Xtend Professional development People News

"Personal and professional transformation" ....A glimpse into XTEND

Thursday December 5, 2019

"As I prepared to present my work to the academic panel, I inhaled deeply. My goal at the time was to demonstrate what I had achieved in the previous 18 months of study, providing some flavour to the words that I had written and submitted. The written words had provided my assessors' access to a one-way communication channel, but we were all keen to move the discussion to a full-duplex and more interactive experience.

Today as I sit here, I can look at my process of transformation like a relay race, with the concept of handing a baton from one 'me' to the next 'me'. In an actual relay race, you leverage the work and effort of previous teammates to drive towards your team goal. The only part that doesn't quite fit, is the idea that it's a race. In my MPP relay race, there were no opponents, nor was there a finish line.

In July 2018 I didn't even know what my relay race looked like, but I discovered the Master of Professional Practice programme, it's mentors, facilitators and even some (then) current students. Without knowing it, I had previously been searching for the programme for over 10 years. Once I found it, however, I grabbed a pair of sneakers and ran off down the track with a baton in hand, my shoelaces untied.

Huge sense of achievement for 2019 XTEND Graduate, Michael McDonald (middle) who celebrates with (L-R) assessors Michael Collins and Stuart Charters, and Xtend facilitators Prof. Samuel Mann, and Jo Thompson

Handing the baton off initially to the version of 'me' who entered the review phase of the work was interesting, I had a lot of energy and completed a series of reflective activities to try to understand exactly who I was. This phase of the programme was really enlightening, I took recognised frameworks and defined/measured my skillsets, my soft skills, my community of practice and even my processes. Once I had that picture, I could then bring it all back together again and get a clear understanding of my Framework of Practice, as it was at the time.

A difficult part of the relay was the initial moments after handing off the baton to the 'me' handling the inquiry phase of work. I didn't have any answers, in fact, I didn't even have any questions. I had to try and understand who I wanted to be. I had to seek the questions and then look to the future to see how I might get there, then work backward from that goal to identify the steps to get there. I stumbled off the track several times but managed to get myself back on track with the help of my supporters and mentors.

I kept up my pace, sticking to my plan after making the third baton change. I was now in the project proper, performing action-research iterations to flush out the answers I sought. The longest part of the relay, though for me it was also the phase where I got into a solid routine. It was only as I neared November, did I start to breathe heavy and feel genuine weariness in my legs. A weariness that was not really caused by the process of learning, more the self-inflicted extra activities and time I spent working on submission material. I wanted to do well, so I spent much more time working on things, over and above the research work.

My breathing is now calm and deliberate as I jog confidently down the road. A confidence that I have only managed to achieve because of the training from the Master of Professional Practice programme. It took teamwork to get the baton to this point, also my laces are now correctly tied. I have also learned how to run and how to hand off the baton correctly, the techniques that were once unclear are now crystal clear; evidence-based inquiry, critical thinking and sound reflection are now part of my daily practice, and it feels organic now, more natural.

My personal and professional transformation has been life-changing. If you'll excuse me I'm rapidly approaching the next 'me' and need to prepare for the baton hand-off."

Michael McDonald

December 2019

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