Friday, August 24, 2012

Reflection / Short notes: CBL Workshop

(I) Establishing Norms
It's group work! We worked from two per group at the start, and very quickly merged into bigger groups. Haha... it sounds like small companies could not 'survive' with limited resources (in this case, brain power) so the next clever thing to do is the go for 'merger' :)

It has reminded us of something that we take for granted... and often because we 'neglected' it, we could not understand why students don't work well in a group, and we do not know how to help them to trash out their problematic group relationships.

Establishing Group Norms is one way to address to potential issues. Of course, that also means that all agreed to follow the norms agreed upon. Right? We can have rules, but if people just break rules, what's the point of having it in the first place?

Interestingly, the group norms are established at 2 stages.
The first round, we were tasked to come up with 5 things that we feel are important for us to agree on when working in groups. After each pair shared the "top" item in the list, we were given another opportunity to re-look at the list, which we can modify. Nevertheless, this time, it came with a condition that requires us to see that what we listed fits into a list of desirable behaviour (e.g. to address to times when we do not question assumptions, our want to win, our need to avoid embarrassed and how we can protect ourselves.

Indeed, for both Karen and I, we did not make changes except that we added the 5th one, "be open".
Indeed, it seems like what we had earlier (the first 4 items) already addressed to "requirements". It's really a matter of making connections and rationalising the descriptors :)

On the other hand, I think, after going through this exercise, we recall (and understand) that it's worth establishing group norms in order to have everybody align to their expectations and goals. Understanding and respect are important. By establishing group norms will help to improve the team performance! So, it's time worth spending. This would be a good attempt to establish a good and pleasant working relationship, especially for those do not know each other well. I guess this is something that we must make an attempt to get the groups to do it whenever we get students to work in groups, even though we know that students might have known each other. Well, sometimes even good friends need to have certain norms established especially when there is a piece of job to complete.

Perhaps we have also taken for granted when working with adult learners. Thinking that all are adults and would 'automatically' work towards the common goal "without much disagreement" (I guess). Seriously, that's something we should look out for...

(II) Using TIME... and In-Action Review
What's the assumption?Time given is just to ensure "job done". More often than not, we are not aware that it could be used to push for more positive team dynamics.

Yes, with the short time frame given, and it's built over 2 to 3 activities, it helps to gel the members more closely and speaking up to ensure getting the work done.

Another pretty useful strategy for teachers to provide feedback to students is doing "In-Action Review". In fact, this is not something new, however, it's the first time hearing it "explicitly". It's actually giving feedback to students (participants) while they are in action. That requires one to direct almost all the attention to observe the process - in particular the behaviour and interaction, and provide feedback to the team. What I noticed was, Paviter did not just describe what he saw, but he attempted to make a comparison and inform us of the change (positive change), which I thought this enforced the team to strive for greater collegiality. In the team we know, it's like providing feedback during formative assessment. Except, this time, he decided to provide us with feedback on the group dynamics.

(III) Clarifying Focus & Priority
The end product was a video clip for the team to demonstrate our understanding of the workshop.
(Well, at the end of the day, it's of course, Paviter's deliverable to the team that initiated the workshop - Mrs Chew & Ron).

When 'announced' that the end-product is a video, some of us immediately 'distracted' by the 'secondary' product (which was the video) and dive into how to create that video production, "conceptualise" how it should look like; of course, for someone who is not familiar with multimedia would be anxious 'cos 'unable' to produce that end product.

Doesn't this sound familiar?  It was very obvious. We were just like any of our students (if we observe carefully amongst ourselves). Unknown to many of us, naturally, we "de"-focus our attention to the "form" rather than the demonstration of learning.

I thought this segment of the workshop is good... and Paviter has done a good job by reminding the team consistently what is the primary task? That is what is the "content"? Focus! Focus! Focus! That helps us to remind ourselves what is our deliverable.

I guess one learning point here is, we must consciously and consistently remind ourselves the primary objective of the outcome. It's not the form (though packaging makes a difference), but the demonstration of understanding (else it would just look like an empty shell). Remember? Sometimes we just feel so unsatisfied after attending some presentation - where speakers come up with fantastic visuals however there was no meaningful takeaway from the session.

(IV) Think-out-of-the-box moment
It is a survival skill!
Haha... I think this applies (in my experience) when one has to think of a means to overcome a 'shortcoming' or disadvantage, and it requires us to make good connections to justify (though sometimes such justifications could be deemed as 'force-fit'). Or it's also a means to get one out of a difficult (er... even embarrassing) situation?

To be able to do this, ah! there's where we exercise our critical thinking skills, make connections and have the courage to present things in a different or even an commonly 'unacceptable' perspective!

Just a simple illustration - the workshop deliverable was a video.
However, the team was not able to create the production that actually would needed more time to do.

In the end, thanks to the fact that each of us have a learning device, we went back to the very first idea that was proposed (however, in 'discrete' pieces) where each created a slide to present one learning point. However, as we did not have the time to put everything together in one single presentation before converting it into a video clip, we arrange all the devices in a circle which the audience could walk around to view the thoughts.

Well, of course, it's not a video, technically. However, let's think slightly deeper to draw some commonalities. In this set-up, audience can start at any point (from any of the computer, from where they stand).  It's just like video, we can just begin at any juncture. However, this format gives us the flexibility of moving forward or backward. In addition, one could adjust the pace, too! slower at junctures that we wanted to pause, chew and digest or junctures that we know and want to move on to the next very quickly!

On the other hand, for someone who insists that it MUST be a 'VIDEO' and sticks to its technical definition, he would consider this as a 'non-submission'. Haha.. So, do we want to encourage people to think out of the box and present the 'arguments' that we had? or do we just want to strictly stick to what we 'know'. So, it again challenges one's flexibility and openness to hear and assess from a different perspective, I think.

(V) 2 relevant websites:

Below are notes & brief reflections made during the workshop on 24 August 2012

Focus of Today's session - Reflection & Rigour

(1) NORMs
Question the norms
- Are we so 'used' to just accepting what's given to us?
- The ask "why" mindset - are we holding on to assumptions that we 'think' is reasonable? and without thinking through/ rationalise

* common goals
* commitment
* be present
* white space

> Time to communicate
> How to communicate without being defensive... using techniques like "Yes... and..." and "Yes... but..." to put down barriers that 'naturally' exist.

** most of the time we do not question assumptions
** we want to win
** we want to avoid being embarrased
** we want to protect ourselves

Establishing norm is key to a performing team: For common understanding (to reduce tension, arguments)
* Everybody speaks once before anybody speaks right
* Allow students to challenge each other - however, it's important for the students to know how to ask questions in a respectful manner

Students should be able to reflect and ask questions - Openness

Think/Writedown our thoughts, what we've just done, how we could do it or bring to class?
<Norms> <Reflection & Rigour>

Use of Ladder of Inference - to test assumptions
- not just question why are we doing it?
- but to ask what is the 'real' big picture - the Big Idea


"In action review" vs "After action review"
  • Reflection can focus on interaction amongst the team members

The use of "time limit" to "pressurise"
  • To 'force' dynamics within a group within a short time
  • To 'force' or direct the members to a common goal 
  • The staging of "time limits" 
In-action review enables teacher to surface potential, possible a good feedback mechanism to level up group performance. At the same time, "trains" students of the appropriate work protocol.
  • Observation is powerful! 
  • By posting provoking questions to redirect/ refocus their thoughts
  • Data-driven process

The task
Create a video that you will share with your students explaining clearly what you learnt today.

The measure of success: Rubrics - the set of guidelines that demonstrates one's understanding

Make your own slide show at Animoto.

Here's the 'complete' one, put together by Aurelius

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