I really could not think of much but getting a good night’s sleep for a couple days after my Royal Roads residency ended last Friday. Now that I have had time to get through the rest of one of my two textbooks and finished the first of my two post-residency assignments, I can look back over the past few weeks and see where I am, where I have come from and where (I think) I am going ….
People and castles
Notwithstanding the little barrack dorm in which I spent 12 days, the campus experience was great. Our group seemed to gel very well and I sense the two weeks was the beginning of some pretty good friendships. The intensity allowed us to focus on group project work and start this degree on a reasonably even playing field, while helping us better understand places in which we can all improve to make the distance group work more successful over the next couple years. A good indicator of the overall intensity was the level to which people cut loose after our banquet. A release was clearly needed.
We were told that the reason the RRU programs are so much more successful than traditional distance programs (95% success versus 50%) is that they throw short, intense residencies into the mix. I believe it. Distance education can be isolating and will often not work for learning styles which depend on relationships and interaction with other people. I believe that having faces, names and personal relationships will help people to feel more inclined to put in extra effort at times when motivation may be ebbing. I also think the beautiful grounds, peacocks, Hatley Castle and general ambiance might have a little to do with it, too.
Learned concepts and new explorations
While I had a grounding in qualitative and quantitative research and the basic difference between them, I have had a pretty skeletal understanding of what they really are and how to look hard at data. I would say that is still pretty true, but I have a far better idea of the things I need to explore to begin to get a better grasp on quantitative data analysis and the ways in which we can frame qualitative research questions to avoid bias. This is an area into which I will be delving more deeply.
Even the small amount of reading I have done to this point on learning theory really has me pumped to learn a lot more. In particular, the way learning is so deeply connected to philosophy and psychology is very intriguing. I have always found sociology very interesting and, in particular, how technology is affecting human behaviour. With a communications background and, now, an excuse (by way of getting a grad degree) to look deeply into the intersection of social science and technology, it is pretty safe to say my spare time is largely spoken for.
Recognizing personal behavioural weaknesses
Perhaps the biggest change I have started to see is in self-examination. I still know my strengths (though they are clearly not as strong as I thought they were), but I am really looking at my weaknesses as bigger monsters to be tamed. As you read the following, do not get the impression that my confidence is suddenly shattered. Rather, I simply find that many of my tacit assumptions about myself are not proving to be true. I find myself somewhere between initial disruption and making meaning of my own new discoveries in this area.
I far too easily revert to type when group projects become challenging and tend to start ‘shoring’ things up and regimenting process to move them along. MacKeracher (2004) says that, among other traits I seem to possess, emotional intelligence includes recognizing emotions in others and handling relationships by managing moods and emotions in others. It is safe to say that this area could use a bit of work on my part.
It is not that I fail to recognize the emotions of others, and I can even be pretty empathetic at times, but I believe I do not give them enough validity if things get tough. If someone else works or learns in a far different way from me, my approach is likely to have poor results. I need to learn to more quickly recognize those who are right-brain dominant, or perhaps whose style is not as autonomous as mine.
I am no longer convinced of my analytical and critical thinking skills. I know it is still my orientation and love evidence to back up an assertion, but based on the things I was writing in my first pass at an academic paper, I clearly still make a lot of statements based on bias and opinion when I am unaware of doing so.
The payoff in change
If there is a silver lining to be found in all this, it is likely that I am recognizing things that can be changed with a little work. Not only will better accepting different approaches and improving my emotional intelligence simply make me a better person, it will certainly pay dividends in how I do my job, as well as the group work I will be involved in during this Masters degree.
Aside from allowing me to obtain my degree, going deep into this general subject matter is really where I see a lot of the personal growth and gratification coming from. I guess it is a pretty big help that I have long found the stuff very interesting.
Removing bias in my thinking will help me ask the right questions at the right time as I read and will ensure my writing reaches a new level. While this is important in academic reading and writing, I am certain it will even pay greater dividends in my daily activities, improving everything from work presentations and research right down to the writing on this blog.
Finally, getting more rigorous and capable in research will perhaps allow me to move in new professional directions over time. Doing it well will help my current job, but will most certainly prepare me for new challenges, too.
MacKeracher, D. (2004). Making Sense of Adult Learning. Toronto, Ont. University of Toronto Press.