Departmental Dynamics

Posted on December 10, 2007

David Klahr (bio) describes some common types of department environments.

 

I was actually in the institution where my mentor was the giant in the field. Probably the most eminent cognitive psychologist and I had been his student, although I really didn’t do his kind of thing in my graduate work. I don’t think I chose this, but luckily I was working in the one area where he had no particular interest, which was in cognitive development.

He was interested in adult thinking, and learning, and problem solving and all that stuff, but he never got into anything having to do with children, which made it easy for me to carve out my own little thing. If he had, that would have been bad. Then I would have left. I would have just had to go somewhere else and carve out my own niche.

There are times when you have to leave the home nest and make your own mark, and there is this other issue of, how similar do you want your colleagues to be to you and how discrepant should they be.
Some departments, everybody is an island unto themselves, and they may have great reputations internationally and nationally, and they go to meetings and people cluster around them.

When they go back to their own department, they are lonely, like a prophet in their own land. Nobody cares that they gave the keynote address at such-and-such society, because nobody else goes to those meetings, and I think that is an unfortunate kind of department.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2007 SRCD Biennial Meeting in Boston, MA.

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