Friday, April 25, 2008

Transforming learning in the Gulf

I've had a pretty eventful week - starting with a 2-day visit of Dr. Susan Komives. Susan joined us as our first Qatar Foundation Education Division Visiting Scholar. She set a very high standard for any to follow but the good thing was that she created an appetite in us all that will encourage everyone to participate in future similar events. We kept her very busy with a keynote, workshops, consultations, and guiding us in a retreat. Susan brought so much value to our community through her command of everything from the "Learning Reconsidered" model to leadership issues to her new role as President-elect of the Council for the Advancement of Standards. We're conducting an evaluation which will tell us how successful we were in helping everyone at Education City understand that student affairs work has a body of research and theory and that we can enhance our impact with students by joining together across academic and student affairs units.

It is obvious that Education City has a great deal to offer. Our facilities, the staff of Qatar Foundation and the Education City branches, bright and highly motivated students, and resources to help us do our work. We also benefit from not being inhibited by lots of history and routine. We have the opportunity to create rich learning for students by doing what makes sense, rather than being confined by old models. The only problem is that it's hard to build a team from a collection of people who are so diverse in education and life experiences. The diversity is clearly a strength but it does not make the process easier; in fact, it makes it harder.

The importance of creating shared understanding and language cannot be underestimated. We're in a stage where we are building meaning through every phrase we utter. I'm sure that much of my regular communication sounds like jargon to some. To me, it's just the way I think. However, I know that many words that I use do not carry the same depth of meaning that I intend. We're trying to create shared language that will eventually become the short-hand communication that will more quickly and fully inform each other.

1 comment:

Kevin Gibson said...


Your post here makes so much sense to me. I'm currently putting a planning team together at GW to connect current leadership programs on campus, figure out what gaps need to be filled, and create a theoretically grounded identity for leadership development at GW. While I am aware that the diversity here is different than in Doha, I find myself facing the same realization that I will need to pay special attention to the development and growth of our planning team (I'm trying to avoid using the word "committee" for fear of this being another garbage can decision-making group). The group consists of as many different people who are doing very different things around campus, yet we hope to create one identity for the broad topic of leadership. Facilitating that process is exciting and scary all at the same time. I'm using the NCLP chapter on designing leadership programs from the "Handbook for Student Leadership Programs" as a guide for our first meeting. I'm hoping that it serves as the catalyst for common language and structure as we move forward. I'm also, though, continually intrigued by what can come out of a group when you allow the structure to emerge, without coming in with much of a plan. My plan is to adapt as necessary, remain motivated and humbled by the experience...and reflect, learn, and act each time I have the chance to be in the room with these people.

I'm going after it!

P.S. I gave in to the blogging world and have started one at if you want to check it out.