Remote teaching: articulating the nature of the problem Part 1

Due to the current COVID-19 situation I have offered an alternative assessment for participants on my Level 7 Educational Enquiry module. I thought I would share an adapted version of some of the work I have produced in providing guidance for this alternative assessment.

This first section draws on the reflective practice of Donald Schön.

Donald Schön, observes that in normal circumstances practice can be become repetitive and routine. This often means that we don’t really think about what we are doing. A disruptive experience such as COVID-19 provides a good opportunity to not only think about what we are currently having to do in these exceptional times but also what we have been doing previously and what we might be doing then things return to ‘normal’. With reference to the practice of medicine Schön states that 85% of ‘real-life’ practice is not in the ‘book’. In other words there is much we do in our professional practice as an expert in our subject (and as a teacher) that is very difficult to articulate. This is sometimes referred to as tacit knowledge. Much of this difficult to articulate knowledge comes in the form of very minor adjustments.

For example you might take a look this short You Tube video in which (now retired) rugby player Jonny Wilkinson provides some guidance on how to kick a goal in rugby. He talks about putting the ball onto the tee, the angle at which to place the ball (which is important as the ball is oval rather than a sphere like most balls) the which part of the foot you should use when kicking the ball and where exactly to strike the ball. So even in this two-minute instructional video there are multiple factors to consider.

We can watch this video and may find it very helpful. We might think we have grasped some of the theory well, but we don’t really know how well until we take our rugby ball out to park and try to put it into practice.

However, that is not the end as there are lots of further complications in practice. Some of these are fairly easy to identify for a casual fan of the sport. For example, how might the wind affect your practice of kicking? Also in rugby, you will be taking kicks a minute or so after you have been running around and getting bashed about playing rugby so you may be tired or injured. Rugby kicking also involves different angles, and then there’s the effect of the spectators who may be wanting to put you off.

However, while I as non-expert can identify further factors that need to be considered that even an expert like Jonny Wilkinson may find it difficult to articulate fully. Schön references baseball pitchers, but whatever sport we choose the sportsperson will be making a lot of very minor adjustments to respond to the complexity of the situation. Maybe there are situations where Jonny Wilkinson might use a slightly different part of his foot or strike a slightly different part of the ball. He may or not be able to articulate exactly what these minor adjustments are.

Donald A Schön (1984) The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think In Action. New York: Basic Books

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