Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Institutional Memory



It's been a long time since I've blogged about something educational, other than my classes of course.  With one thing down (and a million more to go), I decided to take a little breather to see what's accumulated on Pocket over these past few months.  I saw a post by Martin Weller on Institutional Memory, and it seemed quite pertinent to my day to day work existence these past six or so months.  Martin points to a BBC article indicating that the optimal time in a specific job is around 3 years.

This isn't the first time I've heard this.  About 11 years ago (wow!) I was working for my university library.  I was new to the Systems Department (the IT department in a library) and my supervisor was new.  When we were getting to know more about each other's work histories (before you could look at LinkedIn profiles), she had told me that she aimed to stay there for a few years and then move on. People should only stay in their current work for 3 years. At the time I found this advice a little odd, after all I had stayed with my previous department for 8 years total, before moving to the library, and even then I still stayed within the institution.

From my own experience I can say that if institutions were perfectly running machines, with perfectly documented procedures, and good version histories that we could reference to get an insight into why things are done the way they are done, then "short" 3 year stays at a job (or an institution) might (in theory) make sense.  You come in, the institution benefits from your expertise, you benefit from the experience, you (metaphorically) hug and go your separate ways at the end of your tour. However, institutions are complex organisms. The reasons why things are the way they are might not be documented. Sometimes the procedure was a backroom deal between one academic Dean and another.  Sometimes it's the duct tape and paper-clip that holds everything together because at the time the organization didn't have the ability to break everything down and rework something from scratch.  Other times it's good ol' fashioned human-human relationships that make things work (i.e. bypassing parts of the system where things are bottlenecked but no one will change things).

Given this reality, I think 3 years is a rather short time to spend at a job or an institution.  I know that when I've changed jobs it's taken me up to a year to fully "get" all the connections, the people, and the systems in place to not only do my job but to do my job effectively and efficiently. Leaving before you can make a lasting impact at the institution is a little selfish given that the employee gets good exposure to new skills and ideas, but leaves before they can really put those to use on anything more than a bandaid†.

Sure.  Even when you stay at an organization for more than 3 years, after a little while you will reach the plateau of efficiency in what you are doing. It may take you 3 years, it might take you 2, it might take more.  Sooner or later you will get there.  At that point, that's when the organization has a responsibility to keep things fresh for their employees. This benefits both the organization and the employees.  Employees feel challenged, in good ways, (think of it as a ZPD for work), and organizations get to retain and employ the talent that they've incubated.  If people leave because they feel bored that's a shortcoming of the organization.

I know that in my own experience working at my university (19 years now), even though my jobs have changed, and my departments have changed, that institutional knowledge follows me, and I share it with other people. Just because something might not be of particular use to me right now, it doesn't mean that it's not useful to another colleague who is newer at the institution.  Having this oral history, and this means of passing it down to others is of use.  Leaving your post and experiencing this high turnover rate  is detrimental to an institution‡.

Your thoughts?



NOTES:
† Don't get me wrong, private sector companies, especially ones that vehemently refuse union organization, and use globalization as a way to use and abuse employees by not paying them a living wage, by not providing good benefits, and by shirking their responsibilities in their social contracts are not worthy of employee loyalty of this nature. We just can't afford, as people to to say "I am only looking out for myself".

‡ Another thing that came to mind, as I was writing this, has to do with hiring. Hiring isn't as simple as posting a job at the university's "help wanted" site. Between the time a need for someone arises, and someone is hired, it can take a very (very) long time.  Just as an example, there are two jobs that come to mind that I applied for.  One for my current job where I applied in March, interviewed in December, started in February).  My job at library systems where I applied in February (I think), got the call for an interview in November, heard that I got the job in December, started in January. All of this is considered "fast", so when it takes that long to get hired, I would say that 3 years somewhere is a rather short time.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

EDDE 806 - Post X - it marks the spot!

This past Thursday we had our official EDDE 806 session (on Monday, Norine did a mock proposal defense, which I wasn't able to attend, but luckily it's archived for later viewing). In any case, in this session we heard from Renate who reported in on her ideas for a dissertation topic, and there were a ton of interesting things about process that were shared by Susan and others.

Renate is looking to do a study in order to understand the lived experience of pre-licensure (nursing?) students, attending their final clinical practicum, after they have been exposed to an IPE (interprofessional education) didactic curriculum. To do this she will use a qualitative, phenomenological, approach to her research design.  Phenomenology seems to be quite popular between the current cohorts (wonder why). She aims to get about 15 participants from a variety of healthcare professions (in Canada) who will be her research participants.  I am looking forward to reading this research when it's done. It reminds me a little of other professions where there is professional education, but we haven't necessarily seen if the former students practices connect with what they have learned, and how well those connect.

In terms of tips for the dissertation process (and the proposal process for that matter), Susan and Peggy Lynn shared the following (my comments are in italics):

  • Getting yourself in a routine.  Even if you are not doing much on your proposal (or you dissertation), do spend 10-15 minutes on the document anyway.  Re-read, copy edit, make notes. Just keep the process going, even if you're not actively working on it. I have not been doing this this semester, but I think that next week I'll start.  Maybe grab a cup of coffee and spend 15 minutes editing (and look at what Debra commented on from EDDE805, lol)
  • Once the changes to your dissertation (or dissertation proposal) are made (based on the committee feedback) and you have an oral defense scheduled, do not edit the document, not even copy edit!  The committee will use this document as a reference when they quiz you, so it's best if you are all on the same page.
  • Once you pass your dissertation proposal, make a copy of the proposal file for archival purposes.  File it away (I would add, maybe in PDF format!). Then take another other copy to build out your dissertation from.  This is good versioning practice, and it allows us to share successful proposals with other cohort members who might want to see a sample of what is good.
  • The runtime for a defense is about 2 hours.  There are three members on the committee, and the order for questioning is: 1) External member, 2) other member from AU, and 3) your supervisor.  Each gets about 15 minutes of Q&A.  Your presentation at the start of this is 20 minutes, so I guess it's good to practice the heck out of our presentation to make sure that we are on the mark with the points we want to make, and on time!
  • The examiners need to see your face when you start your dissertation to verify visually that it is you defending.  So...make sure that you wear appropriate clothing and present a professional environment. Also make sure that if you are at home that cats, dogs, birds, and rodents are somewhere else and that they don't provide their own soundtrack to your defense
  • Finally, a good point by Peggy Lynn: look for articles that are reporting on the opposite thing that you are proposing. This stuff might come up in your defense so you need to know how to rebut it!


By the way, if you are reading this, and you are in one of the cohorts, please feel free to add to this wiki page. We are putting together a list of topics that we are all working on  (or have worked in, in the case of previous cohorts) for our dissertations.  This will give others in future cohorts (as well as our own) what people have worked on in the past :-)


And, since it was a phenomenology sort of talk... for your learning pleasure, the muppets!