Learning across walls with Amy and Ruth


Amy Ludlow and Ruth Armstrong were at the University of Canberra today (I have an introductory post here). Lorana Bartels was their host for the day.

They came to discuss connections between universities and prisons (public institutions doing public good).

Amy and Ruth co-presented. They provided an epistemological background to their Learning Together work. I enjoyed their focus on students working with each other inspired by dialogical insights from Paulo Freire.

Their framework is informed by sociological, criminology and educational perspectives on socially emergent personhood. They located their practice in the communities of learning literature too.


In their conversations about growth, identity and stigma they drew attention to Victor Frankel on presupposing potential as well as discussions of aspirational hope.

They moved on to discuss Richard Sennett‘s work on interactive edges in communities. This helped explore some of the tensions that exist within universities and prisons around innovations in learning. This eased us into conversations about ethical communities of learning that are inclusive and enabling.

At the interactive edges there are opportunities for education to be a subversive good.

Amy and Ruth used some quotes to provide thick description to their presentation. I liked this from Andy:

This course helped me to come back from the corners of society. ‘Them’ and ‘us’ became ‘we’.

I appreciated the journey one student had made when he said at graduation:

This is the first time my family have seen me receive something other than a custodial sentence.

During questions at the end of their co-presentation, Amy and Ruth noted that the evaluation of the program had to be extremely sensitive to avoid any suggestion that this was an experiment. They talked about their use of participatory narrative inquiry to collect participants’ stories.


Participants use a story form to share their stories. These are collected as a formative evaluation of the project. The stories are shared openly within the learning community. These stories are stored digitally and can be analysed for use in meta-commentary of learning experiences.

The session ended with a delightful quote from David Hume:

Tis impossible to separate the chance of good from the risk of ill

… and Lorana’s news of the University of Canberra’s plans for Learning Together projects with partners in Queensland and hopefully in the ACT.

A wonderful way to spend a morning.

Dr Ron


Ron Smith received his PhD at a University of Canberra Awards Ceremony last week.

By a wonderful symmetry, the Ceremony was held at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Arena. Ron was a coach at the AIS from 1982 to 1996.

I think the picture sums up graduation delight.

The title of Ron’s thesis is An Investigation into Goal Scoring Patterns in Association Football.

His abstract is:

This thesis investigates goal scoring in professional association football. There has been a vibrant debate in the research literature about how goals are scored. Researchers have discussed the location of the scorer on the field of play, the number of touches of the ball taken, the type of pass, the number of passes in the sequence preceding each goal, and when in a game goals are scored. There has been a growing interest in identifying the most successful area of the field where the final pass leading to a goal was made and has led to debate about one area in particular, Zone 14. The quantification of the number of passes preceding goals has fueled debate about the tactical success of ‘possession based’ football and ‘Direct Play’. Approximately 90% of goals in association football are scored within 23 yards of the goal and the majority of these with less than five passes.

This research presented here analyzed goal scoring in Open Play to determine if the most successful method of gaining entry into the scoring area was from ‘Passing the ball behind opponents or to a player level with the last defender’, compared with ‘Crossing’ the ball and any ‘Other Methods’ that were not included in the other two categories. This new approach maps 7 areas of the field, rather than the 18 used in the extant literature, to record where the final pass was made in each category. It is argued that the use of 7 areas sensitive to the offside law yields a much better analysis of performance. Data were recorded about in which ‘third’ of the field possession was regained and the number of passes in each sequence. The thesis presents new operational definitions for the quantification of lost possession. It is argued that these definitions provide a more accurate account of events preceding goals specifically in relation to what the literature has regarded as ‘zero’ pass goals. Data for this study were gathered from three seasons of the English Premier League and the Australian ‘A’ League and three tournaments of FIFA World Cups and UEFA European Championships. A total of 3,175 goals in Open Play were analyzed. These data enabled comparisons to be made within and between league football and international tournaments. Goals were captured and coded with Sportscode Elite software. Data were analyzed with SPSS software V.19.

The results presented here report that the most successful method of scoring in all international tournaments and in 4 of the 6 league competitions was from ‘Passing the ball behind opponents’; the vast majority coming from an area identified as Zone 14+, the area between the half way line and the penalty area. The majority of goals were scored with 5 passes or less and from regained possessions in the middle third of the field in every competition. The least successful category for scoring in 11 of the 12 competitions was from ‘Crosses’. The evidence from this research provides coaches with the most effective of three strategies to score goals in professional association football while leaving them to decide how best to implement these strategies with the players at their disposal.

After the conferral, in the floodlights again.


Performance analysis and taking the role of the other



Last week, I researched Allan Roth‘s work as a baseball statistician.

Andy McCue’s article about Allan included this observation:

In December 1940, Roth wrote to Leland “Larry” MacPhail, president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, seeking an appointment to discuss work as a statistician. He tried again in June and August of the next year. He met MacPhail in the Mount Royal Hotel in Montreal and explained his ideas. MacPhail was, at best, noncommittal.

Four years later, Allan:

wangled a meeting with Rickey at the Dodgers spring training site in Bear Mountain, just north of New York City. It was a disaster, Roth said. The dinner included Mrs. Rickey and was in the main dining room of the Bear Mountain Inn, the premier hotel in the region. Rickey was constantly being interrupted by well-wishers. Roth despaired of making a coherent presentation. Finally, Roth told Rickey he didn’t think he was getting a fair shake. Asked what he wanted, Roth responded, “Ten minutes of your undivided attention.”

Charles Reep was having similar conversations with football managers in England (and had been doing so in the 1930s).

Allan and Charles had insights they wanted to share. The difficulty was to be taken seriously. Both were keen to augment the tacit knowledge of baseball and football managers and to do so as ‘outsiders’.


Messages and Messengers

Whilst I was researching Allan’s career, Rob Carroll published a post ‘You want to be a performance analyst?‘.

Rob has some excellent, hard-hitting advice for aspiring performance analysts:

Before you read my advice here is what is ahead of you should you be one of the lucky ones to get inside a club. Unsociable hours, working in one of the most volatile industries in the world. You will undoubtedly have to spend some time working for free before you get paid around £16-18k for your first few years, if you can get a paying job. You can expect to work 60+ hours a week and sometimes for managers who don’t really know what you do or understand why you do it. But everyone has analysts so they have to be seen to be modern and keep you around in case someone asks where the analyst is.

In sharing his insights, Rob raises some vital issues for performance analysis as a craft and the work ethic that is required to grow into the role … should you be fortunate to be offered an opportunity. Like Rob, I do not see an MSc as the entry requirement to the craft guild.

Oliver Gage posted at the same time too. Oliver was equally frank in his post.

Whilst the coaches and GM’s are playing in front of thousands of fans and signing autographs, the analysts are at school studying economics, algebra and learning essential programming and data viz skills. They have very little in common with each other and if they met at a social function, the conversation would probably not get past awkward questioning and painful silences.

Oliver includes in his account some powerful insights as to how messages and messengers might find ways to connect with coaches and players.

Taking Rob’s insights and Oliver’s observations, I think if we are fortunate to be employed in a club or sport, then there is a lot to be said for ‘being around‘ and able, as they say in sociology, to take the role of the other.

I have a matrix in mid to propose about ‘being around’ and role taking.


Taking the Role of the Other

Many years ago I was introduced to the works of Wilhelm Dilthey, Max Weber, Georg Simmel and George Herbert Mead. Their discussions about the self and the possibilities of understanding other people’s perspectives have made a lasting impression on me.

George Herbert Mead proposes that “anticipatory experiences are fundamental to the development of language”. We can place ourselves in the positions of others “—that is, to anticipate their responses—with regard to our linguistic gestures” . This enables us to take the role of a generalised other and make social interaction possible.

In their discussion of role-taking and role-making, Dennis Brassett and Charles Edgley (2006:86) make the following point about orienting our behaviour to others:

Roles “exist” in varying degrees of concreteness and consistency, while the individual confidently frames behaviour as if they had unequivocal existence and clarity.

They add:

in attempting from time to time to make aspects of the roles explicit they create and modify roles as well as merely bringing them to light; the process is not only role-taking but role-making. (2006:86)

These observations seem particularly apposite in the context of Rob and Oliver’s conversations about performance analysis. They connect too with the experiences of early analysts like Charles and Allan.

For some time now, I have been thinking about the personal skills performance analysts might bring to their chosen vocation. I am hopeful that this matrix may help in framing our “anticipatory experiences” with coaches and managers.

I think that the nine relationships present enable conversations that affirm role-taking and start that wonderful process of role-making.


The terms ‘beginner’, ‘developer’ and ‘advancer’ are relative terms not absolutes.

Each of us has created our own personal learning environments. So where we locate ourselves within this matrix is negotiable. We can be honest as well as modest.

I am hopeful that I have managed to experience all nine of these cells and in doing so have been fortunate to take and make roles as an analyst. I trust that the matrix conveys the entanglement of analysis and coaching.

I have found Rob and Oliver’s posts very powerful triggers for my reflections. I am sure they would empathise with Charles and Allan too.

I wonder if the matrix might help us construct narratives as examples of practice at a time when the integration of analysis and analytics is becoming an everyday experience in high performance sport settings.

Photo Credits

Wilbert Robinson, coach, New York NL Giants (Library of Congress, no known copyright restrictions)

Dr Julius Neubronner’s Miniature Pigeon Camera (jwyg, CC BY-SA 2.0)

New York Subway Illustration