Managing Uncertainty – Mildly

In the article, Managing uncertainty during collaborative problem solving in elementary school teams : The role of peer influence in robotics engineering activity, the authors, Jordan & McDaniel, (in press) state that humans experience uncertainty on a regularly occurring basis. Isn’t that the truth! According to the authors, managing uncertainty means, “behaviors an individual engages in to enable action in the face of uncertainty” (p. 5). Ever since I was accepted into the EdD program, I’ve been mildly managing the uncertainty.

I had an “aha” moment when reading the article, specifically when reading about the findings identified when group members’ attempts to manage task and relational uncertainty. Listed below is a breakdown of my observation on the socially supportive peer response theory and equating it to the first night of class in the EdD program.

Socially Supportive Peer Responses First Night of Class in EdD Program
“Experience the same uncertainty and join in a shared strategy to address it” (p. 18). We were lucky enough to have two guest speakers visit the classroom. These speakers were students that are currently in the EdD program transitioning into their third year.Initially, the questions were of a basic nature and then the conversation turned so that the speakers were fully addressing the cohorts fears about balance and being able to manage life/work/school. One of the speakers indicated that her class had a mantra that helped them feel that they were all in it together – thus, joining in a shared strategy to address it. 
“Not share an uncertainty but help a group member address his or her uncertainty by arguing, challenging, explaining, or offering information” (p. 18). I believe there were students in the cohort that had full confidence in themselves as a scholar. However, the authors state, “For this peer response to occur, a responder had to believe the uncertainty being expressed by his or her peer was at a minimum legitimate, warranted, or reasonable” (p. 20).When the conversation and questions focused on how we can balance school and a personal life, while working full time, I believe that I heard a collective sigh when our speakers said that if they could do it, so could we. 
“Not initially share the uncertainty, listen, become uncertain, and assist in addressing it” (p. 18). When I received my acceptance letter into the EdD program, I felt like I was on top of the world. I was confident that I could conquer any assignment or project that was thrown my way. Then reality set in. My uncertainty was starting to mount even before the first night of class.When our guest speakers were seeking questions, I was the person in the back row that kept raising her hand. I believe the conversation regarding the rigor of the program may have ignited some doubt in some students who may not have been initially feeling uncertain. However, because everyone was engaged in the conversation, I believe that assisted in the management of the uncertainty and settled anxiety in the group as a whole.

The EdD program at Arizona State University has established itself as academically challenging. Additionally, to be accepted into the program, one has to possess a high degree of academic abilities. A person would guess that the students in the EdD program are of relatively high intelligence and maturity, however on that first night of class some may have felt like they were in the fifth grade again. The collective behaviors exhibited in class were the actions necessary to propel us past our fears, in the face of uncertainty, to achieve our goals.


Jordan, M. E. & McDaniel, R. (in press). Managing uncertainty during collaborative problem
solving in elementary school teams: The role of peer influence in robotics engineering
activity. Journal of the Learning Sciences. doi: 10.1080/10508406.2014.896254