What to Do When Folks Just Won’t Do Right

As I move toward a close to the Summer 2019 term, I feel a little sad that I cannot stay and learn more about soft systems methodologies from “Mr.-Professor-Who-Knows-His-Name.”  What a journey.  Great fun and great learning all along the way.

Question: Is it possible to align Human Activity Systems implementation and evaluation plans?

Absolutely.  As a matter of fact, there is a well-driven path.

Analyzing and Attacking Human Activity System “Wicked” Problems

According to the basic principles of the soft system methodology, “wicked” Human Activity Systems (HAS) problems usually require a unique one-time fix.  The fix is usually associated with leading those humans involved to the knowledge that there is a problem, the problem is associated with their behaviors, and that they should stop doing what they are doing and do something else.  The next step is to ensure the humans involved get the message that they should correct their actions and behaviors.

Implementing Change in Human Activity Systems

To achieve these outcomes, I began by designing an implementation plan for my conceptual soft systems change model using Lewin’s (1947) Three-Step Model of Change framework to gain a better vision for where the proposed organizational changes are required.  Specifically, I studied the eight-step soft system methodology-based concept I created to decide where I could “freeze,” “change,” then “refreeze” the implementation process to lock in the changes desired (Burns, 2004).

Next, I used Kirkpatrick Four-Level Model of Training Evaluation Levels 1 through Level 3 framework to create an instructional design model for teaching leaders and employees how to effect the change with the Level 4 desired results (the change achieved) in mind (Kirkpatrick & Kirpatrick, 2016). I locked the instructional design down with a few Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning checkpoints for measuring skills and learning transfer (Pollock et al., 2015) .

Managing Change in Human Activity Soft Systems

Finally, I integrated Total Quality Management (TQM) quarterly milestones audits to monitor and evaluate the desired iterative change and quality improvement process for at least one year so tweaks could be made when and where needed (Evans, 2002).

Now.  I feel the resultant HAS soft systems conceptual model implementation and evaluation framework I created for these assignments are both feasible and evidence-based.  But, I will have to wait to see how “Mr.-Professor-Who-Knows-His-Name” feels about my integrated training and quality improvement diagram.  I should receive that in a few days, and I definitely look forward to the value I am sure he will add to my plans.

Jennie’s Perspective

Based on my experience with correcting HAS wicked problems, I am confident that once the humans involved accept the need for change, learn how to effect the change, and recognize there will be follow-up and accountability for their role in and during the change – deficiencies within soft systems begin correcting themselves almost immediately after the “Go!” refreeze switch is flipped.

I honestly believe that no one wants to do a lousy job.  So in those rare occasions where this is the case, the wicked problem can still be corrected by targeting interventions higher up on the food chain. 

As Maslow (1943) once noted so many decades ago, once you meet people’s physiological basic needs for survival and safety, they will naturally begin pursuing their psychological needs (Maslow, 1943).  That is when the desire to KEEP THEIR JOBS becomes a dominant influencing factor.  After all, if you have an employee uninterested in quality control and improvements, should they be working for you? 

If your answer is “No!”  

Well. Then that opens up an entirely new avenue for you to resolve that wicked Human Activity System problem, right?  Document that bad attitude then call the Human Resource Department right away

I’m just saying, …


Burnes, B. (2004). Kurt Lewin and the planned approach to change: a re‐appraisal. Journal of Management studies, 41(6), 977-1002.

Evans, J. R. (2002). Total quality management. INFOR40(4), 364.

Kirkpatrick, J. D., & Kirkpatrick, W. K. (2016). Kirkpatrick’s four levels of training evaluation. Association for Talent Development.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological review50(4), 370.

Pollock, R. V., Jefferson, A. M., Wick, C. W., & Wick, C. (2015). The six disciplines of breakthrough learning. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

What a Difference a Summer Makes

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am learning some fun stuff this summer.  So, I looked forward to writing this week’s blog post.

Question: What have I learned about using the rapid analysis and response process to solve complex soft system problems?

Hard versus Soft Systems Problems

Well. Let’s start at the beginning. I learned the difference between hard and soft system problems.  Specifically, I learned that hard systems problems, sometimes referred to as systems engineering, assumes an objective reality exists in the world where well-defined problems can be solved.  Period. The focus is usually placed on the technical aspects of a problem and the rigid scientific method approach is usually be employed to explore and determine an “ideal” solution to a problem.  By contrast, soft system problems, sometimes referred to human activity systems, have loose frameworks that can be fuzzy, vague, messy, or even poorly defined. There are usually differing subjective interpretations of the issues, but humans behaviors are normally the problem’s core. Soft system problems require creative, unique, and intuitive solutions and efforts are required to first define and understand the problem before any probable solutions can be conceptualized or conceived (Checkland & Haynes, 1994).

Complex versus “Wicked” Soft Systems Problems

Further, I learned that there are variations of soft system problems.  Complex soft system problems are typically defined as those that can be approached from multiple or competing perspectives and there are usually multiple possible solutions.  Conversely, “wicked” soft systems problems are unique and lack definitive formulations or solutions. There are usually no stopping rules or solutions, no “pass-fail,” “true-false,” right-wrong,” or “good-bad” formative solutions or definitive tests, and “wicked” soft systems problems do not have an exhaustive list of possible solutions because of the varying worldviews (Weltanschauung) usually seated at the table (Buchanan, 1992).

I also learned that, whether you are dealing with a complex or “wicked” soft system problem, you should put on your systems thinking cap. Probable solutions will most likely require instigating a change in the habits of the minds of those humans causing the problems.  So, as a soft systems practitioner, you should:

  • organize the human activity system’s view of the problem by helping them to understand the “big picture”;
  • show patterns and trends causing the issues;
  • prove the impacts of the problem on organizational operations;
  • help design and tests assumptions and concepts;
  • provide supports should unintended consequences surface; and
  • leverage all available resources within the system during the implementation of change.

This summer, I have learned to how use the research and evidence-based eight-step soft systems methodology to solve soft systems problems. In addition, I learned how to leverage my background in quality improvement and Total Quality Management and my applied technologies and performance improvement education during the planning, implementation, and evaluation phase of resolving soft system problem.

Yes. I have learned a lot over the last two months, and I can hardly wait to get busy.

Jennie’s Perspective

It seems funny to me sometimes how the old adage, “what goes around comes around” has a way of proving itself.  It sometimes appears that our lives are captured within a perfect hermeneutic circle where all things in our lives and experiences work together for our ultimate good as we stumble and bumble through the courses of our lives (Romans 8:28). 

When I decided to turn the page on what I’ve done in the past to explore a bright new horizon of opportunities, I never expected to end up back almost exactly where I started my journey: performance improvement.

Well. Who knows?  Maybe that was my destination all the time, and the last few years I have been progressively working my way down this path subconsciously.

At any rate, it feels good to walk familiar territory.  Because, as another old adage aptly declares, “Ain’t no place like home.”

I’m just sayin’ …


Buchanan, R. (1992). Wicked problems in design thinking. Design issues8(2), 5-21.

Checkland, P. B., & Haynes, M. G. (1994). Varieties of systems thinking: the case of soft systems methodology. System dynamics review, 10(2‐3), 189-197.

Polites, G. L., & Karahanna, E. (2013). The embeddedness of information systems habits in organizational and individual level routines: Development and disruption. Mis Quarterly, 221-246.

Mirror. Mirror. On the wall, …

I have come to accept that “Professor-He-Knows-His-Name” has decided we are not getting out of his course this summer without learning something. (Yelp. That man is very, very serious.)

For our latest adventure in learning, he did the equivalent of taking us to the top of a mountain, handed us a copy of DeYoung’ (2014) Cybernetic Big Five Theory, then pushed us off while yelling: “Learn something on your way down.” (Ha! We adore him.)

Anyway. So, this is an account of what I think I learned.  Question: Who are you anyway?

How to define you

Let’s begin where DeYoung began by explaining that the mission of personality psychology is to understand the whole person. From there, he explained that, to understand the whole person, once must examine the predictable “persisting patterns of emotion, motivation, cognition, and behaviors” of a person as determined by how they react to certain stimuli.  In the case of his study, the stimuli of interest are goal setting and goal attainment.  DeYoung puts forth that homo sapiens are all pretty much alike in biological composition. However, where we begin to become distinctly different is in our personalities or predictable behaviors (p. 33-34).

DeYoung presents the Cybernetic Big Five Theory (CB5T) as the study of the human cybernetic systems, or personalities. Specifically, CB5T theorizes, we can be defined according to five inherent evolutionary humanistic principles:

  1. natures;
  2. dispositions;
  3. characteristic adaptions;
  4. subjective life narratives based on our personal experiences and cultural and social values and mores.  (Huh?)

Okay.  Let’s break this down further. DeYoung explained that we are who we as defined by:

  1. how we set and pursue goals;
  2. how we determine which actions we will take to obtain those goals;
  3. how we take those actions;
  4. how we interpret the outcomes of those actions; and
  5. our critical reflections regarding how we performed overall during this process (p. 34)

It all boils down to how you react

Skipping ahead, DeYoung’s categorized the various “hierarchical” personality traits into five dimensions: Extraversion, Neuroticism, Agreeableness; Conscientiousness, and Openness/Intellect (p. 35-38.) Further, he opined that CB5T aligns those personality types with the predictable “high” and “low” behaviors (traits) outlined below.

  • Extraversion.  Exploration, talkative, assertive, and gregarious when high but reserved, withdrawn, silent, and inactive when low.
  • Neuroticism. Defensive in the fact of uncertainty, threat, or punishment when low but self-confident, secure, hopeful, and unflappable when high.
  • Openness/Intellect. Cognitive exploration of goal using engagement and information when high but unimaginative, narrow-minded, and stubborn when low.
  • Conscientiousness. Organized, persistent, and responsible when high but unreliable and disorganized when low.
  • Agreeableness. Altruistic and cooperative, trustworthy, flexible, and sensitive when high but selfish, aggressive, argumentative, and impolite when low (Rasa, 2016).

DeYoung then explains how the five personalities react when faced with stressors and barriers while pursuing their goals.  For instance, Neuroticism and Extraversion personalities correlate strongly in their ability to adapt and remain positive in the face of adversity, while the other three personalities can become dysfunctional and unstable under pressure (p. 53-54).

Why it matters

DeYoung recommends that we strive to integrate and manage the high and low aspects of our personalities to avoid unnecessary destabilization and risk.  Otherwise, he warns, our distinct patterns of behavior will inhibited the “between-person”, or “within-person” selves, which is required to become well-aligned human beings. In order to accomplish this, however, DeYoung says we must abandon our “self-deceptions” so that we can make the personality adjustments necessary to continue moving forward toward accomplishing our goals.

Jennie’s Perspective

(Humph.) As a triple-diagnosed Myers-Briggs “INTJ” businesswoman and “scholar-under-construction,” my honest reaction is – whatever.  My usual position is – “Let’s just all get that work done right, okay?  We can play friends and be nice later.”

No.  These days, I do not particularly find myself engaged in a whole lot of self-deception often. Especially now that I am growing older.

I am not saying that I do not hope to stretch myself to maintain peace of mind within my space.  But, for now, I am who I am.  Moreover, I kind of like me.  As is.

Just sayin’ …


DeYoung, C. (2014). A cybernetic big five theory for personality psychology. Personality and Individual Differences60, S18. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2013.07.381

Raza, S. (2016, March 20). Personality Traits And The Dimensions Of Political Ideology. Retrieved from https://www.valuewalk.com/2016/03/personality-traits-and-the-dimensions-of-political-ideology/

Soft System Methodology? Problem-Solving with Pizazz.

Source: The Process of Soft Systems Methodology ( Gasson, n.d.).

Assignment? Design a conceptual model that uses learning technologies to resolve a systemic complex problem. ( I’m learning some fun stuff now. )

Question? What is the best training solutions to solve complex problems that involve the actions of multiple people?

Soft Systems Methodology: How to solve complex problems in seven steps.

I remembered reading that a federal audit revealed program managers for a competitive and popular grant program were determined to be unable to accurately assess the eligibility of grant applicants or measure previous grantee performance because of incorrect, inconsistent, or inaccurate information in the agency’s databases. Since this is one of my favorite grant programs, I chose to use this problem as a system of interest and try applying the seven-step soft system methodology (SSM) to resolve it.

My first step was to take a closer look at the problem situation by performing a CATWOE (Customer, Actor(s), Worldview(s), Owner, Environmental) analysis. The analysis revealed I would be working with an unstructured “wicked problem.”  

“Wicked Problem” Solving Using Design Thinking

A soft systems problems qualifies “wicked” if the problem is unique and lacks (Buchanan, 1992):

  • A definitive formulation or solution;
  • Stopping rules or solutions;
  • No “pass-fail”, “true-false”, right-wrong”, or “good-bad” formative solutions or definitive test;
  • No exhausting list of possible worldviews (Weltanschauung);

The good news is that, for every wicked problem, there is the probability of a “one-shot” solution that results in subsequent responsible behaviors (p. 23-27). With the expressed wicked problem in mind, I used system design thinking to take a closer look.

My second step was to create a “rich picture” visual representation of the problem.  I chose to use Lucidcharts, which enabled me to create a diagram of the “real-world” problem environment as it currently exists (Checkland & Tsouvalis, 1997).  With my design thinking cap firmly perched on my head (metaphorically, of course), I realized the picture clearly depicted a Human Activity System ecosystem comprised of interconnected and interdependent sub-ecosystems (Rousseau, 2018: Valkokari, 2015) . The “players” appeared locked within habits of mind and bogged down and bound by linear bureaucratic policy directives and tons of paperwork. What the rich picture did not reflect was a system of accountability or checks and balances to ensure data integrity (Raven & Walrave, 2018; Roos, 2014).

Viola! A Human Activity System problem!  Easy peasy.  I’ve got decades of experience resolving such issues. (Can someone say, “comfort zone” for me, please? Thank you.)  Rich picture in hand – it was time to get busy.  I got immediately to work.

Soft System Conceptual Modeling

My third step was to create relevant root definitions I could use to communicate goals and objectives across multiple platforms.  That done, I moved to the fourth step of applying soft system thinking to create a conceptual instructional design model to address the root causes of the wicked problem.  The model would be used to train ecosystem leaders and employees as a cause of logic action

A comparison of the conceptual model to the current real-world problem situation was the fifth step. This would require an instructional design that breaks the rigid linear system (Lewin, 1951) by creating a transformative disorienting dilemma for the leaders involved (Mezirow, 1997).

Once leadership see, understand, and accept the patterns and trends depicted in the rich picture and support the need to support change,the sixth step is the use of standard andragogical theoretical underpinnings and instructional design principles to create a training program that helps learning group accept the rich picture’s prognosis, reject their assumptions about quick solutions, and how communication could be used to resolve resistance to change (Galbraith, 2014) . The instructional design includes maps of unintended consequences that might arise and points where collective activities can be leveraged to mitigate such effects (Anderson et al., 2014; Links, 2017; Nelson, Buisine, & Aoussat, 2013). 

Moving toward the finish line, my seventh step was to create an implementation and finished it off with a final eight step, which was designing an evaluation and sustainability plan. (See? Easy peasy.)

Jennie’s Perspective

Reflecting on my action learning experience, I realize that the key to solving most Human Activity Soft system problems may rest with ensuring that leaders and employees understand why change is needed.  Without getting this critical buy-in from the players, the change process can become uncomfortable and threatening because of the unknown. But, if you leave room for risks and errors, “wicked problems” can be solved and everyone celebrates (Lewin, 1951) Also, I feel it is essential to understand that you have to take care of the people during soft system changes. Otherwise, the patch may not fit for long.

Folks gotta learn how to deal with people.

I’m just sayin’ …


Anderson, N., Potočnik, K., & Zhou, J. (2014). Innovation and creativity in organizations: A state-of-the-science review, prospective commentary, and guiding framework. Journal of management40(5), 1297-1333.

Buchanan, R. (1992). Wicked problems in design thinking. Design issues8(2), 5-21.

Burnes, B. (2004). Kurt Lewin and the planned approach to change: a re‐appraisal. Journal of Management studies41(6), 977-1002.

Galbraith, J. R. (2014). Designing organizations: Strategy, structure, and process at the business unit and enterprise levels. John Wiley & Sons.

Gasson, S. (n.d.). Susan Gasson, Academic Home Page. Retrieved from http://cci.drexel.edu/faculty/sgasson/SSM/Process.html

Lewin, K. (1951). Field theory in social science: selected theoretical papers (edited by dorwin cartwright.).

Mezirow, J. (1997). Transformative learning: Theory to practice. New directions for adult and continuing education1997(74), 5-12.

Nelson, J., Buisine, S., & Aoussat, A. (2013). Anticipating the use of future things: Towards a framework for prospective use analysis in innovation design projects. Applied ergonomics44(6), 948-956.

Raven, R., & Walrave, B. (2018). Overcoming transformational failures through policy mixes in the dynamics of technological innovation systems. Technological Forecasting and Social Change.

Roos, G. (2014). Integrated innovation: The necessary route to profitability. In Strategic Approaches for Human Capital Management and Development in a Turbulent Economy (pp. 1-23). IGI Global.

Constructive Learning: Peer-to-Peer Learning Groups

Synchronous Online Learning Groups

I was involved in another successful small group collaborative learning activity last week.  We were required to complete the group project in two parts.

Question: How do you make the most of virtual synchronous and asynchronous learning activities?

My professor really knows how to work it. Last week, he put his doctoral students to the test by making us decrypt his approach to online collaborative learning in two parts. (Yes. You’re right. Professor ain’t playing.)

Effective Student Groupings Makes the Difference

In Part 1, our assignment was to group again (different group members than the week before) and meet synchronously online and outside our class to discuss our thoughts about a really great, but highly cerebral, movie.  (No easy answers. No easy perspectives. No easy agreements with that film.) But, this time, our professor maneuvered his groups past the catharsis (storming) stage by appointing group leaders . With our leaders firmly designated and in place, our small teams were able to avoid the Stage One anxieties associated with “unknown persons“, such as distrust, dependency, curiosity, and confusion. We immediately got down to Stage Two: communications (Tuckerman & Jensen, 1997) .

During our meeting, we each talked from a position of trust, cohesion, interdependence, acceptance, and respect – even when we did not agree. By the end of our meeting, we were able to approach Stage Three disengagement ready to play our respective roles. We knew what needed to be done, how it was to be done, and who would do what (Spitz & Sadock, 1973). That felt good too.

After disengagement, our team fell into Habermas (984) formation.  We used our professor’s strategic written communicative acts to begin our constative communicative actions with each of us understanding exactly what was required for our individualized role in the project.  The next day, we engaged in normative communicative actions asynchronously via email and the discussion board until we negotiated the outline for a working draft for our paper.  The next day, with a few final tweaks, we were able to successfully deliver a dramaturgical communicative action, a short paper, that we all can proudly claim.  In fact, we enjoyed working and learning together so much; we have decided to continue developing the work for a possible future publication.  (Yippee! Scholars-under-construction at work!)

World-of-Work Skills Building

Yes. It was another great peer collaborative learning experience. I agree with Lowry, Roberts, Romano, and Cheney (2008) that group project work should be considered as a vital component of today’s education because “people skills” are required in today’s global workplace. Lowry, Roberts, Romano, & Cheney’s position that, when quality communication is shared collectively among properly grouped individuals, their multiple perspectives and contributions usually results in a much richer learning experience (p. 635).

But, our professor is teaching us that peer collaboration assignments and groupings require forethought and care. You have to know your students to the point where they are properly grouped. Because we were properly group last week, we did not suffer the degradation in communications that can kill group communications. Instead, we engaged with the feelings of social presence among peers required to ensure each voice was heard, varying opinions valued, and cordial and respectful agreements could be reached (p.637).  Had we not been properly grouped, those opportunities for increased knowledge, competencies, and learning one would expect from peer learning could have been missed and the experience possibly destructive (Lowry, Roberts, Romano, & Cheney, 2008).

But, our professor was not done with our learning yet.

Part 2: Evaluation of an Educational System

In Part 2, we were required to evaluate an educational system in which we currently play a role. That one was easy for me since I am currently working my way through college as a mentor within an online blended professional learning community for aspiring college professors. My role enables me to see the impacts of both synchronous and asynchronous collaborative learning first-hand. My role also allows me to see the power of Instructors’ intuitive Canvas grouping tools.

The Canvas learning management system makes creating groups easy and effective.  A group discussion assignment can be created with two clicks of the mouse. Group discussion sets can then be created with another four clicks. With the stage set, you would next assign group members by simply selecting a student’s name, then clicking the “+Add” link. That is it. Done! Canvas makes it that easy. 

Canvas also facilitates grading group discussions. Canvas enables filtering by individual student or group. This allows you to see when and how often a student contributed, shared resources, posted thoughtful insight posts, and made relevant peer replies.  Yes. I like the Canvas’s small group discussion features a lot.

Jennie’s Perspective

As mentioned earlier, I experienced yet another constructive small group learning activity last week that promoted higher order thinking skills. I feel the exercise affirmatively answered the question: How do you make the most of virtual synchronous and asynchronous learning activities?

When done properly, synchronous and asynchronous computer-supported group activities and group collaborative learning activities are the bomb.  We experienced both Piaget’s (1977) cognitive knowledge construction benefits while sharing and consolidating varying perspectives to form cohesive position (Piaget, 1977) while also paying due respect to my hero. Vygotsky’s (1978). No surprise that Vygotsky’s socio-cultural collaborative knowledge-building theories proved right on point (Vygotsky, 1978).

I like school. It suits me. I am learning so much. (Shout out to “Professor-You-Know-Who-You-Are”.



Habermas, J. (1984). The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume 1: Reason and the Rationalization of Society. London: Heinemann.

Lowry, P. B., Roberts, T. L., Romano Jr, N. C., Cheney, P. D., & Hightower, R. T. (2006). The impact of group size and social presence on small-group communication: Does computer-mediated communication make a difference?. Small Group Research37(6), 631-661.

Mäkitalo, S. K. kati. makitalo-siegl@psy. lmu. d. (2008). From Multiple Perspectives to Shared Understanding: A small group in an online learning environment. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 52(1), 77–95.

Miller, K. (2005). Communication theories. USA: Macgraw-Hill

Piaget, J. (1977). The development of thought: Equilibration of cognitive structures (A. Rosin, Trans.). Oxford: Blackwell.

Spitz, H., & Sadock, B. Psychiatric training of graduate nursing students. N. Y State Journal of Medicine, June 1, 1973 , pp. 1334-1338.

Tuckman, B. W., & Jensen, M. A. C. (1977). Stages of small-group development revisited. Group & Organization Studies2(4), 419-427.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Why you should know where you’re going before trying to show someone else the way

Instructional Design Map

One of the most important lessons I have learned over the years is – there is a right way to do something and then there is something else different.

This is especially important within the field of instructional systems design. In his book, Designing Instructional Systems, Alexander J. Romiszowski quoted B. F. Skinner, an American psychologist, behaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher, as having said, “… those of us who know where they are going, and can define the path that leads there, are in the business of training, whereas those who neither know their destinations nor the means of getting there are in education.” (Romiszowski, 1981, p. 3)  Romiszowski notes that, while this “an extremist view” often adopted by educators it has flaws. First, it assumes, educators have a handle on how to design training programs.  But, what often ends up happening is that they guess whether the learning systems they design will actually result in the intended outcomes.  That’s the “something else different” I alluded to earlier.

With a firm understanding of how the “I know” assumption negatively impacts both learning and learners, Romiszowski wrote that, in order to avoid the trap of “guessing” how to design an instructional system, instructional designers should ensure they focus first on the common thread: “systems thinking and systems analysis” (Romiszowski, 1982). Romiszowski advised instructional designers need to understand the core concepts of a system first, then start to build instructional designs around that system. While I have not, as yet been able to fully digest all of the tips and techniques Romiszowski includes in his book, what I have digested so far make it clear that designing instructional systems is not something that should be taken lightly.

For instance, the first step in the design process should be a sit-down with the client and that sit-down should not conclude until the instructional designer has completed a thorough learner needs assessment. The reason being: How do you plan to design training when you don’t know what people need to learn, how they learn, and why? (Duh.)

Case in point, while attempting to design a training program for my Instructional Systems Design course, I had to stop and realize that I did not have a firm handle on what exactly I needed to include that would be of the most befit to the organization and how would it move the organization toward realization of tangible and intangible returns?

These were the points that I had to stop, go back to my client, and gather additional information. In addition to know demographic information, I needed to know what job tasks the learners perform, how frequently they perform the tasks, what is the level of importance to the organization do these tasks have and what happens when tasks are not done correctly. This enabled me to design learner-centered training activities with objectives focused on whether the learner would need to use cognitive (thinking), affective/interpersonal (group or collaborative interpersonal skills), or psychomotor skills (capabilities to actually do the task) based on the needs of the organization. Gleaning this information also helped me determine which performance measurements would best help assess the learners’ proficiency in performing the test when they got back to work and what job-aids and/or supports the learners would need as refreshers. In other words, I started designing an instructional system when I didn’t have all the information. Dangerous.

Learning to create instructional design systems right is of utmost importance to me, and should be to anyone else that work within this field. If I am to become as effective as I aspire to be within this field – I had better learn to do it right.  There are no short cuts. There are no “almost there”. There is either good instructional design that accomplishes its intent – Return On Investment for training dollars spent, or, well.  Something else different. No excuses. Nowhere to hide. Because, as Michael Wesch indicated in his video, Information R/Evolution, we don’t have to go out and search for information on how to create good instructional design.  It will come to us.  If we look for it.

Bad instructional design ain’t cute.


Romiszowski, A. J. (1981). 1. Instruction, Instructional Systems and the Systems Approach. In Designing instructional systems (pp. 2, 5). Place of publication not identified, NY: Nichols.

Wesch, M. (2007, October 12). Information R/evolution [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/-4CV05HyAbM

Online Synchronous Small Group Discussions: Proceed with Caution!

I had the most interesting learning experience last week. 

My professor, a direct decedent of educators of educators, expertly maneuvered his class into small online synchronous learning groups of four students last Wednesday night.  In my case at least, I ended up in a group with four headstrong educated women. (Can anyone say, “Danger Zone”.)

Anyway, our professor even had the nerve to force upon us his expectation of critical thinking among group members. He told us to engage in a “Think-Pair-Share” (Kaddoura, 2013) group discussion activity about what we learned during his soft systems methodology online lecture and associated required readings. (My. Oh, my.)

The great learning and cognition “masters” would have stood up and given him a roaring round of applause.  That guy (my professor) really nailed us to the wall. (Humph.)

On the Subject of Small Group Dynamics

It went as theorists predicted.  Sudria, Redhana, Kirna, and Aini (2018) would not have been surprised that our group immediately began “storming” (Sudria, Rehana, Kirna, & Aini, 2018) for positions.  Kolb (2009) would have winked his eye as the two converging learning styles (I refuse to self-identify) quickly emerged and begin fighting for turf as alpha female (Kolb, 2009). Vygotsky (1978) would have chuckled during their back and forth as they fought for the coveted “More Knowledgeable Other facilitator seat (Vygotsky, 1978).  Habermas (1984) would have gotten a hoot when the clouds finally cleared and our group began engaging in constructive negotiations (Habermas, 1984).  And, Mezirow (1998) would have patted our professor on the back after our group of ladies finally calmed down and began deepening our learning through orderly, insightful, and respectful critical reflections (Mezirow, 1998).

Knowing When to Say “When …”

While the convergers threw punches, I realize now that the most influential member of our group was the quite insightful, and attentive, assimilator.  She sat quietly through the battle for several minutes before softly speaking up to hand the throne to the converger urging our group to “simply follow” our professor’s instructions. (Hey. Maybe I will self-identify.)

But, I also gained much respect for the accommodator who earned points by just sitting back and not saying a word until the dust settled. Her strategy forced us to sit still while she shared her reflections, opinions, and reflections when the fight was over. Had there been a diverging learning style in our group, she probably would have done the same.

Yes. It was an interesting night of learning and metacognition.  Plus, we got that job done. 

Success! Mission accomplished!

Higher-order thinking skills mission achieved!

Jennie’s Perspective

As a scholar-under-construction, I enjoy those moments when theory is forced to meet practice head on in a street fight and – prevail!

With each doctoral course I complete, I gain more and more respect for the “masters” who have dominated our field of learning and cognition, even posthumously, for decades. With each lesson, I gain increased awareness as to why the body of knowledge thinks so highly of Kolb, Habermas, Mezirow, Sudria, Redhana, Kirna and Aini, and Vygotsky.  These guys knew their stuff.

Therefore, I argue that the old saying is true.  Knowledge is indeed ageless.  Moreover, wisdom is more precious than gold.

I’m just sayin’ …


Habermas, J. (1984). The Theory of Communicative Action, Vol. 1,’Reason and the Rationalization of Society’.

Kaddoura, M. (2013). Think pair share: a teaching learning strategy to enhance students’ critical thinking. Educational Research Quarterly36(4), 3-24.

Kolb, A. Y., & Kolb, D. A. (2009). The Learning Way: Meta-cognitive Aspects of Experiential Learning. Simulation & Gaming, 40(3), 297–327. https://doi.org/10.1177/1046878108325713

Mezirow, J. (1998). On critical reflection. Adult education quarterly48(3), 185-198.

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Interactions between learning and development. In Mind and Society (pp. 79-91). Retrieved from https://www.docsity.com/en/vygotsky-readings-on-the-development-of-children/2233276/