The Final Chapter


At long last I find myself writing the final chapter of a story which began in January 2011. This story details my journey through the MEd program in Adult Learning. It has been a journey of self-discovery, revelation, challenge, perseverance and finally, accomplishment. On December 12th I will graduate – finally!

I cannot say I have any regrets. I have done the absolute best that I can and I have certainly learned much that will likely benefit me for years to come. This is a great program; one that I would highly recommend to others. However, make no mistake – I am ready to move on.

As I anticipate moving on, I want to pause and thank a few people who have enhanced this journey. Special thanks to Drs. Carter, Hurst, Muth and Watwood; they provided invaluable assistance along the way. I also want to mention a few authors who I especially appreciated including Caffarella, Block, Vella, Levi and Marquardt. Others certainly contributed to my learning journey but these stand out as exceptional.

Finally, I am grateful for the friendships made along the way, some of which I’m sure will be lifelong. And it goes without saying that “Wally” will always be near and dear to my heart, having providing a way to express so many thoughts and reflections along the way and at the same time provide some anonymity. Wally, you rock!

I’ll conclude with my bucket list for when I have that diploma in hand. I intend to start working on this the moment I exit the Siegel Center on graduation day.

  • Wake up one day and have the luxury of deciding what I will do to relax that day
  • Go fishing with my son
  • Read for recreation
  • Take my father to the Virginia Museum
  • See the top of my dinner room table for weeks at a time
  • Have a leisurely visit with an ole friend
  • Go on a date with my husband






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Game Changer



Last Thursday was a particularly challenging day.  I came to class feeling very devalued and frustrated; largely due to some work related issues.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was that I had stuck in my craw, but it was definitely irritating me!  I initially dreaded class, anticipating that it would add to my frustrations.  I could not have been more wrong.

Our work group has adopted the name, the “Game Changers” and as it turns out for me, it has been a bit prophetic in nature.  As we worked away on our assignment during class, the stress of day seemed to melt away.  The practice of slowing down and deliberately reflecting before speaking really helped me focus on what I perceived as the problem; to dig deeper, think more critically and not to rely solely on my feelings, my biases, or my personal interpretations.  The process was transforming.  The result was that by the end of the evening we, as a group, collaboratively accomplished something of value.  As we applied the principles of action learning, we truly began to break ground in digging deeper to discover the root of the problem with which our client is now grappling.  I believe the experience boosted our confidence and excitement regarding our semester project.

I went home that evening pondering all this.  Instead of stewing about what was happening at work, I began to apply the same principles of action learning to my dilemma; asking myself questions about the situation and what had led to the latest developments and the feelings I now harbored.  I awoke the next morning with a clearer idea of the problem and what I needed to do to appropriately address it and when I got to work, I did just that.  I immediately had a sense of relief and felt more energized and focused on the tasks at hand.  I also realized that I had not merely been completing a class assignment the evening before, but rather practicing skills that have immerged over time as a result of being in the Adult Learning program.   These were life skills that had immediate relevance for me both now and in the future.  Although my work circumstances had not changed, I was being transformed by the principles and practices of what I have been learning over the last three years.  I guess you could say the experience was a real, “game changer”!

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Final Thoughts on ADLT 606

ADLT 606 was completed over a month ago.  However, I wanted to provide a few final thoughts on the experience of program design before moving on.  Here are a couple of excerpts from my final reflection.

“One of my favorite parts of the Vella (2008) text was the reference to the “magic” experienced in good learning (p. 76).  Although I have had the privilege of witnessing this a couple of times with adult learners, I was struck with the realization of just how much work goes into making this magic as I completed the project design for the MSW Skills Training Workshop.  The experience of learning may sometimes seem magical. However, the work of program planning is anything but.  As I struggled through the process of creating program goals, program objectives, achievement based objectives, learning tasks and ultimately, evaluation strategies, this became quite clear.  The experience served to drive home the point that there is a lot of hard work that goes into making the “magic” of learning possible!”

“I found myself highly motivated to complete the tasks required for these assignments.  I was hungry to learn and apply the skills of program design.  I could relate well to what Merriam and Bierema (2014) describe as internal motivation, as I worked through the course assignments.

. . . , it is no surprise that the most potent motivators for adults to learn are internal rather than external.  In other words, increased job satisfaction with one’s work, enhanced self-esteem, improved quality of life and personal fulfillment lead adults to learn beyond what might be required by some agency or institution.  An adult is free to choose to learn, which is quite a bit different from pre-adult learning where others determine what the student needs to know. (p. 54)

Although involved in a great deal of program planning, it is not essential in my current position that I have the skill to develop curriculum.  Hopefully, however, this skill will enhance my value to the department of surgery and my personal satisfaction with the quality of the work I am able to provide.  This kind of internal motivation provided much of the energy and stamina that went into the completion of the course assignments.”

Take home point:  The work is not about an end product as much as it is about the learning that takes place in the process!

I think I may be ready for Capstone.

Merriam, S. and Bierema, L. (2014). Andragogy:  The art and science of helping adults learn. In Adult learning:  Linking theory and practice (pp 42 – 60). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Vella, J. (2008). Individual learning enhanced.  In On teaching and learning:  putting the principles and practices of dialogue education into action. (pp. 67 – 80) San Francisco, CA:  Jossey-Bass.

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I recently found myself pondering what exactly is meant by the cliché “live and learn”.  According to The Free Dictionary, it means to “increase one’s knowledge by experience. (Usually said when one is surprised to learn something.)”  The cliché seems to imply that if I am living, I am learning.  It also seems to assume that I will find myself surprised by the experience of learning.  I don’t know about you, but to me these ideas take a somewhat laissez faire approach to learning.  I do realize that every now and then, we learn something unanticipated from an experience.  However, as an adult learner, I don’t really anticipate that I should be “surprised” by the experience of learning.  Rather, learning should be something intentional; something that I choose to do quite deliberately.

I can better relate to what Merriam and Bierema (2014) have to say about learning.  According to the authors, anyone who fails to learn is regarded as “oku eniyan” or “the living dead”.   In other words, to refuse to apply oneself to the activity of learning is akin to walking through life as “the living dead”!

The antithesis of what Merriam and Bierema describe as an “oku eniyam” is one who becomes fully alive through the continual stimulus of applying oneself to learning.  Here, there is no passive, laissez faire attitude.  Rather, there is joyful exuberance in the willful choice to embrace purposeful learning in adulthood.

As I read through what Vella (2008) and Caffarella (2013) had to say about the planning that goes into adult learning programs, this only reinforced my thoughts.  Authentic learning happens because of thoughtful, careful planning – not through happen stance.  I rather think that “learn and live” is a more appropriate way of describing the adventure and commitment to lifelong learning.

I will probably never think of the cliché “live and learn” in quite the same way again.

Caffarella R. & Daffron S. (2013). Planning programs for adult learners: A practical guide. San Francisco, CA:  Jossey-Bass.

Merriam, S. & Bierema, L. (2014).  Adult learning:  Linking theory and practice.  San Francisco, CA:  Jossey-Bass.

The Free Dictionary (2014). Retrieved from

Vella, J. (2008). On teaching and learning: Putting principles and practices of dialogue education into action. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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Diving Into Program Design

I’ve been excited about thisWoman diving into blue water from boat class since I started reading the text by Caffarella and Daffron.  In my current position I spend a lot of time with program planning; whether it is in setting up an eight week long surgical intern boot camp, a four week long surgery elective for fourth year medical students who are going into surgery, a two hour course featuring a specific surgical skill or coordinating an entire year long surgical skills curriculum.  I am tasked with recruiting the faculty who will instruct, assisting with the development of  goals and objectives and assessment tools, as well as pulling together and setting up all the materials and instruments needed for these courses.

However, it was not the details of my current responsibilities that were in the forefront of my thinking as I read through the first couple of chapters of the book.  Rather,  as I read I reflected upon where we, as an organization, once were in terms of simulation training; where we are today and how we got there.  It was a virtual walk down memory lane, reflecting on the contextual elements of organizational culture, leadership and political influences which have transformed over time to allow for the present state of support for both the quantity and quality of the simulation training that now exists.  Developing course content, structuring how information will be delivered and how learning will be evaluated has been secondary to navigating the groundwork of the contextual complexities.  Successful program planning rests, in part, upon the planner’s ability to understand, incorporate and cooperate with an organization’s structural, political and cultural context.  Cafferella and Daffron emphasize this when they say, “A major skill and an art, discerning the context is an essential component that planners continually explore as they design education and training programs for adults” (p. 99).  Additionally, to point out the skills which might be required to interact with those in a position of power, the authors add, “. . . an effective planner should be a tactical agent who understands the planning situation well and is able to use a variety of power and influence tactics according to the situation” (p. 92).  I never quite realized how multi-faceted the role of the program planner could be; ranging from that of an investigator, to interpreter, to coordinator to negotiator!

Much like a swimmer should contemplate the depth of the water, the temperature and the water current before executing a dive, it is incumbent upon the program planner to assess the various environmental entities which may impact the outcome of their program planning. Thus, I find myself consumed as much with the contextual aspects of the program I am contemplating developing for this class as the content and learning structure.  Prior to “diving in” I’m trying to take a close look at the organizational structure, leadership and culture, as well as the wider environmental boundaries in which the organization exists. Finally, I realize that careful consideration must be given to entities of power and influence which may impact the success of this planning.  Taking all of this into consideration may not ensure the success of the program, however, it may serve to negate a few of the frustrations that would inevitably come were I to neglect this part of the planning process.

Caffarella and Daffron (2013) Planning Programs for Adult Learners: A Practical Guide, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.

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Different Yet Not Divided

Diverse Group of People


Diversity can enhance the experience of team work.  It can also provide some interesting challenges depending upon the types of diversity and the tasks being completed by the teams (Levi, 2014).

 The challenge of diversity is to get the benefits of functional diversity and differences in perspectives, while managing the communication and conflict problems created by diverse people working together.  Positive benefits accrue when a team learns how to overcome the challenges created by diversity (Mannix & Klimoski, 2005).

Levi, 2014

SPAMMAPS is a diverse team involving differences in gender, ethnicity, age and psychological characteristics.  Levi (2014) makes the point that over time diverse individuals can develop a sense of identity as they begin to work more cohesively, forming an emotional bond.  “Time working together reduces the negative social impacts of surface-level diversity, while increasing the value of deep-level diversity” (p. 251). Clearly allowing time to work through the diversity that exists in a group is important.

It may have taken SPAMMAPS the better part of a semester to formulate its unique identity but as we approach our finish presentation, there is a sense that we are all committed to finishing well, to contributing to the learning of all our classmates and to enjoying a true sense of satisfaction in knowing we have done good work.  We may have started out being very different but we have managed to forge a common bond that has rendered us at this point, perhaps more  alike than different.

The process of team formation is not usually an “instant” kind of thing.  Diversity may even slow down the process.  In a society that has grown not only love but expect, almost everything in an instant, teamwork may seem rather challenging.  Especially for those teams comprised of diverse members.  However, given time what once seemed to divide its members, may later connect them in deep and meaningful ways.  For many, it is worth the wait.

Levi, D. (2014) Group Dynamics for Teams, Los Angeles, SAGE Publications.

Posted in ADLT 612 | 3 Comments

Failure Need Not Be Fatal

We recently had Shaka Smart       ajrayno_1364432311_ajrayno_1364429901_ajrayno_1364429643_Shaka    come and speak to our Groups and Teams class.  He said a lot of things that resonated with me but one thing, in particular, really struck me.  As he responded to a question about a play which took place during the last game of the season, he explained that one player’s isolated actions might have looked quite differently were one to consider the series of actions which took place just prior to the one in question, especially had things happened a bit differently than they had.  I found myself thinking about that young ball player whose actions had come under scrutiny and how I hoped he would just take the experience as an opportunity to learn and grow and not let one failure prove fatal to his college basketball career.  I suddenly realized; I could take a lesson myself from all of this.

It has been several weeks since I experienced a major personal failure.  I not only let myself down but my teammates, as well, which has made the experience much harder to work through.  I had a simple task in the presentation and I had prepared for it.  However, looking back at the experience, I see where I made a major miscalculation in what I anticipated from the audience and when Plan A did not work, I did not have a Plan B to fall back on.  I’m a planner and almost never do anything without a back-up plan, however some recent circumstances had left me frazzled and fatigued, feeling out of sorts.  I was not on top of things.  I am also usually quite spontaneous and can think on my feet but I literally felt drained and as I stood before the class, I suddenly felt as if I had scrambled eggs for brains. ScrambledEggs11 I grappled with what to do and with every attempt to make things better, I feel I made them worse.  It was a colossal failure on my part.

It’s taken the better part of several weeks to work through some real depression over what happened and to reflect on what I did wrong, confront it as best I can, and figure out how to do better next time.  Much like the young basketball player to whom Shaka Smart referred, I need not make this failure prove fatal but rather look at it as a learning experience and determine to do just that – learn from it!  Failure is hard but it can lead to ultimate success if put into proper perspective.   Okay, I concede: the game’s over and I lost this one.  But, there’s another game, another season; another project and/or presentation and yet another opportunity to learn and get it right.  Time to put this behind me and move on.

The playoffs begin for the over-30 basketball league Aug. 4 at the fitness center here. The championship game is scheduled to take place Aug. 10 at the fitness center gym here.

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