#coachlearninginsport: hooking … and triggering


I use #coachlearninginsport to pull together my thoughts about coaches’ learning journeys.

This post started with a prompt in a post written by Bryce Tully. Bryce proposes that “the current trend within high performance sport is to place disproportional weight on the collection of scientific data, while the organizational and psychological factors essential to its success are largely ignored”.

A second prompt came from a Nathan Kinch discussion about design processes that hook attention.

Both these prompts (which speak to my interest in educational technology and learning experience design) coalesced around  a short talk I am giving this evening at a meeting of the Braidwood Regional Arts Group.

In the talk (called Parallel Tracks), I hope to look briefly at the impact of the arts on my approach to the observation, recording and analysis of performance in sport. I am going to ask the audience about their memories of the impact of a work of art on them ( and connect this with a sport experience).

Parallel Tracks

As I was thinking about how to phrase this question, I thought back to my exposure to Turner’s picture of a railway engine, Rain, Steam, and Speed – The Great Western Railway 1844.

I saw it on a visit to the National Gallery in 1980. My response then was that I did not see the point of the picture. I was expecting a representational picture of an engine crossing a bridge.

However, it was an unforgettable image for me. My attention had been hooked. I have only made sense of the picture years later. It has grown on me. When it appeared in the film Mr. Turner, it seemed like an old friend.

The image had subliminally triggered my learning about sharing the essence of something.

… which leads me to Marcel Proust and the triggers for memories.

In his In Search of Lost Time, Marcel tastes a piece of a ‘petite madeleine‘ cake steeped in lime-blossom tea, then:

No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shiver ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. … this new sensation having the effect, which love has, of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was me.

As he reflects on this experience, Marcel notes “I can hear the echo of great spaces traversed” that ultimately leads to recapturing memories of his childhood.

Heads Up

This merging of ideas set me of thinking about how coaches trigger their own and others’ learning opportunities. I wondered if ‘hook’ might have a non-pejorative meaning in this context. I wondered too how we might mobilise memories to trigger engagement and learning.

I found myself rereading Bruce Hood, Douglas Willen and Jon Driver’s (1998) to think about gaze and the importance of eye direction detection. They note:

infants as young as 3 months of age can detect the direction of gaze as indicated by the eyes alone, and that this detection influences their own direction of attention reliably, as revealed by latency and error data from their subsequent orienting to peripheral probes. (1998:132)

They suggest that research should explore “the perceptual basis of the mechanism that triggers attention shifts that follow perceived gaze”.

More recently, Saara Khalid, Jason Deska and Kurt Hugenberg (2016) have discussed how when others make eye contact with us, we are encouraged “to impute minds into others”. They conclude:

ascriptions of sophisticated humanlike minds to others are modulated by targets eye gaze –targets with direct eye gaze are ascribed more sophisticated minds than their averted gaze counterparts – and this differential ascription of mind is related to expectations of social interaction. (2016:27)
Ironically, I have discussed my own learning with my gaze at a picture and a fragment of text. In my case, I have tried to imagine the minds of Joseph Mallord William Turner and Marcel Proust.
I do hope my talk does hook attention and trigger conversation. I hope too this post contributes to the discussion of coaches’ continuing learning journeys as they (we) find ways to engage athletes as learners. I am hopeful that this might mean we have a heads up pedagogy.

Photo Credit

Rain, Steam and Speed (National Gallery, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) (Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1775 – 1851. Rain, Steam, and Speed – The Great Western Railway 1844. Oil on canvas, 91 x 121.8 cm. Turner Bequest, 1856. NG538)

Smell and Memory (Deb’s World blog post 2013)

Aap-Noot-Mies/ Primer in the classroom (Nationaal Archief, no known copyright restrictions)


The History of the Paralympic Movement in Australia (HOPAU) project started in 2011. The aim of the project was “to write the History of the Australian Paralympic Movement, using the Wikimedia Foundation wikis, namely Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and Wikibooks”.

Ross Mallett has been researching the progress of HOPAU’s Wikipedia presence.

In January 2017, there were 987 pages in the HOPAU category. These attracted 105,911 page views, an average of 3,416 per day.

The top five articles in January were: Dylan Alcott (19,507); Damien Thomlinson (2,626); Kurt Fearnley (1,554); Ashley Adams (1,550); and Para-alpine skiing (1,350).

According to Ross: “Dylan was the top HOPAU athlete for the month, probably because of the Australian Open. I think it’s pretty notable that not only did he persuade Tennis Australia to give him the Rod Laver Arena, but he filled it.”

In 2016, HOPAU articles attracted 2,800,526 page views, an average of 7,652 per day. There were almost 2 million page views in the period associated with the Summer Paralympic Games, but these data show, as Tony Naar (the HOPAU Project Facilitator) suggests, the articles created through the HOPAU project continue to be widely and regularly accessed.

The Australian Paralympic Committee has released images under a Creative Commons licensed and donated them for use on Wikimedia Commons. These images can be found at Category:Images from the Australian Paralympic Committee on Wikimedia Commons.

The three images used in this blog post are from that collection.

Photo Credits

Members of the Australian Paralympic Team pose with an entertainer from the hotel where they stayed in Singapore en route to the 1960 Rome Paralympic Games (Australian Paralympic Committee, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

Dylan Alcott (Australian Paralympic Committee, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Sarnya Parker and Tania Modra (Australian Paralympic Committee, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Connecting understanding, learning and performance pre-view



Earlier this week on Clyde Street, I discussed coach learning.

In this post, I look at some of the scaffolding that might support coaches’ learning experiences. I am sharing them here as thoughts in progress.

I am particularly interested in exploring:

  • Understanding
  • Performance pre-view
  • Warrant

and how they relate to the celebration of personal learning.

I discuss each of these briefly before attempting to connect them in a discussion.


In the late 1990s, I was fortunate to follow a number of online courses with the Harvard Graduate School of Education. One of these courses explored Teaching for Understanding.

My participation in the course brought together two other formative experiences. One was access to Max Weber’s discussions of ‘verstehen‘ and the associated literature about understanding the world from another person’s perspective. From this I developed a strong interest in the social construction of reality. In doing so I met the writings of Wilhelm Dilthey, Georg Simmel, Edmund Husserl and Alfred Schutz.

The second formative experience was being taught by Dave Bunker and Rod Thorpe as they were developing their approach to teaching games for understanding. I met them seven years before the publication of their 1982 paper in the Bulletin of Physical Education (A model for the teaching of games in the secondary school). I applied their approach to my teaching practice and enjoyed seeing pupils’ responses to their ownership of learning.

The Harvard Group helped me build on these connections. The Teaching for Understanding Project used a performance perspective for understanding. This perspective proposes that:

understanding is a matter of being able to do a variety of thought-provoking things with a topic; such as explaining, finding evidence and examples, generalizing, applying, analogizing, and representing the topic in new ways. (Blythe (1998), 12)

In this approach, the development of understanding is a continuous process. Throughout the process the learner is able to:

carry out a variety of actions or “performances” that show one’s grasp of a topic and at the same time advance it. It is being able to take knowledge and use it in new ways. … such performances are called “understanding performances” or “performances of understanding”. (Blythe (1998), 13)

The Teaching for Understanding Project used a four part framework to scaffold understanding opportunities. I think each of them raises some important issues for coach learning: generative topics, understanding goals, performances of understanding, assessment.


Performance Pre-View

I have been profoundly influenced by the Harvard Group’s approach to performances of understanding. I think this is why I attach so much importance to feedforward in learning environments.

Advancing our understanding is for me about how we will be. Our reflections can help share where we have been.

Much of my current work at the University of Canberra is focussed upon how we might support staff and student personal learning journeys through the sharing of information about students’ perceptions of their learning experiences and the assessment of their course work.

The staff in my project all participate, at present, in a performance review structure. This annual process generates enormous anxiety and preoccupies much of staff thinking time. As in other institutions, this review process is essentially about compliance.

I am keen to explore how this approach might be transformed into a pre-view process that celebrates performances of understanding and enables a narrative approach to how we will be. I sense that this would become an exciting story sharing opportunity.

I am hopeful too that any pre-view approach is a formative process rather than an aversive summative ordeal.

Pre-view makes time available and has the potential to have a kairological quality. It is a process that can be nourished by critical friendship and appreciative enquiry.

A recent Harvard Business Review post (Cappelli and Tavis, 2016) indicates that this may be an idea whose time has come. Peter and Anna note “From Silicon Valley to New York, and in offices across the world, firms are replacing annual reviews with frequent, informal check-ins between managers and employees”.

I am hopeful that such informal check-ins will explore personal learning through conversations about understanding.

It becomes an accumulating sharing and connection. It is about flourishing in the best of times and the worst of times.

I am mindful that I need to address assessment next as i propose a different way of accounting for coaches’ performance.



Chris Trevitt, Anne Macduff and Aliya Steed (2014) raise the question of warrant in their discussion of [e]portfolios. They suggest that the term ‘warrant’ denotes “high-stakes assessment ‘such as certificates and diplomas that testify to achievement'”. For them it refers unambiguously to “high-stakes summative assessment”.

They give this argument a twist in their discussion of the place [e]portfolios in life-long learning:

there is an emerging interest in the potential of [e]portfolios to realise both learning and assessment (viz, warranting), even if exactly what is meant by ‘portfolio’ in the term ‘[e] portfolio’ varies widely. (2014, 70)

They suggest:

In the context of portfolios for learning about – and as evidence supporting warrants of – the transition to practice, … a portfolio should include, minimally, five elements:

* Representations of practice

* Engagement with key ideas in the domain of practice, and/or the relevant literature

* Reflective commentary—an autobiographical/autoethnographic aspect that takes an inquiring and critical stance

* Integration or linkage between the first three elements;

* Sufficient breadth to include multiple aspects of … practice. (2014, 70)

One of their conclusions is:

The notion of [e]portfolios as a vehicle for both learning and warranting purposes has considerable appeal, especially as the pressures mount to broaden the curriculum beyond just discipline content and embed capabilities such as ‘learning-to-learn’. (2014, 77.)

I believe this connection between learning and warranting is made stronger by encouragement of and support for authentic accounts of continuing personal learning (Trevitt and Stocks, 2012).



Whilst researching and writing this post, I heard from Al Smith. Al is involved in a project with Team Sky that aims “to surface and share the collective wisdom of the global Performance sport community”. He and his colleagues, Mark and Andrew, at myfastestmile will be using SenseMaker to collect and share this wisdom. This is an exciting initiative to capture narrative on a large scale.

Institutions can take heart from the feasibility of this approach … and its scaling.

I heard too from Kurt Lindlay. Kurt shared a link to Mark O’Sullivan’s post The Coach Educator, the Coach and Coach Education. I enjoyed the way Mark explored his reflections on his practice and shared his thoughts on learning environments.

Both links, to Al and Mark, came through connections. I am delighted that connectivism is an everyday experience for me. Living in Australia, I have an opportunity to start my day a little later than friends in New Zealand but earlier than friends in the northern hemisphere.

I have lots of opportunity to reflect too.

In this post I am hoping that my identification of understanding, performance pre-view and warrant, has added to the conversation I shared earlier this week about coach learning.

I do see enormous potential to make coaches’ learning profoundly personal. I introduced the concept of warrant to contribute to a discussion about how we acknowledge learning that is personal. I see an [e]portfolio as the opportunity to share emergent thinking and practice in a living document that transforms the high stakes of summative assessment into formative performances of understanding.

What I am proposing through the interconnections between understanding, pre-view and warrant is demanding. It needs time to flourish … as do individuals. That is why I think the connections between these three components should be addressed in a formative way.

As coaches we work in a formative way with athletes. We have a sense of where they might go with their learning and we modulate our guided discovery in practice, rehearsal and competition to support this journey.

I think that this is the way coaches can be supported.

We can shape our practice through connections with others. This requires others to be interested in our daily activities and keen to learn about the subjective meanings we give to our actions (the essence of understanding).

From where I am in my thinking, the possibilities for personal learning pathways are limited only by our imaginations.

We can go beyond a systems approach to coach education and can make profound epistemological leaps in the ways we envision coaching as continuing learning experiences.

Each of us is a work in progress with a story to share.

Thank you for reaching this point in my post. I am keen to learn whether these ideas make sense to you too.

Photo Credit

The Wall, the Gate, the Fire (Kat, CC BY-SA 2.0)

New York City Construction (Timothy Neesam, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Gateways (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

Connections (Tjflex2, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)