Leadership Challenge #4

Module 5 Ldc reflection on provocative question #3

Provocative Question (LdC)

How can I positively influence my CoP through participation in “broader configurations of networks?


Reflect on Module 5 LDC Step 3 – determine your leadership challenge

For this challenge we were given the following direction: “Expand your social network to include knowledgeable individuals beyond your workplace setting.”

What did you end up doing for your leadership challenge last week?

I contacted two librarians and a pair of information science researchers, all of whom turn out to be quite nice and willing to talk. I talked to both of the librarians, and have an appointment to talk by Skype with the faculty members on March 8th. I also sent email to a third librarian, but have not heard back from her.

Reflect on Module 5 ldc Step 4 – assess and reflect on your leadership challenge

How did your change in behavior affect others in your Community of Practice? Tell the story of what happened.
Well, one of the things that I talked about with Tom and Tammy (the two librarians) was our desire to form an informal group of librarians who are interested in the general topic of transfer student support by libraries. While this won’t be a new community of practice, technically, I do look forward to building perhaps a community of interest. I also got some insights into how colleagues have successfully and unsuccessfully approached this problem, which I can then try out in my own context.

Reflect on your experience with the Leadership Challenge for this module.
I think that if you asked, most of my friends and colleagues would call me an extrovert, and my Myers-Briggs type (ENTP) follows that pattern. However, while I do get energy from interacting with other people, I generally do best in situations in which I know the majority of people and understand why I’m there and what is expected to happen. I really hate calling strangers on the phone or by email. This challenge this week, then, really has been a challenge. One thing that I’ve discovered is that it wasn’t that hard!

I first approached Tom Atwood because he had written a paper (with a now-deceased colleague) about library instruction for transfer students, across Ohio 2- and 4-year colleges. We talked on the phone on 2/15/17 for about an hour. Unfortunately for Tom, his university has had a lot of turnover at the senior and library leadership levels, and the standing of the library has fallen precipitously. Since writing the paper, most of his instruction librarians have been laid off, leaving him without the personnel needed to keep the programs going that he had started. Tom is also frustrated with the lack of interest in transfers among the instructional faculty, so he is working to identify and partner with administrative staff and faculty who work with transfers in an effort to “go around the faculty.” Talking with Tom was very interesting, in part because he feels strongly about this as a social justice issue of fairness and equity.

Tom suggested I contact Tammy Ivins at UNC-Wilmington. She is the new(ish) Transfer Student Librarian there, and had been planning a special issue of Reference Services Review about library services for transfers. I spoke with Tammy by phone on 2/24/17 for about an hour. She was also very happy to talk with me – and picked my brain just as much about our information literacy test and general education program as I did for her regarding her position and what she does. Tammy then suggested that I contact the people who were with her on a panel last week at the NISTS conference (which I think I should consider attending next year) – four additional librarians who have never otherwise published on this topic but who are, nonetheless, interested (one is an old friend of mine!).

Two years ago I read Lean In, as part of a talent development program at work. This exercise did feel like leaning in rather than leaning out – by contacting these librarians I opened myself up to a situation that makes me uncomfortable by stepping up to a new relationship. However, both Tom and Tammy were very excited to talk with me. Both of them talked about how glad they were to find someone else who is also excited about library support for transfer students. We started talking about how to create communication means to keep in touch not just with each other, but to welcome others in as well.

What this is teaching me is that in general, when you make it clear that you’re interested in hearing other people talk about something they’re passionate about, and don’t want anything from them, they’ll happily talk. What I want to figure out now is how to sustain these connections over time. Tammy noted that there probably aren’t enough of us to build a legitimate interest group in ACRL, but perhaps we could start a listserv. In my literature research, I inadvertently found the proceedings of a workshop on library services for transfer students that mentioned a Google group – I wonder if that still exists, and whether it could be rejuvenated? One of the people who is listed as a moderator of that workshop (Kelly McCallister at App State) was also one of Tammy’s suggested next contacts. Another positive change that seems to have happened is by way of a post I wrote in the 707 forum that mentioned that I’d talked to both Tom and Tammy – several of my classmates wrote that they were encouraged to contact folks as well, because of the success that I have had. That feels pretty good, and makes me feel more likely to overcome my shyness to keep leaning towards new people instead of away.

Module 7 LdC Steps 1, 2 and 3 on provocative question #4

Provocative Question (LdC)

How can your behaviors shape your action research study to be a COLLABORATIVE action research study?

Step 1. Prepare for an on-line Conversation

Quote/ideas from the book; applications/instances from your workplace setting Page number
“In this experience of mutuality, participation is a source of identity. By recognizing the mutuality of our participation, we become part of each other… Here I will just say that  a defining characteristic of participation is the possibility of developing an ‘identity of participation,’ that is, an identity constituted through relations of participation… Participation as I will use the term is not tantamount to collaboration. It can involve all kinds of relations, conflictual as well as harmonious, intimate as well as political, competitive as well as cooperative.” 55-56
“The complementarity of participation and reification yields an obvious but profound principle for endeavors that rely on some degree of continuity of meaning – communication, design, instruction, or collaboration… When too much reliance is placed on one at the expense of the other, the continuity of meaning is likely to become problematic in practice.” 65-66
“The indigenous product of practice makes communities of practice the locus of creative achievements and the locus of inbred failures; the locus of resistance to oppression and the locus of the reproduction of its conditions; the cradle of the self but also the potential cage of the soul.” 85
“Through alignment, we become part of something big because we do what it takes to play our part. What alignment brings into the picture is a scope of action writ large, of coordinated enterprises on a large scale, not inherent in engagement or in imagination.” 178
“Negotiabilty refers to the ability, facility, and legitimacy to contribute to, take responsibility for, and shape the meaning that matter within a social configuration. Negotiability allows us to make meaning applicable to new circumstances, to enlist the collaboration of others, to make sense of events, or to assert our membership.”  197
“A particular action can often be construed as an act of [identification or negotiability] depending on the context. For instance, claiming to be a ‘collaborative team’ can be a way to generate allegiance by proposing something that people can identify with; or, in the context of requesting the specific collaboration of someone, it can be a way to appropriate the definition of the community in order to push an agenda.”  210

Applications from workplace setting:

Although Wenger is very careful to point out that participation and collaboration are not the same thing, I don’t think you can have collaboration without participation (including the ideas of mutual purpose), or without an identity that includes participation in the community. I am thinking in particular of a case where collaboration did not go well at work; the person who was most problematic for this clearly did not consider herself part of our group, and in fact acted as if we were her competitors. She had different goals than we did, as well, which wasn’t always apparent.

Another thought about collaboration and communities of practice: it seems like one thing I’m trying to do in my work is to be a broker across multiple communities. I have no interest in becoming a member of the community of advisors (and don’t know how I would, short of a job change), but I recognize that they are instrumental to my work. However, if I can activate the community of advisors such that they incorporate the success of transfers on this test into their mutual purpose, then I’ll be more likely to get their sustained help into the future.

Step 2. Hold an on-line Conversation

Fishbowl notes: (Group 3: Kristy, Jessica, Tanya, Allison, JonB)

  • Allison: Recognize like to work independently, collaborating challenges us to get out of our comfort zones. Quote: p178-179 “Process of alignment bridges time and space…” George Lucas Foundation & PBL; virtual community (KIA) that collaborates on lesson plans, shares stories, etc.
  • Jessica quote: 164 about identity (“know who we are”). Feeling more comfortable b/c know where she fits in the community of our courses. Example: working with the critical friend
  • Jon quote about leaning in and introducing new individuals to be able to participate in the community.
  • Allison quote 185: “ability to disengage… ability to explore, take risks…” Critical friends do help with seeing things from different perspectives. People outside current context of practice is very valuable.
  • Kristy re: outside comfort zone – connected someone with transfer student advisor title, but what he does is very different than what she does. He is working on campus climate connections/engagement, not with retention.
  • Tanya – also found a connection with a private school person, with similar response.
  • Tanya – engagement and mutual engagement is important b/c want it to last. Really important to engage others so that it lives on – otherwise what’s the point? Quote 51: “In order to engage, must be alive in the world.” Have to show a behavior that indicates that we want to participate, and step back to get new perspective. Jon: Yes, have to understand other people’s perspectives in order to get somewhere – gets us new avenues for our interventions. “Perspective is not a recipe… rather it is a guide.” Need to stay open to other voices and not get stuck with one specific course.
  • Allison – yes, blinders on unless challenged to get outside of comfort zone by being challenged by people outside our CoP. p. 211 “Community building not by attempting to enforce standards… It takes mutuality.” Diversity of opinion & ideas about course of action – shared passion to make things better brings us together.

Thoughts on the fishbowl: It seems that Group 3 had a similar struggle with identifying quotations from Wenger as I did – this discussion did not go at all the direction I had expected it to go in. I’m interested in the discussion about reaching outside the community of practice to find people with whom to work, and to reach outside of one’s comfort zone to encourage growth. These ideas of leveraging the concepts of identity, mutuality, and alignment so as to encourage collaboration are powerful ones.

Step 3. Determine your Leadership Challenge

Note:  We are directing the Leadership Challenge for this module.

Expand your social network to include knowledgeable individuals beyond your workplace setting.  Find 1-3 others not in your institution, who have a similar problem as yours.  Establish a dialogue with them whereby you compare situations and learn from one another’s experiences.

Submit the channel you used to connect (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Alerts, discussion boards, email, phone call, etc.), who you connected with (a group or individuals), and a summary of your interactions thus far.

So far I have contacted the following:

  • Tom Atwood, University of Toledo librarian, by email and then talked by phone on 2/15/17.
  • Tammie Ivins, University of North Carolina – Wilmington librarian, by email and then talked by phone on 2/24/17.
  • Sylvia Tag, Western Washington University librarian, by email.
  • Drs. Melissa Gross and Don Latham, Florida State University iSchool faculty, by email. We are meeting by Skype on 3/8/17.

Tammie shared with me slides from a panel she chaired at the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students conference last week, so I have the panelists’ names and can contact them as well.

Step 4. Implement and Reflect

Module 7 LdC – Reported in the next report.


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