The Two Kinds of Committees

16 Sep

I’ve been reflecting on two different ways of organizing people: the grass-roots organizing committee, and what you might call the generic standing operational committee.

Model 1. The organizing committee (think Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, think Norma Rae, think your local Neighborhood Committee to Save the Park) creates ex nihilo; wrests people from their comfortable lives to solve a collective problem (or brings together people already so wrested); is intense and real, is full of arguments, passion; is omnivorous in regards to talents — takes whatever members can give; is ecumenical in regards to methods and modes and hours of operation; is experiential, reflective, dynamic, limber, nimble; is always in danger of failing; gets in trouble; either does great or horrible things or does not exist.

Model 2. The operational committee (think any standing body in an organization) exists to exist; refines operations (if it’s good) by increments and iterations; is tautological (we do this because we did this); is particular about modes, methods, and members; is not particularly experiential; likes to thoroughly vet ideas or squash them under a heap of well-intentioned questions; is not reflective; does not challenge a person’s comfort (say, desire to continue to be as they are); does neither great nor horrible things; does just enough to keep from getting in trouble.

I note that Model 1 is (surprise) learning!  It’s a group; it’s progressive, constructivist, hard, but meaningful.  And Model 2 is not learning; you could say it is doing divorced from too much self-reflection, but I think most would say the doing in Model 2 is inconsistent.  Model 1 is what it feels like when people do things together that they should do when they are together.  That they would get together specifically to do. Model 2 is what it feels like when people do things together that they do not necessarily need to be together to do, when they get together because they feel like they should.

Model 1 is what I think students (and any learners, you, me, for instance) desire deeply, passionately, truly.  Model 2 is what we too often offer ourselves instead.

I think library and IT staff (my people) have erred towards the latter (as do most, as has Higher Ed) but our future looks more like the former.  If we engage people in Model 1 ways, we’ll be around, relevant, engaged, employed, dynamic, and improving.  If we offer people too many Model 2s, the laws of Karma predict future gloom.

Two remarks made me think of this dichotomy recently.  Last week a faculty member spontaneously said in passing (I paraphrase), “I’m not sure a lecture is . . . necessary to the course . . . is the right way to use class time . . . HONORS the classroom learning . . . ” That teacher was feeling his or her way to Model 1.

In the ELI Fall Focus Session yesterday, Charles D. Dziuban of the University of Central Florida was thinking about how to help faculty prepare for a world where Blended Learning will likely be the norm (“BL” is a hybrid mix of in-class and online teaching that seeks to holistically combine the advantages of both modes).  He noted we’re faced in our context with “stochastic change” percolating through “complex systems.” It’s hard to prescriptively say what tools, features, models, methods, strategies, techniques will be valuable.  In the absence of such clear directives, he advocated simply doing everything we can to support a culture of inquiry about teaching.  That is to say, we should help create a community of people who desire to learn how best to teach today and tomorrow.  That is to say, we should help organize our local learning-oriented learners into a Model 1 Committee and see where they take us.

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