Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Establishing Reciprocal Relationships with Families

Assessing Children's Development and Learning

Planing Curriculum to Achieve Important Goals

Teaching to Enhance Development and Learning

Creating a Caring Community of Learners

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tips for Working with Groups to Identify Mental Models

Tips for Working with Groups to Identify Beliefs

When working in groups it is helpful to identify what beliefs we each bring to our work. When exploring a topic, a quick and easy way to identify beliefs in a group is to ask each person to write down a belief they have about a particular topic on a notecard.

If for example, you were exploring beliefs about sustainability, you would ask people to write down a belief they have about sustainability i.e. A belief I have about sustainability is ______. I often ask for a couple of people to share a belief with the group before people write their belief down. This will help give an example for the group. It will also demonstrate that there is no right answer. There are no right or wrong beliefs. It is an opportunity to think about what we believe and to explore with others their beliefs.

After people write down their belief, ask them to stand up and walk around the room to find someone not at their table to share their belief with, and to learn the other person’s belief. People can bring pencils, and take notes, it is not a memory test.

After this, ask them to find a second person to pair with, and in this round each person will share what they learned from the first person they talked to. Then each person will go back to their tables and discuss the beliefs they learned about, the patterns and themes they are noticing, and anything that surprised them. Some reflection about how this applies to the groups ability to work together is very useful.

Cassandra at

Meeting People Where They Are and Inviting Them to Take A Minimum Elegant Next Step

When I first learned about Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP), which applies to teaching children ages 0-8, I thought “This is exactly what we do with adults.”

The idea is that there is a developmental progression of acquiring new skills and knowledge. This is pretty obvious when we think of learning a new language as adults. You can’t effectively learn Advanced Spanish if you haven’t had Basic Spanish. And if you are advanced, then a basic course will not be effective either. In education, the term “proximal zone” is used to describe this sweet spot between where someone is and the next step in their progression or development.

This concept can be very useful when we think about making changes in individuals, organizations, and systems. Although you may know where you want to be (to use the metaphor of learning a new language above, fluent in Spanish) you have to figure out where you are to know what the appropriate next step is. Likewise when we are interested in supporting others, if we don’t know where they are and where they want to go, it will be hard to figure out what a useful next step is.

I was recently at a meeting in which someone introduced the phrase Minimally Elegant Next Step. This resonated with everyone. In the current environment there is so much change happening that the next step may be all we can really figure out, and at the same time the most useful thing. So how do we do this?

We must first find out where people are -- what they think and know. This requires asking questions rather than making assumptions about where we think they are or should be. And it also requires knowing what the big goal or desired change is. Then we can attempt to figure out what a minimally elegant next step might be -- and create the conditions for that to be inviting. We often use the metaphor of Mental Velcro. How can we create conditions for new learning, development or progression to occur and stick?

Sounds good? If you said yes, then we need to consider what we need to keep in mind --as people who want to support others in their journey. And we might need to change our own thinking about how best to do this.

“Perhaps the most significant thing we have confirmed for ourselves is that, although actions are important, the thinking that influences and shapes what we do is far more critical. Changing our thinking is the first thing we have to do both individually and collectively, because without that change we cannot possibly change what we really do on a day to day basis. Regardless of what new “method” or latest technique is attempted, the mind/brain will always choose to reduce such practices to fit entrenched assumptions and beliefs. To really restructure anything means to restructure our thinking and shift deep connections in our psyche.” Carrie & Carrie, 1997 p. vi

Cassandra at

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Vision Boards

What a wonderful morning. We gathered to make vision boards with Diane Krebs Carhuff from

It was a wonderful experience as the interpretations were based on Soul Coaching, a method developed by Denise Linn. Here is a photo of mine.

Notice the Openings?

The last two weeks, I have noticed that there is an openness to new ideas and new ways of thinking that I have never seen before. I have heard people talking about everything from new business models in the sector to trying new foods. I started talking about this with people -- and many have said they have noticed the same thing. Are we in the midst of a surge of resiliency that will lead to positive change? What do you think?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

April 22 - Arizona Evaluation Network Annual Conference


Thursday April 22, 2010 AZENET ANNUAL CONFERENCE 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Location: East Valley Institute of Technology, Mesa Arizona.

Topic: Culturally Competent Evaluation and Skills Building --Introduction to Social Network Analysis for Evaluators

In the morning, we will focus on culturally competent evaluation. We will explore the following questions:
• What are some of the most important issues in designing/conducting a culturally competent evaluation?
• How can we increase our ability to work effectively and respectfully with different populations?
• What skills and knowledge would have the greatest impact in our work?
• What is the difference between cultural humility and cultural competency?

In the afternoon Frederic Malter from the University of Arizona will present on Social Network Analysis (SNA) which is comprised of a set of statistical and graphical tools used to describe networks of interacting individuals or groups. SNA software can produce quantitative and graph-based outputs that describe network features, such as how much interactions revolve around key players in a network.

SNA can be of interest to evaluators in various ways, for example, in assessing coalition building or describing intra- or inter-organizational communication patterns. This presentation will introduce the general principles and applications of SNA. It will provide participants with first insights into the application of the widely used software package UCINet. Finally, I will demonstrate how graphical and statistical results can be interpreted and presented to program stakeholders and lay audiences.

Registration information available at

Cost: $35 for Azenet members and Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Phoenix (YNPN) members, and $85 for non-members. Student rate $20

Questions contact Cassandra O’Neill at (520) 403-0687 or