I have had a delightful year thinking about and researching performance in sport and education.
I have been fortunate to have spent much of the year as a Fellow in Teaching and Learning at the University of Canberra. This position has given me an opportunity to explore educational technologies and pedagogy. I have been thinking about support for students’ and teachers’ personal learning journeys too.
The University is considering how it might support a career pathway for teachers that has equal value to a research pathway. I have been investigating how the University can use an amalgam of analytics and narrative to underpin reflection on and in performance to support the teacher pathway. I am hopeful that conversations about teaching performance will be appreciative and formative. At the end of each year there is an opportunity for a capstone conversation that feeds forward to the next phase of the teacher’s pathway.
This commitment to feed forward has, for me, a profound ethical dimension. It values and encourages perspective-taking, reciprocity, altruism, care and empathy. It exemplifies and embeds in practice the moral obligation we have to each other.
It involves a fundamental paradigm shift.
Paul McGreevy has alerted us to how an organisation can change its ethical position and duty of care. He shares news of Harness Racing Australia’s (HRA) decision “to end the use of the whip on Australian trotters and pacers”.
The HRA announcement is a win for the sport and for horse welfare. It comes as industry figures show that, even though whip use has been increasingly limited, race times have been improving.
One of Paul’s suggestion to improve horse welfare is to establish a horse sports welfare committee that “could move away from decisions based on opinion towards decisions based on evidence, particularly science-based evidence”.
Such a committee would seek out better practice in racing and “in breeding, selection, management, training, medication, rehabilitation and dispersal of animals in various sporting contexts”.
I am mindful of not drawing too strong a parallel between Paul’s observations about welfare and an appreciative approach to performance feed forward for teachers. However, what caught my attention was the decision by an organisation to change its code of practice.
In a press statement, Geoff Want, the HRA Chairman, said:
The whip ban decision was not taken lightly, but was made on our own initiative because we believe it is the right decision at the right time.
We see the ban as a vital way of demonstrating our responsibility as an industry, and to earning and maintaining the social acceptance and sustainability of harness racing.
We know some drivers are concerned about safety issues, but we feel the process of developing a tool to maintain safety will allay concerns.
The changes will come into effect on 1 September 2017.
I will continue to research ways to support teachers as they share their stories about teaching and their personal learning journeys. These stories are entangled with students’ experiences of university education. We will have increasing access to learning analytics data and will need to make some informed decisions about how we use these data to build appreciative feed forward opportunities.
In such an environment, as Aneesha Bakharia and her colleagues (2016) suggest, “the teacher plays a central role in bringing contextual knowledge to the review and analysis of the learning analytics and then in making decisions in relation to contingency”.
It is fascinating to contemplate how this would play out in sport in the relationships between coaches and athletes.