Lisa’s CCK08 Wordpress Blog

October 29, 2008

Control by Personality

Filed under: Week 8 — Lisa M Lane @ 7:57 pm

I just got out of class, where we had a group discussion on Bernard of Angers’ Miracles of Saint Foy, from the 11th century. Eschewing the didactic configuration of desks in the room, I arranged the whole class in a large circle. I have noticed before that this decreases the perception of instructor control, and that’s what I wanted, so more students would participate. The document was handed out right then to be read, so there was no previous work needed to join; this also tends to be an equalizing tactic.

However, as the discussion increased and intensified (getting into interpretation of the document following reading it together and determining what it said), I noticed that personality played a great role in who “controlled” the discussion. Although it may be assumed that, as the teacher, I would automatically possess the authority, a number of students who were assertive in their ideas (and willing to interrupt each other) were able to express themselves forcefully. In delighted response, I (unfortunately) allowed myself to express my own personality more than I usually do when attempting to engender discussion. By the end of the period, I had to vocally reinforce the valuable contributions made by everyone who had participated, in a somewhat desperate attempt to ensure that I made my own points without insisting that I have the “last word”.

In other words, I did not necessarily want the power I had, and this power, already unavoidably present by virtue of my position, was exacerbated by my personality. In this morning’s Elluminate session we considered the possible justifications for asserting a learner’s individual power against a teacher’s authority (however well-intentioned or legitimized), and I was hoping to see some examples of this in class. Instead, I found myself in a position of experiencing the aspect of personality as a major factor in the assertion of power.

In an asynchronous online environment, the forcefulness of personality can be mitigated somewhat by the vagaries of the medium itself. As evidenced in the varying negative responses to Stephen’s e-mail blast of Moodle posts, one can always ignore, redirect, or filter communications through determined use (or non-use, as Jason Green notes) of the technology. In any synchronous environment (including a face-to-face class session, or an Elluminate meeting), sessions can be dominated by those whose personalities fit the medium. There are those whom for reasons of language, typing speed, or focus cannot participate quickly (as in Sia Vogel’s feeling of loneliness during an Elluminate session), and they are already at a disadvantage in a synchronous environment. Add a more reticent personality to that mix and you have a situation where one would feel powerless.

It seems to be the perception of power that is important, rather than the power or authority itself. Forceful people appear to have more power. I have a strong personality, tend to perceive power imbalances rapidly, and act quickly to equalize them. If I believe someone is trying to increase their power at the expense of my own, I respond by turning up the juice. Perhaps, to answer Stephen’s question of this morning, I think I have a right to personal empowerment by virtue of my being able to take control when necessary, or to relinquish it when required. If I perceive I am overpowering people (as I did in class this morning), I attempt to tone it down. That does not mean that I have actual power over anyone.

As with all affective aspects of learning, personality may be another overlooked element here in the discussion of ways we teach through connection.


  1. Hi Lisa,
    “It seems to be the perception of power that is important”… “As with all effective aspects of learning, personality may be another overlooked element…”I echoed with your view and insights.
    My observation was that many participants were “forced” to “auto-subscribed” due to Stephen’s action. Such action was perceived as an abuse of the power from various learners’ view. We can all see the negative effects. What a mess created! Problems!!!
    As a teacher myself, I had never taken such action without first consulting my learners (all adult learners). I realised that a teacher’s integrity lies with “one’s walking the talk”. So unfortunately, the spirit of networking has been greatly affected, and I don’t think that’s conducive to learning, especially for us, as adult learners and teachers. My comment is based on an incident, rather than based on a person. And as I am not a learner looking for credits, I didn’t want my comments to affect others grading. and I realise how upset people are.
    However, I think this is a revelation that a teacher’s “great knowledge and power” doesn’t come from inside of that person, but from outside. And I learnt that respect can only be earned if a teacher is truly “compassionate, empathetic and knowledgeable to and engaging WITH the learners or teachers – peers”. May be that’s the missing element in connectivism?? Is it?
    No one likes to learn without emotions or feelings, otherwise we will become the computers, which could be switched on or off by others. And I do not believe that computer can “learn” as much as human do, and as smart as human too.
    Do you think you and your students share such feelings or emotions towards power? Is it the reason why connectivism is so “hard” to stay alive if people are just “connecting” without feelings? Or are people really connected? I have seen such happenings often in organisations, and the result is…I would be bent with power…., though anyone could play with it. But it is like playing fire.

    Thanks for your inspiring post.
    You are welcome to comment on my blog

    Comment by Sui Fai John Mak — October 30, 2008 @ 7:16 am

  2. Yes, well put. Some use their influence and status (economic, social, organizational, political,etc), others their knowledge. Some irradiate it by the sheer force of their personality and actions.

    In education, power until now has come mostly from how well you use the language, how intelligently or forcefully you lay out the arguments – if you have the appropriate jargon and are (or at least give the impression) to be the expert on the subject. Some people prefer to express their thoughts in the written medium, others when speaking or through another medium like photography or the arts.
    There are many ways people exerce power on others, knowingly or unknowingly.

    Comment by Barbara Dieu — October 30, 2008 @ 11:57 am

  3. The Power of One

    is not expressed in weight
    but in lightness
    not measured in words
    but in brightness

    It’s not in the shape
    but in creation
    deleting illusions and
    realization of

    The power of One

    Communicating Rejuvenating
    giving thanks and acknowledging limitations of

    The power of One.

    *Dear Lisa, I have been enjoying your blog tremendously. You always speak in the ‘I ‘ form which makes your contributions very powerful. Thank You.

    Comment by *Elisabeth — October 30, 2008 @ 12:39 pm

  4. Hi Lisa,
    I have responded to your post of Control by Personality with details on my blog:
    You are welcome to comment.
    I always enjoyed reading your post, this one in particular.
    Thank you.

    Comment by suifaijohnmak — October 30, 2008 @ 1:34 pm

  5. […] The post was a continuation of the wonderful discussion we had on Wednesday in Elluminate (unposted so far, but I hope it will appear here), where we got into issues such as personal empowerment and freedom as well as education. “I think” was my effort to explore this again, and the questions are very good ones. […]

    Pingback by Response to Stephen: rights and power « Lisa’s CCK08 Wordpress Blog — October 30, 2008 @ 3:59 pm

  6. Hi Lisa

    thank you for this and all your posts, I do enjoy the thoughtfulness you put into your writing. In my latest blog post I commented “in the online environment the ability to rely on “personality” is more difficult as spoken words look very different on paper and out of context”. It is easy for a funny riposte given f2f to become offensive when the stark words are written and posted.

    So if the connections are online – are there effective ways to impose your personality – especially when the instant feedback isn’t available to see the impact of the words?

    Comment by grantcasey — October 31, 2008 @ 4:59 am

  7. Hi Grant!

    Yes, I do indeed think you can impose your personality in an online environment. One way is just through writing style: I encourage new online instructors not to write too formally, to let their personality sing through. Emoticons are trite but really helpful in this regard. Another is to use audio (all my lectures are recorded as well as written), video comments or introductions — more here becomes possible as broadband becomes more common. Even design of a MySpace page, what things you share, it all totals up to personality.

    Comment by Lisa — October 31, 2008 @ 1:34 pm

  8. […] some insights into the discussion around rights, and personal power and around the importance of personality in control. Bradley Shoebottom makes an important point that what may work in one ecology may not work in […]

    Pingback by CCK08: Paper 2 - Changing Roles « CCK08 - Viplav Baxi — November 1, 2008 @ 1:24 pm

  9. […] A link to Wendy’s post appeared in The Daily. Grant shared his take on the week and linked to Lisa’s post to discuss ‘personality’. ‘Turning up the juice’  as a personal response […]

    Pingback by CCK08: Week 9 Stacks « Clyde Street — November 7, 2008 @ 7:34 pm

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