Leading Organization Change: A Summary

If I want to enact change within my organization, How do I know that the change I am envisioning is appropriate and meaningful, and furthermore, how do I go about implementing the change I seek? 5304, a course in my masters program, contextualizes and offers up practical tools for leading change in an organization.

Change is inevitable, but it is resisted within organizations because it is unpredictable and uncomfortable. I have been tasked with implementing an Innovation Plan that will have a significant and long-lasting impact upon my district’s Career and Technical Education department. In order to bring about the change I envision, I will employ the strategies I have gleaned over the last five weeks.



“Why do I do what I do?” What is my purpose? These questions set the context for launching a change initiative. If, when we seek to bring about change, we start with the question of why we exist–what our big mission is –we focus on the reason for our actions. According to Simon Sinek, people are less concerned with what an organization does as why they do it. As I bring about change to my organization by implementing my Innovation Plan, I need to be clear about why we do what we do–to give students post-secondary educational and workforce opportunities upon graduation from high school. Read more about my Why Statement.

Influencer Strategy

influenceWe know that quick fixes (such as training alone) rarely if ever bring about real change. Therefore, I will be using the Influencer Model to address motivation and ability on a personal, social and structural level, with the expectation that addressing each of these sources of influence will make my change efforts successful. This strategy requires change agents to consider vital behaviors and organizational influencers when considering how change might best be implemented. The Sources of Influence Matrix is an optimal tool for organizing this change initiative.


While the Influencer Strategy does a phenomenal job at managing the behavior of change, The Four Disciplines of Execution (4DX) focuses on the system of change. 4DX is a system for managing and mitigating surprises and obstacles that arise with any significant change initiative. We have utilized the 4DX tool, created by Chris McChesmen, Sean Covey and Jim Huling, as a road map for launching and sustaining the goals of my district’s Career Readiness department. 4DX helps us to understand we are trying to bring about change and implement new initiatives despite being battered by the whirlwind on a daily basis. For this reason, we strategically set our Wildly Important Goals and check our progress regularly.

Crucial Conversations

conversationsCrucial Conversations are the nucleic acids of change. They are the granular building blocks that make change possible by clearing the air and making sure the environment is ripe for change and growth within an organization. In their book, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, authors Patterson, Grenny, and Swizler define a crucial conversation as one in which the stakes are high, there are strong emotions, and there are differing opinions. It is the job of the self-differentiated leader to recognize when these conversations are needed and to execute them following the precepts outlined by Patterson, Grenny and Swizler.


Patterson, K., & Grenny, J. (2013). Influencer: The new science of leading change, Second Edition. McGraw-Hill Education. ISBN 0071808868

Patterson, K., Grenny, J., & Swizler, A. (2012). Crucial conversations: tools for talking when stakes are high. (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill New York, NY.  ISBN-10: 0071771328

Friedman, E. H. (2007). A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the age of the quick fix. Church Publishing, Inc. ISBN B009VHSBYK

Covey, S., McChesney, C., & Huling, J. (2012). The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving your wildly important goals. Simon and Schuster. ISBN B005FLODJ8

Crucial Conversations

There are some conversations you would like to avoid. In the moment, it is easier to defer it or avoid having it, but in the long run, not having these conversations will prevent you from achieving your goals. Be these conversations personal, such as family finances or differences in child rearing; or professional, such as department goals or job performance, there are conversations that should be dubbed crucial. In their book, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, authors Patterson, Grenny, and Swizler define a crucial conversation as one in which the stakes are high, there are strong emotions, and there are differing opinions. It is the job of the self-differentiated leader to recognize when these conversations are needed and to execute them following the precepts outlined by Patterson, Grenny and Swizler.

Get Unstuck

unstuckFor my innovation plan to launch successfully, I need to, first, identify where I am stuck and unbundle the problem with CPR (the content, pattern, relationship analysis). It is clear to me where I am stuck: I and members of my team live in the whirlwind. The prospect of starting a major initiative in the midst of the daily duties is daunting. I would characterize this problem as one that falls into the Content domain. It is essential that I and the people I will be working with–CTE instructors, and Campus Instructional Technologists are supportive of this endeavor.

Start With The Heart

heartNext, I need to engage in self reflection and honestly assess whether my actions are indicative of what I really want. I need to be perfectly clear of what I want for myself, for others and for the relationship. This stage of the crucial conversation is about managing my own emotions and focusing on how my message is being delivered as much, if not more, than the content of my message. The key to successfully delivering the message I am trying to impart is to be open, honest and respectful to my colleague with whom I am conversing.

Learn to Look

lookWouldn’t it be nice if when we were engaged in a conversation that was turning crucial we could hit the pause button like on a Tivo remote and get our ducks in a row before proceeding with the conversation. Unfortunately, conversations are organic that can ebb and flow due to a number of factors. Practicing learning to look for moments and cues that can turn the conversation into a negative experience rather than a positive one is extremely important. It’s tough to do on the fly, but three things to be on the lookout for are:

  • The moment the conversation is turning crucial
  • Signs the your conversation partner isn’t feeling safe. They are exhibiting silence and or violence behaviors, which means their fight or flight reptilian brain is taking over and reducing the likelihood of meaningful conversation
  • My own style or behaviors under stress. When I feel my top lip starting to curl in anger involuntarily or my hands start gesticulating more wildly, that’s a sure sign I need to pull back and refocus.

Make it Safe

Being guided by your emotions during a crucial conversation is a recipe for disaster. When emotions dictate the conversation, we are more apt to say hurtful things or disengage, leaving the problem to fester. Sometimes it’s helpful to clarify what you do not want. For example,  “I don’t want confusion or ambiguity to persist around this issue.” Another strategy for keeping the conversation safe is to share something you respect about the person. This tactic can defuse hostility. Finally, it is appropriate to apologize when one has said something disrespectful. Some say apologizing is a sign of weakness. That is inaccurate. If an apologize is warranted, give it.

Master My Stories

storiesThe key is to master my stories, not let them master me. We compose narratives for ourselves to make sense of the issue we are trying to resolve. When a CTE instructor was angry with me for not receiving the equipment she had been promised and was expecting, I created an elaborate victim story absolving myself of any responsibility and placing the blame on the shoulders of everyone from the procurement department to the vendor, even to our legal department for not having executed the MOU in a timely fashion. The more productive strategy is to turn my victim/villain/helpless stories int a useful story that will lead to productive dialogue.

State My Path

path-into-the-hillsWhen striving to articulate your rationale for the path forward, consider how open you are being to others’ views. Are you talking about the real issue facing your organization? Are you expressing your views confidently and effectively? it is helpful to keep the acronym STATE in mind:

  • Share your facts.
  • Tell your story.
  • Ask for others’ paths.
  • Talk tentatively.
  • Encourage testing.

Explore Others’ Paths

Sometimes we should try to “walk a mile in their shoes.” Presumably if the person you are having a crucial conversation with is a family member, friend, colleague, or you have some other kind of meaningful relationship with him or her, we should be able to consider that person reasonable, rational and decent. Keeping this in mind will go a long way in defusing highly charged conversations. I can, on occasion, become flabbergasted by a friend’s political stance. Regardless of how misguided I believe their positions to be, when I stop to remember how much more we have in common than we disagree about, just acknowledging that mid-conversation does wonders to keep the talk civil and increases the likelihood of arriving at some kind of mutual understanding.

Move to Action

action-clapboardAt the end of the day, it is about more than the conversations. Getting in touch with your emotions and triggers is extremely beneficial. Understanding how others are approaching an issue is helpful. But the goal in having the crucial conversations is to move to action. The crucial conversation is a means to an end. That end is executing the mutually accepted plan you have formulated to accomplish your Wildly Important Goal. How do we ensure we are progressing from talk to action? We are checking in regularly with our 4DX scoreboard.


Patterson, K., Grenny, J., & Swizler, A. (2012). Crucial conversations: tools for talking when stakes are high. (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill New York, NY.  ISBN-10: 0071771328

Covey, S., McChesney, C., & Huling, J. (2012). The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving your wildly important goals. Simon and Schuster. ISBN B005FLODJ8

Four Disciplines of Execution

Retrieved from Strategist.IO

As a way to create more opportunities for students to learn about what they are likely to encounter on job sites upon entering the workforce, the Career Readiness department has created a Wildly Important Goal (WIG) of establishing a collection of virtual job sites students and teachers across the district can access electronically by January 2020. You can learn more about this goal by reading my Innovation Proposal. Creating this library of virtual simulations is a goal we are striving to achieve amidst the whirlwind of our daily duties. We will employ the Four Disciplines of Execution model to provide clarity to our priorities as we strive to reach this goal.


The Four Disciplines of Execution–4DX–is a system for managing and mitigating surprises and obstacles that arise with any significant change initiative. We have utilized the 4DX tool, created by Chris McChesmen, Sean Covey and Jim Huling, as a roadmap for launching and sustaining the goals of my district’s Career Readiness department.

4dx pictochart

Stages of Change

What follows are the authors’ observations of the stages groups within organizations pass through when undergoing a major change effort.

Stage 1–Getting Clear

No, not like the Scientologists in Hollywood. This stage demands that everyone on the team trying to execute the WIG be perfectly clear about what the the Four Disciplines of Execution look like as it pertains to the team’s goal.

The WIG (Discipline 1) is the Wildly Important Goal. It is a goal that will make all the difference between the organization’s success or failure. Because of the law of diminishing returns, it is crucial that teams only identify and work to achieve 1 to 2 WIGs at a time.

When working toward a Wildly Important Goal, the team will have a lag measure that will reflect the status of achieving the WIG. Team members must have the discipline and restraint to Act on Lead Measures (Discipline 2) so that they do not get bogged down in the enormity of the overarching goal. These lead measures influence and are predictive of the WIG’s success.

We know that engagement changes behavior. When team members can see that they are moving the proverbial ball (in this game metaphor), they report more happiness and job satisfaction. A way to promote engagement is to Create a Compelling Scoreboard (Discipline 3). This scoreboard should be easy to access and interpret, show both lead and lag measures, and tell us if we are winning or losing at the “game.” This scoreboard shows at a glance how many virtual simulations have been created at each CTE campus:


Finally, we will Create a Cadence of Accountability (Discipline 4) in pursuit of our WIG. When we each have others who are aware of and dependent on our individual work efforts, it ramps up accountability, and in turn, that accountability increases the likelihood of successful goal completion. We will foster accountability by holding regularly-scheduled meetings in which we report on commitments, review the scoreboard and make new commitments.

Stage 2–Launch

The operative word within this stage is focus. The team must be focused ignoring (or de-emphasizing) the whirlwind while full attention is given to the lead measures that will ultimately shepherd the team to successful goal attainment. As we work toward the goal of establishing a collection of virtual job sites, we must trust the process of chipping away at the identified lead measures and resist the temptation to focus only on the lag measure. These lead measures include:

  • Conducting collaborative meetings among CTE instructors and Campus Instructional Technologists on the topic of creating work site simulations
  • Make business contacts and identify procedures for filming on location.

Focused baby steps.

Stage 3–Adoption

The new method for bringing about significant change is beginning to take root. During this Adoption stage, team members are either embracing or resisting the new disciplines. It is up to the leader to keep the ship sailing in the right direction encouraging the models, by giving potentials added support and addressing issues with resisters. It is at this stage I expect to observe which CTE instructors and Campus Instructional Technologists are meeting to overcome the logistical and technical challenges this WIG presents. We are checking that scoreboard regularly.

Stage 4–Optimization

Now we’re cooking with gas. We are acknowledging and celebrating the minor successes we are experiencing, which are leading us to our WIG. Team members are accountable to the team as a whole, which is driving more success. And, as an added benefit, creating more enthusiasm and satisfaction with the work of the department as a whole.

Stage 5–Habits

At this stage, team members have internalized the 4DX process. It is no longer a method they must struggle with to accomplish a goal; it has become ingrained, a working habit. In order to maintain this high level functioning, we will celebrate having achieved the WIG, and move quickly on to the next Wildly Important Goal. We emphasize that devotion to high performance on the lead measures is what got us to this point.

4DX and the Influencer Model

If you are going to hang a shelf, you need a couple different tools to complete the task. You will probably want to have a level on hand to ensure your shelf is, well, level, lest all your bric-a-brac slide off. You’ll also want a screw driver to drive in the screws of your shelf’s support brackets.

Similarly, when trying to implement significant change within your organization, it’s good to have a couple different tools in your tool box to address different aspects of change. One of the tools needed would assist with managing the behavior of change in your organization for you goals to be successful. This tool, the Influencer Model, addresses motivation and ability at the personal, social and structural levels. A second tool is one that helps to manage the system of change. It looks at four disciplines of executing change effectively, and the five stages the people attempting to bring about the change are likely to encounter.

One model is not better than the other, rather, they are both extremely useful in addressing the different aspects of the change process. Therefore, in order to implement change successfully in an organization, both models should be used in tandem.


Chesney, C., Covey, S. & Huling, J.  (2012)  The 4 disciplines of execution.  New York, NY:  Franklin Covey Co.

Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxsfield, D., McMillan, R. & Switzler, A.  (2013).  Influencer:  The new science of leading change(2nd ed.).   Provo, UT:  VitalSmarts, LLC.


Influencer Strategy

Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

These lines from Bob Dylan’s seminal song capture what I have been learning throughout the Digital Learning and Leading masters program. Change in education, brought on by new technologies, is inevitable. In my coursework, we are encouraged to consider how we will be educational leaders who proactively shape the change we want to see (swim), rather than being overcome by it (sink).

We all know that change is difficult. It forces us to abandon comfortable routines, and it often thrusts us into situations in which we are not sure of the outcome. This discomfort and the understandable aversion to it is what makes implementing change—both on a personal and organizational level so hard.

What if, however, there were tools we could employ that would assist us in confronting the nettlesome human behaviors that thwart our efforts to change? The current course I’m taking, Leading Organization Change, has exposed me to the Influencer Model, which is a road map for exponentially increasing the likelihood that the changes I am striving for will take effect.

In my position as a CTE administrator within my school district I have developed an Innovation Plan that seeks to offer teachers and students the opportunity to experience a real-world job site virtually. For this plan to be successful, various stakeholders within the district will have to embrace the project. Specifically, my plan requires that CTE instructors rethink how they expose their students to work sites and embrace and learn new technology tools.

We know that quick fixes (such as training alone) rarely if ever bring about real change. Therefore, I will be using the Influencer Model to address motivation and ability on a personal, social and structural level, with the expectation that addressing each of these sources of influence will make my change efforts successful.

Retrieved from Leadership: The Power of Influence

First, we start with the end in mind.

Desired Results

By January 2020, teachers and instructional technologists will have created an online repository of 10 virtual job sites that represent at least five different career clusters.

Next, we determine the behaviors that are essential to bring about the results.

Vital Behaviors

  • Campus Instructional Technologists and Arts A/V and IT instructors will collaborate with instructors from the following career clusters to determine facility features and equipment that should be hi-lighted in the virtual tour of a worksite.
    • Health Science
    • Construction
    • Manufacturing
    • Agriculture/Food/Natural Resources
    • Transportation/Distribution/Logistics (Aviation and Maritime)
  • Career cluster instructors will create 360-degree photographs and virtual reality simulations of real-world worksites.
  • Instructors in the career clusters identified above will coordinate with a business partner to set up a time to film at the business partner’s facility.

Finally, we recognize there are individuals whose buy-in is critical to the success of this innovation plan.

Organizational Influencers

  • Assistant Superintendent of Career Readiness
  • CTE Instructors
  • Director of Instructional Technology
  • Campus Instructional Technologists
  • Campus Principals

sources of influence matrix




The “Why” is Key

Retrieved from: 

We affirm that well-prepared career and technical education students are the backbone of tomorrow’s workforce.

We leverage technological innovations to promote learning that is flexible and student centered.

We prepare students to enter the workforce with the knowledge and skills necessary to be productive and valued leaders in their fields.

All of the lessons we learn about effective advertising in a Marketing 101 course seem to go out the window when we seek to bring about change to a large organization. I recall learning that an effective advertisement will, among other things, create a sense of urgency and will appeal to the consumer’s emotions–often times by personalizing the pitch. I was reminded of these tried-and-true marketing techniques when I viewed Dr. John Kotter’s videos, The Heart of Change and Leading Change: Establish a Sense of Urgency and Simon Sinek’s Start With Why.

By starting with a “why” statement, it forces the change agent to think beyond simply stating what an organization does; the “why” statement brings into focus and articulates a universal reason for existing. The why speaks to a higher calling.

Organizations are made up of people that usually are resistant to change. It is no mystery why…change brings about uncertainty, and the unknown is uncomfortable. Nevertheless, change is certainly needed–particularly in education. So the question becomes: how do we persuade stakeholders in our education circles to make the changes necessary in order to bring about better teaching and learning? Many educators are, well, well-educated. They are aware of the trends and the studies and the statistics. Repackaging this data and providing it to them in a new way will not bring them aboard the boat that will sail them to significant change.  We must find a way to appeal to their hearts. This is what Sinek and Kotter posit, and it is a strategy I intend to employ when sharing my innovation plan.


Kotter, J. (2011, March, 23). The heart of change. . Retrieved from

Kotter, J. (2013, August, 15). Leading change: Establish a sense of urgency. . Retrieved from

Sinek, S. (2014, March, 3). Start with why: Ted talk short edited. . Retrieved from

Pulling Together the Elements to Create a Significant Learning Environment

pull together

As I continue to refine my Innovation Plan, which allows for students to create virtual work sites using 360-degree photography for the Career and Technical Education classroom, I am keenly aware of how important it is to create a significant learning environment. Creating significant learning environments (CSLE) means putting the learner first. The learners’ needs are what dictate the activities and instruction. CSLE also calls for the teacher to relinquish the “sage on the stage” role in favor of the “guide on the side.” This means the instructor becomes a facilitator and mentor in the classroom. CSLE means embracing an approach to learning the provides learners choice, ownership, and voice through authentic learning opportunities (COVA (Harapnuik)). Please read my previous post about Creating Significant Learning Environments here.

Developing this innovation plan also required me to think through my learning philosophy. The three major learning theories, Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism, each have appealing definitions that undoubtedly play a role in how people learn, but after studying each, Constructivism, with its emphasis on the learner’s active involvement of making meaning and knowledge, is what holds the most weight with me. Please check out my post on Learning Philosophy here.

How to carry out instruction is a crucial part of my innovation plan. I explored two different processes for designing instruction: Fink’s guide which utilizes the Three-Column table, and Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design. Both have attractive components in course development, but I appreciated the structure of the learning activities in the Understanding by Design model slightly more. Use the links above to view my posts for each model.

Finally, my Growth Mindset Plan looks at the transformation-inducing work by Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Of all the elements necessary to create a significant learning environment, I find this to be the most important. Learners’ perception of their intelligence being fixed or able to grow is the foundation we all approach learning. If we view intelligence as static, we see little reason to put forth effort because, as the thinking goes, our intelligence is what it is. We avoid challenges and cower to obstacles, and above all else, seek to appear smart. Embracing a growth mindset, on the other hand, accepts the scientific research that through effort and persistence, we can expand our intelligence. We embrace challenges, accept criticism, and look to others’ success as inspiration.

It is with each of these elements that I continue to create a significant learning environment within my educational community, which includes myself, my children, and the CTE teachers and students within my district.


Creating Significant Learning Environments

Learning Philosophy

Three-Column Table

Understanding By Design

Growth Mindset Plan (Part A)

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (expanded second ed.). Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Fink, L. D. (2003). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Harapnuik, D. COVA.

Harapnuik, D. (2015, September 29). Why Use an ePortfolio. Retrieved from

Dweck. C (2016) Mindset The New Psychology of Success Updated Edition Ballantine Books

Developing a Growth Mindset

Since being introduced to the ideas found within Carol Dweck’s work on the Fixed and Growth Mindsets in July of 2018, I have had some time to reflect on how it has impacted my thinking and my practice as a parent and member of an educational community. You can find my initial post on the Growth Mindset here.


I have come to realize that I have been entrenched in a fixed mindset for much of my life. Internalizing and trying to live by the precepts expressed in Dweck’s work has been powerful and comforting to me as a learner, parent, and educator. When I consider the best way to spread the Growth Mindset gospel, I believe the first step is to fully accept and live out the Growth Mindset one’s self and model it as a way of approaching learning. For me, this means embracing learning. This can be as simple as consciously flipping the switch in your mind from off to on. Instead of approaching new, unfamiliar learning with the attitude that says: “This doesn’t apply to me; I don’t need to know this; I’m not going to bother,” we should accept that learning anything new is fascinating and is a great opportunity to broaden our perspective.

My own children have forced me to think a lot about the Growth Mindset lately. Both are brilliant and talented in their own ways (would you expect a parent to have any other opinion?), but one clearly embraces a Growth Mindset, while the other exhibits more fixed mindset tendencies like her father. I’ve thought a lot recently about why that is. I don’t have any definite answers, but I have made some insightful observations. School has always come easy for my son. He was placed in GT classes in first grade, and throughout middle school and high school, he received only one B. He is a senior this year and has been accepted to Rice University. Thinking back on his secondary education, the thing I find interesting is that he didn’t seem to stress much about his grades. I think he knew they would be fine. When he worked on projects, he would get absorbed in the learning, and he thrilled at ways to reveal his quirky personality through the assignment. He loves puzzles and just seems to approach any mental challenge as something fun to work out.

My daughter is also a straight A student. She works hard to maintain a strong GPA, but she does so more by collecting dots. As an example, when studying for an AP World History test recently, she was rattling off facts about Mesopotamia. Her knowledge was impressive, but when I asked her what current country occupies this region, she replied with something like “we don’t have to know that,” or “that won’t be on the test.” I died a little inside at that moment. Her reply revealed that she was only interested in regurgitating what the teacher told her was important. She wasn’t trying to connect dots.

Knowing what I know now about the Growth Mindset, I have concerns for both of my kids. My son, who has received praise for his intelligence by well-meaning relatives, friends, teachers and (I hate to admit it) his parents, will soon be challenged like he has never been challenged before. Having spent a childhood being told how smart he is, how will he handle it when the work is extremely difficult? I hope his growth mindset is strong enough to see him through the challenges of university work. Lately, I have taken every opportunity to shift my praise to his work ethic and process rather than his intelligence.

For my daughter, I have been stressing the power of “yet.” When she struggles with a concept, as is sometimes the case in Algebra II, I reassure her that not grasping it yet doesn’t mean she won’t; we just need to try some different approaches and perhaps seek out some help from her mom and brother who are far more equipped to help her at math. I think the tendency to collect dots is a defense mechanism for many students.

Observing the profound differences in mindsets of my children, I ask myself what accounts for this difference? After all, they were raised similarly with access to the same resources. Yet, one is more likely to embrace challenges and persist in the face of setbacks while the other puts a premium on looking smart, which causes her to avoid challenges and ignore negative feedback. I will leave the answer to this question to the researchers and psychologists, but I do intend to combat the Fixed Mindset and stimulate the Growth Mindset every chance I get as a learner, parent and educator.

After modeling the Growth Mindset myself, I think the next most important thing I can do as an educator is to de-emphasize grades. When a grade is eliminated (preferably) or de-emphasized (practically) I have the power to fully implement the concept of “Yet.” “Yet” means removing the consuming pressure kids feel to get good marks and look smart. “Yet” means every child is capable of learning; it just means we must work on it and try different resources. And it is the working on it—the process—that will be praised in my educational community, not how quickly someone understood a concept.

If the effort and the progress are what is stressed in a learning environment, the tendency to cheat to look smart is diminished. Moving forward, I will be modeling persistence and rewarding effort and process in learning over grades. I will encourage my educational community to recognize the difference between fixed and growth mindset thinking, and when they recognize they are employing fixed mindset thinking to rebuff it with a growth mindset.


Dweck. C (2016) Mindset The New Psychology of Success Updated Edition Ballantine Books

Understanding By Design Lesson

Retrieved from

This post is a designed unit of instruction for an Arts Audio/Visual Career and Technical Education class in which students will create 360-degree, immersive virtual work sites for other CTE students to “visit.” I am using Wiggins and McTighe’s framework for planning called Understanding by Design to implement my Innovation Plan. This design model guides the instructor to identify learning outcomes first and work backward to identify learning activities that will elicit the desired outcomes.


Unit Title: Virtual Work Sites in the CTE Classroom

Established Goals

Learners will be able to coordinate and create a 360-degree virtual work site environment for CTE students to explore.

Essential Questions to be Considered:

  • What is 360-degree photography?
  • What equipment is necessary to create 360-degree virtual environments?
  • What is the difference between 360-degree photography and virtual reality?

Desired Understandings:

  • Technical skills associated with taking 360-degree photographs, e.g. lighting, tripod
  • Elements of project management
  • Concept of backward planning to ensure project success
  • How creating 360-degree virtual work site environments can be beneficial to CTE students

Students will know:

  • Technology equipment necessary for producing 360-degree photographs
  • Best practices for shooting in 360 degrees.

Students will be able to:

  • Communicate and Collaborate effectively with project stakeholders
  • Capture quality 360-degree images
  • Write a description of each photograph that details
    • Date and location of the photo shoot
    • Process for setting up the shoot with company representatives (special considerations regarding safety, protecting privacy, etc.
  • Create a portfolio of photographs and descriptions.



Performance Tasks

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”–Students will develop a step-by-step plan for the shoot. The process should detail how initial contact was made with the company to receive permission to shoot on site through the posting of the 360-degree photos with explanations on an ePortfolio.

Lights, camera, action–Students will create and share effective 360-degree photographs of real-world job sites that end users can explore.

Additional Evidence

  • Written samples of letters to companies asking permission to photograph job site.
  • Quiz
  • Check list of technology and equipment necessary to complete task
  • rubric-aided evaluation of other teams’ portfolios

Self Assessment

  • Self-assess individual 360-degree photographs
  • self-assess ePortfolio
  • Reflect on the most challenging aspect of the project and how you would approach it differently in the future.



The learning experiences listed below follow Wiggins and McTighe’s “WHERETO” model for implementing instructional planning.

  • Begin with the question: How might CTE students “visit” real-world work sites without physically traveling to them?     H
  • Introduce the Essential Questions and preview the performance tasks learners will be instructed to complete.     W
  • Provide examples of 360-degree photography of real-world job sites.     W, H
  • Introduce specific equipment needed to complete learning activities.    E-1
  • Present example template of letter to company, which will be used to introduce the project and ask permission to shoot on site.     E-1
  • Review and discuss with other students your and their letters to company representatives.     E-2
  • Revise letters.     R
  • Each student designs a portfolio (using Google Sites) on which they will post their 360-degree photographs.     E, T
  • Conduct a class discussion in which students have the opportunity to suggest criteria that should be included in the portfolio rubric.     T
  • Students apply the class-created rubric to their own portfolio for self assessment.     E-2
  • Students exchange links to their portfolio with three other students to assess using the class-created rubric.     E-2
  • Students compose a written reflection on the process of the entire project. Include what they will do differently in the future.     R


Understanding by Design vs. the 3-Column Table

My two most recent assignments in the Digital Learning and Leading masters program at Lamar University provided me the opportunity to work with two different frameworks for designing instructional units: Fink’s 3-Column Table and Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design. Both models utilize the backward design process in which the process starts at the end–learning goals (Fink)/desired results (Wiggins, McThighe) and works “back” toward assessments and learning activities. Each model has its unique strengths. I particularly like the 3-column table’s focus on the situational factors to consider when designing a lesson. Often, the context plays an important role for how successful the unit of study will be. Factors such as meeting time, class size, resources, characteristics of the learners and teachers are vitally important to bear in mind when planning.

Understanding by Design guides the lesson planner more deliberately than the 3-Column Table does. Specifically, in Stage 3, the Learning Plan, the designer is tasked with thinking through each learning activity and identifying how each will benefit the learner. To me this is a crucial step in examining one’s lesson planning. Using this WHERETO checklist of learning activities ensures that the design will:

  • W let the learners know where the unit is headed and why
  • H hook students into the learning and hold their attention
  • E equip learners with the tools and know-how to meet the performance goals
  • R provide for numerous opportunities to reflect and revise
  • E allow students to have chances to evaluate their progress and self-assess
  • T reflect individual talents, interests, styles and needs
  • O be organized to optimize deep understanding

I appreciate this step-by-step process that the UbD model provides and I think it is better suited for helping me to carry out my innovation plan. With it’s emphasis on giving students the opportunity to demonstrate their individual talents, interests and styles, it reminds me a lot of COVA–giving students Choice, Ownership and Voice through Authentic learning opportunities (Harapnuik).


Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (expanded second ed.). Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Fink, L. D. (2003). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Course Design with the 3-Column Table


I jump at the chance to use technology to improve learning whenever I see an opportunity. The course I’m currently enrolled in for the Digital Leading and Learning Masters program at Lamar University is called Creating Significant Learning Environments. This course has provided me with an opportunity to strategically think through how I, as a district administrator, would plan a unit for teachers and students in the area of Career and Technical Education. In thinking about this unit, I started with the end in mind—a far-reaching objective that has the potential to significantly change how we facilitate learning for CTE students. My Big Hairy Audacious Goal is to:

“The learner will use 360-degree photographic environments and resources to explore real-world job sites and share these environments in the CTE classroom.

What follows is are documents, the templates of which were created by L. Dee Fink and Dwayne Harapnuik, that have been instrumental in my planning process.

Learning Environment and Situational Factors

Context of the Learning Situation
Generally, 25 students comprise a high school CTE classroom. Classes meet for 90 minutes every other day (block scheduled). Classes are primarily taught live, but, being that our district is one-to-one, there is a perfect opportunity to introduce blended elements to the class. Students have access to a plethora of technology tools. CTE students are expected to earn a state-recognized certification upon completion of a CTE pathway (at least two courses for three or more credits). In addition to these district expectations, there is a societal expectation for students to graduate from high school college and career ready.

Nature of the Subject
Career and Technical Education courses are by and large practical in nature. They focus on preparing students for the workforce using the latest methods and resources prescribed by industry.

Characteristics of the Learners
Student learners in my district vary greatly in demographic factors. The district is comprised of approximately 215,000 students, 40,000 of which are enrolled in a CTE course. With such a large sample, you can imagine that there is a wide range of socio-economic, personal, cultural, and family situations. CTE studens approach the couses offered generally in one of two ways: 1. They are taking the course as an elective because they have some interest in it, but might not have the room in their schedules to take an entire pathway; 2. They are actively preparing for a career in the industry their pathway is preparing them for.

Characteristics of the Teacher
For the most part, the CTE instructors in my district are eager to learn more about the content of their subject, and they are constantly seeking out ways to improve their teaching craft. One of the interesting (sometimes challenging) things about CTE is that the teachers fall in to two camps: longtime educators or folks who have recently entered the teaching profession from industry. Those who have been teaching for many years know very well how to manage a classroom, but they might not be as up-to-date on the latest trends of the industry. Conversely, the new teacher straight from industry is up to speed on the latest industry trends, but he or she might not be as comfortable running a class full of high school students as the teacher who has been doing it for a while. As an administrator, my goal is to build upon their strengths and provide or facilitate training where an instructor might be lacking.

Formulating Significant Learning Goals

A year or more after this course is over, I want and hope that students will reflect upon the process that they undertgook in this course and continue to leverage technology to enhance their educational opportunities.

Foundational Knowledge
Learners will analyze how building and using immersive virtual environments can impact the learning opportunities in the CTE classroom.

Application Goals
Learners will evaluate the best technology tools for creating virtual worksite environments. Furthermore, learners will create and share virtual environments with technology tools.

Integration Goals
Learners will visualize how to best virtually represent work-place environments and equipment. They will also compare the virtual environments they create with real-world physical workplace environments.

Human Dimensions Goals
Students will learn the choices they make around they technology they employ will have a direct impact on how they themselves and fellow students interact with their virtual environment creations.

Caring Goals
Designing a virtual world requires one to put himself in the shoes of another and consider how others might learn best. This action involves empathy. Additionally, a benefit to creating virtual environments means they will be available to those students who might not have the opportunity to visit a real-world, physical worksite for any number of reasons.

Learning-How-to-Learn Goals
It is my hope that this unit will allow students to reflect on creating environments that will help them and their peers have access to environments that will augment their learning experiences. By constantly reviewing the feedback they receive from their peers and instructors, they can continue to refine their work.


Fink, L. D. (2003) A Self Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning. Retrieved from

Learning Philosophy

Learning is a personal endeavor. Each of us can probably articulate a set of conditions that are optimal for us to engage in learning. For example, I prefer complete quiet in a well-lit room with a large clean desk on which to spread out papers and view my computer monitors. My daughter is similar to me, although she insists she can listen to music while studying. She cannot. My wife and son, on the other hand, seem to study best in a chaotic environment. When they are engaged in learning something new, they often will have the television on (my wife a drama; my son a sporting event). Both will have their phones nearby keeping an eye on texts and social media. My wife might even take an occasional break to work on a Sudoku puzzle. I detail all of this because it demonstrates how different we all are when it comes to learning.


When analyzed independently, I see the plausibility in each of the major learning theories: behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. I don’t think it can be proven that one is right and the others wrong. Each has elements of truth, and surely reflect the way human beings learn. Perhaps it depends on the type of learning that the learner is engaged in that explains how that person is best able to accomplish the learning.

For example, a behavioral approach might best explain the learning processes that require muscle memory such as welding a circular pipe. Behaviorism emphasizes that learning happens best by doing. Repetition and practice are necessary for learning to take root. Also, with behaviorism, reinforcement is a strong motivator (successfully welding the pipe that holds is a positive reinforcer while a weld that breaks being a negative reinforcer). Behaviorism also holds that the potential for learning is greater when the objectives are clear. On the surface, all of these attributes sound like reasonable approaches to successful learning. It also sounds very similar to the way many schools operate today. I know that one of the first things an appraiser looked for upon entering my classroom to conduct an observation was whether or not I had the lesson’s objective printed clearly on the board.

With its focus on how individuals come to know something, Cognitivism is an attractive learning theory for several reasons, too. First, there is an emphasis on well-organized and clearly structured instruction. Cognitivism takes into account the learner’s prior knowledge and the fact that each learner brings a different perception of the environment to the act of learning.

Constructivism departs from behaviorism and cognitivism in a major way: whereas behaviorism and cognitivism are objectivistic, meaning that the world is real and external to the learner. The goal of instruction in these two theories is to “map the structure of the world onto the learner. Whereas Constructivists believe that knowledge “is a function of how the individual creates meaning from his or her own experiences.” The Constructivist does not deny the real world, but rather claims that it’s the learner’s perception of the world that activates learning. So, to take the falling tree in the forest adage, the behaviorist and cognitivist would say it makes a sound. The Constructivist does not deny that the falling tree makes a sound, but the important thing is the sound it makes to the lumberjack.

As I stated in the beginning, learning is a personal endeavor. This doesn’t apply only to the external conditions we learn best in, but it also applies to our individual perceptions of the world and how new experiences jive with the prior knowledge we have. While I can relate to aspects of each learning theory, the importance of the individual’s mind working in concert with the external world to create meaning resonates most with me; therefore, I consider myself a constructivist.