Before you respond to the question, think about

  1. your vision for the endproduct and
  2. the process you value most for getting “there” (whatever “there” ends up to be).

In my reflection on last week’s class, I realized why I was worked up in the ways that I was: the two groups that followed the After Dachau fishbowl changed the task. Such a change is a direct challenge to my authority as the teacher. I assigned the scope that I thought best suited the moment, and you all blew me off completely (not to mention the ideas/process I was attempting to facilitate)!

The thing about dynamics is that (duh!) they are always in motion, which means some “distance” (measured in terms of time) is necessary for reflection. The more I learn about group dynamics, the more you would think I could avoid every single expression of emotion or faux paux or otherwise fail to manipulate the outcome in the direction that I want. I sensed dissent/concern about the definition (“gist”) of the proposed coursewiki project, and wanted you to explore the differences further. It was not clear to me until several days after last class, that my frustration was NOT that there was a group of people advocating consistently for one particular idea. I was nearly beside myself that “you” (in the generic, nonspecific plural) had decided that your task for the moment was To Make A Decision.

Why the rush? Especially when the resistance/reluctance was so clear? Yes, we have a limited time to get things done, and . . . is there enough time to try and collaborate? I think so . . . but it depends on what each of you value. So, read carefully (!): I have no real problem with you dissing the structure I (tried to) establish for Class #6. If you had not pushed back, for instance, I would not have had to wonder why I was so obviously frustrated – and it is that intrapersonal wondering which led me to realize the tension was not about role as much as task.

In other words, you weren’t dissing me as “Steph” or as “teacher”; as a group you had just decided something else was more important to do. This kind of disagreement is common in groups! It will continue to happen in our group! What might change, though, is how we understand it while it is happening, and this – in turn (at least, in theory!) will enable us to make different (better?) choices for our own behaviors/contributions to the activity at hand.

As several of you noted in the homework* progress was made (yahoo!), and not only on the one main matter of exploring the sources of disagreement for a creative synthesis. The most significant development in the group’s discourse about the coursewiki project was that you actually began to discuss how to make decisions.

*Read What are you/we going to produce? Post a reply back, speculating what may have been different about your behavior if you had read this post before class (as suggested). If you did read this before Class #6, then explain and provide evidence for how this additional knowledge influenced your decision-making processes during class)

There’s more progress to go (of course, smile), but the last fishbowl (ostensibly on “evaluating process”) did (sortof) consider the consequences of a majority-minority vote prior to actually instigating a classwide vote. To date, any effort to achieve consensus has been dismissed out-of-hand (why are you so convinced it is impossible?!), but at least you did venture to propose a majority vote….although did not decide if you meant a simple majority or a plurality. Would everyone in the class agree to a vote that was a simply 51%? Should a higher bar be established? If so, what? The 14:7 breakdown is roughly 2/3rds of those present, but the very first comment after the vote was (something to the effect of), “but is that enough to assume we should go ahead?” In other words, is it fair – and if so, on what basis – for fully a third of the class to be disinvested? I’m just asking! 🙂

What matters is the process of agreement itself – not only that decisions get made, but that everyone understands and accepts the way that decisions get made.

So, now, here you are. Your homework over spring break is going to involve you writing up a proposal for your part of the coursewiki (to be posted in your own weblog with a link from a post here) and reading the book: Look Me in the Eye. A foundational decision concerning the Coursewiki overall is whether you want everyone in class to follow the same protocol or whether diversity in this matter is acceptable (or even preferable!) Please post (“leave a reply”) your opinion here (login first!) and include some reaction to the hypothesis I’ve presented about the group getting caught up in a rush to decisionmaking….whether you agree or disagree with my assessment, what learning is important for us as a group to recognize and remember? If there is anything specific (individual) that you learned and want to express, please do so, too.

Yes, now (during lab). 🙂