Using “my voice” in class

Maybe you didn’t notice, but I used my voice frequently in class. No, I didn’t talk about the specific needs for a returning combat veteran. But at times, I shared in the psychological struggle, the similar feelings associated with being “an outsider” to an established and close knit group, and the courage needed to stand up for my beliefs.


I started silent for first two classes and then found my courage to voice a different opinion – I noticed, seriously, classmates snickering when I would speak. It didn’t matter. I knew my perspective was different and something they didn’t want to hear, but something they needed to hear in order to be more effective when serving others.


My success and connection to the course is a direct function of the pedagogy employed – the student-centered, group-based learning community model. My courage to speak in class was derived from my belongingness, which began with the friendly folks in my learning community and spread to the class. The professor could have suggested to each student, “hey, go out of your way to befriend Shane, since he’s new to the cohort group.” But, I didn’t want to feel like a charity case. Instead, the course was structured in such a way that my success was a function of my teamwork, which required me to know my team.

It’s on me too

It’s easier to expect or feel entitled to getting extra benefits or even to complain when you don’t, but I learned early on that you are responsible and accountable for the success of a team. Thus, I held a 3-hour initial meeting with my learning community team in order to talk about their “why,” our shared and differing philosophies on people and education. It wasn’t the instructor’s responsibility to direct individual behaviors, but to set the goals and structure with suggestions for processes (e.g., work together and collaboratively on each project). I knew I was responsible for my learning and my group’s learning, and I took that role seriously.

Learning to “fail”

In class, we discussed the idea of “letting people fail to promote learning and growth,” but it’s not that simple. Failing and learning is moderated by two essential factors: mindset and social support. In Tagg, mastery vs. performance mindsets are discussed as one’s learning orientation as process (mastery) or outcome (performance) focused. If an individual with a performance mindset fails, s/he internalizes the failure, it does not promote learning and reduces self-efficacy. Additionally, if this individual or even a mastery-oriented person does not feel supported by a teacher or classmates, or even friends outside of the classroom, the failing could be catastrophic.  As we learned from visiting the architecture students, these students could fail and learn, because they felt connected and competent.

Competence and Connection 

In my learning from this course, I am even more confident that every organizational decision should include student competence and connection as the primary outcomes – not just as learning outcomes, but as effective measures for organizational outcomes. For every decision, we must ask: what specific resources does this student (or group) need to facilitate competence and community? And we shouldn’t employ an equality ideal, but rather one of equity. If a former solider needs significant resources for a student club or a resource center to attract other veterans and build relationships, we should provide it at a different level than the student who needs a club to sing a cappella. Objectively unequal allocation of resources is always a challenge to individual’s perceptions of fairness, especially among those receiving less, so our challenge is to alter environments disproportionately in favor of those groups needing more in order to achieve the same level of competence and connection as others.

What’s easy and profitable vs. hard and meaningful

In my numerous rants throughout the course, I think I embodied the perspective of a student veteran with the vision to learn from history and improve it.  Rather than be a usual suspect by working for Northrop, Lockheed, etc. on a high-paying salary, I wanted to re-write history so we don’t head to war again, rather than follow the big contracts to facilitate the continuation of war. Similarly, I am a year away from my Ph.D. in organizational psychology and the big jobs are waiting to fill those 6-figure “organizational consultant” roles. Sorry, but that won’t be me. My commitment is to people – finding a way to give psychology to the masses in order to improve the lives of students worldwide. I’m not a historian, but rather a futurian(??). I’m prepared to re-write history by practicing with the future in mind, but I need to know my classmates – those student affairs professionals and educators – are willing to join the mission.

~ by shanemccarty on April 22, 2014.

One Response to “Using “my voice” in class”

  1. Well done Shane. I have appreciated your unique outlook in this project and in our class. Keep up the good work, and do good things in Higher Education. We need smart people doing smart things in the field!

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