Transformative Development Necessary to Counter Technology’s Side Effects

4-year-old child (in a demanding voice) to ubiquitous electronic assistant: “Alexa, play music I like.”

Alexa: “Can you be more specific?”

4-y-o child (angry voice): “You’re stupid, Alexa. Don’t you know anything?”

Alexa: “I will try some music you may like.” (Tune from “Sesame Street” begins playing.)

4-y-o child (angry voice, now screaming): “You stupid, stupid person, Alexa!”

In her article, “The Challenge of Scaling Soft Skills” (2018), Lynda Gratton briefly considers why soft skill development, such as how to interact well with other humans, is now and will continue to be so very important. She also considers some reasons why soft skills seem to be in short supply. The hypothetical exchange between a child and Alexa may be one reason technology giveth, yet it taketh away, too — sometimes with a vengeance.

Artificial intelligence and technological replacement of tasks that used to require humans to accomplish will grind forward. There are studies that put numbers to these things, but the basic tenet seems obvious. Tom Freidman (2018) shared a couple of examples, quoting education-to-work expert Heather McGowan:

In October 2016 Budweiser transported a truckload of beer 120 miles with an empty driver’s seat. . . . In February 2017, Bank of America began testing three ‘employee-less’ branch locations that offer full-service banking automatically, with access to a human, when necessary, via video teleconference.

One ramification of spreading artificial intelligence (AI) and robotization is that the tasks machines can’t do become that much more valuable in human employees. Yet the Alexa-child interaction imagined above might give pause regarding the child’s development of empathy, which is pretty high on the list for many employers when seeking new hires. As Gratton says, “. . . machines are generally poor at understanding a person’s mood, at sensing the situation around them, and at developing trusting relationships” (2018).

Humans, however, can learn to do these things. It’s a great irony, though, that technology (which cannot produce machines to do these things) can actually make it more difficult for humans to learn these key “soft skills.” Would the child in the scenario above be as rude to a librarian when asking for help (if the child is asking a human librarian and not the robot at the circulation desk)? One hopes the child will have learned to be a better human, but enough Alexa-training and a concurrent dearth of human interaction can make you wonder.

Are the sweet technological advances resulting in the cell phone causing detrimental trickle-down effects on developing humans’ abilities to interact well with others, to identify others’ moods based on facial expression and body language? Maybe we are becoming a society not so good at empathy and the ability to relate to others yet at the same time able to select the perfect emoji to attach to a text message.

Technology giveth; technology taketh away.

Gratton piles on some more in her brief 2018 article about pending technological dangers to the workplace and society. She points out the effect stress has on learning.

Imagine you’re a new employee. Your soft skills are lacking. In that scenario, you’re going to be stressed, maybe even very stressed. That kind of stress lowers your ability to learn to read others’ intent, needs, and mood. Now your ability to succeed as a new employee by learning fast is compromised.

If you don’t come into the job with being-a-decent-human skills already developed, you may be in trouble in that job. Learning to be a decent human via on-the-job training is probably more difficult than learning a technical skill required on the job. After all, a successful learning curve for this kind of development generally takes years as children grow into adulthood.

But imagine what Transformative Learning (TL) could do as a disruptor to the bad disruptions technology is causing. In the fight between AI and TL, at least in an arena where humans are the players, TL should triumph for a pretty basic reason: TL helps humans reflect on relationships and their own development.

When guided and facilitated by someone who knows how to scaffold the occasional disorienting dilemma and then prompt for the kind of reflection that expands empathic understanding, humans develop. In particular, they develop the kinds of skills that robots and AI, at least for the foreseeable future, do not possess as members of a functioning team.

Technology giveth; technology taketh away; TL giveth back.



Freidman, T. (2018, January 17). While you were sleeping. The New York Times, p. A19.

Gratton, L. (2018, August 6). The challenge of scaling soft skills. MITSloan Management Review. Retrieved December 27, 2019, from

Creating Compelling Learning Value Propositions

The Quest for Learner “Engagement”

When educators think about their aspirations for the students who enroll in their classes, a common desire is for students to be “engaged.” The goal of creating engagement is widely discussed in transformative teaching and learning literature, conferences, and publications; however, for many educators this can remain a more theoretical and illusive inquiry.

Engagement can mean many different things to educators and students. For some, it may be as simple as intently listening to a presentation. For others, the expectations are more related to participation in active learning methods and processes. For educators who use transformative learning approaches, this can include deep reflection from experiences. Yet, for many educators and students, they may not have a clear definition or criteria in mind related to engagement.

In this post, I explore the quest for learner engagement from the standpoint of the value propositions of the learning environments we, as educators, design and facilitate.  Learning environments are often designed with a certain value proposition in mind. In other words, a value proposition contains what value the learning environment creates for the learner, the educators, and even society. I’ll explore how educators can pursue increased learner (and educator) “engagement” by first enhancing the value propositions of the spaces and places where people learn.

Beyond the Learning Objectives

Many learning environments are driven by the creation and alignment of learning objectives and outcomes to curriculum and assessment strategies. While outcome and alignment processes are critical to designing successful learning environments, I suggest an even more fundamental component is the value proposition that emerges from the learning environment.

Learning environments, regardless of modality, are shaped by a certain theory of practice. For example, the way a class is organized and designed is done so because the person or people designing the class believe that is the most effective way to teach a certain subject. The value proposition that runs through this process is the value that is created through the learning experience. The overall success of the learning experience at this level is less driven by what the learning objectives are, and more driven by how well the learning environment supports a particular value proposition.

Diagram of the Elements of Value Pyramid


The Elements of a Value Proposition

The concept of a value proposition is most commonly explored from the standpoint of business strategy and consumer behaviors. While there are elements from these discussions that can inform value propositions from a learning standpoint, designing compelling learning value propositions requires drawing from additional knowledge bases, particularly for how learning environments are designed to advance value propositions.

In a 2016 Harvard Business Review article, Almquist, Senior, and Bloch, articulated a framework for identifying the elements of value. They organized specific value propositions based on their functional, emotional, life changing, and social impact. Learning environments can relate to these same value elements. The challenge for educators is designing learning environments so they intentionally advance a strategic value proposition.


Process for Designing Value Propositions for Learning Environments

Designing learning environments to support value propositions adds a level of complexity over designing based on learning objectives or outcomes. A value proposition can result in a network of cognitive, social, affective, behavioral, and experiential results. For example, a course that teaches learners to use vintage photography equipment may seek a learning value proposition of developing a set of skills while also creating a sense of nostalgia. In this example the value proposition has multiple dimensions.

The Learning Value Proposition Map is a visual planning and collaboration tool for designing value propositions for learning environments. The tool is centered around the audience(s) for the learning environment and aligns the value created, drivers, and offerings within the learning environment.

Blank Learning Value Proposition diagram

The following diagram is an example of the Learning Value Proposition Map for an online course. To use the tool, begin by identifying the people who are the center of the value proposition. In this example, this is adult learners. Next, identify the intended value to be created through the learning environment. This example lists career advancement as the primary value created for the learner. Next, identify the offering(s) or strategies used to create the value for the learner in the environment. This example lists step-by-step applied learning exercises as that primary offering. Finally, consider the driver(s) influencing the learning environment. In this example, the driver is efficiency to degree completion.

Example of a Learning Value Proposition Map for an online course

The combined map helps to design and refine the value proposition created through a learning environment. For example, if the primary value exchanged is career advancement and the course is largely theory-based with little application opportunities, this may weaken the overall value proposition of the learning environment. Examining the value proposition for the learning environment in a holistic way helps to strengthen the value created for learners.

The Value Proposition of Transformative Learning

A learning value proposition does not specify the content or objectives contained in a learning environment; however, it does identify the value that is created and the drivers and strategies that support this process. A strong value proposition is a necessary core element of transformative learning. Exploring the value created through transformative learning experiences is can have important implications on how learners experience the learning environment and learning results at cognitive, social, affective, behavioral, and experiential levels.

The interesting dimension of transformative learning experiences is the value proposition may also be dynamic over time. For example, an initial value proposition for a learner may be to successfully complete a grade to continue in their degree progress. Over time, this value proposition may take on many other dimensions as developed through reflection or engagement in other learning experiences. For this reason, transformative learning value propositions should be thought of as dynamic over time.


This post explored the concept of value propositions as they relate to learning environments and experiences. Strong value propositions are at the core of transformative learning as an element the draws the experience back to the learner and the meaning and value created. The Learning Value Proposition Map provides a simple tool educators can use to analyze and strengthen the value propositions in the learning environments they design.


Almquist, E., Senior, J., & Block, N. (2016) The elements of value. Harvard Business Review, September 2016 issue, pp. 46-53. Accessed at

How exactly is your education connected to your role in the labor market?

Graphic showing how degrees in Language/Philosophy, Social Science, Business, Communication, Engineering, and IT connect to jobs in STEM (25%), Major business functions (54%), and Interpersonal & creative jobs (21%).

Coffey, C., Sentz, R., & Saleh, Y. (2019, August). Degrees at Work: Examining the serendipitous outcomes of diverse degrees. Report from Emsi. Available:


Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher

Written by Trevor Cox, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Adult Education and Safety Sciences – 


Last year at the UCO Transformative Learning Conference, the keynote speaker, Bryan Dewsbury, mentioned multiple times that Stephen Brookfield’s book: Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher was a foundational text for the kinds of teaching and learning that engaged things like marginalization and oppression. I made a note that this would be an important book for UCO’s 21st Century Pedagogy Institute (21CPI, faculty development series) to engage in this year. So, I was pleased to lead a faculty book group using this text during the fall 2019 semester.

Almost any faculty member you come across would agree that part of our responsibility at a university is to help people engage in critical thinking. But what do we even mean by this? Often I think people assume critical thinking means the ability to read deeply, evaluate an argument, and then make a sound argument for or against something. But this is only part of it.

Enhanced photo of tree reflecting off a nearby pond and bookCritical reflection for Brookfield is more than just making and evaluating arguments. Critical thinking and reflection is about uncovering hegemonic assumptions and illuminating power. Illuminating power is about uncovering “how educational process and interactions are framed by the wider structures of power and dominant ideology” (p. 9) such as capitalism, positivism, democracy, militarism, white supremacy, and patriarchy. Hegemony is “the process whereby ideas, structures, and actions that benefit a small minority in power are viewed by the majority of people as wholly natural, preordained, and working for their own good” (p. 17). Brookfield argues that power and hegemony affect every aspect of the educational process and need to be an essential piece of what it means to be an educator.

Uncovering power and hegemony challenges us as educators to take a critical approach to all of our teaching, as well as get various critical lenses through which we look at our practice. Brookfield argues the four lenses we can use are Student Eyes, Colleague Perceptions, Personal Experience, and Theory.

A few takeaways from our group:

  • Critical reflection is more than just a technique. It is a way of being an educator. Once you begin to look through these various lenses and challenge your own assumptions, you will begin to see how they affect not only your classroom, but your departments, colleges, universities, and systems. Brookfield even offers helpful tips for not becoming overwhelmed or overwhelming others in this process.
  • Racism, power, and hegemony can and should be addressed no matter the subject. Often we leave these subjects for specialized classes in education or diversity. But these issues and ideologies affect how our students show up in class as well as our disciplines. As many in our group pointed out, having a multidisciplinary group allowed us to see how this showed up in a variety of areas. Educators need to be creative in how we address these problems in our classes, even when the subject is seemingly unrelated. By using the four lenses, we can begin to discover how these play out in our various disciplines. I specifically mention racism here because that is a focus of Brookfield’s, but it could easily apply to any other “ism” prevalent in our society.
  • We need to listen to our students. Pairing this with our 2019 Annual Collegium on College Teaching Practice speaker’s ideas (David B. Daniel, James Madison University), it is increasingly important that we not only listen to our students, but adjust as necessary. Even when we cannot adjust for educational purposes, this should be part of the dialogue with our students.
  • Educators need each other. How often do we sit and really explore the challenges of being educators with a diverse set of colleagues? The more we can critically engage the struggles we face, the better educators we will become.
  • We need to read broadly and reflect on our own experience. The more we educate ourselves on the discipline of teaching and learning and allow that to influence our practice, the more we benefit the students who come into our classrooms. This point and the previous point make me extremely thankful for the 21CPI book groups.
  • Becoming a critically reflective teacher is not for the weak at heart. Being an engaged educator working towards challenging power and hegemony is not without its costs. It can be difficult work and raise questions that upset the status quo. But in the end, it is what is required for a more just and equitable learning environment.

This book is an extremely helpful and practical resource. Given the subject matter, you would think the book would be heavy and dense, but it is an easy read laced with humor and a lot of grace for people trying to undertake such hard work. It is filled with practical takeaways educators can begin to immediately incorporate into their work.


Brookfield, S. (2017). Becoming a critically reflective teacher, 2nd Ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

The Forest for the Trees: A Personal Reflection on Transformative Learning and Study Abroad

photo of Charles Gosset

Written by Charles Gosset, ACC; Associate Certified Coach; Full Integration Coaching, LLC. — 

Long before I had ever heard the term “transformative learning,” I was being exposed to educational opportunities that developed my beyond-disciplinary skills and expanded my relationship with self, others, community and environment ( Looking back, one of the clearest examples was an international studies class I took as part of my Forestry undergraduate degree program at a nearby university.

The course was called International Forestry and Natural Resources (pp. 22-23) and was designed to be a non-traditional course offering within a largely traditional field of study. It involved highly experiential, on campus learning, as well as a 10-day trip to Honduras where we examined the relationship of the people to the use of natural resources.

Class assignments included preparatory research around a specific chosen focus area, along with a student portfolio comprised of four elements: a research paper, an oral presentation, a creative component and a journal. Initial research was conducted on my campus and the rest was completed through direct interactions with the people we met in Honduras.

A photo of a family of 11 in the Honduran forest

A family of rural Honduran farmers demonstrating the results of improved agricultural practices.

While I was well prepared to encounter an entirely new culture with ample classroom knowledge, academic research, and practical tips for traveling abroad, what I wasn’t prepared for is the way that the experience was going to fundamentally change the way I understood my degree program and my relationship to it.

The trip to Honduras took place in the spring of 1999. Just six months earlier, Hurricane Mitch had roared through the country causing widespread devastation and loss. It was the worst flooding Honduras had seen in the 20th century and an estimated 1.5 million people were left homeless.

By the time we arrived, reconstruction was underway but there was also plenty of evidence of wreckage and ruin. My assignment was to research the attitude of the people, especially that of the rural farmers, in terms of their prospects for the future and their way of life through the implementation of both traditional and improved farming practices. Based on my own preconceived ideas, I expected to hear stories of defeat, uncertainty, and even hopelessness given the extent of the damage that resulted from Hurricane Mitch. I remember feeling guilty for what I perceived as being more fortunate than they were, and it created a strong sense of mental and emotional conflict in me.

However, my assumptions were proven to be incorrect by multiple individuals and families who were actually filled with hope, gratitude, and enthusiasm for the future. I was shocked at first. It just didn’t add up to me. How could these people possibly be hopeful about their future based on their present circumstances? I was experiencing then what today I would call a “disorienting dilemma.”

I was being confronted by the cognitive dissonance of two very different beliefs in my conscious awareness – my own, and those of the people that were engaging in conversations with me. The perspectives I heard over and over again were unquestionably optimistic. Reflecting on my experiences with the professor of the course, Dr. Thomas Kuzmic, and through informal conversations with classmates, I had to concede that my previously held beliefs about these people were simply no longer valid or useful. This meant finding new ways of relating to what I now saw as a resilient, hopeful people. But how?

Photo of a class of OSU students in the Honduran forest

Some of my UNACIFOR classmates during a forestry field exercise

For me, it was a matter of shifting my own point of view from one of guilt and pity to one of empathy and compassion. When I began to adopt the point of view of the Hondurans I was interviewing, I noticed that I could relate to them more directly through a shared humanity. They had found ways of remaining resilient and hopeful that I simply hadn’t found in my own life. I remember being deeply moved at that realization, knowing that I had been encouraged by a people who had seemingly lost so much. It inspires me to this day and has profoundly shaped how I view the world and my role in it.

In fact, this course affected me so greatly that I decided I wanted to return to Honduras in order to study and learn more about the people and their relationship to natural resources. Incredibly, in the spring of 2001, I became the first North American student to study at an international forestry school located in Siguatepeque, Honduras. I spent a semester in the forests of a people who would go on to transform my life at increasingly deeper, world-changing levels. And although I’m no longer directly involved in the field of forestry, the lessons learned continue to impact me and my transformational work with those I serve.

“Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.” – John Muir




“Assignment Honduras,” OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Cowboy Journal, Spring 2000, pp. 22-23. Extracted from

The DEAL Model for Critical Reflection – Describe, Examine, and Articulate Learning, as included in the UCO STLR Training Guide, Summer 2018, pp. 127-128

Following Mezirow: A Roadmap through Transformative Learning | Graduate Program in Training and Development @ Roosevelt University, as included in the UCO STLR Training Guide, Summer 2018, pp. 120-123

This I Have Learned: Diversity of Reflections

Written by Linda Harris, Ed.D.; Associate Professor; Department of Educational Sciences, Foundations, & Research; UCO — 

When it comes to assessing student transformation, providing students with one or more writing prompts that that enable them to effectively reflect on their learning and growth in a critical way is the gold standard—and with good reason! From a student’s own perspective and voice, critical reflections provide us with a ringside seat to students’ experiences with our course content within and outside of classes. In fact, critical reflections often provide course instructors with much better insights into their course design and instruction than the end-of-course SPIES (evaluations) students are repeatedly nudged to complete.

Of course, the challenge to this gold standard is relying entirely on one method of assessment, and we know from the oft-misattributed to Einstein quote, “…if we judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” Stated another way, writing is not every student’s best means of demonstrating growth. Best practice dictates we assess our students multiple times and in a variety of ways to make the most accurate inferences regarding student learning. Just the same, despite the excellent job that the University of Central Oklahoma’s Center for Excellence in Transformative Teaching and Learning does to encourage a variety of assessment artifacts—and our willingness to assign additional artifacts, we often default to using students’ written critical reflections to assess transformation using our campus-wide STLR rubrics. I’d like to suggest an alternative—MP3 podcasts or video reflections.  Here’s why.

Recently, as I was chatting with one of my student participants in a STLR-funded Transformative Learning project on school leadership, I asked her how her interview with a local school administrator had gone. It so happened, this administrator was from the school she would have attended—had she not been selected by lottery to attend a local charter school. The interview went great and she learned much, she reported. Then the conversation meandered to her observations as she walked through the different schools she had visited. I asked, “What do you suppose accounts for the different school climates you observed?” and without hesitation, she replied, “leadership!” Of course, that was the expected answer given her research topic. But she didn’t stop there. In fact, she became more animated and intense as she focused more intently on her own school experience and compared it to what she observed at her neighborhood school.

Of course, my student had much yet to learn, but as she continued to speak, she was clearly becoming more agitated, so I asked why it bothered her so much—and she decried the lack of high expectations and suggested students were being denied an education. I followed up by asking if it was possible she was upset because these were her neighbors and friends, and it was her intended school. She became very quiet and said, “It could have been me.” In that moment, us and them disappeared, and the injustice of unequal educational opportunity suddenly became very real to her.

The conversation ended with her commitment to teach and eventually go into administration in an urban district, but it also ended with a recording—on my phone—to capture what had transpired. Transformation that may not have been captured in a critical reflection was captured in a conversation.

Of course, one-one conversations with all students is not feasible. However, nearly 70 years after first being introduced on NPR, This I Believe, has continued by transitioning from a radio program to student essays to podcasts and can still be found on What if we challenged our students to create a podcast or brief video clip on their growth as an alternative to the written critical reflection?  I’d be happy to start a site called, This I Have Learned… where we can share student voices of transformation. Let me know what you think by commenting below or with an email to lharris29 ‘at’

When Great Lessons Fail…

“Best if Used By…” – An Activity’s Shelf Life

We have all experienced the process of teaching a lesson semester after semester and one day realize that lesson is losing its value. What happened? Did the examples become less relevant? Is the content not as exciting to students anymore? Are the techniques used to teach the content less effective? Did the characteristics of the audience change? These are just a few of the many questions that arise in a situation like this.

In this article, I discuss how to address those situations in which a lesson seems to be less effective than it once was. Many educators are constantly in the process of refining and adjusting lessons based on observations and testing. We may find an assignment’s description needs more clarity, or a new resource is available. Great educators are always adapting; however, these same educators are faced with the question of, “If I change something, will it be better or worse than the current iteration?” This process of improving a lesson highlights the importance of creativity and innovation in the teaching and learning process.

When educators look to refresh lessons, it becomes important to first examine the various pieces and components that make up the lesson. This means thinking about the lesson as a “learning environment,” made up of multiple connected elements that create the space where learning happens.

The Innovation of Learning Environments

Innovation is not only about change for the sake of change. Innovation is about creating and optimizing the value created for students through learning experiences. When lessons “fail,” it’s important to first identify what specifically needs to be adjusted to achieve a desired result. Furthermore, we may need to re-define what the desired result is.

Changes in learning environments can be classified by the resulting enhancement of efficiency and/or effectiveness. The combination of these two factors often drive the type of innovation that will be most successful.

The following diagram illustrates nine common drivers of innovation in learning environments. For example, if a lesson “fails” because there are not enough learners participating, the innovation priority will most likely emphasize efficiency as a way of increasing learner participation. This doesn’t mean that effectiveness is not important. It means that efficiency is the primary driver of the lesson refresh.

Learning Environment Innovation Taxonomy graphic

Source: The Innovation of Learning: Visualizing Transformative Learning Environments

The Learning Environment Innovation Taxonomy helps to identify why and how change happens in learning environments. It also provides a framework for planning strategic innovation efforts to enhance learning experiences.

The Taxonomy is a quadrant model displaying two vectors: the drive toward learning effectiveness (along the top of the chart) and the drive toward learning efficiency (along the right side of the chart). Results that fall in uppermost regions of the graph indicate a high drive toward effectiveness while those that fall in the lower sections indicate a low drive toward effectiveness. Results that correspond to the right quadrants signal a high drive toward efficiency while those on the left signal a low drive toward efficiency.

A drive toward learning effectiveness or toward learning efficiency does not equate to valuing the specific driver. That is, the fact that a learning environment reflects a low drive toward learning effectiveness does not mean learner success is not valued in the environment. It means only that learning effectiveness is not a primary driver for change in the setting. It could be that there is a perception that learner success is already high and that attention to that particular criteria is, therefore, not critical when we assess drivers in the environment. Or, there may simply be other goals for change that are more prevalent or critical at the time. (Dodd, 2019)

From Instruction to Transformation

At the core of learning environment innovation is the goal of student transformative learning, which involves both creating environments for transformation and ensuring learners’ engagement in that environment. This fact brings up two questions: How do we create learning experiences that live on after a course or lesson? How do you design for transformation? The answers to both of these questions involves engaging in an ongoing innovation process.

A transformation-focused learning environment begins by shifting from an instruction-centered approach to a learning-centered approach. In referencing the taxonomy above, innovation of transformative learning environments most likely are emphasized on the left side of the diagram. By design, they are inefficient. Educators must create the conditions for a dilemma to occur through engagement with an experience or ideas.  This means encouraging positive curiosity and discovery, not through student frustration to the point of disengagement, but through disorientation along with a supportive instructor and peers to expand their perspectives in the area of study. For this reason, transformative learning environments can be created and setup with prior design and innovation.

Prioritizing Learning Innovation

When the inevitable happens, how can educators use innovation strategies to transform learning experiences?

  1. Collect data. Begin by collecting as much data as possible about the learning experience. This can range from how learners experience the environment to how they perform on lesson assessments.
  2. Create an “as-is” picture of the learning experience. This helps to build an in-depth understanding of the learning experiences and the influencing issues.
  3. Identify strategic points of focused transformation. Don’t feel that you have to change the entire learning environment. Identify the areas that will have the greatest influence on improving the lesson.

What are some assignments or class activities that used to work well, but may need some innovation and design to turn them back into the transformative experiences you desire for your students?  Comment below with your examples.

Mythos and Logos in Transformative Faculty’s Toolkits

Transformative Learning (TL) is an instructional approach well suited to helping prepare graduates for the new world of work, which Reich (2019) and others say is increasingly characterized by contingent contracts and a gig economy. TL helps students discover themselves via reflection, an important step toward being able to narrate themselves successfully when they’re required to bridge from one employer to another, to change positions, or to pitch themselves and their ideas when launching their own businesses.

An education that helps students develop in this manner must be an intentional mix of logos and mythos. As faculty, we are trained in a logos mindset and depend on rationality and the scientific method to determine the objective truths we share with students in the form of our course content.

But to prepare our students for employment in a world that has chunks of their logos-grounded learning obsolete by the time they graduate and where employers oftentimes must value adaptability and resilience even more than content knowledge and skill, our role should include providing opportunities to engage in the mythos necessary to help students “narrate the meaning of their lives”:

The extent to which people can narrate the meaning of their lives indicates how much of what they do will matter to others. This process is referred to as narratibility, and it is about people’s ability to say who they are (narrate their story). (Maree, 2013, p. 52)

woman writing

If what Maree (2013) says is true, discoveries about self and the ‘ah-ha,’ transformative moments we seek to prompt in students are necessary to help students know and communicate their authentic selves.

“Who am I?” “Why do I matter?” and “What is my value?” are precursor questions to the statement that is, “My ability to add value to your enterprise is ___.” Even more importantly, helping our students answer the precursor questions means we equip them to successfully match themselves and their abilities to contribute to the enterprises where their passions lie and in which they will succeed and self-actualize to the greatest degree.

In other words, the logos of students’ programmatic knowledge must be balanced with the mythos of their heroic journey of self-discovery. They can then launch themselves into employment and life by making choices that align with who they really are and which successfully balance head and heart. Hoyt puts it this way:

[L]ogical thinkers have figured out, for example, how to cure illnesses and prolong the average human lifespan, but they have learned through mythical thinking to value human life enough to bother. Products of logos enable us to communicate with the people who matter most to us (even when they are thousands of miles away), but mythos provides the context for us to know which people matter and what we should say to them when we do communicate. (2009)

Graduating student looking out over city

At UCO, our Student Transformative Learning Record (STLR) process has us prompting students to reflect on their learning as connected to one or more of our Central Six Tenets when they complete a STLR-tagged assignment. With well-constructed prompts nudging students to consider prior assumptions in a new light, we certainly have seen hundreds of instances in which students come to know themselves better and/or conceive of themselves differently among the more than 26,000 assessments of rubrics-determined badge-level achievement that have occurred to date.

Logos may have sufficed when workers could count on remaining with the same employer for a lifetime, benefits provided, at a livable wage. That age is gone, replaced by one in which employment is a more fluid affair, requiring the mythos of revelatory knowledge of self in order to know and communicate one’s value, regardless the amount of upskilling one manages across a lifetime.

The successful university in the new world of work educates students from both logos and mythos perspectives because graduates who know their stuff and know themselves are better arbiters of the mix among what they want to accomplish, where they can do that, and how they contribute best to self, others, community, and environment.




Hoyt, R. (2009). Mythos and logos: Two ways of explaining the world. Retrieved June 5, 2019, from

Maree, J. G. (2013). Counseling for career construction — Connecting life themes to construct life portraits: Turning pain into hope. Rotterdam: Sense.

Reich, R. (2019, June 2). The gig is up: America’s booming economy is built on hollow promises. The Guardian. Retrieved June 5, 2019, from

Countries with the Most STEM Graduates

Graphic displaying the countries with the most STEM graduates. China is at the top with 4.7 million, followed by India with 2.6 million. Next is the United States with 568,000, Russia with 561,000, Iran with 335,000, Indonesia with 206,000, and Japan with 195,000.

Using Web Literacy Skills to Expose Fake News

Written by Mark R. McCoy, Ed.D., Professor, Forensic Science Institute — 

I was recently asked to lead a book discussion group on the open access e-book “Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers” by Mike Caulfield. I had not read the book, but I believe I was asked to lead the discussion based on my experience in law enforcement leading a state cybercrime unit and using the Internet as an investigative tool. Upon reading Caulfield’s text I came to realize that I had been using, in my previous work, some of the same strategies he describes. These fact-checking strategies are tools we should teach our students and use ourselves on a daily basis.

The World Wide Web and social networks are treasure troves of information – much of it true and reliable but some of it false and misleading. How can we help students evaluate the information they find on these sources and evaluate the information’s veracity? In his book, Caulfield provides “Four Strategies and a Habit” to guide us in this effort. While we ask students to critically think about various sources of information, we have not provided them concrete strategies and tactics for properly analyzing the nature and reliability of those sources.

In brief, Caulfield’s strategies are:

  1. Check for previous work: Has someone else already fact-checked the information? He provides sources of reliable websites that do research and fact-check much of the questionable news we read online.
  2. Go upstream to the source: Most web content is not original. He provides techniques to work “upstream” to locate the original source of the information and evaluate its credibility.
  3. Read laterally: Once you find the source of a claim, see what others say about the source and its trustworthiness.
  4. Circle back: If you hit a dead end or get lost, go back to the beginning and start the process over, using what you learned up to that point (p. 5).

In addition to those strategies, Caulfield introduces a habit we should all follow. We should check our emotions. “When you feel strong emotion – happiness, anger, pride, vindication – and that emotion pushes you to share a ‘fact’ with others, STOP. Above all, it’s these things that you must fact-check” (p. 7). When emotion is high, be careful about how you proceed. Propaganda is written to evoke emotion. Don’t Tweet angry.

The rest of the text goes on to detail each of the strategies and provides current examples of “fake news” – propaganda and disinformation that can be easily fact-checked with the strategies. This is an excellent book and easy read of about 120 pages. Our book discussion group had some interesting discussions and some fun fact-checking information we found on our own Facebook feeds and Twitter accounts.

picture of Web Literacy book coverCaulfield (2017) notes, “the web is both the largest propaganda machine ever created and the most amazing fact-checking tool ever invented. But if we haven’t taught our students those capabilities, is it any surprise that propaganda is winning?” (p. 3–4). I would take this further and say that every citizen that interacts with information on the Internet should use the due diligence outline in this book before re-Tweeting or sharing bogus information and perpetuating fake news. The ability to evaluate information in our information-saturated world is a skill that, once mastered, is empowering and transformative. By having better-supported information, both we and our students can check our prior observations and perhaps expand our perspectives on the world.


Caulfield, M. (2017). Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers. Accessed 3 April 2019 at