Monday, November 09, 2015

The body in professional practice, learning and education - book overview

A book edited by Bill Green(Charles Sturt University) and Nick Hopwood (University of Technology, Sydney), published 2015 by Springer as part of the series on professional and practice-based learning. Read the ebook accessed over the last week through CPIT library.

15 chapters in 4 parts

Part 1 – Introductions
Chapters 1 and 2 by the editors provide a foundation with overviews of role of body in practice.
On professional practice as embodied, performed by material and corporeal beings, in specific space-time. Reasons for the topic and themes in the book discussed. Frameworks anchoring the studies and concepts introduced through the book are briefly discussed. Includes works from philosophers exampled by Aristotle, Witttgenstein, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Schatzki; feminist literature of Butler and Grosz, sociology of the body with Shilling and Turner and the poststructuralist theories from Foucault, Derrida and others. The relevant contemporary work on ‘professions’ and ‘embodiment’ also reviewed briefly, providing good grounding for any future work.
Defines practice, rationalises the reasons for researching the topic. Recommends research methods including combination of ethnography and discourse analysis framed by actor-network theory or  cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT).

Origins and chapter summaries also provided in the first chapter.

In the second chapter, the theoretical underpinnings supporting the various discussions in the book are previewed, summarised and discussed. There is an overview and discussion of Schatzki’s conceptualisation of ‘being a body, having a body’, the instrumental body’ and relevance to practice. The aspects of performance and habituation are also considered.

Part 2 – thinking with the body in professional practice
Chapter 3 by Margaret Somerville and Karen Vella on ‘sustaining the change agent: Bringing the body into language in professional practice’.  A complex chapter whereby Feminist thought is used to study how organisational change affects professional practice. The PhD supervisor, Somerville and the Phd student, Vella, use an experience working with fabric, to assist in the unpacking of the nuances of embodied experiences.

Next a chapter by Nick Hopwood on ‘relational geometries of the body: doing ethnographic fieldwork’. This draws on personal ethnographies from the author and how ‘body geometries’ can be used to theorise what occurs to the ethnographer as he is steeped in fieldwork.

Chapter 5 with Mary C. Johnnson on ‘Terroir and time space: body rhythms in wine making’. An interesting chapter bringing together the findings on how bringing the body through embodiment with work and the practices of wine making, leads to the discovery of the body rhythms’ roles in learning and continuing practice.

Jo Anne Reid and Donna Mathewson Mitchel provide a chapter on ‘inhabiting the teaching body: portraits of teaching’. Provides good overviews of ‘embodiment’ through practice. How ‘teacherly’ action is adopted. The context of the article is pre-service teacher education and how to prepare beginning teachers to become in touch with their body as teacherly thinking and actions through interaction with material practices and arrangements occur. There is an examination of how expertise develops through experience, as novice teachers ‘fashion’ themselves to diagnose and act pedagogically.

Dianne Mulcahy writes another teaching themed chapter with ‘body matters: the critical contribution of affect in school classrooms and beyond’. The chapter follows on well from the previous. Seeks to break the cognitive bias of studying education to include trying to understand the how emotion impacts on how our bodies interact with ‘objects and spaces’. Uses actor-network theory as a means to unravel the interactions and envisages the many inter-relations between human and material objects as ‘assemblages’ as based on work by Deleuze and Guattari. Has good overview on the affect and bodies – summarising what bodies do and the kinds of practice thinking that informs doing.

Last chapter in this section is with Bill Green on ‘thinking bodies: practice theory, Deleuze and professional education’. Reviews the work of Deleuze and contributions to what it means to think of the body in a post-cartesian frame. Work of Schatzki’s also discussed. The chapter uses the example of how teachers teach reading, to provide frameworks from which the work of Deleuze and others may be understood. In particular, the perspective of the classroom as a ‘corporate body’ whereby the bodies of teacher and students align through activity to try to meet the activity’s goals.
Part 3 relates to the body in question in health and professional education and practice, perhaps of less relevance for the moment, but these chapters ‘show the way’ of how to integrate thinking about practice within specific practice contexts.

In chapter 9, Stephen Loftus writes on ‘embodiment in the practice and education of health professionals’. The chapter is narrative in nature, drawing on the author’s early experiences in medical practice. The need for empathy is a theme through the chapter and understanding the embodied body is one approach to better become a health professional.

The next chapter by Erika R. Katzman is on ‘embodied reflexivity: knowledge and the body in professional practice’. Brings together aspects of embodiment and reflection and how ‘embodied reflexivity leads to improved professional practice. Has overviews of each of the concepts, embodiment, reflection, embodied reflexivity, as understood or applied to a health context. The chapter revolves around the experiences of the author as an ‘attendant’ to a patient who is bedridden. How the author came to know her patient’s body and had to intervene when she saw changes in the patient’s bed sores but due to her position, had great difficulty obtaining assistance.

Then, a chapter on ‘embodied practise in dialysis care: on (para) professional work’ by Lara L Ellingston. The work of para-professionals working with dialysis patients is analysed through ethnographical methods  to foreground principles of embodiment.

Chapter 12 is on ‘(per)forming the practice(d) body: Gyneacological teaching associates in medical education’ by Jody Hall. Uses the experiences of gynaecological teaching associates (GTAs) to unravel the complex processes underlying how they assist medical students to learn how to perform pelvic examinations by allowing students to use them as patients. The author is a GTA and uses her ‘insider’ eyes to bring forth the stories of GTAs, their challenges.

The next chapter focuses on ‘the (de)fragmented body in nursing education’ by Sandra DeLuca, Pat Bethune-Davies and Janice Elliot. Explores how the use of simulations / virtual learning experiences used to educate nursing students, may lead to disembodiment.

Last chapter in section 3 is with Sally Denshire who writes on ‘looking like an occupational therapist: (re)presentations of her comportment within autoethnographical tales’. An example of using autoethnography to unpack the many socio-material aspects of occupational therapy.

The last section and chapter provides concluding reflections from Elizabeth Anne Kinsella on ‘embodied knowledge: towards a corporeal turn in professional practice, research and education’. The rationalisation for the need to widen perspectives on understanding practice is the main focus of this chapter. Not only the socio-material but also potentially difficult aspects (emotional or social taboos etc.) are brought to attention through the various research approaches sympathetic to examining emotions, embodiment etc.

Overall, a good compilation of contemporary work on practice / embodied practice and in consequence, the flow on impacts on embodied thinking, reflection etc. Each chapter takes a slightly different slant on the topic. The work of Schatzki crops up often along with Deleuze, Foucault, Heidigger and Meleau-Ponty, signalling the need for me to get into more reading to get my head around the various perspectives. 

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