create a means for the team to learn about learning so that we could move beyond click-and-read online modules. However, after some reading and reflection, I realized that it had less to do with what we knew and more to do with how we were connected as a team. Thus, I thought I could create a community of practice around our activities.
About halfway through the project, I was extremely frustrated and lost sight of what I was trying to learn. I revisited some of my research material and recognized that I was taking the wrong approach. Instead of trying to change the people on my team, I realized that I needed to change myself. My practice needed to change. As a starting point, I identified an area where I was engaged with others in active sharing and mutual learning. Thus, my action research truly became an endeavor to change my world where I could best leverage my capabilities.
Each cycle report has its own in-depth reflection. In this section, I will summarize some of the things that I learned that go beyond this project.
As stated earlier, my initial goal was to teach my team about learning theory so that we could incorporate it into the training modules we build. While, I did not find a direct path to this goal, in some ways I equipped myself to discuss learning theory in a new way. This action research project has taught me a lot about social learning theory. It is an understanding that I can share with my teammates.
There were a few eye-opening experiences during this project. While we are hired by the organization to produce a tangible product, not much of my conversation with others dealt with this. Most of the words and ideas expressed are those that would fit comfortably in conversations about communities of practice. I think that this demonstrates the value of integrating social learning theory in the organization’s training programs. It seems that while people come to work to earn a living, ultimately they want to feel a sense of connection, where they can establish their identities and construct meaning.
As an ongoing initiative, I want to explore a different model of employee training. Typically, we focus on very specific skills. They are compartmentalized and many times not associated with our real work environment. Instead of focusing on isolated skills, what if we focused on teaching employees how to identify and participate in communities of practice? We could do this, by structuring personal development plans and work responsibilities in a manner similar to action research methodology.
I can speak from my experience. This research project put me in a position to observe my environment and determine how to influence it in a positive manner. For me, a key learning was to step away from an approach that required formal structure and instead focus on areas where I was actively involved in sharing and learning with others. In addition, because of my project, I had more access to other employees. I increased my network of connections, and I think established a deeper social connection with my teammates. I know more about them now, then prior to starting this project.
Another important part of my learning is that communities of practice do not just develop overnight. We need to build trust and establish social grace. Time-tested interaction allows this to happen. It allows us to negotiate meaning, so when we say words like “collaboration,” they mean the same to all.
Structurally, there needs to be a means to reflect and provide feedback as a team. I plan on working with my team and managers to create an environment where that happens. If we took an action research approach to our development, then there would be a structure as one of the expectations is to reflect on our activities and make adjustments in our actions.
During my research project, I was able to network with people from all over the organization. My efforts have lead to a site where we can capture collective knowledge and share it with future employees. Had I not taken this action, none of this would have happened. Now, I have a greater awareness of social learning theory, but most importantly, I have a more connections to others in the organization. These connections are potential conduits of activity for all who are connected to me and vice versa.
While I did not get the results that I envisioned when I started the research project, I did get results that satisfy me. I have a greater understanding of my work environment. One of my purposes in joining this program was to invigorate me. I felt stale at work. I accomplished this goal. I am excited about what I do and leave with a head full of ideas.
One discipline that I have developed and is reflected on my course site is the collection of resource materials. I owe a lot of my new understanding to the work of others, obviously people like Wenger, but also past OMET cadre peers. They have proven to be a valuable resource. I have come to appreciate the ability to organize and save resources for others to use. On my site, I have tried to provide access to the information I used. In addition, I like to play around with software and new technology ideas. I created a place to store those and possible help others in my cadre and those who follow us. I see it as a way to contribute to others who are in a similar pursuit, a means to strengthen our practice.
In conclusion, I can say that I am completely engaged and excited about what I have started and look forward to learning more.