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Saturday, August 31, 2019

How to Fail Your Job Interview

How To Fail Your Job Interview
This post shows notes, prepared for a job interview for an administrative position.
The full, not edited video of the interview was removed from  YouTube by the request of other people whose voices were in the video. Click here for the new, edited version with only my voice, face and my comments (that, naturally, takes 95 % of the whole video).
During the interview I used about 90 % of the prepared material and after the interview I email the document to the interviewers. During the interview and in the following document I offered many specific recommendations on how to improve management in the area of the entity I was interviewed for; I expect that when those recommendation will be discussed and implemented, the source of the recommendation will be stated clearly and explicitly.
I have more publications on the matter of recruitment and professional communications, such as:

The notes (prepared before the interview) 

Good evening, gentlemen.
Excuse me for drinking my coffee,
It helps me think.
This mug was a gift from my work-study student, she gave it to me on the last day of work.
Yesterday I also got a card from a student in my class.
I guess some people like my style.
Before we begin, I would like to express my appreciation and say thank you for this opportunity.
Also, in my preparation to the interview, I’ve read many relevant web pages. Some of them had statements that raised my questions. I prepared a document with me notes, I would like to add this document to my application as a supplemental material, like this video.
Where should I send it, to you, to HR, both?

Thank you.

What would you like to learn about me you don’t know already?

My I ask a question first, it would help me to adjust my response.

A Director is an administrator, a manager.
What is the #1 quality a manager needs to have to succeed?

A Director is an administrator, a manager.
I came from a specific school of administrative practices.
In that school, the number one quality one needs to have to succeed as a manager - is character.
Because without character a manager cannot be decisive, cannot make decisions - especially if it may involve a risk, hence cannot function successfully as a manager.
And then come reflection, communication skills, intelligence, erudition, specific knowledge.
Three times in my life a had to start my professional career from a scratch: after my graduation, during the Perestroika when everything crashed, and after moving in Boston. And all three times I succeeded. I became an assistant professor. During Perestroika I started teaching in K12 schools. Then I entered teacher professional development and educational consulting. Then I wrote my dissertation, then I found an academic who liked me and my dissertation and in two years I defended my theses.
My career was on the rise, but I moved to Boston and started from a janitor at a supermarket.
If I stayed, I would work today somewhere in Moscow.
But if I stayed, my son would have been drafted to the army. If that would happen, he would have been severely damaged physically and psychologically. So, the green card I won came handy.
When I moved in the U.S. I did not speak English.
I learned English from books, tapes, videos. Gradually my English was becoming better, and my career followed.  I became a successful physics teacher. I also wrote a book on STEM teaching, a book on how to teach teachers teaching, and a handbook for beginners on what teaching and learning is.
As professional I always exceeded expectations.
And so far, this trend continues.
For example: this is an excerpt from my latest performance evaluation.
And a comment from the management”
“We would like to note that he received an overwhelmingly positive performance evaluation, eliciting a 4 out of 5 overall score (which is considered excellent).”

Have you ever had to overcome some severe professional hardship?
It’s always a rewarding experience, after it's over.
Due to my limited English for many years my experience was bottled-in inside me.
I believe, my professional history represents a good testament of my character, intelligence, communications skills. I wouldn’t’ be able to succeed in all my careers without those qualities.
I know how to overcome hardship, how to teach, how to help teachers and administrators, how to manage, because I myself have done it all.
I have a broad and wide experience in the field of education but due to my limited English for many years it was bottled-in inside me. Eventually I've overgrown my current position.

What matters most, I have a relevant experience as a manager.
At BU I have been managing my students, my teaching fellows, my work-study students.
But before that I ran a small but important department of information technologies in a state institute for teacher professional development. Then I was an assistant to the director of the institute and administrative assistant to the chairman of the board. I was a deputy director and then a director of an institution that was an analytical branch of the department of education of my city with more than a million people and schools as many as in Massachusetts. In parallel with my full-time jobs I worked as an educational consultant to teachers, school and district administrators, and even to the state department. So, I am pretty confident my managing skill are fully sufficient for many managerial positions.

A Director is a manager and hence needs to see the place of his entity in the whole system.
For ET its ecosystem is large, it includes:
DLI, and as a part of DLI ET interacts with DEI (digital education incubator), CTL, with Undergraduate Affairs, Graduate Affairs, Academic Assessment, and ET employees.
That is why strong communication skills are required. Strong communication ensures strong interaction (like in a gas).
A director is also responsible for strategic leadership, vision, and every day management.
My managing experience proves that I have the required abilities.

As part of DLI ET is involved in projects including various technologies.
My first job was servicing large IBM-like computers. As an IT department manager I performed all task from purchasing a PC or the parts, installing the parts, building a PC, installing software, servicing computers, network. At the time I knew intimately all the details of that trade. In my past I was coding in Fortran and MS Basic. I was writing programs for students. And here in BU I have been using extensively all technologies that came to BU (webct, moodle, blackboard, webassign, masteringphysics, wileyplus; filming movies and posting them online, using Java applets and audience responds systems (eInstruction, Turning Technologies, webassign).
I can feel what difficulty students or faculty can have when they learn how to use a new program.

There are two large areas of functioning common for the ecosystem as a whole (DLI, CTL, ect.):
1. BU HUB = university-wide General Education Program
2. Standardization, unification, evaluation of teaching and assessing strategies and supplemental materials, especially those that are required for accreditation.
To function successfully in this ecosystem CTL needs to have a leader who has an experience in the field of education in different capacities.
I have that experience as well, as an instructor, as a researcher, as a consultant.
My student evaluations are very good. The reason for that is simple – I am a good physics teacher. The reason for that is more complicated. Number one is a long and diverse teaching experience – from 5th graders to university students, to school teachers. Number two is long continuous reflection on my own practice – eventually expressed in my dissertation and other publications. Number three is years of observations and consulting – teachers, teams of teachers, administrators on different levels. When a student or a faculty has some difficulty usually I see the roots of that difficulty, where it comes from, and I can guide through the steps needed to overcome it. That includes preparations for teacher certification of school accreditation. This is an experience all faculty will find helpful when designing their teaching approaches with or without using any technological instruments.

The first responsibility of a manager is to establish the mission.
A mission is the reason for existence. Take that element out of a system and the system is not needed anymore.
For example:
The mission of education as a human practice is to ensure the progress of humanity.
The mission of education as a social institution is enabling people to succeed in life.
The mission of a scientific institution is advancing sciences.
The goal of an educational institution of higher education is equipping people with relevant professional and general knowledge and skills.
The mission of management is establishing healthy development of the governed system, preventing degradation of the system, and facilitating its progressive evolution.
That’s what management is for.
A manager also has to establish goals and functions.
For example:
The goal of management is optimizing exchanges between the governed system and the environment.
The function of management is making decisions.
The main function of an educational institution is Teaching.
Some more examples:
The mission (i.e. the reason for existence) of science as a human practice is understanding the world in its entirety (outside and inside human subjects); i.e. developing exact description of the world’s structure and evolution.
The mission of a specific science is making reliable predictions in a specific scientific field.
The mission of a scientist as an agent of that practice is discovering truth and presenting it in a testable form.
The mission of a teacher is fostering in students his/her love for learning.
The mission of a science teacher is sharing with students the feeling of pleasure from thinking.
The mission of a mentor is sharing with students the feeling of pleasure from doing the right thing.
The mission of a parent is making children feeling safe, loved, and confident.
The mission of humanity is making the world a better place
BU mission is stated as: “educating students to be reflective, resourceful individuals ready to adapt, and lead in an interconnected world”
And BU education is “the intellectually challenging, student centered”.
Both of these statements may need some further adjustments.
Students and parents do not come to a university to become reflective and resourceful.
They come to get specific professional skills.
Hence, BU mission should also include “equipping students with specific knowledge and skills sufficient for having a thriving professional career”.
And BU education should also be “providing students with relevant professional knowledge, skills, and experience”.

CTL states: “Our mission” is
“partnering with faculty, students, administration” – but, partnering is not really a mission, it is a way to fulfill the mission.
“Partnering” or “Promoting” or “engaging” are functions employed for achieving specific goals.
“Fostering student learning” and “inspiring effective teaching” does represent a mission.
However, that mission is not specific for only CTL; CTL is one of the existing entities that do the same.
Even an individual faculty can say that his or her mission as an educator is “Fostering student learning”.

The current definition of “teaching” used across BU, including DLI, ET and CTL, is not specific enough.
It states that: “Teaching is an intellectually stimulating and critical practice (but so is reading, or any scientific practice, or even financial market analysis), driven by inquiry (but so do children), experimentation (but so do children), reflection (but this is important for everyone/anyone), and collaboration (but this is important for everyone/anyone).”

I was able to succeeds as a teacher because I followed my own definition:
Teaching is guiding students through an arrangement of learning experiences specifically designed for helping students with mastering subjects, acquiring relevant social skills, and feeling good about themselves
And everyone, a faculty who wants to teach better, needs to improve one of the areas described in this definition.
And I can provide a specific help to everyone who wants to do that, because I have done it myself.

In order to improve teaching and learning DLI is “Engaging faculty in research-based practices”.

Term “research-based” describes a practice where a faculty reflects on what was done and achieved and provides that reflection in a formal way.
All available research supports one well established fact, namely: when students have a good teacher - they learn better. Research offers many elements of practice that can help a teacher teach better.
A faculty can try different elements and try to make them better, but only if he or she wants to.
The essence of a “student centered” teaching practice is “a teacher cares about students”, he or she cares about the result of his or her teaching. If a teacher cares - he or she is susceptible to advices on how to improve his or her practice.

The main goal of any faculty-centered entity, including DLI and all its entities, is to engage faculty in the practice of improving his or her own teaching practice. How much is it based on some research or just on a hunch does not matter. What matters is the existence of the intention to teach better, even just a little bit better, just in a small specific element. Over time those elements comprise to a transformation.

There are two large groups of strategies for engaging faculty: Passive and Active
Passive strategies include workshops, competitions, consultations, seminars, grants, project support, etc. – everything what ET has been doing already.
ET is “excited to offer programming intended to bring together educators interested in developing … .”
But what to do with faculty who is NOT interested?
There are three types of faculty:
1. Who will never alternate their way of teaching (no matter how strongly they will be pressed, they will find a reason for avoiding making any changes)
2. Who have internal motivation for advancing their teaching, and hence are susceptible to motivational initiatives from ET and other sources; those faculty are being engaged via passive forms of engagement.
3. Who may be willing to try something new in the way they teach. However, standard (passive) motivational initiatives do not have any effect on them. Those faculty represent the majority, but have not been involved in the process of transforming teaching. For those faculty the use of the active forms of engagement should be the priority. Hence, the next phase of the ET development should focus on the development of active forms for faculty engagement.

“Educating students to be reflective and resourceful leaders” can be done only by people who themselves are reflective and resourceful.
Teaching doctoral students how to teach requires that faculty themselves were effective teachers.
This means ET need to focus on the search for faculty and staff members who can become the seed or the nucleus of the community of effective teachers. This should be another strategic line of action of the ET.

BU website offers a description of a wide variety of initiatives, but there is no information on the outcomes of those initiatives, there is no measure of the success of those actions, activities, events (maybe this information is for internal use only). For some readers it may look like a motion for the sake of the motion. Eventually ET needs to lay out the description of some results beyond the list of past activities – the development of that description should be one of the most important strategic goals of the director.

“Helping becoming an exceptional teacher” requires more than “sharing in knowledge and skills” within a community of “peer educators”.
For example, becoming an exceptional researcher requires working a side-by-side with an exceptional researcher.
The same is true for becoming an exceptional teacher.
A student can learn Critical Thinking, Research and Information Literacy, Teamwork/Collaboration, and Creativity/Innovation (Hub units in the Intellectual Toolkit) only from faculty who themselves demonstrate Critical Thinking, Research and Information Literacy, Teamwork/Collaboration, and Creativity/Innovation.
This notion should be one of the ideas used for formulating new strategic goals of ET.

“Ongoing assessment of instructional innovations and curricular reform” has to include student-related parameters, including the achievement in learning outcomes, especially in a student-centered education. The development of those parameters should be a part of the strategic vision for ET. I sent remarks on the matter in response to the report of “The Task Force on The Evaluation of Teaching” (Appendix II).

DLI states its mission:
“Established to strengthen BU’s position as a world-class higher education institution devoted to learning innovation.”
“Strengthen” means there is the analysis of the initial position. Then one could see how the values of different parameters evolve and what actions affect that evolution in the direction of “Strengthen”.
But the DLI pages do not offer that analysis.
It’s also not clear what “learning innovation” means: learn how to innovate, or learn in new innovative ways, or innovate to learn better – that maybe due to my language deficiency.

“Our objective is to keep BU competitive in a changing world.”
Maybe the objective should be more specific, because this is the general objective of every single entity of the university.
As well as other four elements:
“improve faculty experiences” - Building and Ground also do so.
Undergraduate affairs also “increase student engagement and success” as well as “recruitment and retention”.
And “making better use of all learning recourses” is one of the functions of every single university employee.

Mission statement has two parts, and each raises a question:
1. “harnessing opportunities of digital technologies and pedagogical innovations” – this is more like a mission of every department or a school or a college – because in order to teach better they all have to harness opportunities of digital technologies and pedagogical innovations. And DLI may be helping to do that.
2. “ensuring that BU retains and strengthens its position in the world” – this is more like the mission of the top management of the university.
Hence, there may be a need for devising a more specific mission of the DLI. And the mission of the ET should be a specific part of that mission. There is usually a hierarchy of managing systems, and hence there should be the hierarchy of the missions.

The DLI title incudes three different terms:
Digital.      Learning.      Innovation.

What is the hierarchy among these terms?
What is the most important?
Because that most important term defines the most important outcome and hence the strategy for assessing the success.
If it is Digital:
The top goal and the main result is developing or adopting digital tools or strategies for the use of digital tools – those that could be used by people who work in education.

If it is Learning:
The top goal and the main result is improved learning of students (however measured), and for that some digital tools are being developed or adopted.

If it is Innovation:
The top goal and the main result is new actions or events that happened during the process of educating students.
So, which is it?
My assumption that it is not Digital, not Innovation, but Learning. But that is not clear form the description of the DLI.
In terms of functions, according to the description, clearly, DLI is involved in everything - the use of any electronic device or a system involves DLI – in all possible forms.
But from the web description it looks like a compilation of disconnected activities or events.
We do - everything.
But what is the ultimate goal that can be assessed in the end? How will success be measured?

Again: the mission of a system is the reason for the existence of that system. Take it from the system and the system ceased to be needed and can be discarded.

What is the specific reason for DLI and for ET to exist?

The simplest model of the educational system includes faculty and students. Why does the system need additional elements such as DLI or ET? The establishment of additional elements usually happens to resolve some of the problems the system runs into. Faculty and students need rules and means for communicating with each other and with the outside world – hence management. Faculty and students need a place to work – hence B&G.

So, we have at least three actors: faculty, students, management. Who has a problem, and what is problem such that it leads to establishing of DLI and ET? Has that problem changed? If yes, it should be included into the strategic vision.

DLI and ET have functions: External and Internal
External Functions – directed toward faculty:
- those functions involve all available forms (workshops, consultations, etc.)

Internal Functions – what DLI and ET need to do to enable external functions:
Learn how to motivate, educate and guide
Learn how to use tools they promote to faculty
Manage relevant activities (scheduling, purchasing, organizing, etc.)

DEI “helps BU advance its global reputation and the value to students” – same as ALL BU entities, hence not specific to DEI.
DEI “supports the design and development of innovative learning projects” – this statement also does not reflect specific nature of DEI – it would work as well for ET.
DEI “seek out people with ideas for innovative learning”.
Again, does not reflect specific nature of DEI, all BU entities should do that.
Maybe, DEI motivates faculty and administrators to developing digital tools for education, or to testing how developed tools can effectively help teaching and learning? That is not clear from its description.

And shouldn’t DEI focus on motivating people to generate ideas? Not just on seeking out?

If it is an incubator – that means the result of its actions is to be an objectively existing item, element, entity, system.
A device can be seen as such result.
A MOOC or a portal may be seen as such result.
But a project probably is not.
“We’ve incubated a project” does not sound right.
A project is a set of continuous actions which should lead to a result.

Appendix I: some additional information about me.

What is my managing style?
I don't have a management style, and I don't think anybody should.
I don’t think terms like style, fad, stylish, fancy, fashionable should be used for describing management.

But I have a managing strategy.
There are 2 types of managers: “politicians” and “practitioners”.
For “a politician” the number one question is always “how would this decision affect my power?”
For a “practitioner” the number one question is always “how would that decision affect the well-being of my system?”

I am a “practitioner” manager.
I am also a team player: for me the goals of my team are always above my personal goals.

Of course, if I work alone, I am my own team.
Right now, I have no team. A team is a group of people united by a common goal. I don’t do science. I do teaching. There is a team of faculty who work with learning assistants. But only people who have learning assistants work in that team, and I don’t have LAs.

BTW: a common mission is not the same as a common goal. People may have a common mission but not being members of a team. For example, the Lunar Mission had many different teams.
Different schools of management have different definitions for a mission or a goal.
For me a mission is a reason for existence of the system. Take it out of the system and the system is not needed anymore, and can be easily removed.
And a goal is that benchmark which has to be reached in order to fulfill the mission.

For example a mission of a scientific institution is advancing science.
A mission of an institution of higher education is “advancing” people; preparing people for a success in a certain professional field.
To fulfill that mission an institution of higher education has to function in a specific way; the main function an educational institution is teaching.
And by the way your definition of teaching is a little bit vague, it's not specific enough. My definition of teaching is much more detailed and that may be one of the reasons I am good at teaching. I've included my definition into this document.

Circling back to my managing style.
I am a practitioner. I am a team player.
And also, I am a scientist by trade, and I believe that a scientific method has been proven to be the most efficient method for achieving any goals.

That is why my managing strategy is based on the application of scientific method to managing. When a scientists begins a study, every research begins from observations. It’s not just passive watching, it involves deliberate activities as well. For example, if you want to observe Brownian motion you need to make a microscope in use it.

I begin every new position from observing people and asking them questions, many questions. I like asking questions. Asking a question is like taking a blood sample to evaluate the state of a body. Everyone who: 1. Has required credentials and experience; 2. Can talk in full paragraphs (able to establish strong communication); 3. Reflects (able to adjust actions) is fit for the job he or she needs to do. My first goal as a manager is to help people to formulate they goals, and then help them with achieving those goals. The latter may require interactions with other entities outside of my unit.  

Do I have weaknesses?
A week ago, I saw an article “Why do companies keep hiring wrong people?”.
An interesting reading.
It finally admits that human resources don't really know how to evaluate candidates.
And to “cover it up” they invent “unexpected” questions. But no one really knows if any of those questions would actually help to hire the right person, because no one keeps the track of questions and answers and future performance. So, all those questions are not much different from Voodoo.
In my practice I focus on three major requirements.
Number 1: a candidate needs to have the right credentials and experience, basically he or she has to be able to do the job.
Number 2: a candidate has to be able to speak in full paragraphs (communication is the type of interaction in a social system, and strong communicating makes the same difference in a social system as a strong interaction in a gas).
And number 3: the candidate needs to reflect on his or her practice, and if needed be able to make adjustments in his or her actions.
The question “what weaknesses do you have” my help to assess how a candidate speaks (as any other question), and to demonstrate a certain level of reflection.
Although, it is hard to expect that anybody would give away a real weakness which could impede his or her performance.
In that sense, I have no weaknesses.
But as a normal human being, I have limits, because everybody has limits, because no one is perfect.
Everyone has boundaries between what one can do good, not so good; between what one likes doing and what one tries to avoid.
I try to avoid politics, I’m not really good at that.
I speak what I think. It is easier for me to be straightforward than trying to wrap my thoughts up into some eloquent language. That's why I prefer if someone else would be doing politics for me.
Recently I came across of a great example of the use of the eloquent political language.
Mr. Dalio, who is a founder and CEO of Bridgewater Associates, a fund that manages trillions of dollars, wrote in his piece on economy, about how to improve it: “The only things that stand in the way are (1) the limited capabilities of economic policy makers and/or (2) the limited political abilities to do the right things”.
I would never be able to write like that. I can only come-up with “our politicians shouldn’t be stupid and corrupt”.
I've always been this way, but my language deficiency may have made it worse. That is why if I have to write something political I like to ask someone to check my draft.
 And in general, if a person knows his or her weakness, it is not a weakness anymore, because knowing a weakness a person can act in such a way to mitigate that weakness.
Someone could have considered my inability to use political language as a weakness. But I can mitigate it by asking other people to help me.

Have I made mistakes?
Of course, I have. Everyone makes mistakes. As I say to my students, mistakes are inevitable and unavoidable. There is no shame in making a mistake, there is a shame though in insisting you are right when even you already know you are wrong. But I’ve learned from my mistakes, hence I will not repeat them anymore. And that’s an example of reflection.

I'm a very productive person. I produce much more ideas than I can realize in my whole life. That is why I share them with it anybody who listens or reads; for that I use media (my blog, Twitter, Facebook).

I also have an actor in me. I was in a school band, and I was in a student theater. Sometimes I like to put on a mask and play a character. In a way it's a social experiment. I'm interested in how people would react to one character or another. Plus, it may be a good material for my memoirs (if I ever retire).

Appendix II (a copy of my notes already previously sent)

Evaluating Teaching Quality At a University Level

I would like to address “The Report on The Task Force on Evaluating Teaching”.
It is directly related to the strategic development of the university.

I’ve been teaching elementary physics since 2007.
I am very good at that.
My students write, quote: "I hated physics before taking this course, and now after taking both 105 and 106 with Mr. V, I actually really enjoy it. He is one of the best teachers I've ever had. Thank you"
“Best physics professor here, only one who cares if students are learning the material. Proves you don’t need a PhD in physics to teach this class. PhD in education is much more effective.”
Since 2007 I’ve collected about 10 pages of this stuff.

One of the reasons I am good at teaching is that for a long time I already have been following recommendations presented in the report (see the next page).

I have developed my own survey that includes quantitative and qualitative elements, which I administer online.
Every midterm and the final exams have a feedback page, so I collect feedback twice during the semester and then after the final.

On the first day of the class, I tell me students everything about me, including my evaluations.
So, I am a living proof that the recommendations will work.

But based on my professional experience, I would recommend to look further.
I have nine specific suggestions.

On page 23 there is a quote from Ronald Berk “There is no known objective methods for measuring teaching performance”.
That was written twelve years ago.
Nowadays there are, or at least in the development, objective methods for measuring teaching performance.
Those methods did not find a reflection in the report.
The report offers assessing only how does teaching practice appear, using the external features of teaching practice (like observations, portfolios),
It is like visiting a theater and then reflecting on how good the performance was by judging the clothes of the actors, but ignoring what feelings one experienced.
The practice of teaching results in specific changes called learning outcomes represented in skills and knowledge or abilities and competencies students gain by the end of learning.
And for those outcomes there are objective methods for their measuring, at least in physics, math, chemistry.
But the report lacks any specification of such outcomes.
I believe that strategically, such learning outcomes have to become one of the criteria of the quality of teaching.

The report does not mention what should be done if the quality of teaching has found unsatisfactory. And where is that cutoff between “satisfactory” and not?

“Proposed Feedback Form” on page 17 has questions which in the current form will not be helpful.
For example, an answer to question “How much did you learn” heavily depends on the initial background of a student.
The percentage of the attended class meetings does not reflect option of using online resources.
“What skills did you learn?” and “How well did you achieve learning goals” are basically same questions, and an average person would just repeat the list from the syllabus.

Peer review section needs to include protocols for conducting an observation, describing and assessing activities of the instructor and the students.

Finally, we live in the age of the big data. Every day some media outlet has a story about some new development in this area. The Report has no mentioning of this at all.
The proposed a university-wide unification of the student feedback alone will allow building a university-wide database. If this option is not a part of a Strategic Planning, this whole report is basically just a puff of smoke.

6. I do not feel that high quality teaching is one of the core values of the university.

7. University should intensify its effort for reaching out to low-income communities. It needs to replace fragmented events by a systematic learning engagement with the schools in those communities, maybe via its cultural centers like church.

8. University needs to establish a system to gauge in “real time” the mood in a student body. Having feedback about a specific course is not enough. University needs to collect and analyze feedback about various aspects of student life.

9. University needs to establish a system to gauge regularly how do BU graduates assess the education they get in university. Some time after the graduation a group from alumni may be surveyed on what aspects of BU education helped them, and what did not help them to succeed, what corrections they would suggest.
The systems for gauging and surveying should become a natural part of the general big data approach for collecting and analyzing information on the functioning of the university.

Thank you
Dr. Valentin Voroshilov

Some of my articles related to the quality of teaching in higher education (more at www.Cognisity.How):