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Professional Dispositions in IDT

Special thanks to Duren Thompson, Synthia Clark and Lisa Shipley who were the student and staff contributors to this Policy for the LDT and IT Online programs. This policy developed the programs to better serve the field and to better enable our learners to navigate the expectations of practicing professionals in Instructional Design and Technology, both as a field of scholarship and one of practicing design.

Program Participant Professional Dispositions
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Last Updated April 20, 2018

Preamble
Instructional design and technology is a professional field with common values and professional ethics that influence the way professionals interact with clients, peers, and mentors. During a learner’s time in the Instructional Technology, (IT Online) Learning, Design and Technology (LDT) or the Online Teaching and Learning Graduate Certificate (OTL) Programs, it is imperative for learners’ future success that academic ability grows in unison with the professional dispositions outlined by the Association for Educational Communications and Technology Standards (https://www.aect.org/docs/AECTstandards2012.pdf). Listed below are the core values by which we expect students in these programs to abide. Multiple or egregious violations of these core values will lead to the evaluation of a students’ status in the program, as well as the development of an improvement and retention plan, and thereafter, possible dismissal from the program. The plan procedures and expected consequences when students violate these core values are provided below. In addition to following the shared core values in IT Online, LDT, and OTL learners are expected to follow the Student Code of Conduct in Hilltopics (https://hilltopics.utk.edu/) as well as the Academic Policies and Requirements for Graduate Students in the Graduate Catalog (http://tiny.utk.edu/grad-catalog).

Core Values
1. Show commitment to the profession
• Learners must develop the skills and knowledge to become a productive member of the instructional design and technology professional community. This may include a new identity of professional conduct, which, while it can be intimidating and overwhelming, is a standard expectation. A learner’s professional transformation must evidence a voice that shows commitment to the profession. Remarks to peers, clients, or mentors suggesting a position against the profession as a legitimate entity would violate this core value.

2. Show academic integrity and honesty in your work
• Leaners will abide by the University Tennessee Honor Statement, which is listed in the Hilltopics as “An essential feature of the University of Tennessee is a commitment to maintaining an atmosphere of intellectual integrity and academic honesty. As a student of the University, I pledge that I will neither knowingly give nor receive any inappropriate assistance in academic work, thus affirming my own personal commitment to honor and integrity.” In particular, the ethical use of copyrighted materials is an important issue within the field of instructional design and technology. This includes the use of text, images, audio, video, and other media retrieved online. The use of published work created by others must be properly credited, and, in some cases, used only with express written permission. Learners should not only practice academic integrity, but also encourage and support peers to do so as well. When there are suspected cases of academic dishonesty, faculty and the student will follow the guidelines set for by the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards (http://web.utk.edu/~osja/index.php) to identify the best course of action.

3. Maintain a healthy rapport with your adviser
• Learners must seek help with course selection and remain in contact with their academic advisor regarding progress of their program completion. The IT Online, LDT, and OTL program assumes that learners will take ownership of their learning. This includes following instructions as to how to schedule meetings, the integrity of reporting the outcomes of advisory meetings, pursing shared academic opportunities, and the documenting of advisement. Positive, regular communication with your advisor can improve the overall learning experience and provide important opportunities and connections for after graduation. Ignoring advice or communications from your advisor is not only a violation of this value, but may delay program completion.

4. Be a reflective practitioner
• Learners must evidence that they enter all learning experiences, both independent and collaborative, in good faith as a reflective practitioner. The process of instructional design and technology learning requires reflection. Learners will learn from providing feedback to others, as well as receiving feedback. Program instructors support learners in this process while creating opportunities for them to learn how to work with feedback. While receiving feedback on work, whether positive or negative, can be difficult. Additionally, statements evidencing a desire not to learn the content put forward by faculty and peers is unacceptable. As a professional, feedback on your work should be celebrated as part of the iterative design process. It is the learner’s responsibility to learn how to evaluate feedback and address it in future iterations of design. The outright refusal of feedback as well as Ad hominin attacks or unexplained criticism would constitute a violation of this core value.

5. Be open to diverse ideas, approaches, abilities, and learning needs
• Learners must nurture an ability to work with divergent perspectives and ideation as a means to learning in instructional design and technology. Sharing of diverse ideas, approaches, and reflections lead to innovative practices. Learners may experience discomfort while being challenged by ideas, abilities, and learning needs not encountered prior to entering this program; however, all learners must learn to be open and respectful in sharing ideas and approaches with clients, peers, and mentors. Instructors can support learners to increase knowledge and skills for working with diverse ideas, however, learners may not refuse to listen to collaborators, or accuse others of willful obstruction to the learning. Ignoring or refusing requests for reasonable learning or communication accommodations (from peers, clients or within assignment parameters) also constitutes a violation of this value.

6. Accept the challenge to learn
• Learners must put forward an attitude which views failures as learning opportunities and accept the challenge to learn. Many students who enter the IT Online, LDT, and OTLprograms have exhibited qualities of a successful learner in traditional learning environments. The experience of becoming a professional learner can be quite different from prior experiences. When confronting difficulties while adjusting to new ways of learning, refusals to participate in class, participate in required components of course activities, or to collaborate with others, constitute a violation of this value.

7. Treat oneself and others with respect
• Program participants (both instructional designers and technologists-in-training) engage in numerous project-based course activities in teams and with real-world clients. This experience may be difficult at times. The difficulties themselves are not a problem; in fact, course activities often include authentic challenges that prepare learners as highly-qualified professionals. Behaviors which embody respect for the knowledge and skills of the field lead to becoming a successful team member. It is paramount that all learners show respect to themselves and others throughout this learning process. Disrespect to either oneself, one’s team, other learners, or clients would violate this core value.

8. Be a productive member of our community
• Learners must contribute to the community of practice in which they are engaged, in synchronous and asynchronous whole class discussions (online or face-to-face) as well as in smaller group work scenarios. In whole class activities, learners are expected to both contribute materially and support others in making their own contributions. In teams and group work, the negotiation of roles must accommodate a fair distribution of work. Fair distribution means that learners must contribute equally and equitably as determined by the team and cannot do less than what is agreed upon, nor do more by taking over the group work. In addition, it is a violation of this core value for a learner to refuse to participate in group activities or attempt to claim exception from peer evaluations due to conflicts in teams. Engaging in group processes productively as a member of a community involves skills and knowledge that may be new to them If learners find difficulties in such processes, they should view the situation as an opportunity to learn and reach out to the instructor of the course for assistance. The instructor can function as a mediator to assist team members with how to work together effectively. Refusing to contribute or monopolizing whole class activities would violate this core value.

9. Show integrity, honesty, and inclusivity in collaborative work
• As previously noted, many projects in which instructional design and technology professionals engage are shared by a team, with team members sharing credit for publication. Learners in these programs will give credit to the contributions of others for all completed work and document their own participation with integrity and honesty. In addition, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville values inclusive teaching and learning practice, and this extends to collaboration. Learners must practice inclusivity as a regular part of their collaboration. While learning to become a professional, learners must gain skills and knowledge for assigning work equitably among team members, develop a mechanism for monitoring contributions made by all members, and allow allmembers access to the learning taking place. Failing to properly and fairly credit collaborative work, or purposefully excluding group members from learning, are both violations of this core value.

Professional Disposition Evaluation and Participant Retention
Program faculty review student progress on a regular basis to assist students as necessary. While our main goal is to celebrate learner successes in becoming a highly-qualified Instructional Design and Technology professional, there will be times that faculty need to communicate to learners about issues relating to retention and improvement to ensure that learners are meeting both academic and dispositional expectations.
Program faculty are aware that becoming a professional is a learning experience of its own, and when participants show initial signs of dispositional issues, learners will be provided warning(s) to address them. These warning(s) will be communicated to learners during academic advising sessions. When dispositional issues are not remediated through early warning(s), faculty will follow the steps described below to address them.

Step 1: Students will be notified through a letter sent to their UT email account regarding an academic or dispositional issue that came to light and will be held to a probationary status as a student in the program.
Step 2: Students will schedule a meeting with their academic advisor no later than 2 weeks from the date of the notification letter.
Step 3: During the student/advisor meeting, the student and faculty will jointly construct an improvement plan that clearly lists the identified issue(s), strategies addressing the issue(s), expected outcomes of how student academic performance/dispositional issue will improved, and a date for the improvement plan outcome review. This plan will be kept in the student’s permanent record.
Step 4: The Academic and Dispositions Improvement and Retention Committee will review the improvement plan. This committee will consist of the advisor and two other faculty. Upon review the improvement plan, the committee will notify the student through a letter sent to his/her UT email account whether the plan was accepted or not. If not, students must meet with faculty advisor and address revision to ensure the plan is accepted by the committee.
Step 5: Students will take action according to the approved improvement plan.
Step 6: After the date that is listed as the improvement plan outcome review, the faculty committee will evaluate the student’s improvement according to the criteria of the plan. The committee will deliberate on whether the student did or did not meet the improvement plan expectations. If the students did not meet expectations, it will result in dismissal from the program.

Designing identity

Manipulated Cover image from Matt Groening’s seminal work, School is Hell, 1982, Pantheon Books. This is the exact copy that I brought with me to Austria in 1990, and used to create cloze activities for Austrian high schoolers learning English.

Designing identity is what we do when we talk about education. (not talking about instruction– that’s something different) Once we dig underneath a collection of performance objectives, and the billions of exceptions and complexity that accompany them, what we are really doing when it comes down to it, is designing an identity that we hope learners will assume. PhD programs help people become scholars, ID programs help people become instructional designers. EFL programs teach people to identify as English language learners. In truth, underneath much of educational research, is the true objective of just trying to figure out how to help people to become someone they were not when we first encountered them. Of course saying that would be controversial, so we say other things.

This process is everywhere, down to the simplest experiences that turn children into functioning adults. My daughter is afraid of slugs, and is afraid of riding a bike. It seems there is not much I can do about it at the moment, nor does it bother me in any way that she is afraid of slugs and can’t ride a bike at age 6. It’s cute. At age 24, I don’t think it will really be so cute anymore. I like her for who she is now, and I want her to be who she is now. For as long as she is 6, i’d like he to be happy with being 6. But no matter how much I love the girl she is now, she’s going to be someone else tomorrow– and I want that person to be someone who is not afraid of slugs and can ride a bike. That’s an important change; and most of it is identity.  As soon as she decides she isn’t afraid of slugs and can ride a bike (I know she can ride a bike because she didn’t fall over until she realized I had let go) she will be those things. As long as she thinks she is x, she will be x. We’ve got lots of words like “self-efficacy” to mask the truth of what we’re doing when we’re teaching.

I see this process of change in our graduate learners. I recently wrapped up the final course for a new batch of graduating instructional designers. One candidate I saw present on an LMS implementation (Fred Kelly) just today and another has already moved on to the ID job she came to the program to get, Janelle Galbraith. At one point in this paste semester I could see the change happening before my eyes. In a talk about revising websites, Janelle recounted her design process. There was a point in which a certain instructional image had to be redesigned. I could see it had gone through extensive development.  I took a guess at how many iterations, I guessed four. She replied, “HA! Try 18.” The next part of the interchange is what has been eating at me for weeks. I asked, “Wow, what kept you going beyond four?” and she answered, “because it didn’t work yet and that’s just what you do.”  It’s just what you do when you are a designer, but it sure isn’t what they did when they started the program. I would argue that keeping going when it’s not working is surely not what you do when you are an eye surgeon. It’s a good thing I don’t teach eye surgery.

I went through the same identity change myself. In 1990 I inherited a tutoring gig from Steven Pfaff as he left Karl-Franzens Universität Graz, Austria, to go to NC Chapel Hill to start on his doctoral study. He had been teaching using magazines, but that wasn’t my style really. I started using comics. If you have ever tried turning comics into cloze activities, you would quickly realize this is likely the worst textual choice for foreign language learning strategies one could imagine. Comics hinge on providing unexpected turns of phrase, not the ones the reader is prepped for. As discouraging for the serious learner as it might sound, I had a good time teaching, I think my learners had fun talking about the jokes, and I had a fair bit of fun choosing which words I would block with white out before I made the copies. What I didn’t do is see myself as a teacher, and surely not as an instructional designer. It was too much fun to really view it as work, per se. It took six years, a few student teaching placements, a comps exam, a number of academic papers, a whopping student loan, and then a full time teaching job to finally see myself as a teacher. Then, years later, it took a PhD and a stint with Microsoft to see myself as an instructional designer. All that to get back to where I was at 19, albeit with some identity. Would I still make a cloze activity out of a life is hell comic by Matt Groening? Hell yes. But I would do it over 18 times until it worked right. All this schooling and learning didn’t in effect change what I was doing; it changed how I was doing it and how I thought about what I was doing. The end goal of school is to make you someone new, and that’s painful because, now I would totally suck as an eye surgeon. So yeah Mr Groening, school is hell.