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Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Lovers, the Haters and How They Helped Drive Innovation at Kraft 09-02

The Lovers, the Haters and How They Helped Drive Innovation at Kraft

Barry Calpino on what drives innovation at Kraft
Like many food companies, Kraft Foods has had to deal with the rising costs for commodities, as well as the changing wants and needs of consumers. Several years ago, the company — which has annual revenues of more than $18 billion and a 27-brand portfolio that includes Velveeta, Jell-O and Kool-Aid — was launching new products at a rapid rate, but it wasn’t really investing in any of them. In recent interview on the Knowledge@Wharton show on Wharton Business Radio on SiriusXM channel 111, Barry Calpino, Kraft’s vice president for breakthrough innovation, discussed how Kraft rethought its strategy and reaped the rewards of a multi-year, multi-channel mindset to marketing.
Listen to the full interview above and read edited excerpts from the conversation below.
Knowledge@Wharton: Could you describe the concept of breakthrough innovation?
Barry Calpino: There’s a lot of definitions around it, but there is also an intention behind the term and the title. It’s really to push our organization and our innovation teams to shoot for bigger opportunities, more incremental white space, new categories and new usage occasions. We have teams that work on some of the closer-in extensions of current brands. But my charge and my push is to really encourage the organization and lead, making sure that we deliver on big, big, big innovations that help not just grow our brands here at Kraft, but also grow the categories that we’re in.
Knowledge@Wharton: What kind of examples are you talking about?
Calpino: I guess the poster child, the one that we use here internally to teach everyone the concept, is that we launched a brand called Mio about three years ago. Mio started out as a really close-in idea. It started out as a liquid version of our Crystal Light powder and it was going to be marketed that way.
And via a lot of changes we had made in the company in terms of how we were thinking about and approaching innovation, we made it one of these big, big bets and big breakthrough projects with our beverage division. We decided rather than just make it a close-in extension of the current business, [we would] conceptually launch Mio as a totally new category idea — liquid water enhancers — and go after all the water usage occasions there are in the U.S., both tap water and bottled water, and look at Mio as an opportunity to accompany all those occasions, rather than only targeting people who currently buy powdered mix-ins for their liquids….
We launched Mio as a new idea, a new brand, a new category. And it’s won almost every imaginable innovation award you could win. But more importantly for us as a company and for the retailers we work with, it’s created literally a new category. You walk into the store today, and there is a whole section of these liquid water enhancers. And I think it’s a more than $800 million total category worldwide three years into it. And most of that has come from going after incremental usage occasions. So it’s been a big win for everybody who’s been involved. And that’s the concept of breakthrough innovation — thinking bigger and thinking broader and moving aggressively.
Kraft spent more than $50 million launching Mio, the most we had ever spent on a launch. But more importantly, we continued to invest the second year, the third year and now the fourth year because these big ideas don’t just happen overnight. You have to stick with them and you have to invest in them.
“These big ideas don’t just happen overnight. You have to stick with them and you have to invest in them.”
Knowledge@Wharton: How do you continue to build on those innovations after several years have passed?
Calpino: I’ve been in the innovation game one way or another in consumer products almost 20 years. And the number-one consistent cause of failure is not investing in a good idea beyond just the launch period. You have to stay with it. The ones I’ve been part of that have been big wins have been [instances] where we’ve stuck with it, we’ve invested behind it, and we realized that to get something new to stick, it doesn’t just happen quickly — you have to have staying power.
Knowledge@Wharton: Kraft was started in 1903, but remade in 2012. Can you describe that process?
Calpino: The company split. The international business and what was our Nabisco business and our chewing gum business was split off as a separate company called Mondelez. And what was left behind was the traditional Kraft brands that many consumers would know. And it’s a U.S. company.
We decided to not just treat the de-merging as a transaction for Wall Street, [but rather] to really make a big deal about this for our company culture and our employees. I talk a lot about how important culture is to innovation and your performance as a company. And so we decided in 2012 when we made the split to celebrate it, and we had signs up that are still everywhere in our company about we were remade in 2012. We’ve tried to really encourage a fresh mindset among our employees to say, “Look, we have these tremendous old brands, but we need to think fresh every day to make them current and relevant.” As you know, consumers are constantly evolving and changing, and your brands have to keep up with that.
Knowledge@Wharton: There’s an interesting video I saw of an interview that you did, and you brought up the concept of that one of the most important things to understand is what your customers hate about your products.
Calpino: Yes. It’s one of my favorite topics, and it’s the one that gets the strongest reaction. I think it’s human nature that you want to focus on what people love about you, and it’s painful sometimes to get that negative feedback. But I’ve studied this. I have a whole presentation on innovations that were born out of companies willing to be open about asking, “Where is the pain in the experience of our product? What do you hate about our category? What do you hate about [the product]?” And then that becomes the fodder for great innovation.
The two classic examples I always throw out is that Campbell’s soup did a big study in the 1970s, literally a quantitative study of what do people hate about soup. And the number-one complaint was that the pieces [of meat in the soup] were too small. So they launched this brand [of] chunky soup, which is still on the market 40 years later. Very few new products stick around for 40 years.
I used to work at the Wrigley company, and we did the same research in the 1980s. The number-one complaint was that the flavor [of the gum] didn’t last long enough. We literally created the brand Extra gum out of that research. And Extra was the number-one brand of chewing gum for about 25 years in the U.S.
My favorite [example] that I use all the time today is Uber and the Uber app. The story behind it [is that there were] two guys who just hated the taxicab experience in San Francisco…. Their hate led to their innovation. And you think of all the things you hate about a taxicab experience, Uber literally flips every one of them over. So being open to it can be a tremendous source of innovation ideas.
Knowledge@Wharton: The numbers so far in terms of sales tied to new product innovation are pretty good for Kraft. The number I read was about 13% of all the revenue?
Calpino: Yes, we were 6% to 6.5% five years ago. We got over 13%. We’ve doubled our sales from new products…. When we were around 6%, we made a decision as a company that the current way we’re doing things today isn’t working, and we’re going to look at innovation and approach it very, very differently. And the results so far have borne out that the new approach we’ve taken has really made a big impact on our innovation results.
We feel like we’ve still got an incredible amount of room to grow and to get better at this. But we did change our approach, and that’s been a big driver of getting from where we were to where we are.
Knowledge@Wharton: How is that new strategy borne out on a daily basis?
Calpino: The hardest thing for anyone who works in innovation is that for the big ideas like Mio, a lot of the seed effort and work happens two to three years ahead of time. And a lot of that work is not glamorous. And the results don’t come instantly. The teams that work on those projects, their work is what leads to the big launches two to three years out. So a big part of my job is to make sure across the whole organization that we’re continuously filling what we call our funnel and the pipeline of new ideas — and that we’re constantly working on the next thing, so that we don’t wake up one day and say, “You know what, we don’t have anything.”
A lot of us who work in consumer products have had those moments where our management [says], “We need a new product,” and you don’t have anything, or you don’t have anything exciting. And then you scramble. And then you launch small ideas. It’s about being proactive and filling the pipeline and making sure that while we have teams in the company that are launching new products, we also have teams that are building the future. Because for every great idea we launch now, some team did great work two to three years ago up to now.
Knowledge@Wharton: How is your experience at Kraft different than a tech company like Apple?
Calpino: What we have in common is that what you come out with has to be great for the consumer. But in our case, tastes and what people are looking for in food constantly evolve. For our innovations to hit home, we have to be really, really well attuned to what is happening and what changes are going on. We spend a lot of time and energy on making sure that all of our innovation teams are up to speed on food trends, culinary trends and what consumers are looking for — whether it’s a cleaner ingredient line, fresher, less processed food, things like gluten-free. The things that consumers want in food change all the time. And you just have to be on it. You have to try to be ahead of it, too, which is one of the hardest things to do.
Knowledge@Wharton: How does that impact the corporate responsibility and other programs that you have as well?
Calpino: It has a big effect on where we invest in new technology and where we place our bets on which brands to invest in. One of our pride and joys this year is the renovation and re-launch of Philadelphia cream cheese. We’ve added a lot more real fruit to the products and real vegetables. And we have a whole story to the consumer about it going from farm to fridge in just a few days. Consumers today care so much about that. And we felt like the Philly team just was so attuned with today’s consumer….
Knowledge@Wharton: You talked about the successes you’ve had with a new product like Mio, but like Philly cream cheese, there are a lot of brands that you have that have been around for decades, that are staples with consumers. What are the challenges of making changes to products that people have loved and used for so many years?
Calpino: That’s the art of what we call renovation. In fact, one of our best points of emphasis now at Kraft is renovating our current brands while we innovate at the same time. When you renovate a brand it’s exactly what you said: Everybody has studied the famous new Coke case. Nobody wants to be the next [failed re-launch] in the Wharton case study. What the Philly team did beautifully was to make the product more relevant and more current, but deliver what people expect and love and care about. And you also have to make sure that for everything you do, you run it by your consumers who love your brand.
One of the things that we teach all of our teams is, when you mess with a current brand, mess with it to make it better among the people who love it first. Because if they give you the vote of confidence, then you’re going to bring new people back to the franchise, but you don’t want to lose the people who love you. It’s one of the trickiest parts of what we do. People will tell you that when they try to renovate and update an iconic brand like Philadelphia cream cheese or Kraft Singles, it can be really tricky.
Knowledge@Wharton: You mentioned the successes with Mio. What is the number two on your list in terms of innovations that you’re most proud of?
Calpino: I would say in addition to Mio, it’s probably a tie between Oscar Mayer Selects and Velveeta Cheesy Skillets…. They were both $100 million launches. But what they both have in common is they’re what people would call old brands. And they were brands that some people would say had lost touch with today’s consumer. But the teams behind them were totally committed to making them relevant, and never accepting that the brand is irrelevant.
Our CEO’s favorite phrase, one of his favorite phrases, is that there is no such thing as a tired brand, only tired marketers. And one of my favorite expressions from Good to Great is facing the brutal facts. The Oscar Mayer team made a call across all their whole business that we were going to make Oscar Mayer products more real. And so Oscar Mayer Selects took almost every element of their product line and [changed it]. They launched products with no artificial preservatives and cleaner ingredients. And it was a monster success, and it’s changed how people perceive an old brand like Oscar Mayer.
Velveeta was a brand that people used to make fun of. And people asked “Hey, does Kraft still make Velveeta?” It’s now one of our fastest-growing businesses because of the team behind it. I mentioned the importance of talking to people who love your brand; I’m a big believer in love and hate driving innovation. The haters give you ideas. But then the lovers also give you inspiration. What we found is that Velveeta lovers really love the brand, and there was a lot about the brand that we weren’t leveraging. The whole skillet dinner line — which was, again, a $100 million award winner — was all grounded in what people loved about it. We had this tagline, “liquid gold.” And liquid gold is literally how Velveeta lovers describe it. And it delivered a great dinner experience; it really delivered for a family, a strapped family from an economic standpoint, the ability to feed your family at a low price, with great taste and a great experience.
People love to talk about the Apple iPhone. Mio was kind of like that for us. But it’s just as rewarding, and sometimes more rewarding, when you can have really big innovation on brands that you’ve had for, say, 100 years.
Knowledge@Wharton: What segment of Kraft’s business do you think has the greatest potential growth opportunities in terms of innovation over the next 10 years?
Calpino: That’s a good question. I get asked that a lot inside the company, and sometimes that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when you say you’re a high innovation brand, you’re a low innovation brand. I work across all the brands here, and I will tell you that I walk out of every single review and there are three or four things that I’m incredibly excited about. There are categories that I may say in my head, “This doesn’t have a lot of potential.” And then the team shows me three or four great ideas. It’s that mindset that got us to where, with Velveeta, we weren’t innovating. So it’s a tough one.
Our beverage business has had some huge wins. But then I can show you the [success of the] Skillets and the Selects. There is a lot of potential in our portfolio because we’re in categories that are in all parts of consumers’ lives. One of our favorite expressions at Kraft, which we try to emphasize to all of our employees, is that we have to earn our place in your life. We don’t just get in your house because we have all these brands; you have to choose our brands, and we have to keep earning it. Just because you bought us 20 years ago doesn’t mean you’re going to buy us today. That mindset tries to avoid the “Hey, we’re just going to milk this because it doesn’t have the potential.”
Knowledge@Wharton: How do you ensure employee buy-in for your innovation strategy?
Calpino: You can have the greatest processes in the world, but usually when you break down companies that are successful in innovation, and innovations that are successful on their own, when you do the postmortem analysis, usually the talent and the team are at the top of the list. We have teams, talent and culture all over Kraft that are thinking about what’s possible for these brands. They’re not thinking what’s not possible…. We’re not going to accept the fact that this is an old brand. We are going to constantly look for ideas.
When you have that mindset all throughout your company, that’s when you’ve really hit your stride. You know that you never have to lie awake at night worrying about [whether you] are going to have enough good ideas, because you know that there are really talented people all over the place who are trying to create the future and fill the pipeline. By far, the most rewarding part of my job is when I get to see that energy, because that energy is contagious and it creates momentum. And momentum can go negative, it can go positive. Innovation is so hard that that aspect really does matter.
Knowledge@Wharton: So it’s not a case of where even an established company like Kraft can rest on its laurels?
Calpino: Right. Everybody’s trying to connect with the same consumer. The business is out there. We’re all competing for flat to 1% growth, and we want more than our fair share of it. We all want to grow more than the market. And the one who innovates best usually is the one who wins.
You know, we just won the [Nielsen] Breakthrough Award for Gevalia [coffee]. And at the Nielsen conference, they told us that there were 3,426 new products launched. Seventy hit $50 million in sales. And then the 14 breakthrough winners, of which we were one of them, from that field of 3,400, were the new products that were successful for the first two years. So that tells you — 14 out of 3,400, that’s what you’re shooting for. So it isn’t easy. But when you hit it, nothing’s better for your company, for your business, for your category.

Using “Mulligans” to Enhance Student Participation and Reduce Test Anxiety 09-01

Using “Mulligans” to Enhance Student Participation and Reduce Test Anxiety

When I speak with other professors who work extensively in the classroom, we often find that we share many of the same challenges. Students’ lack of classroom participation in discussion and test anxiety are two of the most common. Many professors try to mitigate these issues through two time-honored pedagogical tactics: a participation grade and extra credit questions on tests. While both tactics can be effective, by applying concepts from gamification research I found a way to both enhance classroom participation and reduce test anxiety with one simple technique.
While many have heard of gamification, it’s important to note that gamification differs from game-based learning. According to a National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) report, gamification is “a much newer concept than game-based learning. It uses elements derived from video game design which are then deployed in a variety of contexts” (Perrota, et. al). Gamification focuses on what games do for brain processes and tries to bring that into the learning environment. While reviewing gamification concepts, I discovered two elements I thought would enhance my classroom: flow and fiero. Flow refers to a state of focused, enjoyable attention that has been known to enhance intrinsic motivation and memory. Fiero is a game design term referring to small victories that result in a feeling of accomplishment, which has been linked to greater engagement and attention to the material. (24, 33).
Lecture/discussion sessions rarely result in these learning states even with the instructor providing engagement opportunities. Most students have been trained to approach the lecture as a largely passive activity. I wanted to bring my students out of this orientation, and to improve test performance through reducing anxiety without reducing rigor. By using the concepts of flow and fiero. I found a way to achieve both with the same modality through the use of what I call mulligans.
Trivia nights in the Midwest are very popular. Before the game begins, players purchase small stickers, called mulligans, which are used to reduce the penalty when the team doesn’t know an answer. This sparked an idea that has proven to be successful in the classroom. All it required was a trip to a teacher supply store for stickers and then a bit of explanation on the first day of class.
At the beginning of the semester, I tell my students that there are no extra credit or participation points. Instead, they can earn mulligan stickers to be used on tests or assignments. These are earned during class by showing mastery of content, presenting well-thought-out discussion points, or showing improvement in specific skill areas. Each mulligan sticker is worth one point, and students can use a maximum of five mulligans on a single assignment or test. I give out the mulligans intermittently during the term and never tell students when we’re going to have a mulligan day.
Initially, I was worried that this element may be too juvenile for college students. However, by calling them mulligans and equating them with familiar classroom elements, students reacted very well to the idea. Student participation improved from the start of the course and continued even on days when I didn’t distribute any stickers. They were more prepared and more eager to contribute to class discussions, and students actually focused during review since it was a prime earning opportunity. The mulligans also provided a tangible incentive for quiet students to step outside their comfort zone and gave me a quick assessment of which students were contributing.
Moreover, students with mulligans showed less outward signs of test anxiety. They could see their collection of stickers as proof that they knew the material, and when stickers were used on test questions that gave students trouble, it helped me assess places where students struggled most.
Lastly, this small change improved the intangible vibe of the classroom. There were moments of fiero and flow that students could easily see, especially when a student got their first sticker, or ‘beat’ another student to an answer. While it may seem like a gimmick or perhaps juvenile, this one element of gamification has convinced me to look into the research further for other modalities that can improve learning.

Can we move our students from consumers to realistic achievers? 09-01

Can we move our students from consumers to realistic achievers?

The scenario is a painfully familiar one…

For the last two decades the scholarly study of “academic entitlement” and its relationship to the higher education experience has yielded some important insights. While defining the concept is tricky, Singleton-Jackson et al. (2011, p. 232) identify the following facets of the phenomenon:
1) a belief that some reward is deserved that is not justified based on one’s actual academic achievement;

2) that a high academic entitlement disposition implies a diminished role for personal responsibility in actual academic achievement; and,

3) that a high academic entitlement disposition also implies expectations about the role of instructors that are above and beyond their obligation of providing educational opportunities and effective, quality instruction.
These tendencies should come as no surprise to us, as we have been and will continue to teach the Millennial generation — and their expectations based in part on an educational consumerist perspective — for the next six years. First year college students, in particular, are vulnerable to experiencing a system shock as the work patterns that yielded high achievement in their K-12 past don’t seem to cut it in the bigs. So is the answer to provide toughlove and get them used to lowered expectations?
We don’t want our students to be demoralized, and to settle for lower expectations for their performance in our classes.  Indeed, a healthy body of research confirms that establishing high expectations for students can be a powerful means of achieving effective student learning outcomes.
Maryellen Weimer of The Teaching Professor Blog addresses an important dilemma we all face as college teachers:
Unrealistic expectations present teachers with a conundrum. We want students to believe in themselves. We want them committed to doing well. But we need them to be realistic about what success demands.
Her useful recommendations bear some attention as we start our courses this year — how can we use the first day, the first week of class to set expectations that are both realistic and aspirational for students? 
How can we use the first few weeks of the term to provide formative feedback that helps students adjust their expectations while maintaining their morale? 
And how should we respond to the first big exam or essay to help keep students motivated and on the right track?

Reality Check: Helping to Manage Student 09-01

Reality Check: Helping to Manage Student 

Most students begin college, the academic year, and new courses motivated and optimistic. Many first-year students expect to do well because they were successful in high school. Some are right, but others will only find similar success if they work much harder than they did in high school. Yet most start out expending the same level of effort. They will talk with their classmates and convince each other that an exam covering three chapters can’t be that hard, so they put off studying and then “look over” the chapters the night before—happily dealing with any and all interruptions and distractions.
It’s not until the day of the test, as they’re confronted by a number of questions they can’t answer, that the anxiety sets in. They will sit staring at the questions and guessing at far too many answers, before turning in the test and then persuading themselves that chances are still pretty good for a B.
A lot of students continue to hold unrealistic expectations throughout the course even in the presence of mounting evidence to the contrary. A student can be going into a cumulative final exam with a solid C, but she believes she is going to ace that final and come out of the course with a high B. That may be possible in a few courses, but it’s a long shot in others and is simply not going to happen in most courses.
Adjusting expectations
Unrealistic expectations present teachers with a conundrum. We want students to believe in themselves. We want them committed to doing well. But we need them to be realistic about what success demands.
So, we tell them what they will need to do. Sometimes we try to get their attention with hyperbole. Most of us no longer offer the “look to your right, look to your left. . .” admonition used when we were students. But many of us do still tell students that they need to invest two hours of study for every one hour in class. Yes, that’s true of some courses, but it is no longer true of most courses. Is it true of your courses? I recommend evidence-based answers, gently noting that unrealistic student expectations are not adjusted by equally invalid faculty declarations.
The most persuasive claims about how much work it takes to do well in the course are those delivered by other students. Teachers can control those messages a bit by sharing advice from former students on the course website, in the syllabus, or by getting permission from some carefully selected former students that students can contact if they’d like to talk with someone who has taken the course.
Beyond telling, most of us also try to make the expectations more realistic with an early assessment in the course—a first test, early paper, or some other kind of graded work. And some of us are a bit tougher on this initial work. We let the lower-than-expected grade convey the message that this is going to be harder than many students anticipated.
When trying to help students adjust their expectations, it’s good to remember how strongly students believe performance is ability based. If they get feedback (which their performance deserves), they are quick to conclude that they can’t do it, so they drop the course and perhaps later leave college. What we have them do immediately after the tough feedback is just as important as that initial expectation-correction activity. Is it another test or paper? Is it an opportunity to redo what they didn’t do well initially? Is it having a policy that removes the lowest score from the final grade calculation? Is it leading a class discussion about the value of high expectations and sharing realistic ideas about how to reach them?
I remember one faculty member telling me that he had students respond to their first disappointing test grade with a goal-setting activity. He’d start with the prompt: “So what’s a realistic amount of grade improvement for your next exam?” After that, each student created a list of what they needed to do and when they needed to do it in order to accomplish that goal. The instructor provided regular reminders and a review of the goal and accompanying activities before the next test. That exam debrief included discussion of who reached their goal and why they did or did not, followed by another round of goal setting.
Setting realistic expectations is an important life skill, and our courses can provide students a chance to learn how.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats: Raising, Communicating, and Enforcing Expectations in Online Courses.09-01

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats: Raising, Communicating, and Enforcing Expectations in Online Courses.

As an instructor new to the online environment, I carefully reviewed the syllabus and the requirements for the course discussions and assignments and incorporated the following ideas from Myers-Wylie, Mangieri & Hardy: a “what you need to know” document that includes policies about late work, formatting, source citations, grading and feedback, and the dangers of plagiarism; a separate “assignments at a glance” calendar that details due dates and submission instructions; a “frequently asked questions” thread in the discussion forum; detailed scoring rubrics for each assignment, and example assignments.

As is typical in the online environment, my course was equipped with areas for announcements and discussions and a grade book with a place to post comments for individual students. I used all these formats to communicate with students about course requirements and provide detailed feedback. From the beginning, some students submitted their assignments without reading any of my sage advice. About a third missed the deadline for the first assignment. Several assignments were missing key components, and some exhibited major formatting flaws.

There was a flurry of questions in the discussion forum about the due date and format—answers to which could be found in the numerous documents I had posted. Student frustration mounted when I referred them to existing documents. Indeed, the instant gratification associated with the Internet has “trained students to expect help when they require it—on their schedule” (Creasman, 2012). I provided feedback by electronically editing each assignment and returning the marked-up documents. I was discouraged when I noticed that students continued to make the same errors on subsequent assignments—proof that they had not incorporated my previous feedback. Had they even seen it? It occurred to me that I would need to find more innovative ways to communicate my expectations. I have been able to raise expectations and improve the quality of work in my course by implementing the following practices. Set a tone of “no excuses.” 

According to McKeachie (1994), when students know what to expect, they can be more productive. In addition to introducing themselves at the start of the course, I ask students to answer the following questions: (1) How will you make time for this course? and (2) What is your “plan b” for computer and/or Internet issues? When students answer these questions they are forced to think about potential issues and solutions before the class begins. Reading about how other students tackle these problems is also helpful. Introduce another voice. Students listen to other students. During the first week of class, I post an announcement that summarizes advice collected from previous students from the preceding class.

As a rule, this advice encourages students to keep up with the readings, follow instructions, work hard, and meet deadlines. Seasoned students will also advise new students to pay attention to the examples and rubrics. This advice is especially helpful to students who are fearful or easily discouraged (McKeachie, 1994). Students will have the opportunity to provide their own advice at the end of the course. Force engagement with the information. Online students are pragmatic. They need a reason to seek information, especially information that might not directly relate to an assignment that carries a grade.

I created an online scavenger hunt quiz based on the course logistics information and awarded extra credit points based on the quiz score. The quiz consists of 12 multiple-choice questions covering the topics of late work, due dates, grading, feedback, plagiarism, formatting, and the course textbook. Students are permitted to take the quiz as many times as they wish during the first week of class. Because my course is asynchronous, most students take advantage of the extra-credit opportunity and therefore become engaged and familiar with the information within the first week when it is convenient for them.

Although the extra-credit points are minimal (six points out of 1,000 course points), most students like starting the course with a few extra points in the grade book. Force engagement with feedback. Research supports corrective feedback as one of the most powerful ways of enhancing student achievement (Angelo & Cross, 1993; Marzano, Pickering & Pollock, 2001; McKeachie, 1994). But it is not the giving of feedback that helps students learn, but the acting on feedback (Chappuis, 2012). I provide feedback to students by electronically editing their individual documents and placing them in a special feedback thread in the discussion forum. 

One of my biggest disappointments was providing detailed feedback to students and having them make the same mistakes on subsequent assignments. I was spending hours providing feedback, but many students were not learning from my feedback. In fact, I was not even sure that they had found my feedback. To ensure that students find and open their marked-up assignments, I now include a feedback code on the second major assignment. The code consists of the student’s initials and a few numbers (for example, MR456). Students reply to me with their feedback code for a few extra credit points on their next assignment. 

Most students take advantage of this extra credit opportunity, therefore assuring me that they know where to find their marked-up papers. Force engagement with peers. Most online courses require weekly discussion postings with responses to classmates. Indeed, “the best online instruction allows for students’ learning to be forged more through interaction with each other and less through instructor lecture” (Creasman, 2012). To encourage participation and ensure that students don’t tune out after they have submitted their minimum number of required postings,

I require students to review their classmates’ comments and submit a revised, polished version of their original post. The revised version is posted at the end of the week and is the version that is graded. In addition to commenting on content, I ask peers to provide advice on spelling, grammar, and conventions. I also comment on student forum postings throughout the week. According to Bullen (1998), instructors need to allow adequate time for follow-up discussion and comments. McKeachie (1994) agrees; more comments and more specific comments lead to greater learning. 

Because the feedback for the discussion forum refers to the draft post, it occurs during and not after the learning, and therefore often improves the quality of assignments that are submitted at the end of the week (Chappuis, 2012). Provide student exemplars. My course is project-based, and although the course syllabus describes the expectations and provides criteria for the projects, seeing an example of a well-done project will help, direct, and inspire students in their own projects. Kerr (2009) agrees and feels that exemplars support student success and contribute to the development of the learning community. The first time I taught the course, I created my own exemplars. Now that I have taught the course several times, I share actual student examples (with names removed) as exemplar projects. Provide opportunities for student-to-teacher feedback. Halfway through the course, I ask students to provide me with feedback about how I might improve the course. I ask three questions: 

What should I start doing? What should I stop doing? What should I continue doing? (Angelo & Cross, 1993). I allow about a week for students to respond, then summarize the results and share with students via the discussion forum. At the end of the course, I ask students the same three questions and one additional question: 

What advice do you have for future students in this course? The mid-course and end-of-course feedback has helped me shape the course and make subtle changes. As the result of student feedback, I have simplified my late work policy and created an area in the discussion forum for students to share project ideas. I share students’ advice for future students and believe it is one of the first steps in setting high expectations for the incoming class. Taken together, implementing the practices described above has helped to improve the quality of the work submitted by students in my classes by setting high expectations from the first day of class and maintaining high expectations throughout the course. By raising the tide, I have lifted all boats! 

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Diversity Is Useless Without Inclusivity 08-30

Diversity Is Useless Without Inclusivity

Over the past decade, organizations have worked hard to create diversity within their workforce. Diversity can bring many organizational benefits, including greater customer satisfaction, better market position, successful decision-making, an enhanced ability to reach strategic goals, improved organizational outcomes, and a stronger bottom line.
However, while many organizations are better about creating diversity, many have not yet figured out how to make the environment inclusive—that is, create an atmosphere in which all people feel valued and respected and have access to the same opportunities.
That’s a problem.
Minority employees want to experience the same sense of belonging that the majority does to the group. Indeed, dating back to 1890, William James noted that human beings possess a fundamental need for inclusion and belonging. Research has shown that inclusion also has the promise of many positive individual and organizational outcomes such as reduced turnover, greater altruism, and team engagement. When employees are truly being included within a work environment, they’re more likely to share information, and participate in decision-making.
There are many reasons that inclusion has proved so difficult for most organizations to achieve. Broadly, they tend to stem from strong social norms and the failure to gain support among dominant group members. To understand these issues better, it is useful to look at four dynamics that frequently work against inclusiveness in many organizations.
People gravitate toward people like them. We’ve long known that similarity makes people like and identify with each other. In organizations, leaders often hire and promote those who share their own attitudes, behaviors, and traits. Thus, many organizations unknowingly have “prototypes for success” that perpetuate a similarity bias and limit the pool of potential candidates for positions, important assignments, and promotions.
To counteract this natural tendency, leaders must focus on the systems in place, look at basic statistics, and ask deeper questions, such as: Who is getting hired? Who is getting promoted at the highest rate? Why don’t we have more diversity in various positions or on teams? Who has access to information and who doesn’t? Who is not being included in these decisions? Whose opinions have I sought and whose have I left out? Am I building relationships with people who are different from me?
Subtle biases persist and lead to exclusion. When minority-group employees are hired, they may experience more subtle forms of discrimination such as being excluded from important conversations, participation in a supervisor’s or peer’s in-group of decision-makers and advisers, and may be judged more harshly. I recently completed a study, for example, demonstrating that individuals who were racially different from their supervisors perceived differential treatment in the forms of discrimination, less supervisor support, and lower relationship quality. The findings also suggested that dissimilarity might lead supervisors to favor people who are similar (in terms of race, gender, etc.) and demonstrate bias against people who are different. Researchers refer to this phenomenon as “subtle bias,” which is often a result of unconscious mindsets and stereotypes about people who are different from oneself.
To neutralize exclusion, leaders need to proactively review the access of all groups of employees to training, professional development, networks, important committees, nominations for honors, and other opportunities. Often, employees who differ from the group in power must satisfy higher standards of performance, have less access to important social networks, and have fewer professional opportunities. A recent Monster poll showed that eight out of ten female respondents “believe that women need to prove they have superior skills and experience to compete with men when applying for jobs.” Leaders may need to invest in training to reduce the subtle biases of the workplace.
Out-group employees sometimes try to conform. Often as a coping strategy, those who are different from the majority will downplay their differences and even adopt characteristics of the majority in order to fit in. Female attorneys, for example, might adopt masculine behaviors to foster others’ perceptions of them as successful. But when unique employees move towards the norms of the homogeneous majority, that negates the positive impact of having diversity within the group.
To reduce conformity, leaders need to talk authentically about the issues, seek out, and encourage differences. Leaders should ask important questions such as “What is it like being the only African-American executive?” or “What has your experience been as a female executive?” “How can we leverage your unique perspective more effectively?” While the key is asking the right questions, it is also important to listen to the responses and not react negatively if the leader does not like what he or she hears.
Employees from the majority group put up resistance. Majority employees often feel excludedfrom diversity initiatives and perceive reverse favoritism. Many companies have experienced backlashwhen leaders don’t engage majority members in the conversation on diversity and inclusion, explain why change is necessary, and make everyone accountable.
PwC chairman and CEO Robert Morwitz has said that diversity and inclusiveness are major priorities for him personally. Morwitz prefers to serve as a role model and lead from the front. He pushes to have a diverse team on all major issues. Further, he believes that critical thinking comes from inclusion, that is, from the diversity of perspective. Leaders need to put inclusion—not just diversity—at the top of their agendas and mean it. They need to actively talk about its importance, notice when it is present and absent, and set the agenda for the organization.