The “Best Team” Experience Story

encouragement_openclipartCOMAn appreciative inquiry exercise into your ‘Best Team’ memories. Hopefully your story will help me in my team building responsibilities as well as help you to  uncover your best team experience, identify and amplify the characteristics of highly effective groups/teams :

  • Reminisce about the ‘Best Team’ experience you have ever been a part of.
    • What about you, the situation, the task, and the other team members made this experience your “peak” team experience?
    • At the end of your experience story add any attributes you see as being characteristic of highly effective groups/teams

This is an exercise for my doctorate; if you are willing to let me use your story, please include that you may be interested in giving me permission to reproduce/publish your story. I will contact you with proper documents required by my institution.

Lions, and tigers, and bears, Oh My!

lions-and-tigers-and-bears-oh-myYou want to really get a feel for what organizational culture is and how it impacts a school or church or any institution!? Check out Line’s humorous analogy/comparison of animal cultures and our human culture!

To understand just what  the term “organizational culture” means the Harvard Business Review included an article entitled, “What is Organizational Culture? And Why Should We Care?” (Watkins, 2013, p. 1). Watkins (2013) suggests that there exist controversies on what organizational culture is and states, “there is universal agreement that (1) it exists, and (2) that it plays a crucial role in shaping behavior in organizations” (p.1). Conversely, how organizational culture impacts and influences behavior is a nebulous and debatable anomaly and can be an elusive critter for a leader to use to his or her benefit. Further, there exist many types of organizational cultures. Thus, utilizing a humorous, but poignant analogy of the organizational culture of humans as compared with the culture of the animal world, light can be shed on the enigmatic tenants of it.

Organizational Cultures: In the Animal World
Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my! (The Wizard of Oz, 1939)

The first article intrigued me beyond words. The title, “Types of Organisational Culture” (1999) appears ordinary enough; however, the author, Maurice Line cleverly uses analogues of organizational cultures from the animal world. Line (1999) states “every organization has its own culture, whether it knows it or not. It is a very powerful influence on everyone’s behavior, from senior management to the janitor (p. 73). In an effort to identify and examine cultures, the author uses different kinds of animals and considers the cultures that each represents. Some animal cultures examples are as follows:

  • Lion Culture: dominated by one male leader; only one
  • Chimpanzee Culture: a constant power struggle where the members never really feel secure
  • Wolf Culture: members are fiercely loyal to one leader and share a common sense of undisputed purpose; other weaker cultures in turn fear the establishment
  • Cow Culture: led by a fearsome leader, but he has limited vision and attacks when the spirit hits him; all other cows follow lead and possess limited potential
  • Sheep Culture: much like the cow culture, is also led by a powerful leader, but he lacks vision and has no idea where his flock is going; he is also easily managed (by the shepherd); members are prone to panic for any reason or no apparent reason
  • Cat Culture: no real leader; each member is independent; will work together if necessary but are quite content on their own; each member is flexible and creative; they dislike authority but will acquiesce if it is in their best interest (pp. 74-75).

Based on the author’s premise of the unique properties of cats coupled with their efficiency, Line (2004) suggests that the human culture is much like that of the cat culture:

“Cat cultures can be very good provided the Cat Keeper [organizational leader] understands them, respects their independence and uses their strengths; but [does] not expect anything extra out of them unless it can be shown to be in their own interest …. They suffer in silence if they are unwell, but not if they want attention …. And if they find a better source of food and attention of the right kind they will not hesitate to leave … The cat [and human] cultures are not easy to manage. In the case of both cats and human beings, over-management is counterproductive; not only does it not work, but it produces stagnation or backlashes. Cats usually know what is best for them – and so do human beings” (p. 75).

Thus, to impact change within an organization and prevent stagnation, engender innovation, and impact behavior an understanding of the organizational culture is in order.

Organizational Cultures: In Colleges and Universities
The second article is equally useful in that it addresses the organizational cultures that are prevalent in colleges and universities. Using research and statistics, Obenchanin, Johnson, and Dion posit, “colleges and universities [are] cultural vehicles essential for the perpetuation of culture with long traditions of customs and precedent and are structured in such a way as to resist hasty change (p. 16). However, this article proved to be of more benefit to me because it addresses the specific organizational culture that I am working in – the Christian university. As a result of the “perpetuation of culture” (Hefferlin, cited by Obenchanin et al.) the Christian university faces higher significant cultural pressures because the institution must also preserve its “history, tradition, curriculum, religious activities, and [its] distinctive mission” (p. 16).

The article argues that culture is a process of shared knowledge and basic assumptions that can be used to solve organizational issues and/or concerns. It then outlines some culture types that are conducive to innovation within the Christian university.

Just as in the ‘animal’ article, the authors outline four types of cultures, or “organic processes”: the clan, adhocracy, hierarchy, and market (pp. 21-22). Utilizing quantitative data the authors’ suggest that Christian universities, in general, favor the operating values of clan cultures. Further, clan cultures can impede innovation because innovation implies a focus on external concerns/solutions whereas clan cultures tend not to. Obenchanin et al posits, “this finding does not abode well for Christian institutions of higher education, as It suggests that many do not have the operating values and processes compatible with innovation. Regardless, the finding was weak and not necessarily applicable across all Christian universities and is not carved in stone. The overarching take-home from this article was that in order to impact change and innovation, the organizational culture as well as the competing cultures of an institution must be understood fully to influence behavior.

Line, M. B. (1999). Types of organisational culture. Library Management, 20(2), 73-75. Bradford, UK: Emerald Group Publishing. Retrieved from

Obenchain, A. M., Johnson, W. C., & Dion, P. A. (2004). Institutional types, organizational cultures, and innovation in christian colleges and universities. Christian Higher Education, 3(1), 15-39. Retrieved from

The Wizard of Oz [Motion picture]. (1939). Paramount Home Video.

Watkins, M. (2013, May 15). What is organizational culture? And why should we care? Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

Reading Comprehension Strategies

An article and video from Edivate

Teaching reading comprehension to your students is not a one-size-fits-all prospect. In fact, teaching your students a variety of strategies for improving their understanding of text is most effective. Here are three strategies you can walk through with your students and use to accelerate their comprehension.

A. Monitoring comprehension

Students can learn to know when they understand what they read and when they do not. They can have strategies to improve their understanding. Instruction, even in the early grades, can help students become better at monitoring their comprehension.

  1. Comprehension monitoring strategies include:
  2. Identify where the difficulty occurs
  3. Identify what the difficulty is
  4. Restate the difficult sentence or passage in their own words
  5. Look back through the text
  6. Look forward in the text for information that might help them to resolve the difficulty

B. Graphic organizers

Graphic organizers can help students focus on text structure (such as differences between fiction and nonfiction) as they read. They provide tools to help examine and show relationships. They can also help with writing well-organized summaries.

You can get more information on these strategies and others at, a national literacy initiative for helping young kids learn to read.

Edivate has so much more to offer. Go to and sign up for a 30-day free trial and see what they have to offer.

Schools That Learn — A Great Find!

SchoolsThatLearn_PICAn Annotated Bibliography:

Senge, P., Cambron-McCabe, N., Lucas, T., Smith, B., Dutton, J., & Kleiner, A. (2012). Schools that learn: A fifth discipline fieldbook for educators, parents, and everyone who cares about education (Rev. ed.) (pp. 61-68). New York, NY: Random House/Crown Business.


Peter Senge, a senior lecturer in Leadership and Sustainability at the MIT Sloan School of Management (Senge, 2015), is the principle author of “Schools that Learn”; an award winning book that augments his seminal work, “The Fifth Discipline” on learning organizations and management (Senge, 2006, 2015). Senge, along with five contributing authors, provides a resource for people who work with and within schools. The fieldbook offers tangible methods, tools, and practical real-life stories aimed at helping people develop learning capabilities within their own institutions. Senge organizes the volume into four separate divisions creating a cohesive flare to the anthology. The divisions are: “Getting Started”, the “Classroom”, the “School”, and the “Community”; each section can stand on its own; but the reader would benefit most from assimilating it in its entirety, albeit one section at a time.

Information about Critical Thinking

One subsection under “Getting Started” is The School as a Living System (pp. 61-68). In the critical thinking vein of Paul and Elder (2009), the main purpose of this chapter is to show that schools are living things as compared to static machines. Senge starts with the key question, “What is this revolutionary living systems view all about?” (p. 62). He sets out to demonstrate that the nature of reality is similar to the process of autopoiesis suggesting that a living system can reproduce and sustain itself, unlike a machine that was created by someone or something. The organization known as ‘school’ is a living system because it is made up of living things – teachers, administrators, parents, students, and so forth. Just as human behavior is not predictable or controllable; the learning organization replicates the same characteristics. Humans and learning organizations can be influenced, but they are not fixed; both are able to create themselves or change and/or improve.

School as a Living System

Utilizing the tangible example of machinery versus humanness, Senge reveals that a learning organization is always evolving. Offering timely anecdotal and practical examples, Senge outlines the impact of adopting an “appreciation of the value of living systems rather than machines” (p. 63) in a vision for a school. He further theorizes that this mind-set would ultimately “assist, not supplant, [the] natural learning process” (p. 68) of the institution known as school. Moreover, Senge maintains that since each teacher is part of the system, the natural instinct is to inquire more deeply and ask further varying questions.

Connection to Capstone

Chapters in this section, as well as other sections of the text, could easily be included as a resource for an Action Research study as it allows the researcher to inquire more deeply. Additionally, it provides a framework that facilitates critical thinking about the researcher’s own institution and how she can brainstorm with other stakeholders, and then as a collaborative team impact the organization. Furthermore, utilizing the resource and its examples may also help the Action Scientist and her team begin to realize the true motivations in regards to their school and subsequently use the precepts as a starting point for improved change. Thus, a dissertation capstone, that creates conditions within an action study can cause meaningful and real learning and echo some of the tenants within Senge’s text; “making the school environment about learning for everyone concerned” (p. 65).


Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2009). The miniature guide to critical thinking: Concepts and tools (6th ed.). Tomales, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking. ISBN: 9780944583104.

Senge, P.M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art & practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Doubleday.

Senge, P.M. (2015). Faculty biography. MIT Sloan school of management. Retrieved from

Going Down the “Bunnie Trail” from Bonnie

RabbitTrail_WinniePoohRabbitWhen researching doctoral papers/assignments I find myself continually going down the “Rabbit Trail” …. From discussions in the course room, it appears that other students suffer the same malady. So, of course, I respond to one course learner who appears to suffers as much as I. However, I know that you’re … whoops, ‘we are’  not to use contractions as a doctoral student — Let me start again — I know that “you are” not supposed to use idioms or phrases that you predict your reader will understand — This would be assuming your reader knows what you mean or intend without an explanation. Thus, I researched, “What’s that phrase, ‘Going down the rabbit trail’ mean?”. I found a cute site that helps people understand idioms; so, I checked out a number of interesting idioms….. Hey, wasn’t I supposed to be just looking for the meaning of “Down the Rabbit Trail”?! … I rest my case — From hence forth, I will refer to this malady as “Going Down the Bunnie Trail” as in Bonnie’s off on a tangent again!

Here’s the link, anyhow …. Today’s Idiom Is ….



Decision-making & Data-Gathering & PB&J

PBandJ_BEWClipArtDecision making and data gathering seem to be inseparable cohorts like the legendary PB&J (Peanut butter and jelly sandwich). Although peanut butter and jelly do not have to be partnered, together they have endured as a favorite sandwich since its appearance in the Boston School of Cooking magazine in 1901 (Akis, 2014; Chandler, 1901). The golden crusted bread enveloping a room-temperature, gooey, sweet, and peanuty middle brings visions of sheer delight; a veritable comfort food with a presentation that could beat any seasoned veteran of PB&Js. Add the tall glass of cool milk and you will see it delivers a winning combination. Decision making and data gathering will prove to be a winning combination as well, especially with an added bonus of visually enticing presentations.

Types of Data Gathered at the University

First, I researched various data information that had been collected over the span of four to five years. The standard information that seemed to dominate the reports was student preferences and reasons for enrolling in the courses. The reports were presented in typical fashion; bar graphs, plot graphs, and tables with highlighted sections that communicated the quantitative evidence visually with the hopes of helping viewers grasp the message of the results (Booth, Colomb, &Williams, 2008). Nonetheless, not being a statistician, my eyes glossed over with a faraway look when they were first presented via PowerPoint presentations at our annual instructors’ conferences. Other than that, I have never perused them long eGapminder_BubbleGraphnough for the results to impact my decision making in a critical and decisive manner; save except for one discovery – the importance of building relationships among my course learners. This is distressing. I adore working for CPD and I wish that I could make an impact in data presentation that would rival (or at least come close to) Hans Rosling’s (2014) visually appealing stats and data performances, like his interactive “Bubble Graph”. See Figure 2.

Alas, as stated, a statistician I am not.

Impacting Culture with Data and Decision Making

To further investigate the types of data collected at CPD and identify the impact of decision making, I conducted a “Learning Culture Audit” (Conner, 2005) of other members of the advisory council. A healthy characteristic of a learning organization is one that solicits and examines customer feedback and then acts on the information gleaned (Conner, 2005; Conner, 2014; Senge, 2006). Further, Spangehl (2012) states, “Quality thinking places tremendous importance on customers, asserting that their needs and wants define what constitutes quality and that contributing to meeting customers’ requirements is the ultimate justification for every activity and process in a quality organization” (p. 33). The pro-learning characteristic that generated 100% agreement among the council member responders was that CPD solicits students’ feedback and actively investigates said feedback with a purpose of including the results in future planning and goal setting. Rather than ignoring the input from past, present, and would-be students, CPD is always trying to improve their connection with its constituents. An unmistakable discovery within the data was that students registered for courses because of ‘word-of-mouth’ and the positive feedback they heard from their fellow co-educators and friends. Thus, a proactive initiative of CPD is to build relationships among faculty and course learners.


Thus, through reflection on how data are used for decision making in regards to the culture of learning in my organization, I have come to realize that I also use some of the data to impact my own culture of learning, that being the building of relationships with my CPD students. Thus, CPD’s data presentation was not a total loss for this viewer. I have been inspired to think outside the box and begin to brainstorm on ways that I, as one lone instructor, can impact my students and connect with them causing them to appreciate their learning experience and foster their academic achievement as well. Possibly, an action research project can stem from the present observation and organizational improvement can be a by-product within my organization as well as the organizations that my students will be teaching in.

On the side, I have been visually inspired, I think I will go and have a PBJ now – Or maybe a PBB (Peanut Butter and Bacon sandwich).


Akis, E. (2014, April 2). A passion for PBJ sandwiches: Simple culinary combo triggers tasty memories. The Gazette (Montreal), p. B.2. Retrieved from

Booth, W. C., Colomb, G. G., & Williams, J. M. (2008). The craft of research (3rd ed.) . Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. ISBN: 9780226065663.

Chandler, J. D. (1901). The Boston cooking school magazine of culinary science and domestic economics. Boston Cooking-School Magazine, 6, 188.

Conner, M. (2005). Create a learning culture. Fast company’s learn at all levels column. Retrieved from

Conner, M. (2014). Introduction to learning culture. Retrieved from

Gapminder. (2014). Retrieved from

Public Domain. (2015). Peanut butter and jelly sandwich clipart. Retrieved from

Rosling, H. (2014). The joy of stats [Video]. Retrieved from

Senge, P.M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art & practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Doubleday.

Spangehl, S. D. (2012). AQIP and accreditation: Improving quality and performance. Planning for Higher Education, 40(3), 29-35. Retrieved from

Awesome Chart for Teachers — An Alternative to Traditional Homework

One of my students cited this chart in an assignment for “Rethinking Homework”. It has been published in Educational Technology and Mobile Learning. The chart was created by connectedprincipals and features some creative assignments that effectively appeal to different learning styles making learning more interesting and engaging. I hope you like the link/chart:


I may have to recreate it in a word document so it can be more easily read.

Leadership Qualities in a Culture of Learning


There exist certain leadership characteristics that are necessary for developing and leading a mission- and vision-based learning culture in an educational organization.

Leadership Qualities

The leadership qualities necessary for developing a culture of learning that creates followers rather than subordinates and reflects the vision and mission of an institution are wide and varied. In the educational environment, it would behoove an administrative leader to strive to possess the following characteristics:



















The aforementioned leadership characteristics are only some of the qualities that can be seen as most important and integral to fostering an effective culture of learning. Since no one person can possibly acquire all the characteristics, a leader has two remedies. First, she can begin the process of fostering desirable qualities. Second, she can begin the process of adopting a collaborative and servant’s heart mindset. These two qualities alone may be said to be the hallmarks of a good leader. Combined with healthy and proficient cultural leadership skills the leader can also be a planter and enhance the growth of learning by helping all participants of the institution learn to learn.

The Processes of Becoming a Good Leader and Impacting Learning Cultures

Leadership is a process of acquiring skills and cultivating a mentality that supports the roles and responsibilities of a leader. Gardner’s (Grogan, 2013) definition of a leader offers additional insights in relation to the role of leading a culture of learning:

“Leadership is the process of persuasion or example by which an individual (or leadership team) induces a group to pursue objectives held by the leader or shared by the leader and his or her followers … They perform (or cause to be performed) certain tasks or functions that are essential if the group is to accomplish its purposes” (p. 17).

The probing questions that beg to be asked are: What is the role of leadership in improving a learning culture? and How do high quality leaders achieve this goal?

Communication and Collaboration

First, the leader can gather information and intelligence and collaborate with stakeholders building a consensus among them in order to chart a clear course that everyone understands. Second, she can establish high expectations hand-in-hand with sharing leadership, learning with each other, and by doing new things. Third, she can effectively use data to track progress and performance (Cuyahoga, 2012; Grogan, 2013; Leithwood, Lewis, Anderson, & Wahlstrom, 2004).

Develop Constituents

By developing people rather than commanding subordinates a letting go of control happens that empowers employees to embrace their potential. The effective leader will help her workers to identify their current skills and create an awareness of leadership/management principles that they may indeed possess. For example, in the educational environment teachers and staff are provided with support and training to succeed and thus impact learning. Thus a good leader will empower her constitutes to raise their standards, improve their knowledge, contribute and apply objectives and leadership/management skills that may or may not be self-evident to them thus equipping her constituents to meet the needs of all stakeholders, students, parents, teachers, and administration, and to perpetuate the organization’s mission. In essence, rather than “lionize leadership … and ignore the invisible leadership of lower-level staff members” (Grogan, 2013, p. 30) she can mold leaders that contribute to and create a shared vision crafting throughout the institution an effective learning organization.

A Culturally Proficient Leader

A conceptual approach that combines the aforementioned leadership qualities with that of being a culturally proficient leader can be found in a rubric created by Carmella Franco, Maria Gutierrez Ott, and Darline Robles. The Cultural Proficiency Leadership Rubric may provide the organizational leader with the opportunity to identify and/or change her views and move into the direction of becoming a leader capable of leading a mission- and vision-based learning culture. There are five essential elements of a culturally proficient leader. Subsequently, each element can be seen to house a vast number of previously mentioned leadership qualities as well.

Assessing One’s Own Culture and Others

This element is a vehicle for the leader to assess her culture and that of others. It addresses the compassion and transformational skills that should be visible in a culturally proficient leader. The leader realizes that all cultures and individuals have value, talents, and abilities. Furthermore, the leader takes her time to educate all the stakeholders to understand that equity in school is optimal to breaking down barriers and fostering other cultures and learning.

Valuing Diversity

This element addresses diversity in promoting cultural pluralism for all involved. Not just the influential, the wealthy, or the politically advantaged stakeholders, but rather everyone. The leader promotes community building and tries to get one and all to collaborate on common goals that close the educational, societal, and economic gaps giving power to everyone, not just those who share the status quo. Gardner (Grogan, 2013) suggests that there exist the professional and “performance elite” (p. 19). Further, Gardner (Grogan, 2013) posits, people in any society, be it democratic or equalitarian are “elites in the sociologist’s sense: intellectual, athletic, artistic, political, and so on” and that leadership is now within the reach of those who were once excluded because they did not belong to the exalted social or status quo.(Grogan, 2013).

Managing the Dynamics of Difference

This element uses conflict as a catalyst for dialogue rather than a reason for dissention. Employing the skills of being an active listener the leader gains opportunities to facilitate understanding of her constituent’s culture and that of the world around her. In essence, she gains the perspectives of all which in turn lends to a greater chance of solving organizational problems. Additionally, she uses data to help stakeholders understand the nuances of educational and thus societal injustices. For, what happens in the schools will ultimately reflect and influence what happens in society. A byproduct of fostering discussion with key leadership and lower-level leaders-to-be is that the culturally proficient leader empowers her followers to be leaders for equity and social justice as well.

Adapting to Diversity

A good leader is not afraid to share organizational data with other organizations. The evangelical church is a true example of this process. For example, the mission of the Fairview Avenue Brethren in Christ (FABIC) church is to “glorify God by going, caring, and developing dynamic followers of Jesus” (FABIC, 2015). The ultimate vision is not to fill the pews with people and augment the coffers; rather it is to make it possible for all people to enjoy eternal life with Jesus; it is not to encourage all people to come to FABIC, but encourage all people to seek Jesus and be rewarded with eternal life in heaven. Thus, churches share information, programs, assistance to everyone, and so forth. Thus, it should be the same with educational institutions. The leaders of educational organizations’ goals should be to make education accessible to be all and become stewards of the children entrusted to the educational system (Senge, Cambron-McCabe, Lucas, Smith, Dutton, & Kleiner, 2012) no matter what school or university the students’ attend.

Institutionalizing Cultural Knowledge

The fifth element advocates that leaders collaborate and glean information and intelligence from stakeholders in order to gain their input, to develop goals together, and take action. Rather than enforce and maintain educational policy for the sake of compliance, the culturally proficient leader will challenge the system, impact and influence policies and practices in order to “level the educational and societal playing field (Grogan, 2013, p. 103)”, and celebrate others’ leadership successes. Furthermore, according to Franco et al (2013) this concept enhances “multiorganizational credibility, trust, and effectiveness in meeting the needs of stakeholders (p. 103).

An amalgamation of effective leadership qualities with a strong cultural proficient mindset can be a vehicle to creating a vision together that can transform a school from the inside out to districts, states, and beyond.

Ideal Culture and an Institution’s Mission

The qualities of an ideal culture of learning can be seen in an institution’s vision. The mission statement of the university explains the purpose of the institution, the why of its existence; the values of the institution are those intrinsic virtues that are held to be worthwhile. Although the mission and values of the institution are integral, the vision by definition is the dream of what may be. The three are intertwined.

Therefore, it could be said, that in an educational environment the ideal culture of learning would be one where helping students learn to learn is taught my teachers who learn to learn. It would also be guided by a servant-leader who embodies the qualities of an appreciative manner and an innovative collaborated mindset that fosters the culture of learning. A leader who would plant seeds that encourages them to reach their dreams tapping the positive potential of all stakeholders and constituents within the learning culture and thus expanding organizational wisdom that maintains the mission and vison of the institution.


Thus, there exist leadership characteristics that are necessary for developing and leading a mission- and vision-based learning culture in an educational organization. The next step is to bridge the theory with practice that will capture the essence of learning and leading within a culture of learning.


Cuyahoga Community College. (2012). AQIP systems portfolio 2012. Retrieved from

FABIC. (2015). Fairview Avenue Brethren in Christ Church. Retrieved from

Grogan, M. (Ed.). (2013). The Jossey-Bass reader on educational leadership (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. ISBN: 9781118456217.

Leithwood, K., Lewis, K.S., Anderson, S., and Wahlstrom, K. (2004). Executive summary: How leadership influences student learning. Toronto Ontario Canada: Leadership for learning project.

Senge, P., Cambron-McCabe, N., Lucas, T., Smith, B., Dutton, J., & Kleiner, A. (2012). Schools that learn: A fifth discipline fieldbook for educators, parents, and everyone who cares about education (Rev. ed.). New York, NY: Random House/Crown Business.