Sunday, April 16, 2006

"Espoused Theory" vs "Theory-in-Use"

from The LOOPs... @ Branch Meeting April 3, 2006

It's the first time I come across these 2 terms, "Espoused Theory" and "Theory-in-Use", though from the meaning is rather explicit, literally.

The simplest explanation I get for "espouse" is "commit", and of course, "Theory-in-Use" is actually what's in action. And therefore, by putting "Espoused Theory" and "Theory-in-Use" together, I see that it's close to "Are we walking our Talk?".

DD started off by contextualising it to what we do, as an ETO, and what we want to accomplished, being an agent out in the school. Yes, we believe we are the catalyst and we want to build capacities, and we are supposedly to be the information broker (to the schools!!!). These are our beliefs, our wants, our wishes... then look at what's translated into action, look at the reaction & responses from the schools, do they see our beliefs? what we want to happen?

If they do, probably, we are close to reconcilling the two... isn't it? The thinkings and 'want-to-be's have been translated into actions... or have we isolated the two in the course of performing our role?

Back to the personal level, it goes back to our very own self, I believe... we have our dreams, we have things we want to see... but do our actions bring us close what the dreams? Realised that since coming to the ETD, there are lots of good-to-haves, good-to-do, etc... that will bring about good changes to the classrooms... there we started 'preaching' the new approaches, etc... through our workshops, through the baseline lessons we work out, through our interaction with the teachers, etc... we have been selling them, because yes, at least I myself am bought in to the goods it brings... on the other hand, I wonder, is it because now I'm slightly more distant from the exam system, I don't have to be accountable to the results of the 40 students in the class... I'm 'freed-up' from this 'burden'... If I'm back to the school, how will I see the whole thing again? I wonder...

from the website:

Argyris and Schon (1978) distinguish between single-loop and double-loop learning, related to Gregory Bateson's concepts of first and second order learning.

In single-loop learning, individuals, groups or organizations modify their actions according to the difference between expected and obtained outcomes.

In double-loop learning, the entities (individuals, groups or organization) question the values, assumptions and policies that led to the actions in the first place; if they are able to view and modify those, then second-order or double-loop learning has taken place. Double loop learning is the learning about single-loop learning.
chris argyris: theories of action, double-loop learning and organizational learning
A revisit: Theories of Action (13 August 2006)

Read the above article... and I think this time, have a clearer idea what the theory-in-use and espoused theory encompass...

  • The words we use to convey what we, do or what we would like others thinks we do, can then be called espoused theory. Example:
  • In explaining our actions to a colleague, we may call upon some convenient piece of theory. We might explain our sudden rush out of the office to others, or even ourselevs at some level, by saying that a 'crisis' had arisen with one of 'our' clients.
  • The theory-in-use might be quite different. We may have become bored and tired by the paper work or meeting and felt that a quick trip out of an apparently difficult situation would bring welcome relief.

  • Governing variables: dimensions that people are trying to keep within acceptable limits. Any action is likely to impact upon a number of such variables - thus any situation can trigger a trade-off among governing variables.
  • Action strategies: the moves and plans used by people to keep their governing values witin the acceptable range.
  • Consequences: what happens as a result of an action.

A revisit: The Single-loop and double-loop learning

  • Learning involves the detection and correction of errors.
  • When something goes wrong, it is suggested, an initial port of call for many people is to look at another strategy that will address and work within the governing variables.
  • In other words, given or chosen, goals, values, plans and rules are operationalised rather than questioned. 换汤不换药。
  • This is single-loop learning.

  • An alternative response is to question to governing variables themselves, to subject them to scrutiny.
  • This they describe as double loop learning.
  • Such learning may lead to an alteration in the governing variables and thus, a shift in teh way in which strategies and consequences are framed.

  • Single-loop learning seems to be present when goals, values, frameworks and, to a significant extent, strategies are taken for granted.
  • The emphasis is on techniques and makeing techniques more efficient.
  • Any reflection is directed toward making the strategy more effective.

  • Double-loop learning involves questioning the role of the framing and learning systems which underlie actual goals and strategies.
  • Double-loop learning is necessary if practitioners and organisations are to make informed decisions in rapidly changing and often uncertain contexts.


Reflecting... Relating to work... relating to baseline...

  • Dipsticking exercise is a strategy that we used to measure the current status of the pupils' standards pilot in schools.
  • Review carried out at the operational level includes how it is being carried out (Set A/B for different groups of pupils), logistics improvement, design of the tasks, etc... all these remain within the single loop.
  • We have not really question the fundamentals, at this level... as far as those of us who are working on the operational aspect of the dipsticking exercise.

  • Next, we started to question... "Does dipstick work here? By conducting the dipsticking exercise, have we really met our fundamental objectives? Have our objectives changed over time, etc... " Are we doing it for the sake of doing - completing the whole cycle?
  • And now, Sai Choo wants to have data to decide on whether to go ahead or not.
  • Are we revisiting our fundamentals? Now we question, is dipstick THE way...
  • I guess this level of review has moved up to double loop.

Other single loops @ baseline... (hm...)

  • Lesson visits @ pilot schools - started off at the beginning of the year, getting schedule from schools, going down to schools to observe lessons, refinement of feedback forms, etc...

  • Creation of lesson resources - is that the way? Did we review how useful, helpful, 'relevant' in the context of 'integration' by the practitioners in schoos? The way the lessons are designed has been the key focus... have we really met the needs of the implementers at the ground? or we have made assumptions that that's THE way, and when things don't work out well, the problem comes from the way materials are designed??? Have we stepped back to look at other influencing factors?

  • ...

Sunday, April 09, 2006

New Look, Old Look

The other one colleague using my notebook (during a workshop) commented... why is it the display still follows the old window look & feel... {meaning how come it's not of the current Windows XP look and feel} and that would probably cause confusion to the participants... Well, for the sake of the workshop, the look and feel was updated... but very quickly, after the session, it's reverted back to the 'old' look... because ... I'm comfortable with the old look.

Though it's a simple and insignificant matter... it's also telling of....
  • ... die-hard habits... Yes, it's hard to change when we're into something we're comfortable with. On the other hand, I often ask myself... given a choice, old and new, what will I choose... depending on personal preference, right? For instance, I've been so used to that navigating environment, I can find all the stuff so much easier and quickly... why should I use something that I have to spend sometime to get use to? It's just a matter of the same thing wearing a new coat (catching up with the 'fashion'). OK, I agree it's very easy to get use to it... but I guess as long as we can practise flexibility, it's fine, isn't it? And always keeping in mind the good of having diversity in terms of working habits, too...

  • If I were to perceive the comment in another perspective - a negative one - I could possibly interpret as 'hey, how come you're not keeping up with time'... of course, I hope he's not referrring to that :D hahaha... OK, different people have different means to keep up with time, anyway...

What they mean to me... Worklife Harmony & Workload, Communication and Efficiency

Worklife Harmony & Workload
Should "Work" and "life" be seen differently? "Workload" becomes the interference to the balance of both "work" and "life"?

"Work" is a simple word, yet it fits itself very well in a wide range of contexts. According to the dictionary, it refers to "continued exertiion or activity directed to some purpose or end; especially, manual labour, hence, opportunity for labour, occupation". So, it seems like "occupation" is closest context that we usually associated with (at least, in the climate survey).

How about "life"? Similarly, the simple word has very complex interpretations, too... from the most straightforward "That state in which animals and plants exist which distinguishes them from inorganic substances and from the dead organisms" to "The course of active human existance; human affairs" and "A certain manner or way of living".

There's this popular saying, "We eat to live?" or "We live to eat?"
Perhaps, we can look at "We work to live?" or "We live to work?"

I believe it depends a lot on how we view this.

Some of us feel that "work" and "life" should not be mixed... work is work, life is life (ok, life here I believe is referring to "personal life"). Work should not interfere with our personal life, especially in days when we bring back with us the negative experiences and moods from the workplace and create stirs back at home. Life should be fully devoted to people and self. Anyway, we are paid for what's listed in the TOR, isn't it?

On the other hand, when work becomes part of life, ie. when it has successfully taken a place in our 'sources of joy'... then it's rather difficult to draw a line between life and work. Well, that's where sometimes we are labelled 'workaholics' and are always cautioned by others that it's very "unhealthy". At a second look, if we are doing something we enjoy... do we regard that as being engaged in "unhealthy" work(?)/life(?)... I just wonder...

I think it ultimately depends how we see it... If we are doing something we enjoy, the word "work" would have faded from the activity iteself. Of course, if it's something we do not like to do, the word will appear in an extra large font and bold!!! hahaha... For instance, for one who enjoys reading, having to browse through books and references could be a joy - a pleasant thing to do; whereas one who dislikes reading will deem it as "work" straightaway, even though there's obvious value in doing the reading! Take a look at our personal life, there are also lots of things that we deem as 'work'!

Space is essential to create worklife harmony... space meaning having the time to take a break... to slow down the pace... to seek quiet time to relax and reflect (ok, maybe when one relax, one should not reflect... hahaha.... hm... some contradiction here, huh???... but isn't it that one can reflect better when the mind is freed up???)

OK, I know that I should not be living in the past... but sometimes can't help to recall my experience being away from 'work'... yes, I was away from work where many who know me envied me taking a break... yes, taking a break from the routines, the day-in-day-out madness. Some of my friends reminded me to enjoy the quality life out there, because to many, it means I'm being away from 'work' and was able to do something different - ie, not teaching, not managing the dept, not doing all the fire-fighting work back in the school. However, does that mean I'm not working?

Well, I was working too! Even harder, I think, being subjected to a totally different environment. Not just to fulfil what's spelt out in the TOR and value-add further, also having to work on building the relationships with counterparts of totally different mindsets and attitudes different from the Singaporean breed. But, with an end in mind, that aligns with what I want to achieve in my personal life... work and life joined hands... Apart from stealing time to smell the flowers and hear the birds on my way to work... it's work.... :D

In terms of workload, I think it depends largely the breadth and depth we are looking at. The more diversity, the less commonality among the tasks, the more demanding it becomes. It's not easy to multi-task when things are different - we are stretched... and overstretched... Is this something within our control?

Then the depth of each task... sometimes just wonder... how much details? or perhaps how brief can it be? It's torturing to write detailed reports... however, if it does not capture enough details, is the document going to be a useful reference in times of need? Not everybody have elephant brains!

"Who" do" we communicate? "Why" do/"What for" we communicate? "What" do we communicate? "How" do we communicate?

Communication is a very very big word... when we talk, we communicate?... or do we communicate until the other party is 'present' and can figure out what's intended for their ears?

"Who" do we communicate to? Do we know who are our intended audience? One simple example was an recent email sent out by a committee chairman, informing an external party on confirming a meeting date and time. This email was cc to all the committee members for information. What happened was, some of the committee members REPLY TO ALL (including the external party) indicating their availability to the meeting. Though it's a small matter, it somehow illustrated how 'bothered' are we to pay attention who should and should not be the intended recipent of the message. This example may not be seen as 'communication', more like informing... however, informing is the first step to communicate.

Very often, we also asssume others having the background knowledge or information on matters that we talk about... "We thought you know..." is often the excuse we have... is there a need to clarify and bridge some assumptions first? and sometimes we thought we know and nodded our head and say "yes, yes, ..." thinking we know!!! We communicate with a purpose, we communicate because we wanted to achieve some level of understanding and proceed with other course of actions... our assumptions introduce an unseen wall to it... which makes us wonder why somethings things turn out otherwise...

Communication, most of the time, comes with dissemination of information, and being timely is important too... to both direct and indirect recipients of information. Not forgetting accessibility of information - it depends on the channels of communication, the systems and structures of communication, too...

We can interpret this in the simplest form - doing the work with the least amount of time. On the other hand, do not forget about quality of work, too... should it be deemed as quality work drives efficiency?

Then, what's quality work? There are different yardsticks, too. Overly high standards becomes high demands and lead to high inefficiencies.

Basically, my personal take is efficiency is linked to
  • proficiencies and competencies - one has to possess the necessary knowledge and skills - when working on a given task, it's like the application of what we possess. The smoothness of a task execution also comes with experiences of self and others (who have done similar tasks in the past)
  • the awareness and networking of information - there are lots and lots of information lying around us - in the network systems or in the people around us. Often, we were quite proud of the 'systems' we have established, and conveniently point others to the 'location' of information (eg. T drive)... hey, we forget these locations are also growing very very fast each day... should we be more bothered to be specific? It saves time of swimming in the information to identify what we exactly want.
  • clear communication of expectations
  • maintenance of systems - there is no point establishing a system for a short 'working life-span' and be left there like a white elephant due to technical issues. Systems are established to get things in order, so that processes take place in a more sytematic way, and somehow enhances efficiency and effectiveness of work. More often than not, systems are established and normally 'owned' by the 'creator' who knows it inside-out... what happens when the 'creator' leaves the organisation? Is there a systematic transfer of knowledge and ownership? If not, what's going to happen to the system? It will die a natural death, isn't it? As every system is established with a specific purpose, to meet some needs... eventually the need will be re-surfaced and those with no background of the existence of such a system may have to re-invent the wheel again? Then... there goes efficiency....

Friday, April 07, 2006

SEED... a second look

Recently, got the chance to sit in 3 SEED lessons... at different schools... it's an eye-opener! Really, I'm influenced by the joyous and happy atmosphere emitted by the little children within the 4 walls! Seeing is believing!

The 3 lessons... provides 3 different perceptions of SEED. After the first one, I thought it was similar to the 'Inter-disciplinary Project' (IPW) lessons in secondary schools. However, as I saw the 2nd and 3rd lessons... no, not necessary! It can be teacher-led! It can also be disguised as extension and support to the curriculum, too... So, SEED puts on a different coat, depending on the creativity of the implementer. Yes, I think the teacher has a great influence in the success of a SEED class. In the first place, the teacher must must must strongly believe in the goods and benefits sow from the programme, from the students' participation. And for sure, the teacher must be confident to manage the activities in the class... and the unthreatening environment, learning takes place as a result of cooperation and help from the members, etc... wah, wah, wah!

Indeed, I enjoyed the classes... sometimes, in the middle of the lesson, I nearly forgot my role being in the classroom... to learn and pin point on areas where Baseline IT skills can sneak into the programme and run in a subtle yet "influential" way... Yes, we want to leverge on this platform to further enrich and yield even better learning experiences. Indeed, it requires lots of creativity to plan out activities for the programme, too... to ensure its relevance...