Educational practice is, arguably, a specific form of human experience.
Schutz describes “meaning” as a human reflection upon experience (or practice) making a distinction between experience and the meaning of that experience to the individual. In other words, what we do as teachers is not the same as the way we think about what we do.
In practice, as opposed to a discussion about practice, knowledge of what we do has to be embodied in order to be enacted. Experience is not “in itself” meaningful until we impose spatio-temporal constructs onto it.
Schutz, therefore, describes two types of being: 1) the meaningful stream of experience; and 2) the world of time and space. More recently cognitive scientists have described human cognition in terms of a dual processing system. One cognitive system is fast and intuitive, the other slower and more deliberate.
Bergson (2001) describes the former as the “dureé”, the duration spent within the “fast and intuitive” stream of experience:
Here there is no “side by sideness” and “no mutual externality of parts” only a “continual flux”, a stream of conscious state.
Consequently, Schon (1987) sees practice as “unique, uncertain and conflicted”, a kind of “professional artistry”. The most striking aspect of this “professional artistry” is that often the “professional performer” is unable to describe what they do or even to consciously comprehend the consequence of the actions undertaken.
Schon (1987) gives an example of the skilled physician being able to recognise a particular disease, on occasion, the moment an afflicted person walks into their office. This recognition seems to come immediately and holistically. Even after subsequent diagnosis, the skilled practitioner cannot explain how he came to make his judgment.
Similarly, Schon recounts examples of riding a bicycle, juggling, or other tasks achieved without the person accomplishing the act being able to describe how they did “it”. Michael Polanyi (1967) described this type of knowing as tacit knowledge.
Centre Forum, the liberal think tank, quoting the OECD suggests that there is a scarcity of data related to professional development. The OECD‘s own study (Table 1) suggests that:
After “Informal dialogue to improve teaching”, the most frequently reported activities were attending “Courses and workshops” (81%) and “Reading professional literature” (78%). The least common types of professional development were “Qualification programmes” (25%) and “Observation visits to other schools” (28%) (Table 1). However, patterns vary widely, particularly for the more structured types of activities. For instance:
There seems no reason to pre-suppose that the English education system is different to any other.The problem, it seems, with much professional development is that it becomes a discourse about the meaning of action as opposed to action itself.
Teachers can talk about “it” (whatever “it” is) but the question is whether they can actually do “it”. Much professional development in education takes the form of presentations of the latest pedagogic knowledge to passive recipients (see Table 1). The end of the year, one-fingered prod through a power-point is supposed to be transformational but completely ignores the fact that the knowledge transmitted has to be enacted in a classroom in the meaningful stream of practice.
In more mundane terms if educational leaders ran football they would have players in the classroom learning the theory of a free kick. Players would take to the field barely having kicked a ball.
The art of taking a free kick requires embodied knowledge developed by the smallness of repeated actions. The context has to be the circumstance that a free kick is enacted in practice, on the pitch with a ball.
As with most of my blogs, this has been written quickly in response to a twitter exchange. In this case tip of the hat to Sporticus.
As usual, I explain all grammatical, incoherence and sloppy writing on the immediacy of the response.