Monday, June 12, 2017

self-efficacy treatments - and leadership

Doing some research on self-efficacy. The following is from Albert Bandura, one of the leaders of the research on self-efficacy and its importance to well-being.

Psychological treatments work best when they provide not specific remedies for particular problems but tools for managing any situation that might arise. Treatment should equip people to take control of their lives and start a process of self-regulative change guided by a resilient sense of personal efficacy. There are four main ways to accomplish this:
(1) Experience of success or mastery in overcoming obstacles: The kind of success that makes a person stronger results from perseverance through difficulties and setbacks. A person who has only easy successes may be easily discouraged by failure.
(2) Social modeling: If you see people like yourself succeed, you are more likely to believe that you have the capacity to do so. Observing the failures of others instills doubts about one's own ability to master similar activities.
(3) Social persuasion: If people are persuaded to believe in themselves, they will exert more effort and increase their chances of success. But effective social persuaders do more to strengthen self-efficacy: they try to arrange things for others in ways that bring success and avoid placing them prematurely in situations where they are likely to fail.
(4) Reducing stress and depression, building physical strength, and learning how to interpret physical sensations: People rely on their physical and emotional states to judge their capabilities. They read tension, anxiety, and depression as signs of personal deficiency. In activities that require strength and stamina, they interpret fatigue and pain as indicators of low physical efficacy.
There is a lot to contemplate in terms of leadership here.

Resilience can be enhanced by overcoming difficult obstacles. Setting difficult but achievable goals for yourself and your team would therefore be a way to develop resilience.

Associating with successful peers is a good way to develop efficacy.

Social persuasion goes back to the first point - difficult but doable goals.

I wish I knew more about how to work with "reducing stress and depression". I'm a bit of a neurotic, and tend to be a stress monster. Sometimes that engagement with stress is what I need to get going, sometimes it can be crippling. It's a fine line.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy. Harvard Mental Health Letter, 13(9), 4.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Phelps on Flourishing

The good life as it is popularly conceived typically involves acquiring mastery in one’s work, thus gaining for oneself better terms—or means to rewards, whether material, like wealth, or nonmaterial—an experience we may call “prospering.” As humanists and philosophers have conceived it, the good life involves using one’s imagination, exercising one’s creativity, taking fascinating journeys into the unknown, and acting on the world—an experience I call “flourishing.” These gains are gains in experience, not in material reward, though material gains may be a means to the nonmaterial ends. As the writer Kabir Sehgal put it, “Money is like blood. You need it to live but it isn’t the point of life.”

I'm working on some questions about agency and autonomy for a paper, and I came across this article sort of by accident. But this passage just leaped out at me. I'm now reading Phelp's book.

I miss thinking about these questions - it's mostly what we did at GMU.

Monday, June 5, 2017

defining Open Educational Resources (OER)

Nice report from the OECD about OER:

The definition of OER currently most often used is “digitised materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning and research”. OER includes learning content, software tools to develop, use and distribute content, and implementation resources such as open licences. This report suggests that “open educational resources” refers to accumulated digital assets that can be adjusted and which provide benefits without restricting the possibilities for others to enjoy them. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

WikiPedia writing as an assignment

I am writing about the Open Pedagogy experiment I tried in last semester's Organizational Behavior course as one of my projects while I'm up here in Whitefield for the UNH Writing Academy.

An interesting article I came across talks about a professor who gave his students the assignment to add an entry to WikiPedia.

I decided to include Wikipedia as a central part of a course I was teaching in the belief that it was only by actively contributing to the encyclopedia that students would learn about its weaknesses, as well as its strengths. And also with the idea that they would thereby, and perhaps rather incidentally, improve articles in a field (Latin American literature) in which in my experience Wikipedia has been especially weak.
There are some puzzles here - like how do you grade something that could potentially be edited by strangers and not ultimately be entirely the student's work? But that's a small hurdle. I like the outcomes:
But one could argue that for most of the occupations that most of these students will be entering after they finish their time in academia, argumentation is not in fact so important as it is in the academy itself. Information gathering, presentation, meticulousness, teamwork, and the ability to negotiate with the public sphere are (I hesitate perhaps to admit) much more useful to them. 
Moreover, writing Wikipedia does instill critical thinking, if not of the variety that is usually most explicitly addressed at university--though perhaps it should be. Wikipedia's editors are endlessly encouraged to think critically about the information that they come across, and also about their own writing and self-presentation.
This sounds like a very cool assignment. His essay is posted on WikiPedia here:

He concludes:
I should certainly admit that I have often felt that it's been something of a high-wire act, in which anything might go wrong at any minute. It still may do so. In which case, I can always go back and edit this text...
Yes, I know that feeling. The whole spring semester I felt a bit like I had jumped out of an airplane and only then started sewing a parachute.

UNH Writing Academy at the Mountain View Grand Hotel

I'm sitting in that boxy single level room on the right side of this picture as I write this entry. I'm taking a break from writing to make a couple of quick posts. This post is just to say where I've been the last few days.

The University of New Hampshire has a number of faculty development programs, the UNH Writing Academy is one of them. I've been squirreled away in the beautiful Mountain View Grand Hotel for four days this week with a cohort of about 25 colleagues, mostly assistant professors like me, trying to work toward tenure. We're from all the different disciplines. I was sitting up after a long day of writing last night talking over a glass of bourbon with a professor in chemical engineering and another professor in linguistics. This is a bit of what I imagined academia would be like. Unfortunately it's much more isolated, so it's really cool to actually get a chance to spend some time with my colleagues and talk about our work and learn about what they do.

Bourbon aside, we've mostly sat quietly in exquisitely appointed rooms, tapping away on our keyboards this week. I've written about 25 pages on two articles. I hate to admit it, but more than I wrote all last spring semester. 

It's been a great experience. We head home this afternoon, but I feel lucky to have been a part of this.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

an ending to the Open Ped experiment

So the semester is finally over - what an adventure it was trying to implement Open Ped, to be an unteacher. I feel like it's not quite right to say I taught the course. I'm coining this concept of unteaching right now, in the spirit of an unconference (according to Wikipedia, an uncofnerence is "a participant-driven meeting").

Nothing is perfect, and no plan is ever executed exactly as conceived. There were some parts that definitely need work, and some parts where I might need to have a heavier hand than I did this year. But overall, what a great experience.

Here is a link to the class's final project, The Primer:

I was so impressed with the overall quality of this document, particularly the effort they made to standardize across the whole document - not an easy feat.

I am really looking forward to sharing it with next year's class and seeing it grow and mature.

For those of you who followed the progress of my class this past semester, I think The Primer is all the proof I need of how well my students performed. Is it perfect? Is it ready for publication by a major publisher? That's not really a fair standard. Keep in mind the authors of this document had never had an organizational behavior class before this one. And yet this is what they were able to do. I'm very proud of what they did.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Student Presentation: Organizational Ethics

Regan and Caroline are presenting on organizational ethics for our organizational behavior course. Here's the pre-work they assigned for the class today:
Hope everyone is having a great day with friends and family! Please watch this quick video and think about these questions for our presentation tomorrow:

what does ethics mean to you? what is one scenario in your life where ethics have come into play ?what ethical problems do you see being a challenge in the workplace? what are some ethical challenges in a healthcare setting? 
My thoughts:

what does ethics mean to you?

For me, ethics is a system of guiding principles that provide boundaries for acceptable behavior. Organizations often have formal ethics rules that provide guidance for employee behavior, and those rules are often enforced by formal and informal sanctions. But an ethical system transcends formal rules, and each of us has inside ourselves an internal set of ethical standards, though those internal ethical standards are sometimes not well defined and sometimes not consistent.

A common sentiment about ethics is "it's the things you do when no one will know". That is an appeal to the internal ethical system. If you know you won't get caught, and yet you still obey certain beliefs about boundaries of behavior, you have found your internal ethical center.

The military spends a great deal of time talking with service members about ethics precisely because service members are often put into stressful situations where it is highly likely no one will know what they did.

I wrestled with finding an internally consistent set of ethics until I was introduced to the work of Adam Smith, an 18th century moral philosopher and the founder of modern economics. Smith divided individual ethics into two categories: commutative justice and distributive justice. Commutative justice can be summarized in terms of absolute rights: the right to life, liberty, and property. These rights were best articulated by John Locke in his 1689 Second Treatise of Civil Government. Smith sometimes refers to these rights as "perfect rights", but more modern moral philosophers refer to them negative rights. They are negative rights in the sense that you have the right to stop someone from taking any of these things from you. You have the right to respond with violence if someone attempts to violate your perfect rights. If someone tries to hurt you, you have the right to repel them with violence; if someone tries to take your things, you have the right to repel them with physical violence. I have the right to protect my person and my property from you, and I have the right to go about my business unless I am violating one of your perfect rights. A key characteristic of commutative justice is it is independent of your position in society or your relationships with other people. These are fundamental human rights that extend to all people. There is nothing praiseworthy about obeying the principles of commutative justice; it is negative in the sense that you can satisfy its requirements by doing nothing.

Distributive justice is characterized by relationships and individual obligations, and in this sense, it is positive where commutative justice is negative. It is "the becoming use of what is our own, and in the applying it to those purposes either of charity or generosity, to which it is most suitable, in our situation, that it should be applied." The principles of distributive justice deal with what we should do to be praise worthy individuals. Calling a friend and wishing them well when you know they are sick, or going to visit them when you know they are sad are examples of distributive justice. You take a resource of your own - in this case your time - and you share it with someone with whom you have a relationship. It is often a sacrifice of some sort on your part in order to make someone else better off. If you know your friend just went through a painful break up and you take the time to take them out for coffee, you are meeting the requirements of distributive justice, especially if you could have been doing something more fun than listening to their sorrows. This behavior is praiseworthy. However, if you don't take the time to visit with them, you are not meeting the requirements of distributive justice, and now your behavior is blameworthy. A key difference between commutative justice and distributive justice arises here: not visiting a sad friend is blameworthy and deserves to be looked down on, but never rises to the level of a violation of commutative justice, which justifies physical intervention and potentially physical punishment. Distributive justice is always relative. If you are sick or sad, but you are not my friend, I do not have an obligation to visit with you. Depending on the circumstances, it might be kind of me to do so, or it might be just weird. That is the key to understanding distributive justice - the circumstances and relationships matter. Under commutative justice, the circumstances and relationships don't matter - everything is pretty much black and white.

what is one scenario in your life where ethics have come into play ?
what ethical problems do you see being a challenge in the workplace?
 what are some ethical challenges in a healthcare setting? 

I'll lump these three questions together...

I find the commutative justice/distributive justice system internally consistent, and it helps me think through ethical problems. For instance, I happen to have a number of LBGT friends. But I also grew up in a time that was relatively conservative, and the rights of LBGT people were not as well respected as they are now. In the mid-2000's, gay marriage was being hotly debated, and starting to be legalized at the state level. My initial, gut reaction was not one of support. This was despite the fact that I cared about my friends and wanted them to be happy. I applied my ethical analysis based on the Smithian framework above and decided that marriage was a fundamental right of liberty - it was a commutative justice question. If two adults wanted to be married, my discomfort with the idea was not an appropriate justification for preventing that. I was not in a place to either stop or allow this policy, but having a clear framework helped me work through a thorny ethical question.

More specifically on a professional level, healthcare administrators deal with ethical issues all of the time. Decisions about what kind of care should be delivered and to whom is a problem we deal with. How do we deal with the uninsured, especially if we are a charitable organization?

Again, more specific to my experience is how we deal with coding. It is very easy to up-code patient records to generate higher levels of billing - and consequently higher levels of compensation for the organization and the individual providers. While there is a risk to this, it is possible to game the system in various ways. As a former CFO, I was always looking for ways to improve the compensation my organization received for the work it was already doing. This is an important function for a finance executive. The mechanisms for compensation shape the way organizations operate. This is not in itself unethical. The compensation systems are often designed explicitly to get organizations to change the way they do business - MACRA and MIPS are examples of policy changes that are intended to force healthcare organizations to reorganize. The ethical issue organizations face is as they reorganized to take advantage of changes in the marketplace is whether their behavior is consistent with the law (commutative justice) and the mission, vision, and values of the organization (distributive justice). If a non-profit, charitable organization begins to give priority treatment to commercially insured patients over those with either Medicaid or no insurance, that organization may not be breaking the law (violating commutative justice), but it may not be staying true to the spirit of its purpose for existing (violating distributive justice).