Exploring positive deviance for enhancing learning outcomes in higher education and training

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Conference Proceeding
2016 15th International Conference on Information Technology Based Higher Education and Training, ITHET 2016, 2016
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© 2016 IEEE. Due to the terror actions of the 22nd of July 2011 there has been an increased focus on the preparedness and also training for handling and managing crisis. Organizations and municipalities are obliged to have plans for handling crises and plans for training their employees. The focus is often to learn from what went wrong and most reports focus on the improvement areas, implying that there are faults and deficiencies. Positive Deviance (PD) is about looking for success stories, when the statistics imply that it should not be a success. The term PD was in the 1990's introduced and explored by nutrition professor Marian Zeitlin in her book 'Positive Deviance in Nutrition' at Tufts University. Also visiting Tufts University was Jerry and Monique Sternin which brought the ideas further and developed it as a tool for social change. From the PD webpage www.positivedeviance.org, we find: 'Positive Deviance is based on the observation that in every community there are certain individuals or groups whose uncommon behaviors and strategies enable them to find better solutions to problems than their peers, while having access to the same resources and facing similar or worse challenges. The Positive Deviance approach is an asset-based, problem-solving, and community-driven approach that enables the community to discover these successful behaviors and strategies and develop a plan of action to promote their adoption by all concerned.' However, to look for the small successes and explore 'why this was a success', is also possible in other areas than within social change. Which (minor) elements contributed to how this actually had a successful ending, even if the surrounding factors indicated failure? In finding these minor details that contributed to an unexpected success lay a learning potential that is worth exploring, for instance in the area of Crisis Training. One student group in the Crisis Communication course received a task that was about discovering and explaining PD in crisis communication in a municipality. This student group was struck by the fact that the respondents were so positive and elaborated so freely about the success stories and how they seemed to reflect upon the reasons why the successes came about. Their respondents very much appreciated this type of focus, rather than 'defending' the cases that went wrong or were unsuccessful.
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