Decision 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 enough 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 http://www.lexisnexis.com.library.capella.edu.
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 http://www.fastcompany.com/919023/create-learning-culture.
Conner, M. (2014). Introduction to learning culture. Retrieved from http://marciaconner.com/resources/learning-culture/.
Public Domain. (2015). Peanut butter and jelly sandwich clipart. Retrieved from http://www.wpclipart.com/food/meals/sandwich/peanut_butter_and_jelly_sandwich.jpg.html.
Rosling, H. (2014). The joy of stats [Video]. Retrieved from http://www.gapminder.org/.
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 http://search.proquest.com.library.capella.edu/docview/1021195391?accountid=27965.