How to account for performance?


Biography plays a fundamental role in how each of us observes and records performance. In addition to our practices of observation, each of us negotiates how we integrate theory into our practice.

In my own case, I am mindful of how my qualitative turn has impacted on the ways in which I see performance and how I build my narrative around it.

I think this is why I am so attracted to descriptive -analytic and analytic narrative accounts of performance. Many years ago, I was introduced to the work of William Anderson. In this post I outline some of his work as an important contribution to accounts of teaching and coaching.

William Anderson

Back in 1971, William Anderson wrote about descriptive analytic research on physical education teaching (link).

In his introduction, whilst at Teachers’ College, Columbia University, William noted “many persons appear to be turning to descriptive research because it seems to be attacking some of the problems which have plagued past research”.

He added that the principal concern of the descriptive process “is to collect accurate descriptive records of events in actual classrooms and to analyze these records in a way that enables a better understanding of the events”. These records ” provide a picture of real world events (classroom interaction) which lead to a deeper understanding of the teaching process”.

William concludes “even a modest descriptive research effort promises to bring closer together the enterprise of research and the job of teaching”.

Seven years later, William developed his work on descriptive analysis in his study of behaviour in the gymnasium. His 1971 and 1978 papers inspired a generation of researchers in physical education including Michael Metzler, Stephen Siverman, Judith Placek, Judith Rink and those with a particular interest in Academic Learning Time–Physical Education (ALT–PE).

He had a formative impact on me too as I sought to extend his observations to the interaction between observations of coaching and athlete performance with changes in coach behaviour and understanding. Amongst many issues he raised was the place od systematic observation of coach behaviour (link).


I do have the opportunity to return to primary sources as a reflect on the process of observation. In the case of William, I believe that the issues he addressed in the 1970s are fundamental to our quest today. For me, they are part of a praxis that seeks to integrate theory and practice and enables conversations about coaching.

Photo Credit

Nick Croft on Unsplash


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