Exceeding Expectations
April 30th, 2009 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Today some of my previous statistics graduate students (all practicing teaching professionals) joined me at my home to pick up posters that they will be presenting at WestConn’s first Instructional Leadership Conference.  As part of their qualitative methods course, the professor had them conduct a brief study.  He suggested that the students make some 8.5×11 sheets on their computer, slap them up on a trifold posterboard and bring it to the conference this weekend. 

Several of the students contacted me and asked for suggestions to make more of a professional presentation.  They felt the expectations were too low.  I couldn’t agree more.  As budding educational researchers, they should learn the high quality techniques that are involved in preparing a poster for a meeting or conference.  This is not exceedingly hard, and with the features in PowerPoint, fairly easy to do, with very professional results.

This reminds me of the AERA conference I recently attended, where my poster seemed to have an edge in professionalism over some of the others.  Look at mine (37) compared to my neighbor’s (38) and make your own judgement without even considering the content.

My poster

My neighbor's poster

My neighbor's poster

The students, like me, did not want their work to lack the professional results that a high-caliber member of the community of practice would produce.  In essence they are on inbound trajectory(Wenger, 1998). 

What I think is important about their (and my) dispositions is their unwillingness to sacrifice quality.  having high quality, in this case, will exceed the expectations of other members of the community of practice.  AND I LOVE IT.  I am realizing that I find exceeding expectations to be a very important part of my professional persona as well as my philosophy for my students.   I want people to say, “Wow, this was done by a <high school student>, <neophyte researcher>, <insert other here>.”  I guess that is because you see incredible growth when that happens, and you bring students more towards the boundary trajectory of becoming active members of the community of practice.

Why can’t expectations be higher?

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