Reflective Leadership in Practice


While working as the Deputy Director of Learning Teaching and Web Services at the University of Edinburgh, Anne-Marie Scott led a 3-year project to retrofit over 360 lecture rooms with audio/visual recording capabilities.

The Problem

The project involved a significant budget and numerous technical aspects, which was highly innovative, combined with a strong component of change management. The project scope was certainly ambitious, however, over the duration of the project, unforeseen factors emerged, which added considerable challenges.

For instance, the initial data revealed a vast difference between the expectations of students and lecturers in two main areas, namely: the purpose of what a lecture is, and why lectures should be recorded. Students felt the lectures were very important and should not be missed, however, lecturers felt they were a “jumping off point” for further study (Scott, personal communication, February 19, 2010). Lecturers were uncomfortable with the idea of being recorded on a personal level, whereas students didn’t think it was a big deal. Fundamentally, this revealed a gap in the university’s communication to students about why courses are taught in a specific manner and the purpose of a lecture and ultimately, the purpose of the recordings. The project team leaders recognized the opportunity to collaborate with stakeholders, “By involving others in reflective practice, the leader is promoting a shared purpose that motivates and revitalizes the workforce, which is apt to result in renewed and improved performance” (Castelli, 2016, p. 231). As a result, the project outcomes were positively impacted through stakeholder engagement as demonstrated by the data collected showing an increased uptake of recorded lectures from 30% to 89%.

Lessons learned

There were a number of lessons learned throughout the project. Specifically, Scott mentioned that they were very cognizant of the ethical use of student data that underpinned their use of analytics (personal communication, February 19, 2020). Furthermore, the opportunity to explain why some lectures would not be recorded emerged.  For example, a music course that contained copyrighted music, or a medical course that contained personal information about a patient presented “teachable moments” to explain the use of recorded lectures to students. (Scott, personal communication, February 19, 2020).

Overall, through my experience of the readings along with Scott’s exploration of the project at the University of Edinburgh, I plan on utilizing the theory of reflective leadership in my work. Because I would describe an important aspect of reflective leadership as one that is experimental and iterative, which allows for evaluation and recalibration throughout to better ensure success. As Castelli states, “By visualizing varying outcomes, new insights can be revealed. Thus, the act of reflection makes possible the determination of an organization’s best course of action before the execution of a potentially flawed plan” (2016, p. 218).


Castelli, P. A. (2016). Reflective leadership review: A framework for improving organisational performance. The Journal of Management Development, 35(2), 217-236. 10.1108/JMD-08-2015-0112

Photo by Christopher Sardegna on Unsplash

Leaders: Managing Change in Digital Environments

In assignment 1, we were asked to create a one page visual as well as a written synthesis of our readings and consultations with colleagues with regard to digital learning and change. Of particular interest to me were Kotter’s 8-step model as well as the reflective leadership theory outlined by Castelli (2015) (Kotter, n.d.). During communication with my colleagues, I kept the Kotter model and the reflective leadership theory in mind, and how they may apply in practice, as my colleagues described their experiences managing change projects in digital learning environments. First, however, I have summarized Kotter’s model and the reflective leadership theory, followed by a synopsis of my communications with my colleagues, combined with brief reflections based on my personal experience.

Kotter’s 8 step model takes leaders through a series of processes that provides structure to their project. As Al-Haddad and Kotnour note, “His method starts with establishing a sense of urgency by relating the for change to real potential crises, building a team trusted to support change, having a vision and strategy, communicating the vision, implementing the change and planning short term win, consolidation gains and constantly institutionalizing change” (2015, p. 250).

The reflective leadership theory can be summed up as one that: creates a safe environment that promotes trust, values open communications, connects work to organization mission, builds self-esteem and confidence, respects diverse cultures and customs and challenges beliefs and assumptions” (Castelli, 2016, p. 221-226).

While working as the Deputy Director of Learning Teaching and Web Services at the University of Edinburgh, Anne-Marie Scott led a 3-year project to retrofit over 360 lecture rooms with audio/visual recording capabilities. With a significant budget and numerous technical aspects, the initial project scope was certainly ambitious. However, over the duration of the project, unforeseen factors emerged, which added considerable challenges. For example, during an industrial action strike, one of the leaders suggested the recorded lectures could be used to replace “lecturers who were on strike” (Scott, personal communication, February 19, 2020). This resulted in a lack of trust with regard to the use of recorded lectures and threatened the success of the project. The importance of trust is referenced by Castelli, “Sarros et al. (2014), the ability to motivate others is one of the key skills required by leaders. This is accomplished by the leader’s ability to create an open atmosphere that promotes trust […]” (2016, p. 221). To address this contentious issue, Anne-Marie’s project team created a lecture recording policy that stipulated the legal use of recordings which helped to address the lecturers’ concerns and restore trust. From my personal experience, I have learned that unexpected issues and resistance to change should be anticipated and planned for whenever possible.

The issue of trust was an inherent factor in the project that my colleague, Sharon Ambata-Villaneuva led in her role as the Manager of Education and Technology at the University Health Network in Toronto. The project was established to integrate the Privacy and Cyber Security training program for the Toronto Academic Health Science Network (TAHSN). In relation to the issue of trust, Ambata-Villaneuva related that “This entails strategies such as facilitating discussions and navigating the political terrain to overcome the hurdles” (personal communication, February 23, 2020) to achieve project deliverables. It has also been my experience that anticipating the need for transparency to ensure trust is an integral part of the success of a change initiative.

Both of my colleagues stated that they had used Kotter’s 8-step model, but did not apply it in a prescriptive manner. Instead they used the model as a starting point and then adapted it to their needs throughout the project lifecycle, which provided the advantage of structure, as well as adaptability.

As a result of my past experience, combined with my colleagues’ shared stories, and the readings, I believe that various models and theories can be used synergistically to enable leaders to adjust their project plans to ensure the success of their change initiatives while keeping up with the increasing demands of the digital age. After all, as John F. Kennedy was quoted as stating, “Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future” (Meliorate, n.d.).


Al-Haddad, S., & Kotnour, T. (2015). Integrating the organizational change literature: a model for successful change. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 28(2), 234-262. Retrieved from

Castelli, P. A. (2016). Reflective leadership review: A framework for improving organisational performance. The Journal of Management Development, 35(2), 217-236. 10.1108/JMD-08-2015-0112

Kotter, J. (n.d.) The 8-step process for leading change. Retrieved from

Meliorate [website] Retrieved from

Change Management Steps: Make Sure You’re Headed in the Right Direction

Winston Churchill was quoted as saying, “There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction” (Wisdom to inspire). I believe that this is often true. Particularly when it pertains to organizations making decisions about the changes to their structure and the process by which they should come to a decision should involve complex analysis.

In my career, I have had the opportunity to participate in transformations in private sector organizations as well as similar initiatives in government and crown corporations. Based on my observations the drivers behind the need for change, the methodologies and processes selected, vary within those environments, however, the overall goals are similar.

For this blog post, we were asked to consider four questions. One in particular stood out for me.

What role does leadership play in managing change?

Keeping that in mind, while reading the articles for unit 2, I noted that there were a number of theories, strategies and models (Biech, 2007).  For me, there was an almost overwhelming body of knowledge that made me realize I would need to focus on what resonated the most for me. To that end, the CHANGE Model outlined by Biech (2007) included six steps that present a logical process, while allowing for overlap and adjustment throughout. The six steps are:

  1. Challenge the current state
  2. Harmonize and align leadership
  3. Activate commitment
  4. Nurture and formalize a design
  5. Guide implementation
  6. Evaluate and institutionalize the change

In particular, I believe step 2 is crucial to ensure leaders are united in their understanding of the change and their role to visibly support the change. If not, the success of the initiative risks being undermined by the very people who have been enlisted to support it. The potential risks are significant as Biech notes here, ““We know of another example where it took four years to implement a telecommuting plan. Why? Resistance from the middle of the organization stonewalled the plan” (2007, p. 2).

Further to that I saw some connection to the seven change management best practices outlined by the Prosci methodology which are:

  1. Mobilize an active and visible primary sponsor
  2. Dedicate change management resources
  3. Apply a structured change management approach
  4. Engage with employees and encourage their participation
  5. Communicate frequently and openly
  6. Integrate and engage with project management
  7. Engage with middle managers

The potential pitfall of not engaging with middle managers in step seven is noted in this statistic,   “Middle managers were revealed as the most resistant group in Prosci’s research, with 43% of participants identifying managers as the group most resistant to change” (Prosci, n.d. p. 8).

Al-Haddad and Kotnour (2015) also highlighted the effect of leadership support stating, “Leaders can be seen as change makers who guide the organisations into the desired state of future performance (p. 240). Like Prosci, they too, specified the need for an organized approach, “Moreover, it is important to adopt a methodological process to achieve the desired outcome” (Al-Haddad & Kotmour, 2015, p. 254).

Although I believe all of the steps in a change management initiative are important, I do think some are critical. Specifically, as I’ve emphasized in my post, the role of leadership and the adoption of a structured, organized approach. Because as Benjamin Franklin stated, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” (Goodreads, n.d.).

Photo by Nick Jio on Unsplash


Al-Haddad, S., & Kotnour, T. (2015). Integrating the organizational change literature: a model for successful change. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 28(2), 234-262. Retrieved from

Biech, E. (2007). Models of change. Thriving through change: A leader’s practical guide to change mastery. Alexandria, VA: Association for Talent Development. Retrieved from assetid=RW$1544:_ss_book:22651#summary/BOOKS/RW$1544:_ss_book:22651

Goodreads. (n.d.) [webpage] Retrieved from

Prosci. Best practices in change management. Thought leadership articles (n.d.) Retrieved from

Wisdom to inspire. (n.d.) [webpage]

‘Full moon’ Leadership

Going through the exercise of assessing leadership traits based on the 20 characteristics that we were provided was an interesting process for me personally as well as engaging with the other three people on my team (Leigha, Lisa and Owen). Our top five traits were similar, just in a different ranking, however the remaining 15 were quite varied from each of our personal perspectives, which wasn’t surprising as the 20 characteristics ran the gambit in terms of their scope so it made sense that we would diverge.

For me personally, when I explored the leadership values that I think are important as they relate to leading in a digital environment, I realized that what I think is important is similar, regardless of the environment. Essentially, for me, a good leader is a person who can ‘suspend’ their ego-needs in favour of leading and supporting others to perform in their roles successfully. To that end, a good leader is open to conversations that are authentic and allow all parties to communicate. From my perspective, that’s the foundation of a leadership style that empowers others by removing barriers to success (when needful, and possible) and then enabling people to…simply, do their job.

In reading the articles for unit 1, I found myself wondering what the literature would present from a corporate learning perspective, rather than the K12/higher education one. As a result, I have not quoted or referenced the readings because nothing really stands out as noteworthy at this point, to be honest. This thought is not meant to be a criticism, rather an observation in a reflective post. That said, I know from past courses, that future readings will expand into other areas to add a deeper context to the initial articles, which I look forward to.

Ultimately, my final thoughts closing out on unit 1 are embodied in the image I chose for this post. It’s a picture I took earlier on my phone (not a very good one, I’m afraid) of the full moon in Leo making its day two debut. It struck me that it could be a full moon rising, OR the sun, setting. Regardless it sheds light by which one can see where they are going. And from my perspective, that is the epitome of what a good leader should strive to do.

Learning Theories and the Design Process

The readings in unit 3 really intrigued me. Specifically, the article by Ertmer and Newby prompted me to recall the foundation of my introduction to instructional design and how revisiting theoretical approaches could help to underpin my design intentions moving forward. In particular, Ertmer and Newby’s concise explanation of each approach (behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism) and examples of a situational application is nicely summarized here.
…a behavioral approach can effectively facilitate mastery of the content of a profession (knowing what); cognitive strategies are useful in teaching problem-solving tactics where defined facts and rules are applied in unfamiliar situations (knowing how); and constructivist strategies are especially suited to dealing with ill-defined problems through reflection-in-action. (2013, p. 60)

The Moore article, about the Target, Accomplishment, Past, Prototype, Artifact (TAPPA) process further expanded on my experience of the Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation (ADDIE) model that I’ve used over the years. Despite its limitations, the ADDIE model has enabled me to maintain a sense of consistency and structure in my instructional design approach. I’ve always used it in a non-prescriptive, and non-linear fashion. Instead, I’ve concentrated on the importance of the analysis and evaluation phases to anchor my approach while incorporating the design, development and implementation phases as moving pieces of the overall puzzle. The TAPPA process also maintains a structured approach, but in a more modernistic, fluid,  and iterative manner. As Moore (2016) states, “The TAPPA Process is adaptive and responsive and provides the basic structure a novice instructional design practitioner or instructor needs and the complexity and flexibility an experienced practitioner seeks” (p. 431).

So, I’m curious if either of these articles resonated with any of you? Or if you had other ideas that you wanted to share and explore in this blog post? I would love to hear them!

Ertmer, P. A. & Newby, T. J. (2013). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 43-71. doi:10.1002/piq.21143

Moore, R. L. (2016). Developing distance education content using the TAPPA process.
TechTrends, 60(5), 425-432. Retrieved from

When are Open Educational Resources and Open Educational Practices too open?

In this unit’s readings, Bates and Merrill present rather polarizing viewpoints. For the sake of brevity, I’ll take some license in summarizing. The blog post from Bates (2019) suggests an open approach to learning where the learner and instructor roles are interchangeable. Whereas, Merrill (2002) paper focuses on a more traditional and structured approach of instructor-led design.

Interestingly for me, as an instructional designer who has worked in the field of corporate training for over a decade, it’s challenging to envision how open educational resources (OER) and open educational practises (OEP) could be incorporated. The challenge being the organization’s resistance to allowing such a level of openness in the realm staff training where certain considerations have to be evaluated. In particular the idea of compliance and regulatory practises that influence what can and cannot be ‘open’ within a corporate environment. That said, however, there are indications that my organization is moving towards a customizable, learner-centric approach to training which may act as precursor to a more open, learning platform in the future.

I was therefore intrigued when I read Bates’ (2019) blog post and how the ideas presented could be applied in a corporate environment. In particular, this statement resonated with regard to the emerging trend in new skills common to all learners, “…a learner-centered teaching approach that focuses on students accessing content on the Internet (and in real life) as part of developing knowledge, skills and competencies defined by the instructor, or learners managing their learning for themselves; however, content would not be restricted to officially designated open educational resources, but to everything on the Internet, because one of the core skills students will need is how to assess and evaluate different sources of information…” After all the students who are in K 12 and higher education now, will ultimately be the future learners in our organization. Their experience and expectations will shape how corporations educate and support employees in the future.

At the moment, I have more questions than I do answers, but I am very intrigued to explore this course to discover what opportunities are there for me as an educator as well as my organization to support our staff. Particularly as we move increasingly towards a mobile workforce, these questions and considerations become paramount in ensuring that we are successful in the larger reaching and longer-term strategic initiatives as they relate to developing and supporting our people.


Bates, A. W. (2019). Chapter 11.4 Open Pedagogy. Teaching in a Digital Age. [blog post] Retrieved from

Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43-59. Retrieved from

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Orwellian Echoes

The article by Etchells et al. in The Guardian in 2017 presents a subject that is polarizing in its extremes. Particularly as the issue in this case is specifically about children. The article is in response to a letter written by “writers, psychologists and charity heads” asking for policies to be created in the UK regarding children’s access to “screen time” (Etchells et al., para 1). Although I do not have children of my own, I do very much care about the other beings who share this planet, so I understand the responsibility inherent in this topic. However, the other, very concerning issue is the idea of government-imposed guidelines. As Etchells et al. observe, the authors of the letter requesting guidelines should be implemented, without adequate research could be disastrous.

It is likely that most of us could provide a number of examples of the results of unresearched government intervention. And for this reason, the concerns of Etchells et al. are noteworthy regardless of any one position on the spectrum of this issue. Instead of attempting to enforce restrictions on consumption of screen time, a commodity like any other, we would be better served by educating ourselves to make informed decisions based on in-depth research. Afterall, digital technologies are part of our lives and will be for the foreseeable future so managing their impact, rather than ‘outlawing’ their use will likely be more productive in terms of ethics as well as physical well-being.


Etchells, P., et al. (January 6, 2017). Screen time guidelines should be built on evidence, not hype. The Guardian. Retrieved from

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The Role of Chatbots in Education. Assignment 2, Part 2.

Throughout our known history, humans have used other beings to help us complete tasks and accomplish our goals with greater ease. Beginning with domesticating animals as a means of transportation and food, we then created machines to replace them. As our sophistication in the area of machinery has evolved, we have progressed to computers and other technologies that continue to expand our capabilities. In the past fifty years we have investigated the area of mechanical agents to create machines that emulate human characteristics. This essay explores the use of machines, robots, conversational pedagogical agents, social agents, and chatbots in the area of education drawing on the research of five articles and connecting their findings. For the purpose of this essay, the term ‘chatbot’ will be used throughout regardless of the various terms used in the articles. While some may believe that using chatbots in educational settings is not valuable, research shows that the use of chatbots improves the learner’s experience. Despite the controversy, chatbots are here to stay.

The authors of each article agree that chatbots and humans can interact and build relationships with each other to achieve learning objectives. Specifically, Riel (2019) suggests that three critical functions of educational chatbots are necessary to achieve educational objectives in a principled way. Conversational functionality: to engage in conversation with a human being. Educational goals: designed to meet intended educational goals. Pedagogical roles: assume a pedagogical role in its design if it will teach students. Furthermore, he states, “…an educational chatbot must also actively play a role in the learner’s education towards achieving the educational goals established by a chatbot’s designer (much like the work of a teacher, coach, or tutor)” (p. 3).  The idea of chatbots aiding in the process of learning by assisting humans is also discussed by Gulz, Haake, Silvervarg, Sjoden, & Veletsianos (2011), through the illustration of a math game in which students “teach their agents to play” (p. 134). In doing so, the agent assumes the role of a Teachable Agent (TA) which “constructs a mathematical model by means of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms” (p. 134). Further to this, Dale (2016) suggests that chatbots and humans can, and more importantly, do, engage in relationships. In fact, he believes we have already reached the point of being unconcerned if we are dealing with a real person or not. Brahnam & De Angeli (2008) expand this further, stating that chatbots have the ability to act as social stimuli, which are, “…animated, they perceive while they are perceiving, change while inducing change in others, have and elicit intents, motives, desires, and emotions” (p. 1). Bull, Hall, & Kerly (2007) employ the methodology of learner modelling which creates a model based on individual learners and allows for customization and interaction between the learner and a system that is collaborative and also, adaptive. The insights of each article provide an overarching opinion that chatbots can interact with learners in ways that resemble human interaction with other humans. However, human interactions are not solely positive in their nature and in this regard, relationships between chatbots and humans also reflects some of the negative outcomes of our engagement.

Brahnam & De Angeli (2008) write about the ‘dark’ side of human and chatbot interaction raising the questions about potential abuse of chatbots by humans. They argue that relationships can be developed with chatbots and can incorporate emotions such as rage and anger towards chatbots in the same way humans can experience emotions with one another. They state that chatbots can be abused and misused citing the examples of “cyberbullying, electronic spam, and frauds (p.5). This idea is also discussed by Gulz, Haake, Silvervarg, Sjoden, & Veletsianos (2011) in reference to a study conducted in 2008 by Doering, Scharber and Veletsianos which found significant instances of learners abusing chatbots. The authors’ opinion based on their subsequent study is that this issue is not as prevalent, however, they acknowledge the variables between the two studies and caution that their findings should be viewed in light of this caveat. The opinions expressed by Brahnam & De Angeli (2008) however, suggest that negative findings in studies are often framed in a more positive manner. Instead, their research determined “…that verbal abuses (e.g., insults, threats, foul language, sexual advances, and pornographic sex-talk) abound in user interactions” (p. 2). Given that violence between humans is a reality of our modern world, it would make sense that this would also be factor in the relationships between chatbots and humans and bears further consideration.

In each of the articles the authors highlight areas and make recommendations for future study and/or development. Riel (2019) expresses the concern that “…algorithms used in automated and personalized educational software disproportionately place underrepresented students into less-productive paths” due to “inherently biases in the system” (p. 10). He recommends that designers need to be aware of this and to account for it in the analysis of the data. Gulz et al. (2011) identify the need for longer term studies to be conducted to provide data that examines the effects of chatbot use overtime.  Bull et al. (2007) state that designing “specific scripts”, “a chatbot can provide the necessary negotiation facilities for an enhanced” learner experience (p. 12). Overall, the authors present positive viewpoints on the use of chatbots and the benefits that could be achieved while also suggesting further research is required. As Riel (2019) observes, “Such research is timely, as chatbots are poised to provide unique benefits and new possibilities to learning environments that are not achievable in more traditional learning situations” (p. 11).

Chatbots have a role to play in educational environments that will add tremendous value, however, attention needs to be paid to the specifics of that role. In that, chatbots should act as assistants, aiding humans, rather than replacing them. By examining the nuances of human relationships, we can use this data to create chatbot profiles that meet the needs of learners. Most importantly, given the trend and increasing use of chatbots, it is crucial that educators expand their research parameters to comprehensively study the positive, and negative impacts. Failing to do so distorts the full picture and results in a biased and inaccurate view. Whereas, endeavoring to examine the research findings meticulously will enable designers to make adjustments that improve the experience for the learner.


Brahnam, S., & De Angeli, A. (2008). Special issue on the abuse and misuse of social agents.Interacting with Computers, 20 (3), 287-291.

Bull, S., Hall, P., & Kerly, A. (2007). Bringing Chatbots into education: Towards Natural Language Negotiation of Open Learner Models. In: Ellis, R., Allen, T., & Tuson, A. (eds). Applications and Innovations in Intelligent Systems XIV. SGAI 2006. Springer, London Retrieved from

Dale, R. (2016). The return of the chatbots. Natural Language Engineering, 22(5), 811-817. Retrieved from

Gulz, A., Haake, M., Silvervarg, A., Sjoden, B., & Veletsianos, G. (2011). Building a Social Conversational Pedagogical Agent: Design Challenges and Methodological approaches. In Perez-Marin, D., & I. Pascual-Nieto (Eds.), Conversational Agents and Natural Language Interaction: Techniques and Effective Practices. 128-155. IGI Global. Retrieved from

Riel, J. (2019). Essential Features and Critical Issues with Educational Chatbots: Toward Personalized Learning via Digital Agents. In Khosrow-Pour, M. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Organizational Knowledge, Administration, and Technologies. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Retrieved from

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