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Facilitated learning by experience - exploring the boundary to unknown territory

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Abstract and Figures

To teach leadership is a unique challenge. One difficulty is, that the teaching situation itself inevitable includes leadership. Another difficulty is, that education includes inevitable a socializing effect on the concerned individuals. Finally, teaching in general as well as leadership teaching, are confronted with the paradox question: How is it possible to educate today's students for an unknown future within a structure rooted in the past? (cf. Kraler et al. 2012, p. 8) This paper addresses those difficulties by introducing an experience centered teaching approach regarding teaching of leadership. At first the scientific foundation, namely intervention science, is presented, followed by a description of the setting of a leadership course and a detailed analysis of a sample of lecturers' interventions. This teaching approach is embedded in ongoing intervention research, according to that, the paper finishes with a discussion on results to date and a future perspective.
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2018_Facilitated_learning_by_experience_Schuster_FINAL
Paper for Presentation at the Poetics of Leadership Conference, Institute for
Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS), University of Cumbria, and Crossfields
Institute, Ambleside, UK, September 7th-8th 2018.
(https://www.crossfieldsinstitute.com/event/the-poetics-of-leadership/)
R. J. Schuster
1
Facilitated learning by experience - exploring the boundary to unknown territory
(Presentation available at: https://prezi.com/view/bBQPYGP5fwi2ZYxHdOms/)
Keywords
Leadership, learning by experience, intervention research, intervention science,
emotion, explorative, normative, mutual thought process, didactic intervention,
facilitated reflection
Abstract
To teach leadership is a unique challenge. One difficulty is, that the teaching situation
itself inevitable includes leadership. Another difficulty is, that education includes
inevitable a socializing effect on the concerned individuals. Finally, teaching in general
as well as leadership teaching, are confronted with the paradox question: How is it
possible to educate today’s students for an unknown future within a structure rooted in
the past? (cf. Kraler et al. 2012, p. 8) This paper addresses those difficulties by
introducing an experience centered teaching approach regarding teaching of
leadership. At first the scientific foundation, namely intervention science, is presented,
followed by a description of the setting of a leadership course and a detailed analysis
of a sample of lecturers’ interventions. This teaching approach is embedded in ongoing
intervention research, according to that, the paper finishes with a discussion on results
to date and a future perspective.
1
Dr. phil. Roland J. Schuster MSc is deputy director of the bachelor study program Technical Sales
and Distribution Management at the University of Applied Sciences BFI Vienna (www.fh-vie.ac.at) and
runs a business for optimizing human communication in organizational contexts (www.corefco.at). His
focus of work is on group dynamics, intervention science and research, project management, leadership,
team leading, team building, conflict management; current intervention research in group dynamics,
leadership and psychodynamic observation of organizations.
Contact: Roland.Schuster@fh-vie.ac.at
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Schuster, R. J. / Facilitated learning by experience - exploring the boundary to unknown territory
Introduction
The focus of the paper is on facilitated learning by experience. It is the assumption
that, to pause and reflect on immediate action can result in learning by experience.
Lecturers challenge in this approach is to facilitate the process of action, pause and
reflection. Based on an intervention science perspective (Schuster 2016, p. 56-68)
organizational facts regarding the educational institution, concerning students,
lecturers and the syllabus can and should be utilized as an integrative part of the
learning/teaching endeavor. Simply put this scholarship perspective is that any
organizational context as such can be used to gain insight on how concerned
individuals are affected. In doing so those individuals can (1) improve their coping
strategies within organizational environments and (2) practice to consciously (Krainz
2011) act within the boundaries of their organizational role (Hirschhorn 1985). This is
according to Gagnon and Collinson (2014, p. 664) who emphasize the importance to
recognize ‘broader organizational and discursive conditions, effects and implications’
regarding leadership and its development. The here presented theory on learning by
experience is illustrated by an actual course on leadership (Schuster/Lobnig 2017,
open access). Facilitated learning of the students and the lecturers based on the
reflection of the actual process here and now is the goal. Additionally, lecturers offer
explanations, theory and/or concepts and invite students to share viewpoints, give their
input of individual knowledge and experience. It is the basic idea that the transfer of
existing theoretical knowledge about leadership can be optimized in enabling the
students to individually integrate theory by participating in mutual reflection (1) on
individual experiences in the past there and then and (2) on the actual experience of
the process here and now.
university
system
specific
university
specific
course
mutual process
including students
and lecturer(s)
society
specific
study
program
Figure 1 Context of the course chosen as example
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Schuster, R. J. / Facilitated learning by experience - exploring the boundary to unknown territory
Figure 1 depicts the context of the specific course chosen as an example for the
argumentations within this paper. The mutual process within the course itself is the
shared here and now, while the other spheres, namely the specific study program, the
specific university, the university system and the society are the rather abstract there
and then, although connected to the here and now of the course. The challenge and
the reward of reflecting the here and now lies in the unavoidable emotional
embeddedness of the people concerned. It is the individual emotional involvement that
transfers rather abstract theory in the practice of living systems.
Intervention Science Perspective
Certain ineffable stirrings of a soul can be imparted by one man to the sensibility of another man through
a look, two bars of a melody, an almost imperceptible movement. That is the real language of souls, and
it remains incomprehensible to the outsider. The word as utterance, as poetic element, may establish the
link, but the word as notion, as element of scientific prose, never. […] To attempt to get an “exact” science
out of the ever-mysterious soul is futile. […] A soul image is never anything but the image of one quite
definite soul. No observer can ever step outside the conditions and the limitations of his time and circle,
and whatever it may be that he “knows” or “cognizes,” the very cognition itself involves in all cases
choice, direction and inner form and is therefore ab initio an expression of his proper soul.’ (Spengler
1918, p. 300-1, p. 303)
Intervention science perspective is rooted in the idea that (social) systems need to
become self-aware to achieve decision-making ability. Intervention research, the
application of intervention science in the field, is applied to acquire this endeavor (cf.
Heintel 2005, p. 147). Heintel argues that the process of intervention research is about
self-enlightenment and that collectives must learn to be aware of their particularity if
they want to reach decision-making ability (2005, p. 146).
Inter- and transdisciplinary bias of intervention science and research requires to enrich
its own core concept by concepts of other disciplines as well as by non-scientific
knowledge of concerned practitioners and lays. Intervention research connects to
didactics if it is an aim to have an emancipatory effect on students.
Education (German: Bildung) can be ‘[…] divided into the three aspects of (1)
subjection, (2) the practice of existing norms, and (3) accompanied reflection
(Schuster 2016, p. 58).
The act of subjection of the person concerned, is done by the performance of signing
a contract that establishes the basic framework for cooperation with the education
institution. The act of practicing existing norms is fixated on the measurement of the
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desired success by means of tests. This makes it possible to work towards a clearly
defined goal. Students must align their actions according to existing norms.
Assimilated students are the outcome. (cf. ib. p. 59-61)
It is important to keep in mind that even reflection on cases there and then is not
enough to leave this area of normative education because of its unconscious
acceptance of organizational pre-conditions regarding the roles of lecturers, students
and the institutional context. It is assumed that the only way to achieve a reflective
state that allows learning by experience is the accompanied reflection of the here and
now including the context, roles and task of the concerned people. (cf. ib. p. 62-64)
E. g. in the situation of the course Leadership & Motivation (Le&Mo) students of a year
form groups, choose their roles as leaders or followers and perform tasks provided by
the lecturers. The course starts with collecting cases students lived through there and
then, in fulfilling the task, experience with the process here and now grows and is used
to reflect on, shortly after it happened. (cf. Schuster/Lobnig 2017, p. 7)
The advantage of this approach is that all students present have the experience of the
here and now and are included in decision processes amongst themselves, regarding
their course related roles and tasks. The context, namely lecturers’ authority qua office,
theirs and the students’ role within the education institution is not included so far.
Besides the task provided, it is necessary for the lecturer(s) to address the actual
contextual roles of students, students’ representatives
2
and themselves. This is done
when lecturers talk about the assessment criteria (cf. Schuster/Lobnig 2017, p. 5) and
rules regarding the course in the plenary and when the students are told that questions,
requests and complaints are to be brought in the plenary and will not be dealt with in
private via E-mail or within office hours. (see Sequence (I), p. 11)
This enlightens one of the tools of hierarchy, namely divide and rule
3
. Experience
shows that one way of study program directors to deal with hierarchical contradictions
and individual students involved is to bargain with those students in private. This is a
detour that does work if there are few students that claim special treatment and there
is no communication amongst students. It is dirty, but makes everyday business easier
and is probably, up to a certain degree, necessary to run organizations. The paradox,
2
In Austria every student is member of the student union (Fachhochschul-Studiengesetz FHStG, §4, subparagraph 10, 24
July 2018). Regarding Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS) every year has its elected student representative.
3
The famous Latin expression is divide et impera.
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that organizations can’t be strictly worked by the rules, is e. g. utilized by unions, in
threatening companies with the announcement that the workforce will engage in a
rulebook showdown.
In bringing individual students’ issues to the plenary those unavoidable, though painful
contradictions become visible. The moment the boundary of the course is crossed and
the context, namely organizational issues regarding the education institution is
included lecturers’ authority qua office its reach and its limits become visible. It is
important for the lecturers to differentiate their authority to be able to address students
in a consistent way. It is also important to tell the students out of which authority a
decision is taken to counteract an unconscious standardization of students’ minds (cf.
Schuster/Radel 2018, p. 285-86). Figure 2 shows the differentiation of lecturers’
authority, namely internal, professional and institutional authority.
institutional authority
(authority qua office)
lecturer(s) as
representative(s) of the
(UAS) system
professional
(subject-
specific)
authority
internal
(individual)
authority
Figure 2 Detailed view on the authority of the lecturer(s) (cf. Schuster/Radel 2018, p. 286)
To integrate the education institution is very sensitive because it concerns aspects of
power respectively domination. Fear and anxiety are relevant here, on the one hand
the fear of confronting emotions, on the other the anxiety of relinquishing one's power
of domination as a lecturer by relativizing emotions - including fear - and losing one's
mastery over the students (cf. Schuster 2018, p. 70). Besides, experience with the here
presented format has shown that lecturers need to inform study program directors and
coordinators that it is a vital part of the didactics if students inquiries related to the
course occur. Without the support of superiors this format is hard to realize respectively
continue (cf. Schuster/Radel 2018, p. 309).
This is the core of didactics inspired by intervention science, namely to include the
given situation and consciously detect, reflect and work through necessary
contradictions (cf. Krainer/Heintel 2015, p. 254-56). According to Krainer and Heintel
necessary contradictions are those ‘[…] that are always given and always have to be
solved […]. They produce conflicts in our everyday life, our organizations and our
global society (ib. p. 254).
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The Connection of Experience, Consciousness, Emotions and Thinking
To provide orientation the following text sketches a concept of the connection of
experience, consciousness, emotions and thinking. It begins with a pragmatic view on
the terms experience, consciousness, emotions, their relation to feelings and thinking.
Based on the theory of Nina Bull (cf. 1968, p. 23), feeling, thinking and behavior (ftb)
are interpreted to represent two contradictory poles of human data processing, namely
ftb-process and ftb-program. Finally, it is argued how to utilize the concept in the
context of leadership teaching.
The term experience in the context of this paper is used in the narrow sense, that
(1) there is no other moment for experience then the now. In addition, the past can
be remembered, and the future can be imagined.
(2) there is no way to repeat experience in this narrow sense.
(3) the whole body is experiencing, and consciousness is the outcome of a very
complex metabolic process based on that experience.
(4) becoming conscious includes a very complex metabolic process and takes at
least approximately ½ second for production (Norretranders 1999: 213-50).
(5) taking (1) into account, conscious experience is a contradiction because it is not
possible to experience the now without a metabolic process that needs some
time to happen and includes a huge amount of unconsciously processed data.
(6) to become conscious of an experience is a massive reduction of data and thus
strongly selective (cf. Zimmermann 1985, 82-139 (partially quoted in
Norretranders 1999)).
(7) the last step of human data processing regarding an experience is thinking
(reasoning, conceptualizing). It is a biological fact that thinking is always about
an experience in the past.
Human production of consciousness is connected to experience and Damasio
emphasizes the function of feeling regarding consciousness and argues that ‘[f]eeling
is, in effect, the barrier, because the realization of human consciousness may require
the existence of feelings. The ‘looks’ of emotion can be stimulated, but what feelings
feel like cannot be duplicated in silicon. Feelings cannot be duplicated unless flesh is
duplicated, unless the brain’s actions on flesh are duplicated, unless the brain’s
sensing of flesh after it has been acted upon by the brain is duplicated (1999, p. 314-
15). Damasio argues the important role of the body (the flesh) respectively the
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individual, regarding consciousness. As a result, experience may vary in different
bodies (individuals). This leads to the assumption that if a collective is reflecting on a
mutual experience it is useful to have a concept of human data processing to be able
to transcend individual and/or collective incarnated pre-judices, and to be able to
tolerate differing individual experiences.
Regarding human data processing, Peter Levine, a Trauma specialist, points out the
accuracy of a concept developed by Bull (1968) and emphasizes ‘[…] what Nina Bull
has deeply grasped, is the reciprocal relationship between the expression of emotion
and the sensate feeling of emotion. When we are “mindlessly” expressing emotion,
that is precisely what we are, in fact, doing. Emotional reactivity almost always
precludes conscious awareness. On the other hand, restraint and containment of the
expressive impulse allows us to become aware of our underlying postural attitude.
Therefore, it is the restraint that brings a feeling into conscious awareness(Levine
2010, p. 338). This fits to Damasio’s view, that the brain is the ‘body’s captive audience
and ‘[u]nder no normal condition is the brain ever excused from receiving continuous
reports on the internal milieu and visceral states, and under most conditions, even
when no active movement is being performed, the brain is also being informed of the
state of its musculoskeletal apparatus (1999, p. 150).
Another interesting fact of the interaction of experience and human data processing is
shown by Heinz von Foerster. This author argues that ‘[…] the synaptic gap can be
seen as the “microenvironment” of a sensitive tip, the spine, and with this interpretation
in mind we may compare the sensitivity of the CNS [central nervous system, R. J. S.]
to changes of the internal environment (the sum total of all microenvironments) to those
of the external environment (all sensory receptors). Since there are only 100 million
sensory receptors, and about 10,000 billion synapses in our nervous system, we are
100 thousand times more receptive to changes in our internal than in our external
environment’ (Foerster 2003, p. 221).
The above shows that emotions are an integral part of human bodies’ production of
consciousness and have an impact on thinking. Based on Bull’s (1968) interpretations
a concept of thinking is presented in the following
4
. Figure 3 shows, highly compressed
and simplified, the evolutionary development of thinking.
4
The whole passage is a slightly further developed translation of Schuster 2018 chapter 2 (p. 65-9).
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Schuster, R. J. / Facilitated learning by experience - exploring the boundary to unknown territory
(A) Due to a stimulus unconscious bodily processes cause a (postural) attitude, which
ultimately leads to a purely instinctive action.
(B) As evolution progresses, the body begins to process changes of (postural) attitudes
as well as e. g. the acceleration of the heartbeat and the stimulus itself by means
of feelings. This perception through feelings leads to the experience of emotion in
the sense of “being-moved”. “Being moved” means that the decision in relation to
the action is already anticipated.
(C) A corresponding expansion of social as well as individual complexity and the
change in the quality of the stimuli lead to a complex of attitudes and the associated
body reactions, thus also to a complex of resulting feelings. The perception through
the complex of feelings and the resulting emotions lead to the evolutionary
development of further processing by means of thinking, which ultimately enables
a resolution in action.
attitude
feeling
action
action based on emotion
originated o ut of feeling
delayed instin ctive action
complex of
attitudes
complex of
feelings
this aspect is not
discussed he re
feeling of inn er processes and external stimuli
Emotion(s) to be moved insideoriginated
out of the comp lex of feelings
resolution
in action
thinking decision
regarding
action based
on thinking
evolutionary development
[...] [U]nconscious stage of readiness [...] called the latent attitude, or predisposition [...].
This is a neural organization known to exist within the central nervous system, and never
conscious under any circumstances whatsoever. (Bull 1968, p. 9)
attitude action
direct instinctive action (A)
(B)
(C)
Stimulus
Stimuli Stimulus
Figure 3 Evolutionary development of thinking (cf. Bull 1968, p. 23; resp. Schuster 2018, p. 65-9)
The argument in (C) represents the current state and is here, based on Ciompi (1997,
262 et seq.) referred to as process of feeling, thinking and behavior in general, or as
program of feeling, thinking and behavior specifically. These are circular relations on
an individual and between the individual and the collective level, with both levels
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influencing each other. In the practical didactic application, experiences on the
individual level and the group level are reflected (Figure 4).
feeling
thinking
behavior
level of the
individual
level of the
group
feeling
thinking
behavior
Figure 4 Circular coherences of feeling, thinking and behavior (cf. Schuster 2018, p. 67)
When learning a specialization, this process of feeling, thinking and behavior (ftb-
process) becomes the desired feeling, thinking and behavior program (ftb-program). In
this sense culture can also be viewed as ftb-program.
As ftb-program the connections between feelingthinking and feelingbehavior
become emotional implicitness’s and sink into the unconscious, in a way like a daily
tram passing by at certain intervals in front of our window, is no longer perceived at
some point. This shows an essential contradiction, which lies in the fact that learning
on the one hand leads to certain thought and/or action sequences being carried out
more economically in relation to a goal, and on the other hand, learning inevitably acts
as a restriction of possibilities (cf. Ciompi 1997, 275).
Figure 5 outlines this distinction of human data processing, namely ftb-process and
ftb-program. The ftb-process is looking for a destination. The determination of the goal
is the goal. The ftb-program works towards a presumed goal.
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feeling
thinking
behavior
emotion-driven
thinking
emotion
directly enacted
feeling
thinking
behavior
emotion-driven
thinking
emotion
directly enacted
process of feeling, thinking and
behavior (ftb-process) program of feeling, thinking and behaviour
(ftb-program resp. normalised ftb-process)
Figure 5 Process resp. program of feeling, thinking and behavior (cf. Schuster 2018, p. 68)
If the emotionally painful learning process is not reflected, because of overemphasizing
the mediation of the normative component of knowledge so the assumption then
the ability to use the ftb-process creatively impoverishes. In the extreme case, on the
part of the ftb-program, the feeling and the associated emotion degenerate into
destructive guards of the current norm. In contrast, the extreme case of the ftb-process
would be a deadlock due to permanent changes of changes.
The assumption is that leadership skill must include the ability to discriminate the ftb-
program and ftb-process and, according to necessity to switch into either of the two
modes. This can only be trained by complementing normative teaching with explorative
elements. That means for the lecturers involved, to leave normative certainty and
necessarily be confronted with uncertainty regarding the outcome of an explorative
process. This includes not only the course but also the education institution.
Exploring the Boundary to Unknown Territory
To exemplify the theoretical approach above, the praxis of experience centered
teaching of leadership is looked at in detail (cf. Schuster/Radel 2018, p. 305-9). A
sequence starts with a table including the description of lecturers’ intervention and a
comment on the assumption for the intervention. Finally, examples about events in the
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course(s) are given. In total three sequences (I-III) are presented. In a following step it
is explained how those sequences connected to the range of action of lecturers.
Sequence (I)
Event(s) (I): (b) Approximately 1 month before the first meeting a student wrote an E-
mail to the lecturer [R. J. S.] introducing himself as student representative, asking for
information regarding details for the course. The E-mail-text ended with the line I
would then gladly share the information with my peers as the class representative” and
was signed “[Name] class representative”. The lecturer answered that details will be
discussed at the first meeting and invited students to read online provided papers
upfront. Immediately after sending the E-Mail the lecturer uploaded papers relevant for
the course. On the first meeting a question regarding reading material occurred. The
lecturer mentioned the E-mail and it turned out that the students’ representative did not
inform the fellow students about the answer. Neither did fellow students know that this
“official” E-mail was sent to the lecturer. It showed that the student contacted the
lecturer regarding individual needs by using the official role as representative. This was
a very interesting learning for everybody in the plenary. It also was the beginning of an
annoying conflict, including the lecturer [R. J. S.], the students’ representative, later
another lecturer and the study program director X as well. (c) One semester a student
disappeared after the first meeting. Investigation of the lecturer showed that the study
program director had granted this student a recognition of acquired credits
retrospectively. This was done despite an oral agreement between the study program
director and the lecturer [R. J. S.] that the lecturer decides on his own whether to
recognize acquired credits or not. The study program director Y did not mention his
action. It is the assumption that the student, after the first meeting of the course,
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addressed and somehow convinced the study program director. The examples
regarding (b) and (c) show that lecturers using this approach always must be prepared
regarding hierarchical power plays.
institutional
authority of the
lecturer(s)
(authority qua
office) lecturer(s)
as
representative(s) of
the (UAS) system
professional
(subject-specific)
authority of the
lecturer(s)
students as
leaders students as
followers
elected
representatives
of students
(authority qua
office regarding
the student
union)
students
(students as
members of the
student union)
internal (individual) authority
of students and the lecturer(s)
related to the individual;
connected to the now;
influences oneself and others; it
is the goal of experience
centered teaching to create
awareness regarding individual
authority; changes individually
related to the education
institution and the (austrian)
university system; the individual
may be aware or not; it is the
goal of experience centered
teaching to create awareness
regarding institutional roles;
changes institutionally
related to the setting of a
course; it is the goal of
experience centered teaching
to create awareness regarding
students choices; changes with
the setting of the course
Figure 6 Differentiation of students and lecturers roles respectively authority
Sequence (II)
Event(s) (II): Experience shows that the requirement is especially a challenge for
students who prefer to work towards predefined goals. On the other hand, it is
appreciated by students who enjoy the enlarged leeway. (d) Sometimes students
switch into passive aggressive mode by chatting, reading, etc. in the plenary. Here it
is important as a lecturer to contain the emotions stirred up by that behavior and to
investigate the behavior calmly in asking the student why he or she is chatting,
obviously doing something else etc. (d)1 The lecturer [R. J. S.] spotted once a student
typing on her cell phone. He asked her what she was doing. It turned out that she was
looking for a certain literature the lecturer mentioned a few seconds before. (d)2 Once
a group of students did repeatedly chat. On the repeated question of the lecturer [R. J.
S.] whether the group want to share something with the plenary, the students just
laughed and answered with no. This went so far that the lecturer said to the students
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in a very angry voice how annoying their chat and how phony their friendliness appears
to him. Experience shows that sometimes an authentic expression of a felt insult is
necessary to reestablish healthy boundaries. This is especially true in situations where
lecturers’ individual authority (Figure 6) is the only one left (f).
Sequence (III)
Event(s) (III): (g) The first lecturer started by outlining strict rules regarding attendance
and confronted the students with his institutional authority. This led to the situation
where students refused to fulfill a task provided by this lecturer. The second lecturer
intervened and was able to communicate his perception of the sequence to the plenary,
to objectivize lecturers' institutional authority and to cool down the emotional heat. In
doing so the relation between the first lecturer and the students could be recovered in
a fruitful way. This situation shows clearly that it is necessary to have a team of two
lecturers for approximately 40 students in the plenary. Lecturers need mutual
feedback, to keep the overview and for their mental hygiene. In addition, it is much
easier for the students to perceive different authorities of lecturers presented in more
than one person. (h) It happened in the third semester of a master program that, by
investigating their diversity students realized that there was a couple in class that did
not speak German at all. The official language for the master program was English and
all the attending students except the couple did speak German as a first or second
language. One can see that within a social system it is not self-evident that fellow
students do communicate in a way to become acquainted with one another in depth.
This is an interesting fact especially if considered that those students together spent
three to four days a week in the same classroom for over two semesters. The open
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discussion of diversity in the plenary led to that common learning. (i) When the groups
of students are formed lecturers interview the members and ask questions about
diversity and acquaintance. On one occasion one of the lecturers remembered that
within a group there were students that he already saw working together the previous
semester. In telling his observation it turned out that those students ignored the
requirement. This shows how resistance happens within social processes and that it
can be addressed by communication. Again, it was the process within the plenary that
emerged the learning. (j) When the groups decide about their leader they work
separated. After the groups finish their task the decision process regarding the leader’s
choice is reflected within the plenary.
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Figure 7 shows flip-chart notes of different groups regarding their process of choosing
a leader.
group 3 of 6
trust in her experience as a student representative in the
past, proposed and accepted by all group members and the
leader / issues: leader absence, lack of orientation and
motivation (this was probably because of the absence of the
leader at the time the reflection happened)
outcome: one female leader (former student represantative)
group 1 of 6
leader was nominated by one person based on previous
leadership, no other nomination or volunteers, very fast
acceptance without being challenged / issues: low
involvement, whispering in smaller groups, conflict
avoidance
outcome: one female leader
group 2 of 6
the chosen one is already a well-established leader and no
one else wanted to do it / issues: situation was clear and the
desicion quick
outcome: one male leader
group 4 of 6
nobody else wanted to be the leadershe wanted to do it
outcome: one female leader, rotating
(this turned out to be stressful in the process to come,
because it was difficult to keep the rest of the groups and the
team of lecturers informed regarding who was the actual
leader at a given moment)
group 5 of 6
This group gave no indication of the process of choosing the
leader, instead it provided a flip chart with praise for its
leader.
outcome: one female leader
group 5 of 6
we asked if anyone would like to be the leaderno one
respondedwe wrote all the names on a sheet of paper and
selected a member from another group to pick a name
blindfolded
outcome: one female leader
flip-chart notes on leaders choice 2017
group 3 of 5
suggestionvotedaccepted / fast decision making /
process: + fair decision / + group agreement mutually
- decision was too quick / - more of a gut feeling
outcome: one female leader
group 1 of 5
+ mutual agreement / + quick decision / + positive feelings
about the decision
- no criteria used / - no real discussion (quick assumption) / -
open discussion (no anonymity)
outcome: one male leader who was also the student
representative
group 2 of 5
immediate nomination of two peoplediscussion &
avoidanceletting the coin decide / issues: group pressure,
decision from group members not from leaders, we let the
coin decide
outcome: one leader and one deputy leader (both female)
flip-chart notes on leaders choice 2018
group 4 of 5
group offered a member the position of the leadermember
rejected the offergroup tossed pieces of paper with
names on it in a hatrandom selection (by chance it was
the member that was asked at the beginning)
outcome: one female leader
group 5 of 5
self-exclusion of those not interestedtwo members wanted
to try the leader rolediscussion of who should be the
leadersuggestion to have a team of leaders was accepted
outcome: one female and one male leader
Figure 7 Examples of different groups’ leaders choices
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Schuster, R. J. / Facilitated learning by experience - exploring the boundary to unknown territory
This input enabled discussions within the plenary regarding leader choices and it gave
the lecturers plenty of possibilities to include theory e. g. on group and organizational
dynamics. Furthermore, was this the first step of a process that developed over time
and let the groups experience the impact of their choices. Finally, it was possible to
reflect later events in connection with their initial choice. (j)1 One example is the flip-
chart of group 3 of 6, where the group expresses its lack of orientation and motivation
which was connected to the fact of the absence of their chosen leader at the time of
the reflection. The lecturers utilized the experience and the emotional reaction of the
followers to theorize about leader-follower relations. In addition, the experience
provided for the members of the group 3 of 6 a very individualized deep understanding
of what the absence of the leader means for them. It was possible to couple the general
theoretical sense with the unique individual experience. (j)2 Group 1 of 5 was missing
its leader at the next meeting of the course and neither of the members did know where
he was. This was annoying for the group because the lecturers called in a meeting of
the leaders of the groups to inform them regarding an upcoming task and the group 1
of 5 was excluded. An investigation in the plenary at the following meeting, where the
leader of group 1 of 5 was present, showed that he knew from the very beginning that
he would miss two of the course meetings. What happened was, that the group 1 of 5
choose this student because he was well known for his reliability and his engagement
as student representative. On the other hand, group 1 of 5 did not discuss the situation
of the course, nor did it exchange individual knowledge regarding upcoming presence
and absence of members respectively the leader. As the flip-chart shows (Figure 7)
the group was reflecting about the fact that it did not have a “real discussion” but to
everybody’s astonishment the insight could not be utilized to engage in a real
discussion. It seemed like the group had the idea that choosing the leader would
magically resolve all the upcoming tasks related to the course. Lecturers interpreted
this as a resistance against a controversy about the challenges of the course and the
part of self-responsibility of the group 1 of 5.
Range of Action: Sequence (I) shows how lecturers focus on the rules of the
education institution, the predefined roles of students, elected student representatives
and the institutional authority of the lecturers (Figure 6). The goal is to create
awareness that this is connected to a larger system and grounded in (Austrian) law.
Because of that fact changes are slow and on an institutional level. The rules are
binding for students as well as lecturers. This fits to the third recommendation for
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Schuster, R. J. / Facilitated learning by experience - exploring the boundary to unknown territory
sustainable leadership of Bendell, Sutherland and Little: (3) Consider the political and
moral aspects of authority and bases for legitimacy of leadership acts. By doing so,
encourage a focus on how one’s potential actions relate to the needs of the collective,
stakeholders and wider society. (Bendell et al. 2017, p. 433)
Range of Action: Sequence (II) shows how lecturers offer the opportunity to students
to leave normative area and explore unknown territory. This is realized by the paradox
of a requirement free of condition. Students are free to express their own opinion,
regulate their participation according to their needs and set their personal boundaries.
This can be a painful process for lecturers, because of phenomena of counter
dependence similar to those of adolescence occur within the plenary. (cf.
Heintel/Krainz 2000, p.106-7). Precisely for this reason, this exploratory process offers
excellent potential for learning experiences. This fits to the first recommendation for
sustainable leadership of Bendell, Sutherland and Little: (1) Explore purpose and
meaning as central to personal and professional action. By doing so, enable individuals
to clarify their provisional understanding of personal aims and how they may, or may
not, relate to existing organisational aims, to support a more holistic assessment of
personal and organisational performance. (Bendell et al. 2017, p. 433)
Range of Action: Sequence (III) shows how lecturers initiate student’s self-
organization. The emphasis on the institutional authority of the preceding sequences
is now extended by the introduction of the professional authority of the lecturer(s). This
is achieved by dividing the roles of the lecturers. One lecturer emphasizes institutional
authority, the other focuses on facilitating the process. To keep the process within
tolerable limits, it is necessary to compensate for emotional reactions to a strict
bureaucratic stance by moderation. In case of success this leads to an objectification
of the authority complex represented by lecturers (Figure 2). This sequence also marks
the step of enlarging the plenary, by forming groups that work and communicate,
different to the plenary, divided from each other. Thereby the setting of the course
enters the sphere of indirect communication, namely the political sphere (Heintel 1977,
p. 93). Now communication happens parallel and to keep track the groups have to
communicate in- as well as externally. By establishing leaders and exclusive meetings
for leaders the lecturers bring hierarchy into the students’ relations (cf. Schuster/Lobnig
2017, p. 8). This leads to a self-similar configuration of the principle of hierarchical
organization within the micro cosmos of the course. Suddenly students in their roles
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Schuster, R. J. / Facilitated learning by experience - exploring the boundary to unknown territory
as followers respectively group leaders are confronted with institutional authority of the
group leaders. In this situation both lecturers emphasize their professional authority
and focus on facilitation of the communication processes regarding the groups and the
group of leaders. Now the condition for the possibility of learning by experiencing
leadership, hierarchy, leader-follower exchange, direct and indirect communication,
organizational and group dynamics etc. is established (cf. Schuster/Lobnig 2017, p. 6).
This fits to the second recommendation for sustainable leadership of Bendell,
Sutherland and Little: (2) Recognise that organisational or social change is affected
by people at all levels and through social processes, so knowledge about collective
action is key. By doing so, encourage people to learn more about how groups can
function more effectively through enhanced collaboration. (Bendell et al. 2017, p. 433)
Range of Action Summary: Figure 8 shows the range of action of lecturers regarding
the experience centered teaching approach. Based on lecturers’ institutional authority
their professional as well as their individual authority are consciously applied to
address the feeling-thinking-behavior-program as well as the ftb-process.
pole I
transcendent knowledge
NORMATIVE
role of lecturer(s):
professional authority
providing guidance
pole II
immanent phenomena
EXPLORATIVE
role of lecturer(s):
facilitator(s) of (group)
reflections
advantage: provides
structure, guidance and
orientation
disadvantage: illusion of a ready-
made solution; terminology is in the
foreground thereby hiding complexity
advantage: large creative space; great possibility
to collect different viewpoints and different
emotional reactions on discussed issues
disadvantage: little structure, guidance and
orientation; no definite answers; no ready-made
solutions; increased uncertainty
institutional authority
lecturer(s) as representative(s) of the education institution
professional
(subject-specific)
authority
internal
(individual)
authority
authority
complex
(reflected
explicitly )
ftb-program ftb-process
Figure 8 Range of action of lecturers (cf. Schuster / Radel 2018, p. 305, p. 308)
By presenting transcendent knowledge, structure, guidance and orientation are
provided to students. On the other hand, lecturers as facilitators invite the students to
enter and utilize a large mutual creative space.
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Schuster, R. J. / Facilitated learning by experience - exploring the boundary to unknown territory
Discussion
By introducing an explorative component to teaching that does put students as well as
lecturers into a position of not knowing, the experience centered teaching approach
implicitly admits that future can never be known in detail. Existing, necessarily
normative knowledge is seen as the best solution found so far. On the other hand, it is
accepted that an over exaggerated extrapolation of existing normativity is a fallacy,
leading into increased self-complication ending in idealization. It is the assumption of
intervention science that it is not about favoring the normative or the explorative
approach but to balance them (Schuster 2015, p. 227). The greatest challenge for
lecturers is to teach their students the contradiction that the certainty of a time is illusory
(cf. Liessmann 2014, p. 175) and that normativity, based on that illusion is necessary
for the functioning of societies. This perspective weakens institutional authority and
can open up doors for scholarship perspectives that favor the normative approach and
thus focus on assimilation of students rather than emancipation. The application of the
emancipatory experience centered teaching approach is highly dependent on the
actual culture of the education institution and does inevitable include political power
play. It is also a certain style of leadership, that is taught here, which might come into
conflict with authoritarian ideas of leadership.
The foundation of the explorative approach is group dynamics in general (cf. Bion
2013; Miller 1987; Colman et al. 1975; Cytrynbaum et al. 2004; Schindler 2016) and
the Klagenfurter School of Group Dynamics in particular (cf. ÖGGO 2013; Duwe 2018).
The most known formats are the T-groups, the Organisational Training and the Group
Relations Conferences (cf. Schuster / Radel 2018, p. 303). E. g. Shapiro and Carr
describe the setting of the Tavistock-style group relations conference as follows:
Within the conference institution as a whole, the entire membership in separate
groups, one large group, and varying inter-group events begins to shape its dynamic
interaction with the staff they have authorised to lead the learning task. A temporary
institution is being created for the purpose of studying itself (Shapiro / Carr 2012, p.
77). It is evitable that the described conference is mainly explorative. The location, a
retreat where the staff as well as the participants are located for 14 days and the
sophisticated arrangement of a plenary, several groups of varying sizes and spaces
for relaxation time help to contain the massive uncertainty of the common exploration
(ib. p. 74-5). Since the boundaries within the education routine of the UAS system are
not that definite the explorative part had to be counterbalanced by normative
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Schuster, R. J. / Facilitated learning by experience - exploring the boundary to unknown territory
components and compared to the formats mentioned above rather intense
guidance by the lecturers (cf. Schuster / Radel 2018, p. 304-5).
Ongoing intervention research is applied to generate data regarding the effect of the
described teaching approach and to refine lecturers’ intervention. On the other hand,
there are efforts to find lecturers with a rather normative background that are interested
in widening their teaching approach by using experience centered parts. It is important
to differentiate intervention research from field experiments (cf. Eden 2017).
Intervention research is, by definition, a particularization and the results are unique and
strongly connected to the researched microcosm - Heintel called that ‘collective
individuality’ cf. 2005 p. 146 - and therefore not comparable. What is generalizable is
knowledge about the design of the research process, which forms the intervention
science body of knowledge. Nonetheless it might be interesting to join forces and to
combine intervention research and field experiments, in the here presented context of
teaching leadership.
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Chapter
In diesem Beitrag wird aufgezeigt, wie Interventionswissenschaft mittels Interventionsforschung im Kontext österreichischer Fachhochschulen verwirklicht wird. Außerdem werden jene Aspekte des österreichischen Fachhochschul-Studiengesetzes reflektiert, die aus interventionswissenschaftlicher Sicht einen optimalen Rahmen für Interventionsforschung bieten.
Method
Full-text available
Die vorliegende Arbeit ist die Dokumentation des Konzepts eines Teaching Labs, durchgeführt im Rahmen des von der Magistratsabteilung (MA) 23 geförderten Projekts Innovative Didaktik. Die konkret bearbeitete Lehrveranstaltung Projektarbeit Maschinen- und Anlagenbau (Projektarbeit MuA) ist Teil des Bachelorstudiengangs Technisches Vertriebsmanagement (TVM) der Fachhochschule des BFI Wien und findet jeweils im fünften von insgesamt sechs Semestern statt. Das Ziel dieses Teaching Labs ist es, mit Hilfe einer innovativen Didaktik einerseits den Transfer von Inhalten zu verbessern und andererseits durch die Form der Vermittlung, eine Emanzipation der Studierenden zu ermöglichen. Da im hier beschriebenen Teaching Lab auf den emanzipatorischen Aspekt das Augenmerk gelegt wird, wird in Folge die Bezeichnung innovative emanzipatorische Didaktik verwendet. Der Entwurf des hier dokumentierten Konzepts eines Teaching Labs basiert auf Erfahrungen aus bereits durchgeführter Interventionsforschung (u.a. Schuster 2012). Interventionsforschung ist einerseits eine Forschung, die Interventionen verschiedener Art beforscht, und andererseits eine, die selbst Interventionen setzen will (vgl. Krainer/Lerchster 2012: 9). Dementsprechend werden in dieser Arbeit Erfahrungen vorangegangener Interventionsforschung kritisch reflexiv aufgegriffen und darauf aufbauend zukünftige Interventionen entworfen und argumentiert.
Chapter
Full-text available
Das deutsche Fremdwort Emotion ist dem gleichbedeutenden französischen émotion, einer Ableitung von émouvoir, unter formaler Anlehnung an das französische motion, entlehnt. Dieses Wort entstammt dem lateinischen emovere (Kluge 2011, 244 und Duden 2007, 391). Im Kluge (2011, 244) ist ergänzend das deutsche Wort Gefühl angeführt. Im Duden (2007, 391) wird zusätzlich auf Affekt verwiesen. Das Fachwort Affekt ist entlehnt aus dem lateinischen affectus ursprünglich afficere, das wiederum aus der Zusammensetzung von facere (factum) und ad‐ abstammt (Kluge 2011, 19 und Duden 2007, 51).
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