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Posted by: Gordon B. Stinky ( )
Date: December 30, 2020 01:22AM

"Toward a synoptic model of instructional productivity"

I posted a link to an archived copy of this I found earlier, in another thread that mentioned it (and since that thread's been closed at 60 posts, I started this related thread for anyone interested):

https://web.archive.org/web/20070809035629/familyhist.org/meridianjapan/grobergthesis.htm

I decided to take a second pass at searching for it. I found it on proquest.com in it's original form using my university library's academic search tools.

I tried to find a stray PDF out there. It's not unusual for authors to have personal copies on local servers of their work, and also copies on servers in places that aren't as concerned with copyrights and IP as they ought to be. That said, no one seems interested in this one. Frankly, after skimming through it, it strikes me as 500+ pages of nauseating braggadocio that would not be well-regarded outside of Mormondom. It is decidedly un-academic. The "I did this, I did that, I improved such-and-such" write up would not earn a PhD at my institution.

FWIW, I did stumble across another academic paper that seems to discuss this work at some length, and seems to be critical of it, although I didn't read it in detail (it seems to be more readily available than the original dissertation):

https://www.jstor.org/stable/23291122?seq=1

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: December 30, 2020 01:36AM

Yes, it is astounding--and embarrassing--that BYU should have granted a Ph.D. for what was essentially Groberg's personal journal. But that's what happened, and that alone reveals the true value of a BYU education.

I have a copy of the Numano article. It is solid. When I read it the first time I found it somewhat sterile but others considered it devastating. The reason for the divergence was my previous understanding of the events in Japan based on conversations with people who lived through them as well as from things posted on RfM. Anyone who reads the piece should try to imagine what the described episodes meant for the missionaries and members who experienced them.

If you don't mind, are you a professor or a researcher and in which field/s? No worries if those questions are too intrusive.

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Posted by: Gordon B. Stinky ( )
Date: December 30, 2020 03:27AM

I retired from industry a few years ago and went back to academia as a teaching prof (non-tenure track), in computer science. I do some research, but I'm not prolific (2 conference papers, and 2 workshop papers since going back, and a conference paper from the early 90's when I was in grad school).

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: December 30, 2020 03:39AM

That sounds like a great career trajectory, very rewarding. We are in different fields but I'd love for my path to mirror yours.

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Posted by: Gordon B. Stinky ( )
Date: December 30, 2020 03:57PM

It's been nice. All of the good stuff one would expect from teaching is "there," but there's been a downside too, and that was a little surprising for me. But I guess as with any job, it shouldn't be surprising to discover that it's not all roses and rainbows.

If you think you might like to do the same, I'll share some of my observations with you. In no particular order:

Each school and department is different, of course, but I've been surprised by the professional climate, that it's not as collegial as it ought to be (IMO).

Since I loved the college environment, interaction with fellow students and professors, mental stimulation, etc (even though I wasn't always the best student), I assumed there'd be classrooms full of students like me. But most are there to get their credits and move on. That's fair enough, because colleges ideally set learning objectives and hold students accountable. Students earn and accrue credits to satisfy degree requirements. I just assumed that they'd be more engaged in the overarching process and environment.

Programming coursework can be difficult for a lot of people. Unfortunately, there's a high rate of failure, so grading can be heartbreaking. Many prof's learn to grade dispassionately. I have found that difficult to do.

Given the above, cheating is rampant. About 10% of students seem to get caught up in Honor Code violations (naturally, I mean a genuine I-will-not-lie-cheat-or-steal honor code, not BYU's code of conformity). This is heartbreaking as well, especially for those who have given in to the desperate pleadings for help from a friend (FWIW, the "helpers" usually get a slap on the wrist, but repeated offenses are more severe).

Research shows that many students benefit from collaborative learning. And that's good. So I facilitate it as much as possible. At the same time, I don't really enjoy it. Setting aside all the usual talk about how today's students compare to those of yesteryear, I will say that an effective classroom seems to more resemble a high school classroom (because the effective teaching techniques are the same),

Regarding expectations, and what I'll call student "maturity," about 2 out of 3 classes I teach are 200 level, and 1 out of 3 are 300 level. One semester I taught two straight-out-of-high-school 100 level classes, and I won't do it again. Being retired, I can simply walk away if I want to, and I told them that whenever they decide they don't want me any more, to just schedule me for 100 level classes, and I'll submit my resignation. So far, they haven't. Student demands and complaints, IMO, were excessive and ridiculous. I don't like to be the guy with a 15 page draconian syllabus laden with "no exceptions." So I just opt not to deal with it. By the time they get to the 200 level, they'll have had to pass 3 100 level courses, so they'll have better adjusted to college course work.

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Posted by: messygoop ( )
Date: December 30, 2020 04:18AM

I have read through the first 13 sections. I am both amazed and appalled for what Groberg did as a mission president. Basically, he promised to deliver an archaic and abstract goal of baptisms and then restructured the mission to accomplish it. He ruled with fear and intimidation. He rewarded those who shared his "vision" with leadership positions. Longtime missionaries who didn't catch his missionary spirit were demoted and humiliated. Elders were rated in their language skills, teaching finesse and grooming standards.

What amazed the most was that he acknowledged that the teaching methods of investigators IMPEDED his goal to bring thousands into the church. He essentially mandated that elders teach the "gist" of the discussions. It was all about convert baptism numbers. Surprisingly, Groberg noted a sound argument from a long time elder who resisted Groberg's shift of missionary goals. "It's better to have one convert who stays active in the church for a lifetime than baptize 15 who all become inactive before the missionary returns home."

After reading 13 sections, one thing is very clear. There is ZERO mention of praying or seeking ways to be inspired. Nope! It's all about structuring the mission for increased productivity through proper training, gimmicks [English classes disguised as Joe Smith camps] and proper discipline of mission personnel.

Why I had such a scare:

I realized a lot of techniques, missionary strategies [zone leaders being split to train new arrival mishies; pairing stronger baptizing elders with "non-baptizing" ones] were implemented in my mission in the late 1980s. I am unsure if Kroberg's method of running a mission was being shared at mission president's trainings or my mission president got ahold of this dissertation on his own and acted rogue.

I know this for a fact. Most of Kroberg's efforts backfired. It greatly eroded trust and respect of the church's missionary efforts and pressured way too many young people to meet impossible monthly/weekly baptismal goals [and blame themselves for not working hard enough, being unworthy, having some sort of unresolved sin]. Plus, a lot of people were never properly taught, just dunked and forgotten.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: December 30, 2020 04:44AM

If you haven't read the material in the archives on RfM, you may want to do so. The threads are short--they were edited--and contain a wealth of personal accounts by missionaries in that era.

My understanding of what happened during Groberg's tenure is that as you note, there was zero spirituality and no real effort to achieve genuine conversions. It was strictly a numbers game, and the costs imposed on the missionaries were extreme. What you say about the aftereffects is also correct. I spoke at length to a man who was an MP in Tokyo in about 2000 or 2005 and he said that they spent roughly half of the missionary hours tracking down Groberg converts to see if they 1) knew they were Mormons, and 2) had any interest in remaining such.

I have been told by more than one ex-missionary that the Tokyo South model was spread to other Asian missions at the time. Some MPs resisted what they saw as an illegitimate approach, others fell in line with no effort to protect their missions. I believe that Kikuchi was relieved of his office soon after Groberg left Japan and that the church tried to go back to the old systems. But in the late 1980s a mission president named Munz or Mann or something like that resurrected Groberg's program somewhere in Asia. I suspect other mission presidents in other parts of the world probably tried to adopt some Groberg tactics since they too wanted numbers that would impress the Q15.

To tell the truth, I can't imagine how much damage all of this did to the church in Japan or in the States. For there were many hundreds of missionaries touched by Groberg and Kikuchi and I don't know how they could have stayed in the church afterwards. Since the church used aptitude tests to decide who went where, with the brightest ones going to the places with the most difficult languages, Mormonism must have lost a lot of potential leaders. I hope those guys and gals are okay.

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Posted by: messygoop ( )
Date: December 30, 2020 11:53AM

Since I have read a lot of the dissertation, I clearly understand why BYU awarded this guy a PhD. He literally walked into a newly created mission that previously produced a handful of converts. He created a goal of 10,000 converts to bring into the church and then set about an ambitious plan to restructure the dynamics, culture and attitude.

He really changed the traditional roles of missionary work. For example, he felt that the "best" leaders were the Assistants to the President (AP's). In almost every mission, these two elders spent most of their time working inside the office. Groberg literally kicked them out and put them back in the "field" and only allowed them to spend one day a week planning zone conferences, transfers, ordering supplies etc.

As far as a dissertation, it is poorly written and doesn't deserve any praise as far as true academia is concerned. However, it is an amazing story how a mission president can completely change, transform and produce convert baptisms in a short period of time. He also praised the church leaders: Kikuchi. Kimball and Packer so how could BYU not recognize his efforts/techniques?

No, I am not praising him. I think he drove many young men and women to the brink of despair. However, if anyone served a church mission between 1980 and 2000, chances are you may have seen some of Groberg's techniques of missionary management in action: rewarding those who catch the mission president's "vision". Having a mission song, motto and logo. Using zone leaders, district leaders to ensure conformity of mission culture and sets of norms. He was also very efficient in developing efficient methods of missionary transfers, use of limited resources and ways to save the church money.

*Corrected his name



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/30/2020 05:04PM by messygoop.

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Posted by: Gordon B. Stinky ( )
Date: December 30, 2020 04:44PM

I'll defer to you and Lot's Wife re. the substance of the dissertation. But from my high-level pass it lacks true academic rigor, starting at the beginning where he explains that he's going to use an informal writing style.

To his credit, I see that there's a "problems" section, but as far as I can tell, there's no genuine critical assessment, let alone self-assessment. Not even text book "threats to validity." And the first problem is laughable: "One of the strengths of the study is also one of its weaknesses." This is reminiscent of the job applicant who's "weakness" is that he works "too hard."

Although it's received a veneer of academic structure, this thing is so laden with cultish confirmation bias that it's obviously "acceptable" at the cult's own school.


If I got the gist of the Numano paper, it's that these methods were actually detrimental to the converts, the missionaries, and even to TSCC itself. In other words, it was basically horrible all the way around, but the potential for those negative impacts doesn't even seem to be acknowledged in the "dissertation", let alone considered.

"I did all this stuff and it was great..."

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: December 30, 2020 05:02PM

His dissertation looks nothing like a "real" Ph.D. It lacks structure, is not based in others' analyses and hence can't explain what misconceptions it is correcting, and offers the scantest of all possible documentation. It's really a glorified journal.

Journals can be interesting, however, because of what they reveal. Groberg's confirms what he did, his motivations, and, through its silence on the topic, his complete lack of concern for the costs he was imposing on the missionaries, the members, and even the church. It is an unintentional mea culpa. The dissertation additionally confirms that BYU is not a serious university and will give a grad student his union card for virtually nothing.

On your point above about academic politics, I spend a lot of time around universities and researchers and am not at all surprised by your jaundiced view. My feeling has always been that academic politics is much like Washington but without the class.

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Posted by: Gordon B. Stinky ( )
Date: December 30, 2020 06:17PM

I'm not usually one to evaluate a work on it's page, word, or citation count, but did note the relatively low number of references. In that a typical ten-page paper usually has a page of references (and more often than not, even more), this by sheer volume ought to have upwards of 50 pages. Instead it has a very light smattering.

Again, not that it "must" have 50 pages, but the very small number would be indicative of this being little more than the author's opinions on his own experience. As LW mentioned, as a "journal" that can have value, or simply be interesting, but it isn't genuine research. A PhD is meant to be built on research, and is typically awarded when the candidate has demonstrated that they are capable of serious research. Awarding one for a non-research effort is dubious. It isn't research, and doesn't demonstrate that the candidate is capable of research.

Another recent thread linked to a video that discussed repackaging perspectives and suspending critical thinking in certain areas (I'm paraphrasing). This "dissertation" is so loaded with the "right" stuff, that there's no way any one at BYU was going to be critical of it. If it had been subjected to honest critical review, it likely wouldn't have passed the laugh test, let alone resulted in a PhD.

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Posted by: messygoop ( )
Date: December 30, 2020 07:21PM

It was a big deal for the church. They got a free ride to revamp their missionary program with half-ass anecdotal opinions, surveys and observations. I agree that it is pure nonsense as far as research and clinical work is concerned, but someone convinced BYU that Groberg was worthy of some sort of compensation.

In 1988, the church would roll out its Missionary Guide as a practical handbook how to find, teach, baptize and retain convert members. A huge chunk of Groberg's application of ideas are laid out in a methodical account.

My mission was huge about using the MG. In fact some of the elders who arrived at the mission home nearly shitted their pants. After eating a welcome/farewell dinner, my mission president told us newbies to go to the garage and grab their personal copy of the missionary guide. About 4 of them never realized that they would be required to use them in the field. A couple of elders confessed that they had chucked them at the MTC. One had attempted to discretely dump his set in the waste receptacle at the SLC airport. He wanted to make room for some brownies that his sister gave to him at the departure gate.

I suppose that I am a bad guy because I scooped up brand new sets of the MG and carried them around. Why?

Just about every zone conference, some sets of elders would show up without them. Guess who made 15 to 20 bucks for selling them an emergency set?

Yours truly and I still ended up on the MP's bad elder list :D

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Posted by: elderolddog ( )
Date: December 30, 2020 09:49AM

I like to suppose that BYU 'scholars' equated making converts with making money and that's why they 'respected' Groberg's paper.

One can then assign 'standards' to mormonism!

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Posted by: caffiend ( )
Date: December 30, 2020 10:50AM

Fascinating. What field was this Groberg "dissertation" in? Not "Doctor of Theology," I'm sure, what but? Did he use it as a teaching or research credential? Was he addressed as "Dr." or "Professor?"

In Christian Science, a Practitioner uses the initials "C.S." after her name. If she's a Teacher, she gets to use the initials "C.S.B." (My sister and late mother had that.) "Bachelor of Christian Science" always struck me as weird. No "Master of Christian Science." In the sect's early days, there were "D.D.'s," which stood for "Christian Science Divine." Get that! That rank was restricted to people who were instructed personally by Mary Baker Eddy. In orthodox religion, it's "Doctor of Divinity," not very common these days.

My mother and sister (and father) felt that their Christian Science was somehow more authentic or pure, in that their elderly teacher was had met Eddy when she was a girl, and learned her metaphysics during the period closest to Eddy's actual suzerainty. I joked that just as Eddy felt her sect's teachings were the restoration "primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing," my family's practice of CS was "the restoration of primitive Christian Science and its lost element of divine revelation."

Anyway, your thoughts on Groberg's exploitation (or not) of his Ph.D.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: December 30, 2020 05:07PM

I believe the doctorate was in Education. He didn't go far with it; he joined Stephen Covey in selling snake oil.

I'm told Groberg came to regret what he did in the Tokyo mission--that from an ex-missionary who met with him in 2000 or so. But Kikuchi has never betrayed a hint of second thoughts--or even first ones.

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Posted by: allegro ( )
Date: December 30, 2020 06:21PM

Lot's Wife said it perfectly,"Yes, it is astounding--and embarrassing--that BYU should have granted a Ph.D. for what was essentially Groberg's personal journal. But that's what happened, and that alone reveals the true value of a BYU education." When I was writing papers for my graduate program last year, I looked at papers on line, not to plagiarize, but to get an idea of structure. I had not written a paper in years. I came across several grad papers from BYU. OMG, they looked like middle school papers and they were given an A. If I wrote a paper like those papers, my professors would have thrown them in the trash.

But the other reason for writing, I was Sister Allegro 1980-1981. Groberg was(if I remember correctly) the regional rep for Arizona so he would participate in several zone conferences. Talk about "fire and brimstone". We would leave the meeting like we were verbally abused. The MP, who was just plain evil, would brow beat us after Groberg. It was all about numbers-period. It was also no secret he did not want sisters on the mission.

After a conference w/Groberg, the sisters were asked to give up our cars and ride bicycles because it was cheaper. We got together and said we will ride bikes if we can wear pants. Wow you would have thought we asked to kill somebody. So all the sister missionaries staged a "sit in" and we did not go out for a week until we got our cars back. We got them back. The DLs, ZLs, and APS were freaking out because the MP was helpless and the only thing he could do was yell. He was getting heat from Groberg.

I was looking at mission pictures a few days ago and I really did like most of the missionaries. Unfortunately what could have been a neat experience was ruined by management.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: December 30, 2020 07:26PM

Delbert Groberg was running the Tokyo mission in 1980-1981, so it probably wasn't him. I don't think he ever made the ranks of the GAs.

He has a brother named John Groberg, however, who was a GA. Could it have been him that you remember?

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Posted by: allegro ( )
Date: December 31, 2020 10:33AM

You know what? You are correct Lot's Wife. The person was John, sorry about that, but evidently like his brother, I hate the smiling benevolent faces in the pictures when in reality caused so much stress and sadness.

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Posted by: Beth ( )
Date: December 30, 2020 10:41PM

allegro Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> After a conference w/Groberg, the sisters were
> asked to give up our cars and ride bicycles
> because it was cheaper. We got together and said
> we will ride bikes if we can wear pants. Wow you
> would have thought we asked to kill somebody. So
> all the sister missionaries staged a "sit in" and
> we did not go out for a week until we got our cars
> back. We got them back. The DLs, ZLs, and APS were
> freaking out because the MP was helpless and the
> only thing he could do was yell. He was getting
> heat from Groberg.
>

I love this!

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Posted by: summer ( )
Date: December 31, 2020 12:10AM

Me, too. Rock on, sisters!

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Posted by: anonculus ( )
Date: December 31, 2020 10:22PM

>>>"Toward a synoptic model of instructional productivity"<<<

LOL... sounds like a title from a random generator.

I'm reminded of Alan Sokal's "Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity".

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: December 31, 2020 10:27PM

But it sounds intelligent, right? I bet that's what Groberg was aiming for.

It's a pity he couldn't work intersectionality into the title.

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Posted by: Gordon B. Stinky ( )
Date: January 01, 2021 02:49PM

Yep, the title is a two-parts mumbo-jumbo and one part gobbledegook, jammed together to sound intellectual! ;)

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Posted by: summer ( )
Date: January 01, 2021 04:22PM

When I was in grad school, I used to think of it as "Educationalese." It got so that I could sling it together so quickly and adeptly that it would sound good and pass muster quite easily. But I would always mentally roll my eyes while doing that.

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Posted by: Gordon B. Stinky ( )
Date: January 01, 2021 05:22PM

I don't want to impugn all research--I'm not a big researcher myself--but there does seem to be a little bit of gamesmanship involved in writing "academically."

Here's a classic Calvin & Hobbes on the subject: https://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/2013/02/14

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Posted by: summer ( )
Date: January 01, 2021 05:34PM

Ha! I love that. Yeah, that's what it's like (to me, at least.) Dress up your prose and take it out.

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Posted by: [|] ( )
Date: January 01, 2021 06:54PM


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Posted by: mankosuki ( )
Date: January 03, 2021 05:04PM

Just glad that I could take part and help with his thesis.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/03/2021 05:05PM by mankosuki.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: January 03, 2021 05:39PM

You are mentioned prominently in the Acknowledgements, so you may want to buy copies to give to your friends.

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