Artefact #4

Description

This assignment was a two part collaborative paper designed to apply various systems theories to educational settings. The educational settings were chosen by myself and my assignment partner. We each contributed a setting with which we were personally familiar. Each setting was analyzed using Peter Checkland's soft system analysis approach and the function/structure model (Banathy, 1995) for the purpose of solving problems that were evident in each setting.

Associated Competencies

1. Problem Solving, Analysis, & Decision Making
1.1.Recognize problems
1.2.Define the aspects of problems
1.3.Formulate questions
1.4.Find and access information
1.5.Critically evaluate the relevance of information for a given situation
1.6.Compare alternatives using critical analysis
1.7.Make reasoned arguments using critical reflection, leading to rational solutions.
1.8.Justify these solutions
1.9.Present them to others
1.10.Recognize the wider implications of specific knowledge
  
  
  
2. Instructional Design & Development 
2.2Appropriately apply systems theory and systems analysis techniques to instructional design situations in distance education
  
2.6Critically analyze and discuss the common criticisms and controversies relating to the use of traditional and emerging instructional design models in distance education
  
  
3. Communication Technologies and Networking
3.1Use a variety of communication and document-sharing tools to create, reflect, and communicate with others
3.5Apply these technologies in distance education and in real-life instructional contexts.
  
  
4. Communication & Interpersonal Skills
4.1Write clearly and in a style appropriate to purpose (e.g. assignments, essays, published documents, and theses)
4.2Construct coherent arguments and articulate ideas clearly to a range of audiences, formally and informally, through a variety of techniques and media
4.4Support the learning of others when involved in teaching, mentoring, moderating, collaboration or demonstration activities
4.5Participate and contribute effectively in collaborative group activities
4.7Work cooperatively with diverse groups and individuals both within the university and/or in the workplace
4.8Organize, and convey your ideas effectively through a range of communication skills and work collaboratively and in teams.
  
  
5. Research 
5.5Formulate questions and reasoned arguments, leading to rational conclusions
5.6Summarize and synthesize information with a view to pursuing deeper understanding
5.8Critically analyze the issues and discuss the wider implications affecting the use of information 
  
  
6. Management, Organization and Leadership
6.1Analyze the current and future climate of the distance education and distance learning industry, and formulate strategies to respond to that climate
6.2Describe and analyze the business and administrative functions in distance education organizations and critically discuss how business decisions affect financial and non-financial work results

 

Reflection

In my role as professor, I teach Systems Theory as it relates to working with children and families, so this assignment proved a very interesting application as I was working with familiar concepts but applying them in unfamiliar ways. It allowed me to conceptualize education quite differently than I had prior to this work. Completing this assignment solidified the notion of education as a system, which allowed me to better understand it, and its subsystems, for the purpose of solving problems in education (1.1, 1.2).

The process of completing the work required me to really detail the system's components, influences and structures in my workplace (5.5, 5.6). The analysis of the functions within this system provided much information about the current conditions in my workplace and allowed me to begin to imagine how things might be shifted to effect change (6.2). It also gave me insight into how education has changed in recent years, while revealing ways in which the system of education has resisted adaptation (2.6, 6.1). As I reflect on this assignment, I note that the course was taken during the winter of 2013, still relatively early in my master’s degree studies. The ideas learned in this course became a significant part of the foundation upon which I eventually built future conceptualizations and notions about education in later years (5.8). I see how the application of systems theory to my educational practices has become second nature. However, during the creation of this artefact, at such an early stage, it was novel, exciting and full of "ah-ha" moments. I realize now that this assignment has influenced how I assess and evaluate my own work setting and has shifted many of my long-held ideas about education (2.2, 2.6).

I believe one of the key reasons this assignment managed to influence me so much was through the inclusion of graphical representations of the material (3.1, 4.1). Having to create these graphics really worked for me, helping me to pull together rather abstracts thoughts into something that had meaning and could be interpreted visually. They also became important review tools for me as I moved forward in the program making previous learning more accessible as I needed to recall information.

The content of the assignment was largely focused on solving problems that existed within the two educational settings we selected. Together we asked questions and gathered information to ascertain the nature of the problems (1.3, 1.4, 1.5). One of the key themes we found was the discrepancy between management culture and faculty culture as it relates to eLearning. I believe this theme prompted me to begin considering the ways in which I contribute to the faculty culture in my own workplace, while also beginning to wonder how I could shift both the management and faculty culture to promote pedagogically sound advances in e-Learning (1.3, 1,6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9, 1.10).

Using Banathy's Structure-Functions lens I developed skills in using a problem-solving approach that allowed a focus on current conditions, rather than getting bogged down in finding out what went wrong in the past or dwelling on the problems. This approach began to influence the way I interpreted the active problems in my own work environment and helped me to become more interested and able to find the bigger picture. It provided perspective of my own setting, information, which is now influencing my approach and strategies in my department. In particular, the soft systems analysis approach showed me an entirely new way of dissecting problems. Conceptualizing problems, solving problems, ways of knowing and understanding problems began to develop after completing this assignment.

The assignment was also one of the first collaborative assignments I completed in my masters studies (4.4, 4.5, 4.7, 4.8). It was the first time I had used SKYPE as a communication and collaboration tool (3.5, 4.2). The approach we took was largely a ‘divide the work and conquer' method and so, in retrospect, I can see that this assignment was not the best example of effective collaboration. I experienced far more truly collaborative interactions with fellow classmates in the later years of my studies. However, this experience marked an important step in becoming a better collaborator. First of all, I began to become much more aware of my own hesitance to share my work with others, a personal insight which was essential in the change process that ultimately took place as I proceeded through the program.

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