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How to respond to criticism and influence people

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This is a post intended to cheerlead. To express appreciation for the example being sdet by the MOOC organisers, and to talk about how that example, in part, has a large determining influence on the MOOC experience. I apologise in advance for any gushing, typos, formatting weirdness, or weirdly wired thoughts. I’m crying from tiredness.

I’ve been struck by several things during #etmooc. Some I’ve posted about – notably issues with learning curves, drowning in technology, connection, learning and information.

I’ve posted about the difficulties of being a novice in a Connectivist environment, of maintaining motivation, and I proposed some solutions.

Here’s Alec’s response to post criting the MOOC from a novices persepective, The Sense of self, how a MOOC can make or undermine you (and by criticism I mean reflection, and constructive suggestion)


And here’s Alison’s. (as well as favouriting my tweet publicising the blog post)

So now, it’s time to focus on them. Because this is as good as it gets in terms of educators. This is something to aim for. This type of honest, open, and accepting engagement is something for an educator to aim for. This is some of whast exhibits educational excellence about #etmooc – not only from Alec and Alison, but from other organisers, contributors, and session facilitators.

These are fantastic responses. Both in terms of how they speak to the organiser’s, moderator’s and session facilitator’s ability to engage meaningfully with critical thought, but also in terms of how an educator can and does shape the learning experience as a function of their own profile, personality, responsiveness and engagement.

Enthusiasm is excellence.

Both Alec and Alison have a reservoir of enthusiasm, for participants, the process, for engagement, for meaningful criticism, for problem solving and sharing, and for reflection, for learning shared, demonstrated, challenged, achieved. They have obvious, and generous expertise. Their form of feedback is exemplerary, and in this, they are both efficacy builders, cheerleading on complete strangers for whom they have voluntarily created a free and engaging educational experience. That their feedback is excellent is extremely important for the health of the connected community, that it is enthusiastic, competent, passionate and engaged is something which is key to it’s fertility and functuioning. I’d argue it’s a driving force, and fundamentally shaping force. And here’s why.

Bandura on cheerleading from the front.

Bandura argues that the qualities of the instructor are key in maintaining motivation. In online learning, you want a credible, expert, competent, passionate and positive instructor, who seems similar to you, and can make mistakes and cope well with them – students value learning from their instructors coping mechanisms, work harder and longer, and have a greater sense of their own capacity and ability under the influence of instructors with these characteristic, and succeed more often in their goals as a result.

Enthusiastic, passionate, positive, and expert instructors, facilitators and educators are key. They increase the individual and collective sense of possibility. Put simply, if someone you think of as credible and competent, who are passionate about what they do, is providing an educational experience, they  increase your personal sense of what you can achieve, and enhances your sense of self to such a degree that you will try harder, for longer, achieve more, and conceive of yourself as a fundamentally more powerful, capable and able learner.

Now that is something. That is a thing to be as an educator. And it is my experience of Alec, Alison, and any interaction I’ve had with other organisers, volunteers, and facilitators.

I’ve talked about self-efficacy before, and Bandura, and the sense in which self-efficacy, that sense of personal ability, but also of engaging in a project which gives you the tools to succeed and how that has an effect on your sense of self and your sense of possibility.

Being an efficacy builder.

Bandura has this to say about self-efficacy builders…

“People who are persuaded verbally that they possess the capabilities to master given activities are likely to mobilize greater effort and sustain it than if they harbor self-doubts and dwell on personal deficiencies when problems arise.”


“Personal goal setting is influenced by self-appraisal of capabilities. The stronger the perceived self-efficacy, the higher the goal challenges people set for themselves and the firmer is their commitment to them.”

What a thing to be able to do. Enable people to reconceive of themselves, to aim higher, shoot farther, and pursue their ambitions with more determination, persistence, and success.

This is why I think Alec and the moderators are key to the project. Key to it’s success. Key to my maintaining effort, being persistent, and thinking myself capable in the face of considerable difficulty. In all honesty, I don’t think I would have persisted (not because of any problems with the MOOC….but because of the insane time pressure and scheduling in my offline life) without their enthusiasm, expertise, competence, belief and passion.

A heartfelt thank you, and a professional appreciation.

Diane Laurillard says that teachers are responsible for shaping the environment in which learning is to take place…that they are (often) the prime shapers of that environment, and responsible for it’s landscape.

You’ve done a good, inspiring job. That’s shaping the learning environment of your participants, extending their sense of their own capabilities, and pushing people to make and demand more of themselves as they reconfigure their ambitions to in concord with their extended sense of themselves. At it’s heart, this is why many of us are educators. The process of watching students reconceive of themselves as more capable, greater, more able and powerful entities that they had thought as a function of a proces we have facilitated is….amazing.

I think at it’s best, this is the process you have created. A process which can extend the sense of capacity, utility, capability and power to shape of it’s participants.

Feedback as habit forming. Feedback as value creation.

Instructor feedbck is also key in two other areas, both of which speak to motivation, and experience and environment shaping.

Students in online courses immensely value feedback. If you want sudents to value learning, and deploy more persistence, be more moptivated, and try harder and longer, then giving them good feedback is a direct way to do this. There’s a lot of evidence to indicate that instructor feedback is hugely strong in the process of students attributing value to their learning. And when they attributre value, they work harder, and longer.

The organisers have been all over twitter and Google+, retweeting, commenting, encouraging, suggesting, tweaking, responding, reshaping, suggesting supporting and resourcing.

This feedback has been key in maintaining community motivation, shaping and providing value, keeping participants engaged, and getting the most from the MOOC and the MOOCers. Getting feedback from educators of the calibre of Alec and the moderators, and from other p[articipants, has directly led to me working harder, working longer, and getting more from the experience. I would not have thought what I thought, worked how I worked, posted as I posted, and sacrificed precious time and rationed resources without it.

The final reason why the personality and profile of the moderators and Alec has been key, and hugely dynamic is this.

In an online educational experience, the quality of the instruction feedback has a huge impact on the quality of the participant feedback. Feedback from facilitators/instructors has a large determining effect on community feedack and engagement. If instructional feedback is competent, quick, constructive and meaningful, then community feedback is going to be hugely shaped by the example. As an instructor, you demonstrate the typoe of feedback you want, and your participants are likely to echo it.

The feedback from the organisers has been…amazing. Frankly. The overall feeling of the MOOC has hinged on it. It’s been crucial and determining. Participants are engaging weith one another meaningfully, critically, enthusiastically. This is in part due, of course, to the natiure oif the participants. But a huge part is also due to the effect of the organiser, volunteer and facilitator engagement.

Instructors are doing Herculean work commenting on blogs, picking out commentas in sessions, tweeting, retweeting, researching, driecting and engaging learners. This has a massive and positive shapinf effect.

As an educator, it’s a model and inspiring example of how you need to engage with your online learners. It has shaped the environment.The character of the moderators is mirrored in the MOOC. If the currency of this MOOC is generosity,  it finds it’s issue in the generosity of the organisers. We are connecting in a landscape shaped by careful, competenmt, passionate, motivating and ability enhancing individuals, and the shape of what we experience, and how we engage in part reflects their excellence.

I for one am surprised at how much that has shaped and enhanced my experience.

I think Bandura would approve.


  1. lisamnoble says:

    Way to go, Keith – I’m going to quickly send you the link to yesterday’s blog post on differentiated instruction, but I completely agree with you that the facilitators for this #etmooc experience are a huge part of why I’m still here. I love the feedback, and the constant tweaks, and shifts, and questions/answers that help shape what we are doing.

    Thanks so much for this.

  2. I know that comments on blogs should be more than, “hey, great post and I agree,” but, well…sometimes one just has to say that. Great post and I agree!

  3. Julie Balen says:

    Oh my Keith. Agree heartily with your words. But I need to do more because I have had a post simmering in the back of my mind since Friday, and your post has given me the nudge I needed to get those thoughts out.

    My experience of ETMOOC is incredible! Although ETMOOC is described as “developed with a weak ‘centre’, the structure, support/feedback, interaction, timely resources, and responsiveness of Alec and his conspirators has been amazing. The weekly flow of big ideas balanced with skill development is exactly what I was looking for, even though I did not know that I was. And the timing of each event has been perfect. Just as we got control of our tweeting and posting, the lipdub project arrived. On the heels of the lipdub, came Alan’s call for our online serendipity stories. This fledgling community has been tended to well and often with questions, comments, direction, and humour. What great teaching!

    And inspiring too! Now etmoocers are taking the reigns, with Ben’s 25 (now 35) Definitions of Connected Learning and James’ ETMOOC/Connected Learning Reading List.

    The participatory nature of this experience is invigorating as I my thinking is challenged and my ability to articulate myself in words and beyond (maybe a vlog is within my reach!?) stretched.

    When I made the word cloud slide for the Definitions of Connected Learning presentation, I wanted the one word that connected learning was doing to and for me–HAPPY! Such joy in learning, I wish all could experience.

    ETMOOC Conspirators, thanks.

    • wiltwhatman says:

      Hi Julie,

      a Vlog is definitely within your reach.

      I was talking about vlogs, podcasts (and storifying twitter) as forms of reflective learning with my MSc group….yesterday. They suited some, and not others, but I think the form is worth pursuing.

      I’ve podacsted my reflections on my smartphone, because my train broke down, I had no wifi, and I needed a convenient forum to reflect in.

      S,artphones have really, I think, changed how we can reflect. I can shoot a video in the middle of a forest when an idea comes to me. I can record a podcast as I’m wading through kneedeep grass.

      I can tweet in class and cach small fragments of ideas with a unique hashtag and storify them, in a way that I would never have done with written or typed notes.

      I’m lazy, and easily bored, and having a second thing to learn, and an audience who might hear, respond, and appreciate or criticise, engages me more, by orders of magnitude, than writing my own private diary.

      The publishing, and public process foe me, focuses me much more.

      I teach english as a foreign language, and I got f=great results when I told my students, a few da in advance, that I would be recording them on video for the task we were workjing on, youtubing it, and giving the link out to my other classes.

      But that’s a whole other conversation.

      Vlog away.

  4. Karen Young says:

    Reblogged this on karenatsharon and commented:
    And here is a lovely post!

  5. […] Brennan gets at how #etmooc benefits from the work of Alec Couros and Alison Seaman in his post How to respond to criticism and influence people. The dynamic is clearly not the same and Keith positions it as aspirational for educators. I […]

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