Tuesday, July 5, 2016

DFS Week 8 Reaction

I have worked about 10 hours this week.

I have been working on the wrap up of my work, analyzing the interviews. I did not meet officially with Jason this week. We have been communicating via email and had a networking happy hour on Tuesday.

The networking happy hour was similar to the last; however, much bigger! I met people from all different program areas and divisions. One of the people from the last happy hour and I interviewed was there, so it was nice to see a friendly face. He also introduced me to people as the evening went on. As silly as this sounds, I have to motivate myself quite a bit to get to these events. Once I am there, I am glad I went, but many times at the end of a long work day, going out and doing more work-related activities is a chore. I was exhausted when I got home! It is important; however, to be known and seen at these events. Leaders need to be shown as part of the group and human (something outside of the confines of an office). It allows leaders to see their team as individuals as well.

I expect to work on project with Jason through the rest of the summer. We both feel like there is more that can be explored with the work. Revisiting the original questions, one of them was to determine what the gaps were and how to address them. We have definitely identified some gaps, but the trickier part unsurprisingly is how to address them. This requires a bit more strategy and planning. If there is anything I have learned from reading Change Wars and Turnaround Leadership for Higher Education this semester is that it takes a lot of forethought in order to make successful change (Fullan & Scott, 2009; Hargreaves & Fullan, 2009).

Fullan, M., & Scott, G. (2009). Turnaround leadership for higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Heargreaves, A., & Fullan, M. (2009). Change wars. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

DFS Week 7 Reaction

I have worked about 9 hours so far this week.

I met with Jason this week to discuss our next steps. We have completed the interviews and now need to start the analysis. The biggest questions we have now is (1) what gaps and needs exist, and (2) what do we do next? I see this tying into a lot of our readings, in particular my choice book Turnaround Leadership for Higher Education. It talks about the need to identify what are the issues, but then one of the big themes of the book is that there needs to be integrators.  These are people that address the “how” in ideas, within universities. In my field study, we are not working with universities, but rather kindergarten through 12th grade. The idea still holds strong. Integrators would combat the paralysis that is seen among leadership in implemented the different strategies that have been talked about for years. One of the problems we have seen is the need to have a better understanding of what the issues are. Speaking in public health terms, I see that a good needs assessment would be so valuable in many of the different programs/division areas. Many of the decisions made seems to be made based on how it has always been done rather than the reality of the situation. This brings me to another theme about needing to make decisions and implement programs based on evidence-based data rather than anecdotes. (Fullan & Scott, 2009)

I think the analysis will bring about some characteristics on being a good leader that is successful in implementing good organizational change. I am thinking that next week and for my final paper, I will have a bit more to expand on, but the themes on leadership I have seen thus far are:
  1. Leaders need to operate from a place of good data.
  2. Leaders should support their team, partners, and stakeholders by using a variety of customized resources.
  3. Leaders should support their team so they can individually be successful, which will achieve the end goal.
  4. Leaders need to have a way to base their evaluations and assessments of their efforts (back to that data again!).
Fullan, M., & Scott, G. (2009). Turnaround leadership for higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

DFS Week 6 Reaction

This week, I completed approximately 6 hours of work.

We wrapped up the interviews this week. That is, unless we are able to contact a few more people who were referred to us. The two interviews we had this week were just about polar opposites. First we talked to Mark McCall. He is one of the directors over Highly Effective Leaders and Teachers. Since we had talked to another leader last week, we skipped over some of the basic information that we already had. It was interested though to pick his brain about what makes an effective teacher and how he sees his role and administrations' role in supporting the teacher. He defines success as increasing the number of highly effective teachers in Arizona. Note, there are four levels of teachers: highly effective, effective, developing, and ineffective. This is tricky since he said that while Arizona seems to have very high (about 93%) rates of effective and highly effective teachers, this does not translate to student performance and success. He suspects that if evaluations were more uniformed and fairly administered, we would have a lot lower of a rate. He sees the need to train administrators and leaders and remove biases in the evaluation process. To achieve a highly effective classification, a teacher must have met minimal student standards and be observed in the classroom showing one year of growth. He adds in that there should be a level of professionalism. That is, going above and beyond the minimums and what is expected, service, and add that something extra that makes students want to learn, making learning a combination of traditional and non-traditional deliveries.

The other interview was with Nancy Konitzer with Title I. This interview went particularly long (about 2 hours) and was quite overwhelming. Both Jason and I were a bit shell shocked walking out of that one! I knew somewhat about Title I (it's main goals, mission, and purpose), but did not understand the history and political impacts it has. For every question we asked, there were several avenues she explored to explain her answer. This included how things used to be, how they transitioned with No Child Left Behind, and the transition they now face. There is such a web of political maneuvering that occurs. I am relieved that there is not Title I at the university level, but am apprehensive since I know there is a whole different world of funding.

Friday, June 17, 2016

DFS Week 5 Reaction

This week, I completed approximately 6.5 hours of work.

On Monday, I met with Jason to review the interviews from last week and set up the rest of the interviews. One thing that was interesting is that Jason and I discussed mentoring programs. In the Arizona Public Health Association (AzPHA), I have run the Mentoring Program Subcommittee and Jason participates in this. We are attempting to have a mentoring program for the members of the AzPHA. Its aim it to match experienced public health professionals with students and new public health professionals in a one-to-one relationship. It is intended to facilitate the mentoring process among public health professionals, recent graduates, and current students in Arizona for one year. The goals are to provide opportunities for mentors to enrich their contributions to public health and further develop as leaders; to enhance the professional development of the public health mentee; and
to strengthen the public health professional workforce network in Arizona. In theory, these mentoring relationships are intended to help students make the transition from an academic to professional environment, and to offer an opportunity for professional development, networking, and an exchange of ideas between experienced professionals and the next generation of public health leaders.

So, Jason and I have been trying to get a pilot program going for this summer. We have three mentees who we are working on matching with mentors. I almost feel like this is a trial run for my innovation for my action research. Understanding the moving parts and training needs has been a rough process, but one we are working through. We just sent out a survey to our membership to gauge their interest in such a program and to see how much structure they would prefer to see. In less than 24 hours, we received 46 responses. I see doing something similar for my innovation to get a feel for what people would want and how to best create excitement (and buy in!).

Bringing this all back to leadership, one of the things Jason and I talked about was how to get people to buy in into this program. How do you create value for a program that does not have a proven history in a setting? He suggested to bring to my leadership at ASU the different ways mentoring has helped in other schools and even within my department. As lecturers and professors, we are matched with a mentor/mentee. This is a recent policy adoption and so I am curious to see what types of data they have been collecting in order to evaluate and assess. He said that with bringing in a policy and program that is already enacted, using their own language to justify my program, it would be easier to get it pushed through and approved.

This week, we also had a couple more interviews. The first defined success as students having higher performance scores. An obstacle to her programs was having enough funding to do what needed to be done, to carry out their programs. Once program is 21st Century. It is funded by the federal government and they have to turn away about 85% of the applicants. Many of these applicants are still qualified for the moneys and need the program; however, there is not enough to go around for everyone. Prioritizing who gets what funding is decided by several entities within the program, including a 43-person advisory board. Consensus must be a bear! Funding is one of the reasons why I want to keep my intervention small and simple. I know that funds are always a stretch coming from the college, especially in the last one to two years. The likelihood of getting funds for an action research project is rare. I am hoping to apply for a HRSA grant that may help to fund the project once I have pilot data collected. Then again, this is a grant and as with all grants, there is a time limit applied to it and it is rarely secure. Potential long-term funding sources would need to be identified if this intervention is successful.

The second interview which I just completed was with the Deputy Superintendent of Schools. It was fascinating! His focus is on highly effective teachers and leaders. They focus on what makes teachers most effective, which is not only on content knowledge, but also on understanding human cognition (the how to teach, get messages across). He is learning is a science, but teaching is an art. He talked about success as being effective across the board. Meaning students all have individual challenges and obstacles (socioeconomic status and instability are huge ones). Highly effective teachers should be ones that are able to transcend all those challenges and obstacles to reach the student.

Friday, June 10, 2016

DFS Week 4 Reaction

This week, I completed approximately 8 hours of work. I had the first interview yesterday with the director of School Health and Nutrition Services. It was the perfect person for me to start this process with as he also straddled the education and public health fields. Needless to say, we had a lot to talk about!

Some of the challenges he talked about was getting buy-in of school administrators and leadership. There often is a disconnect between health and education (speaking my language!) and he said that many times schools will focus on math and English scores. They do not see that there is a connection between a healthy and well-nourished student body and academic achievement even though there has been so much research on how nutrition (and other health measures) impacts learning. For example, just 20 minutes of physical activity significantly improved math scores. I asked him how he approached this issue, how he persuaded leaders to come on board. I was surprised that it seemed to be more reactionary than a proactive approach. Many times teachers and kitchen staff will approach them for help in implementing standards and changes to their programs. Teachers may notice that their students hit that afternoon slump after eating poorly during lunch. They will in return give resources, such as curriculum, for teachers to talk to their students on better food choices to fuel them throughout the day. Of course, this is only effective when students are the purchasers of food (such as in high school) rather than having their parents just pack them food.

Otherwise, he tries to appeal to the Rider side of the administration and show them how provided reimbursable meals can improve their bottom line. They appeal to the logic. I still am surprised that they do no react to the data on improvement of testing scores and health.

One thing that stood out to me were the program's activities with the lunch staff, those making and serving food to students. He said they had no problems with buy-in and that they were often enthusiastic about adopting higher standards. I'm sure this is because they are immersed every day and see the impact of food and nutrition on students. They did have a hard time knowing how to make changes to achieve these higher standards. The program sends trainers to individual schools, as well as larger trainings/workshops, to give the hands-on training. He said this motivates people by seeing their role and learning exactly how to achieve the goals. Now that the lunch staff have to complete a certain number of training hours per year to remain certified (and employed), the program acts as a resource that positively empowers them. It sounded like many lunch staff are Elephants, that is, people who are motivated by the emotional impact to the work and the program plays on this to keep them motivated and enthusiastic to learn.

Additionally, on a large white board in his office, he had a brainstorm of a strategic plan. They had in the past only focused on areas that needed to be brought up to minimal standards. They had never looked at all the areas of responsibility of the program and specified goals for each one, even if it meant keep up the status quo. I have some experience developing a strategic plan for programs, so we discussed different areas and how to measure goals.

This interview was fascinating to see how he tried to motivate different people in the implementation of their activities and promotion of their overall goal. I have always found my leadership style to be one that emphasis the data to motivate people, as that is what motivates me. There needs to be a balance and it is even more important to recognize when to use what type of motivation with who.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

DFS Week 3 Reaction

This past week, I completed approximately 7 hours of work so far. I met with my mentor yesterday and we finalized the questionnaire...again! We went through it one last time to make last minute edits. This was helpful to look at it after we both had set it aside for the long weekend. Fresh eyes! Jason then emailed the different directors, attaching the questionnaire, for scheduling the interviews. We are hoping that we will set up interviews starting next week. There are some who are located in Tucson and Flagstaff, so those will likely be done via phone or skype. One of the people attended the networking/happy hour last week, so it was nice to get a positive and excited response already. A couple of people stopped by to say hello and check in on my work so far. So more people are hearing about what I am doing, which will hopefully make these interviews more feasible. In the future, I will be attending any other future events. The exposure has been quite beneficial to get me known around the department.

Friday, May 27, 2016

DFS Week 2 Reaction

This past week, I completed approximately, 12 hours of work. I continued to work on questionnaire edits and the literature reviews. I also met with my mentor, Jason Gillette on Thursday for a few hours. One thing that was rewarding was I reviewed a paper Jason wrote. He asked if I would review it and make edits as needed. It was all about the history and current status of education policy in Arizona. Not only was it pertinent to my current research, but I was also able to feel like this is more of a collaborative effort. I am able to lend my experience and skills to help him polish a paper.

Yesterday's meeting went well. We finalized the questionnaire we will be using to interview the different division and program directors. It does help to be face-to-face doing something like that since there is always a lot of word smithing. Learning how to compromise with others and make changes to things that you have spent significant time on creating are great skills to have. While it can be a little bruising to the ego, having a great product at the end that everyone can agree on, even if people do not 100% love everything but is what we can live with, is key to moving forward and not getting bogged down in details. I saw this at the last Arizona Public Health Association (AzPHA)planning session. We were tasked with rewriting our mission/goals and creating one sentence that captures what AzPHA is. After six hours, we finally had a sentence that the board of 12 could live with. We all had to make concessions and compromises, but we got there. Not an easy thing for a bunch of leaders who are used to making all the decisions! Modifying this questionnaire played out in a similar fashion, albeit, much sooner and smoother! Understanding that even though you may be in a leadership position, you must value others' inputs to be successful.

He also took me to a happy hour. Several people from throughout the Department of Education were there and I was able to discuss with them my project and get to know them more on a personal basis. This was a great opportunity to be approachable, network, and make relationships beyond emails. I had a manager years ago, who was afraid to have his personal and professional lives mix in any way, to the point that he would not wear his wedding ring or have a picture of his family on his desk because people would ask questions about his family instead of focusing on work. While I completely agree with keeping professional in the workplace, this caused him to be unapproachable and almost less than human. This happy hour is something that Jason does the last Thursday of every month. The rule is no talking shop once drinks are served! Such a contrast to my previous manager. Jason maintained professionalism with caring about the people sitting around him.

Monday, May 23, 2016

DFS Week 1 Reaction

This week I worked approximately 7 hours.  

I had my first meeting with my mentor this week. We had briefly spoken prior to this on some expectations and possible directions. I also sent him my Problem of Practice statement from the previous semester. So at this meeting, we spent several hours brainstorming and determining what we will be focusing on. We have quite the to-do list! I will be working on the literature reviews, creating the plan of study, and drafting a questionnaire. It was a great meeting and I feel energized about my project.

One thing that someone surprises me is that he has taken on some tasks himself as well. Based on his connections, he is working cultivate networking opportunities for me, as well as setting up meetings with program area directors. These opportunities will allow me to connect different program area directors and other stakeholders. I hope to get a lot of insight by doing this.

I started doing some literature reviews on how school systems are funded here in Arizona and learning standards. From this information, I drafted a questionnaire to ask the program area directors. This type of literature the view was a bit different from what I am used to since much of the information is on government websites as opposed to peer review journal articles. It provides a black-and-white view of educational systems; however, it does not capture the nuances often associated with how systems actually work. I feel like it is missing political and social factors. This is the type of information I hope to gain from the interviews.

I am a little overwhelmed with the amount of work that needs to be done in just about two months. I expect I will be working on tasks after the summer session has concluded. I am excited; however, that I will be able to utilize this information in my dissertation.