This is my final reflection for 806 - my final course requirement. I have also submitted my proposal revisions and had them approved. I am now truly ABD (All but done, all but dissertation).

I began this program on May 25, 2015, and on March 1, 2019 (slightly less than four years later), I received this email: 

This email is to advise that Jason Openo (EdD Program) completed and passed his candidacy oral examination on December 13, 2018.

Jason's supervisor, Dr. Connie Blomgren, has confirmed that all revisions to Jason's proposal are now in place.  Degree Works has been updated and as far as FGS is concerned, the candidacy portion of the program is now complete.

Please update your records accordingly.

Congratulations Jason and good luck with your research!!

Heraclitus suggested that “no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”  I’ve heard it so often, it sounds trite, but it has never been more true.  This journey has truly been a transformative experience. One of my revisions asked me to be very clear about what I believe about knowledge creation, and this final set of revisions forced me clarify my conception of power. Here is a short description of how I answered those questions, and in the process, came to know myself better than ever before.

I believe in an inter-related structure of reality, best described by the phrase that what affects one directly, affects all indirectly (King, 1967).  As much research shows, the experience of alienation, precarity, and unpreparedness of part-time online faculty can and does negatively affect students and the quality of their academic programs.  What affects faculty affects the students, the institution’s reputation, and the value and legitimacy of online education.  All teaching and learning is inter-related.  I believe knowledge must play a role in the improvement of the human condition (Franklin, 1990), and from that stance, I approach my research with a critical temper and belief in democracy as a way of life.  At its simplest, to be critical means to orient one`s approach to critiquing and changing society, rather than solely trying to understand or explain it.

One tradition within critical theory is pragmatic constructivism (Brookfield, 2005).  Pragmatic constructivism “rejects universals and generalizable truths and focuses instead on the variability of how people make interpretations of their experience” (p. 15).  Originating from William James, pragmatic constructivism

argues for an interactive, co-evolutionary relationship between mind and world, individual and environment: mind is a creative participant in mind-world interactions, individuals are agents in individual-society interactions, and those who do science are, by logical extension, as implicated in truth-making as the world which they try to objectively describe.  This co-evolutionary process does not release cognition or selves from the environment’s orbit, allowing them to spin off freely through space, but rather situates them in a larger context in which they are active and creative agents. (Lempert, 1997, p. 43)

Or, as Brookfield puts it, events happen to us, but experiences are constructed by us (2005, p.14).  The mind and the world exist in dynamic tension co-creating each other, and the researcher exerts influence during the research process.

If there is a co-evolutionary relationship between the mind and the world, the individual is continually engaged in a process of creating the world.  Harnessing this power of co-creation generates social intelligence.  Social intelligence arises from lived experience, and Kadlec (2008) argues that Deweyan critical pragmatism recognizes that power imbalances do exist, but they are not fixed.  Experience, and the experience of “unalterable changefulness,” can alter patterns of dominance.

Tapping into the critical potential of lived experience under conditions of unalterable changefulness begins with the therapeutic recognition that there is no such thing as a unified field of power directed entirely by stable and fixed interests.  The first implication here is that there are always new opportunities to exploit cracks and fissures in various structurally entrenched forms of power (Kadlec, 2008, p. 69).

Pragmatic constructivism suggests experience is a co-evolutionary process, and reality is relationally established by language-based, mind-world interactions.  Dewey’s philosophy of experience is similar; Dewey outlines a dual and dynamic nature of culturally inherited knowledge and knowledge forged in experience.

We live from birth to death in a world of persons and things which in large measure is what it is because of what has been done and transmitted from previous human activities.  When this fact is ignored, experience is treated as if it were something which goes on exclusively inside an individual’s body and mind.  It ought not be necessary to say that experience does not occur in a vacuum.  There are sources outside an individual which give rise to experience. It is constantly fed by these springs (Dewey, 1997, p. 40).

The first reality is the one passed down and handed down to us.  The story and actions we inherit.  The second reality is the one we come to understand and create based on our experiences derived from our interactions and evaluation of our inherited reality. This informs my conception of power.

The conception of power in this study is derived from Dewey's critical pragmatism, as described by Kadlec (2008), and the mind-world interaction.  The arrows represent an exertion of power or influence that is not reflective of scale.

The conception of power in this study is derived from Dewey's critical pragmatism, as described by Kadlec (2008), and the mind-world interaction.  The arrows represent an exertion of power or influence that is not reflective of scale.

As the stress fractures emerge, educational developers can exploit these fissures and cracks by exerting formal influence within the institution through strategic planning processes and resource allocation.  They can also exert influence through networks of support with other administrators and with faculty (Roxa & Martensson, 2009; Roxa, Martensson & Alveteg, 2011), highlighting that power relations can be dynamic and internally contradictory.  Professional development is conceived as an activity that provides a congruence of interest between the mission of the institution, the role and function of teaching and learning centres, and the faculty who identify with the desire to provide high-quality instruction.

Faculty development for online faculty also represents part of a more mature wave of online education, one that recognizes that technology is a small part of the solution. As the web turns 30 and online education turns 20, educational development for online faculty is essential if online distance education is to reach its potential and fulfill its promise.

We are at a moment of convergence portending a second, more mature, wave of work that transcends “technosolutionism” – one that requires an integrative vision committed to student success and deep learning and looks to the larger “social compact,” and even more broadly to a more profound cause and urgency around the future of human capacity. (Bass, 2018, p. 35)

It’s not the same river and I am not the same man. I know this because I finally feel ready for the task ahead.