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Learning Analysis and Goals Paper

Sharon Templeton

Miami University

Learning Analysis and Goals Paper

Spring quarter of my sophomore year of college was one of the most impactful

developmental moments of my undergraduate career. At the time I was taking classes for my

Public Relations and Political, writing for the school newspaper, playing trombone in the pep

band, active in the Honors Program, and serving as a Resident Advisor for 50 students. In short, I

had a lot on my plate that term. Objectively speaking, this is more than I should have been doing

at the time but I had been overly involved since high school and this felt like what I had always

taken on. Some of this tendency came from my own desires to learn and be independent but a

good portion originated from wanting to be seen by others as smart, competent, and

accomplished. All of my friends were in the same boat as me and we bonded over complaining

about self-curated business together. The Honors Program also played a role in the ambitious

schedule. I tried to take it slow my first year at WWU by not joining clubs right away and to help

“ease into the transition” because that’s what my mom said would be a good idea; which lasted

all of one quarter. Being in Honors, I was surrounded by amazing students who were all highly

engaged in their education and the school. I felt as if I wasn’t living up to their legacy and

starting joining more clubs, taking more credits, and signing up for harder classes. While this

was challenging I enjoyed it immensely and felt more at home with the Honors students.

Looking back on this point in my life it’s clear to see that I was utilizing a socialized

form of mind. Berger (2012) describes a socialized form of mind as a person who becomes

embedded in an organization or group and begins to make decisions and judgements through the

perspectives of others. When I began to ‘speed up’ in high school it was to be similar to my peers

and because I wanted to be seen by others in a certain light. Likewise, the brief period my first

year when I ‘slowed-down’ it was because my mom thought it would be good for me and I didn’t

want her to think I was too smart for her advice. But that didn’t last long at all because the pull of

being a part of the Honors community and wanting to be seen as a contributing member of that

culture. While I found benefit in being over-loaded with responsibility, I did it in part to belong

more to my peer group in Honors. Each of these decisions did not originate from within myself

but was based on another’s view of me or to be more integrated into a group. This belonging in

an organization is a fundamental piece of how the socialized mind thinks (Berger, 2012).

Not only was I trying to fit with the Honors group, I was also striving to be a ‘good’ band

member, a stellar RA, and a put together and witty journalist. Each of these activities, I perceived

as having a certain set of expectations and I did not want to let down my peers in any of these

categories. By spring quarter, I was trying to be an exemplary person in all my commitments. I

wanted to be able to play well and attend as many games for band as to not let down the

trombone section. I would slave over programs and go out of my way as an RA to make sure my

residents were cared for and my fellow RAs knew they could rely on me. My own ability to

balance was non-existent because, as Berger (2012) describes, my view of my abilities fused into

the perspectives of the group and I could not separate the two; if it mattered to others in those

groups it mattered to me, no if’s, and’s, or but’s.

Up until that spring, being part of these groups helped me excel at college and feel

comfortable in my new environment. Once the new quarter started and I began to actually write

stories for the newspaper it all started to become too much. The newspaper was a class for my

PR major, which I declared hoping to find a good job after college and it felt like an avenue for

me to continue to learn about politics while still being paid. My mom had expressed that I

needed to major in something employable and that studying politics would not result in

employment after graduation; which is another decision I made based off another person’s

expectations. But, the way the paper functioned began to wear on me. I needed to be able to

write a story quickly, well, and at the drop of a hat. To be able to succeed on the paper you could

only get points towards your grade if you wrote stories and you had to schmooze with the student

editors to get stories. This meant that the editors favored some students and these favorites

received more opportunities to write stories. I felt that the system was deeply inequitable,

insincere, and didn’t allow for me to be able to learn or do well without a considerable amount of

anxiety. To try to be available for band, the paper, and being an RA on call was stretching me

thin and as the semester went on, I began to get sick often. I have always been a person prone to

carsickness and being nauseated, but by week three of the term it was as if I had the stomach flu

constantly. I didn’t know what was wrong with me but I didn’t have an appetite, and when I did

try to eat it never stayed down for long. I became grey and lost almost 10 pounds by week five of

the term.

During this time in my life, I was lucky to be existing in an environment that helped me

process through these issues. One half of my environment remained constant, the clubs, honors,

and journalism pressure did not change. While I had taken on too much, their demands were

constant which left it up to me to change how I operated within the systems or leave the system.

In short, this part of my environment had piled up to being too complex for me to handle from a

socialized mind because I had no way to prioritize my involvements based on personal values

and desires, such as a self-authored mind would (Berger, 2012). I knew something had to give or

change but nothing in this part of my environment helped me process what that could be. It

simply helped create the dilemma I was facing. Becoming sick was the catalyst for me to begin

to shift in my development; as described by Mezirow (2000), it was a disorienting dilemma that

prompted me to look at my perspective of the world. At this time my illness as scary,


inconvenient, and I could not see any cause for it. I know now that my stomach issues are a

direct physical response to stress and anxiety. Then my view of myself was tied up in being able

to participate in my various commitments that I was not able to see them as a cause for, or even

as correlated to, my illness. I was not yet able to pull out these organizations and set them in

front of me as object to examine (Berger, 2012). Instead I responded by still trying to keep up

with all my involvements because I thought if I was sick at least I could still try to do my best.

This only served to compound the effects of my stress. Berger (2012) explains that socialized

minds often feel trapped in their powerlessness and want to control everything tightly because

this is how to be a good leader.

Then another part of my environment was built to help me pull out these ideas and start

to question the way I had been going through life. Each week I would have my one-on-one with

my Resident Director and my Assistant Resident Director, who were a developmentally focused

practitioner and a senior at WWU respectively. These two would trade off my meeting each

week and both provided enough push and support to help me navigate and start to move away

from the socialized perspective. My RD Sam was great at questioning why I had so much piled

onto my plate. During this quarter I’m sure the only two things she said to me in our meetings

were “Why do you think that is?” and “Tell me more about that.” She asked all the questions that

caused me to start to realize that there was a piece of the puzzle missing from my point of view

and helped me but my perspective onto the table (Berger, 2012). But sometimes I could see her

frustration with me in these meetings and I often left feeling confused and untethered. Sam didn’t

want to show me how to solve my problem she wanted that to come from me but I wasn’t quite

sure what she wanted from me. My ARD Chandler was the one who bridged the gap that my

meetings with Sam created. Chandler would let me vent more and then ask me what I wanted to

do about it. Chandler essentially focused on action while Sam focused on explaining why.

Between the two of them I started to explore what I actually wanted from these experiences and

how I got to this point in the first place. Both of these women made excellent ‘developmental

coaches’ for me because neither of them offered any sort of advice or opinion. Berger (2012)

warns that for socialized minds it can be easy to latch onto any kind of external guidance and that

coaches must be careful not to give a socialized mind something to latch onto.

By the middle of the quarter, I had decided that doing the paper right now was too much

and I dropped the class. Sam and Chandler helped push me to take an action to ease up my

situation but they never outright said they thought I should drop the class. After I dropped the

newspaper I felt impotent and like a failure. I slowly became sick less often but now I didn’t

know how to reconcile the failure of quitting something with the image I had of who I needed to

be. I had come to a point where I could admit I had taken on too much but my self-worth was

still closely entwined with my involvements and doing it all. By the end of the school year I

planned on retaking the newspaper class over the summer and getting back on track. I felt better

able to go at a slower pace, to take care of myself because my health was important, but I had

changed my actions but not my thought process.

The final moments it took for me to shift away from a socialized mind was from an

interaction with a peer that summer. I continued to be frustrated by the way the newspaper

functioned and one day I was waiting to talk to the professor after class. While I waited I talked

with a vague acquaintance I had from the previous semester. He had failed the class and was

trying again like me. He began to express the same frustrations with the class that I had and how

he felt like he had to live up to so much in the Journalism department. I asked him why he was

still in the course and what would happen if he just didn’t stick with Journalism since it seemed

so difficult. He responded that this is where he belonged; his friends and family thought he

would be good at it, and he just needed to pull through. As I walked away from that conversation

I remember thinking how silly it was that he stayed in the class that he hated and wondering why

he didn’t find something he liked more. Then all at once it stuck me that I was doing the exact

same thing and if I wanted I could just stop. It was as if all the work Sam and Chandler had done

with me made sense and I could start to see how I was doing this for everyone but myself.

Over the next few days it was as if I was following Mezirow’s (2000) adult development

timeline by the letter: I recognized my discontent and assumptions, I explored new roles, and I

put it all into action. I had finally recognized that I was unhappy and that it was well within

ability to change that. Over the next week I spent time seeing what it would look like to shift into

a PR or Journalism minor, find something else to study, and thinking about what I wanted. In the

end, I didn’t reach any conclusion other than both PR and journalism was not for me. I knew I

wanted to keep my political science major and being an RA because I like the work but that was

it. It was terrifying because I didn’t exactly know where I was going but I dropped the newspaper

class a second time as well as my PR major. I sent back a journalism scholarship I had gotten for

the coming year, and I officially declared my political science major.

During this period I struggled to define who I was, what I belonged to, and what I truly

wanted for myself. I was able to move from a socialized mind to the mid-zone between

socialized and self-authored where I was able to make more self-focused decisions on my own

wants but still felt drawn to others expectations (Berger, 2012). I was coached through this in

part due to an increasingly complex environment and my two supervisors in my RA role. These

days it ha become much easier for me to say no to commitments. During the rest of my time in

undergrad I strengthened my inner voice and developed my own code for ‘work/life barriers’

based on my own vision for the future. These days I am still prone to signing up for too much but

when it comes time to move something off my plate it does not call into question who I am or

what I am worth but what activity is serving me and filling my cup the least. There are times

when I will still be overly concerned with what it means to be a SAHE student and how that

might differ from other student affairs preparatory programs. In some moments, especially in the

very large Office of Residence Life, where I will slip into an ‘us versus them’ mindset when

faced with a less socially justice or theory driven professional; those moments seem more in line

with a socialized mind even if social justice aligns with my personal values of care and equity.

With these realities in mind I think I am functioning at the cusp of a self-authored point of view

but I’m not quite out of the mid-zone yet. This edge of the midzone is also a time when people

become “allergic” to others with a socialized mindset as they strive to become wholly self-

authored (Berger, 2012, p. 40). Reading this I realized just how frustrated I can be by my RAs as

they ask for me to tell them what they should do or who they should be in the role. As I move

away from the socialized mind, I can see more clearly how attached to the vision of a Miami

student they can be and it irritates me to no end.

With this in mind, I have a couple learning goals for the rest of my time in SAHE and the

beginning of my professional career. The first is to continue to assess my commitments and

actions based on a core value of compassion and equity. Berger (2012) suggests asking questions

from the next form of mind to expand your perspective and shake up your routine. By trying to

prioritize these two values in my work and education, as well as regularly centering them in my

perspective, I hope to strengthen their place as internalized values that I hold and shift into a

solidly self-authored point of view. I also hope to move away from the more socialized us versus

them mindset. I know this is an oversimplified way to view others and it’s not fair to write off

other humans through this kind of assumption. To think compassionately about others, I hope to

learn more about their point of view and be more comfortable working with those who are

different from me. My next goal is to lean into curiosity more often. While I have been in SAHE

I have begun to feel more comfortable in asking questions that come to mind, not to clarify

information but to further explore concepts. I have enjoyed this burgeoning tendency immensely

in my classes but realized I rarely bring this kind of curiosity with me to my work with students

or in professional meetings. In matters of disagreement, I am quick to assume that those

disagreeing with me are holding fundamentally different values (and are therefore wrong). This

leans more towards a socialized form of mind where as a self-authored form of mind would look

into another’s argument to learn about it and refine their own internal values; for a self-authored

mind disagreement or agreement on an issue are moments of curiosity about another’s internal

values (Berger, 2012). As I prepare to move on to a new school for my first professional job, I

know I will come up against more systems, people, and views that I have not encountered before.

I want to be able to approach these with an open curiosity about why these things exist. By

starting to practice this new way of interaction now, when I am comfortable, I hope it will be

easier to do this when I am in a new environment.


Works Cited

Berger, J. G. (2012). Changing on the job: Developing leaders for a complex world. Stanford,

CA: Stanford University Press.

Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning to think like an adult: Core concepts of transformation theory. In J.

Mezirow & Associates (Eds.), Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a

theory in progress (pp. 3-33). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.