Review: Walking Joyously on Egg Shells

Review by Nancy Chick

    In “Walking Joyously on Egg Shells,” Carolyn Coughlin explores the metaphor of walking on egg shells, which invokes the self-preservation strategy of inertia, neutrality, and maintaining the status quo in the face of fearing failure and disappointing others. She notes that it also implies being overly and unnecessarily cautious since the egg shells are already broken, broken egg shells can’t do any harm, and in fact they’re helpful as compost. She connects it to her work in leadership development: “how can we make failure more tolerable? Make it feel less risky?” She looks to an alternate metaphor, “stomping on grapes,” to encourage a model of leadership that acts from a place of joyful abandon, fearlessly experimenting and courageously taking action.

    Educational developers would appreciate this blog post in reflecting on their roles as leaders, perhaps somewhere between upper administration and faculty in the classroom. While Coughlin attends to the “pure unadulterated joy” embedded in “stomping on grapes,” her criticism seems most focused on the need for the courageous acts of advocating for change, taking a stance, and not playing safe. What is effective teaching?  Which teaching approaches and practices really are supported by evidence, and which are demonstrably ineffective? What institutional policies and practices diminish the effectiveness of teaching and learning?  This post speaks to educational development as advocacy and change agent, rather than support staff or neutral liaison. This shift in identity, Coughlin implies, would be an act of joy.

Coughlin, Carolyn. “Walking Joyously on Egg Shells.” Cultivating Leadership. 27 July 2015. Web. 15 March 2016.


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