Monday, February 25, 2013

Participation in a community of practice - non-participation as peripheral or marginal

Re-reading parts of Wenger, E. (1998). Communities ofPractice (CoP): Learning, meaning and identity. Getting my head around concepts of participation and non-participation in answer to comments from a peer reviewer on an article I have just re-submitted on the topic of ‘proximal participation’.

Proximal participation arose as a concept in my PhD thesis - 'belonging, becoming and being a baker. The term was used to explain how young people with poor academic attainment and limited idea of career opportunities, fell into a baking apprenticeship. These apprentices had all worked as cleaners, dish washers, retail or catering assistants for period of up to a year in the bakery, before an apprenticeship came up and they were offered an indenture. All of these apprentices provided data about how working in the bakery as ancillary workers, provided them the opportunity to view work in the bakery. Many had started to build relationships with other workers in the bakery and establish a sense of belonging to the workplace. All had little pre-conception as to what the trade of baking entailed. Proximal participation as ancillary workers meant they were exposed to the many work roles in the bakery workplace and to the challenges of craft baking.

Wenger includes an explanation of non- participation as either peripheral or marginal (chapter 7). Peripheral participants are poised on the edge of entry into a CoP and transition into becoming legitimate peripheral participants (LPPs) if individuals are keen to become members of a CoP. On the other end, marginal participants may be prevented through lack of social capital or mismatch of interests from actually becoming LPPs. I sort of see the role of proximal participation as assisting individuals to find out if they are an affinity to the CoP they are partially immersed into. If they see a fit, then at some stage, the proximal participation itself provides opportunities for them to build relationships with other CoP members. These relationships may ease the transition of marginal participants into becoming LLPs, circumventing individuals’ difficulties in entering the CoP.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The mind at work – book summary

Rose, M. (2004). The mind at work: Valuing the intelligence of the American worker. New York. NY: Penguin Books.

While out tramping at the end of January, I took along MikeRose’s book, purchased second hand via Amazon. The paperback book is small and light enough to add to the tramping pack but provides a good solid amount of before bedtime reading. After the preliminary read during the tramp, I have worked through the various ‘bookmarked’ parts of the book and these are now summarised.

I first read this book at the University of Canterbury library several years ago, as one of the books to read on workplace learning. A few parts were pertinent to my thesis but the majority I have had to put aside. Now, much of the material in this book has relevance to the ‘learning a trade’ project. see here for completed project resources

Rose’s writing style makes the book an accessible read and he interweaves stories from his own biography. He makes use of the experiences of his mother, a waitress and his uncle, a car finisher to augment research ‘case study’ interviews / observations with hairdressers and novice carpenters, plumbers and electricians. The main argument across the book is the need to value forms of intelligence that are not tested through IQ tests.

 The introductory chapter provides a succinct overview of the key ideas through the book – that all work is skilled although some take less time to learn then others. Everyone who works has to use their ‘smarts’ in order to complete their work with integrity. Work is fulfilling in many ways for people, providing opportunities to socialise, learn specialist skills, become part of a ‘brotherhood’ and earn a wage. Work that is mainly seen to be physical / blue collar, still involves a large range of cognitive skills to be learnt.  The terms intelligence, cognition and skill are defined and discussed as these terms are used through the book –notes on these terms provide the academic references.

Following chapters (1 through to 6) summarise the physical and cognitive demands of occupations – 

- waitressing  (memory, task prioritisation, judgement, people relationship skills, ability to read the context in order to do enough to get the most tip!)

- hairdressers (aesthetic dimension of hair styling, bringing together knowledge of hair and chemistry, tactile skills to work out how to shape different types of hair, fine motor skills – cutting air, putting on curlers etc., visualisation of how a cut will look on a client, ‘counselling skills’ to help customers find the right styles, build rapport etc. )

- plumbing (working with tools and materials, attitudes of craftsmanship, ability to ‘see the whole picture’, problem solving using logic and access to plumbing theory, knowledge of materials etc. important role of mentors in helping disenfranchised young people return to learning)

- carpentry (vocabulary – both text, tactile and spatial, application of arithmetic to specific problems, ability to read plans, visualise in 3D, how to work efficiently through learning tricks of the trade, visual estimation and judgement skills)

- electricians (aesthetics – neat wiring that is also functional, craftsmanship – doing a job well, physics of electrical circuits coupled with problem solving, working with something that is ‘invisible’, making sense of symbols used in electrical plans, applying maths to practice),

- welders (tactile knowledge with difficult tools, multiple materials and welding methods,  reading plans)

 - teaching a trade (compassion, ability to empathise, move from trade worker to teacher, dissect tacit knowledge to make accessible to students)

- motor vehicle finishing (tactile knowledge, persistence in assembly line work, problem solving and innovations to improve quality and save time/ money / increase productivity, ability to find the problem).

Chapter 7 on rethinking hand and brain provides a comparison of blue collar labour with the work of surgeons and physical therapists (occupational  / physiotherapists). Matching the commonalities between how new surgeons have to learn practical skills akin to those of trades people and yet, there is an honouring of surgeons’ skills but nor of the panel beater.

Chapter 8 – hand and brain in school provides a historical overview of the American vocational education systems and how things can be different.  What perhaps is already happening now in NZ, where there is the embedding of literacy and numeracy into authentic learning through pre-trade training programmes and through ‘trade academy’ courses.  Avoiding the reading /writing to be taught only by English teachers and the trades by ‘shop’ instructors.

The conclusion brings the various threads together. The brain and hand work synchronously together, one cannot be separated from the other. To learn a trade is to work dynamically both with brain and hand. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

vocational pedagogy report - summary

This report came through late in 2012 through my Google Scholar alerts and opened up a good resource for all vocational educators to explore. The report is written with practitioners in mind, so well laid out and written in clear language.

The 2012 report builds on work by Professors Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas (who lead the Centre for LifeLong learning at the University of Winchester) including the following:
Bodies of Knowledge; how the learning sciences could transform practical and
vocational education (2010). London: Edge Foundation. see blog entry for summary.

Mind the Gap; Research and reality in practical and vocational education (2010).
London: Edge Foundation.  - which reviews the current state of Practical and Vocational Education
(PVE), drawing on research from across the world.

The Pedagogy of Work-based Learning: A brief overview commissioned by the
DCSF 14-19 Expert Pedagogy Group (2010). London: DCSF - describing some of the main traditions in the pedagogy of work-related learning. 

The need for a vocational education pedagogy is outlined in the introduction section. In the second section, the approach used is substantiated, including some ‘contextual notes’ about the lack of a vocational pedagogy due to the lack of clarity about the purposes of Voc. Ed. (see blog on Billett’s book for a deeper discussion); the dual professional identity of  vocational practitioners as teachers (see previous work on boundary crossing from tradeworker to trades tutor); inadequate models and poor analogies for Voc. Ed. ; and reluctance of Voc. Ed. Teachers to use ‘theory’.

Page 30 – the report at a glance, provides a graphical guide to the rest of the report.
Goals (Section 3) and Outcomes (Section 4) are then summarised – these draw on previous reports produced by the authors – as above.

Section 5 introduces the teaching methods that work. Learning by watching, imitation, practicing, through feedback, through conversation, by teaching and helping, by real-world problem solving, through inquiry, critical thinking, listening / transcribing and remembering, drafting and sketching, reflecting, ‘on the fly’, being coached, competing, through virtual environments, simulations and playing games. I will draw on these for current project - learning a trade - now funding is approved by Ako Aotearoa Southern Hub.

Section 6 lays out the Voc. Ed. contexts for the students (motivations and perceptions); teachers  and settings (physical space & culture of learning).

Section 7 on designing vocational pedagogy provides a framework to bring together the ways in which decisions can be made about Voc. Ed. pedagogy.  Ten dimensions are introduced with continuums between ‘poles’ so that the discipline / context / learner etc. can be considered.  Examples include 
- role of teacher as being from facilitative to didactic; 
- nature of activities to be learnt as being authentic to contrived; 
- the means of knowing to be from practice to theory; attitude to knowledge to range from questioning to certain; 
- organisation of time is extended or bound; 
- organisation of space as workshop to classroom;
- approach to task as group to individual; visibility of process as obvious to hidden; 
- proximity teacher between virtual to f2f; and 
- role of learner from self-managed to directed.

Worked examples included for plumbing (being materials focused), child care (people focused) and accountancy (symbols focused).

Overall, a good guide and beginning towards investigating vocational education pedagogy. The report provides a framework to organise vocational education curriculum. However, common understanding of the framework needs to be established amongst vocational educators. This will take time and is dependent on adoption and support by National bodies and teachers of vocational educators.  So some ‘marketing’ required of the concepts and frameworks proposed. This may be planned to occur in the UK but there will be little traction in NZ for the moment, due to unfamiliarity with the concepts. In NZ, there is also a need to allow for cultural diversity and relate frameworks to Maori pedagogy and other ways of doing. Plus tweaking to the NZ Voc. Ed. system to allow for smoother pathways from school to work / tertiary / vocational education. 

Monday, February 04, 2013

Skill Acquisition in Sport – 2012 edition – book review

Skills Acquisition in Sport - Second Edition -
Edited by Nicola Hodges and Mark Williams
This edition contains brand new chapters (21) collated into 4 parts. The book is an up to date / ‘state of the play’ with regards to sports’ skill acquisition and has much to offer vocational educators seeking to improve their teaching by learning how to enhance motor skills training techniques. Relevant chapter main points summarised.

Part 1 – Presenting information
 Chapter 1
R. A. Magill and D.A. Anderson
The roles and uses of augmented feedback in skill acquisition

**2 types of feedback available - sensory system (task-intrinsic feedback) and external feedback (augmented, external, extrinsic feedback) from coaches, teachers, trainers, or training device. Article focuses on augmented feedback with possibility of providing knowledge of result (KR) or knowledge of performance (KP).
Forms and uses of augmented feedback then discussed including merits and guidelines for verbal augmented feedback. Amount needs to consider short term memory limits and prior experience of learners. Content includes using correct cues (e.g. clock face direction), limiting to one process at a time, identifying and prioritizing mistakes to be corrected using a two-step decision process and allowing learners to work out how to self-correct if possible.
Non-verbal feedback using a variety of training devices in different sports provided as examples (e.g. swimming using different types of flippers to train specific muscle groups).
Theory based guideline for offering augmented feedback based on guidance hypothesis then presented.
Future direction for research include finding out which aspect of performance requires augmented feedback, how and when to provide and what are effects over a long period of practice

Chapter 2
Mixing it up a little: how to schedule observational practice
N. T. Ong and N. J. Hodges
This chapter discusses ‘when and how’ to provide demonstrations.
Recommends – early observation of a skill is useful to novice learners so that learners are able to begin building their own conceptual framework of the activity. So generally, before practice demonstration is more effective that during practice. Learner control may have benefits as well. Mixed practice refers to using both demonstration and practice, not just one method for learning motor skills.
Learners are encouraged to seek a demonstration as required – dependent on their own KR of the progress. In some tasks, demonstrations may compensate for some practice time.

Chapter 3
Attentional focus effect movement efficiency
K.R. Lohse, G. Wulf and R. Lewthwaite
Recommends that learners focus on EXTERNAL feedback rather than internal. Coaches etc. should therefore be careful to ensure that verbal feedback encourages learners to pay attention to external features of movements and not draw attention away from this.

Chapter 4
Advances in implicit motor learning
R.S. Masters and J.M. Poolton
Sort of supporting the above chapter, studies in using analogies to improve skills in table tennis and basketball are used to explain the following.  Learners are encouraged to work towards whole skill targets – move the bat as if travelling up the side of a mountain’ or ‘shoot as if you are trying to put cookies into a cookie jar’ instead of breaking the task down into small steps and for the learner to construct their own strategy through trial and error.  Basically, for motor skills – cut to the chase – rather than over-analysing each movement.  Works perhaps because the human body is already ‘well-trained’ in most motor movement and overanalysing, may lead to confusion of the ‘innate process’ for laying down neural pathways to assist with accomplishment of motor tasks.

Part 2 – Optimising practice conditions
Chapter 5
Contextual interference: generalizability and limitations
T. D. Lee
Discusses the pros and cons of different scheduling protocols on learning skill. The term contextual interference (CI) effect is used to explain how differences in the organisation of practice, impacts on learning. Initial acquisition of skill favour block practice (i.e. repetition of skill to be learnt). However, after initial acquisition, random practice leads to higher quality learning ie. ability to be flexible in response to a range of contexts. 
Large numbers of studies have found that CI is now limited to lab tests, practice in single session, CI is not limited to task outcomes, is not only found with young adults, not limited to motor learning, or to learners who expect the effect.

Chapter 6
Mental imagery, action observation and skill learning
A.Moran, M. Campbell., P. Holes and T. McIntyre
Overviews some studies on the efficacy of mental practice (MP) to improvement of performance in a range of sports (golf, tennis, swimming, finger strength, strength performance etc.). Summarises the theories of MP including neuromuscular model; cognitive / symbolic approach; bio-information theory and the PETTLEP. This is an emergent area and important to continue to understand how athletes construct MP.

Chapter 7
Ecological dynamics and motor learning design in sport
K. Davids, D. Araujo, R. Hristovski, P. Passos and J.Y Chow
Takes the view that individuals approach learning from different starting points. Goal is for all learners to achieve ‘experthood’ and for learning to be based on practice that will assist in the attainment of expert practice. Therefore, starting skill or expertise level of learner to be taken into account; understanding of the overall goal of the training needs to be identified; and primary constrains to learning need to be manipulated, or accounted for in the training process.

Chapter 8
The representation, production and transfer of simple and complex movement sequences
C.H. Shea and D.L. Wright
Seeks to explain how understanding the sequence or structure of movement, assist with optimising training. Imagery does not have to encompass the whole task but ‘unravels’ as the task proceeds Example provided is where pianist will retrieve relevant parts of a piece of music, as the instrument is played. Therefore when learning what to ‘upload’ when, it is important to establish movement structure. Learning of movement sequence is impacted by practice extent, schedule and influenced by non-practice factors (for example amount of sleep).
Experts organise the sequence of movement without mental effort, the challenge is to assist novices to learn the task, assist the formation of efficient sequence of movement and be able to transfer the learning to a range of similar tasks.

Chapter 9
Physical guidance research: assisting principles and supporting evidence
N.J. Hodges and P. Campagnaro
Physical guidance involves coaches physically guiding learners movements (haptic guidance) or use of mechanical equipment (passive guidance). Guidance of this sort is recommended for tasks that are difficult to learn and /or might be dangerous to perform without guidance (diving, ski-jumping, trampoline or gymnastics). The pros and cons of guidance of this form are discussed. Recommendations that guidance should be administered through a schedule of ‘fading’ so as to build learner independence; level of guidance and technique to be used determined by individual’s learning needs; and includes active involvement of the learner.

Part 3 – issues in motor learning
Chapter 10
Motor learning through a motivational lens
R. Lewthwaite and G. Wulf
As practice is critical to attaining motor skills, motivation of individuals needs to be also taken into account. Aspects that affect individuals’ motivations include perceived competence; role of positive feedback; and conceptions of ability. Providing learners with autonomy to act on feedback either through coaches of using assisted devices to gather ‘augmented task information and movement demonstrations all assist learners to maintain motivation.

Chapter 11
Motor skill consolidation
M. Tempe and L. Proteau
One of the longer chapters in the book covering some important ideas about how learning is only the first step. Practice is required to ensure neural linkages and strengthened and the relevant motor control areas in the brain are exercised and sometimes enlarged. Sustained practice to consolidate and stabilise performance is required. Practice need not be ‘situated’ or physical but includes ‘offline learning’ – whereby learners ‘digest’ practice and improve performance through perhaps visualisation or internal imagery, rest and sleep. Therefore important to allow time for skills to ‘bed down’ along perhaps with providing strategies to undertake ‘offline’ learning.

Chapter 14
Motor skill learning and its neurophysiology
K.P. Wadden, M.R.Borich and L.A. Boyd
The brain is ‘neuroplastic’. The chapter describes changes in the brain as motor learning is undertaken and consolidates; summarises the current research on what happens to the brain with short-term, within session changes and with long term, more permanent changes; what areas of the brain change during the various stages of motor learning; and what brain networks work together to support motor learning.
Practice and experience leads to recorded changes in brain neural networks and structure.
Part 4 – skilled performance

Chapter 15
The development of skill in sport
J.Cote, J. Murphy-Mills and B. Abernethy
Compares two approaches to talent development in sports. The deliberate practice and one in which later specialisation is possible through development of a range of skills through for instance ‘play’. Findings include early diversification can still lead to later elite performance’ early diversification linked to longer sports careers; early diversification allows for participation and learning of a wider range of positive skill sets; deliberate practice may lead to solid intrinsic motivation; high amount of deliberate practice play establishes motor and cognitive experience that can be transferred to principal sport; end of primary school may be good time to choose specialisation; and late adolescent time to invest in highly specialised training in one sport.

Chapter 16
Anticipatory behaviour and expert performance
B.Abernethy, D. Farrow, A.D. Gorman and D.L. Mann
Overviews the expert performance approach to skill acquisition. In particular summarises and discusses the ability to anticipate or predict events. This skill is important in many sports where speed in decision making and ability to adjust rapidly are important. Includes not only ability to predict fast movement but also have good overview / ‘read the play’ type skills which are important for strategic decision making. Strategies to increase anticipatory behaviour presented.  Visual-perception training approach needs to identify the limiting factor to be improved; device a suitable training medium to address the training need; and ensure improvements lead to enhancement in factor focused on.

Chapter 17
Perceptual expertise: What can be trained?
J. Causer, C.M. Janelle, J.N.Vickers and A.M. Williams
The ‘quiet eye’ approach for training visual acuity in sports like archery, shooting and basketball is backgrounded. Then the range of perceptual-cognitive skills that contribute to athletes being able to anticipate and make decisions in racquet and team sports also discussed. A good follow up chapter 16 and useful for skills requiring accuracy in targeting and visual overviews for rapid decision making.

Chapter 18
Embodied cognition: From the playing field to the classroom
B.Kontra, N.B. Albert and S.L. Beilock
Covers the ground of expertise leading to observable physical / structural changes in brain. Skills attained through practice of motor-skills may transfer across to specific higher-level cognitive activities – like learning language and comprehension of scientific concepts. The chapter uses studies on expertise (London cab drivers) and musicians and studies on embodiment exampled include ballet dancers and capoeira (Brazilian martial arts) practitioners.

Overall, much in this book to constantly dip into for insights. In the past decode, much progress has been made in the sports psychology discipline on skills learning. Vocational educators need to tap into this source of rich literature and work already completed to inform on better ways to design curriculum and engage students learning trade skills.