I received a thoughtful email from a colleague this week. My (redacted!) reply is worth sharing:
Firstly, thanks for introducing me to Karen Ardley. I see she enjoys links to Bath Uni, which gives her international credentials. The need for 7 years to embed a philosophy sounds right, especially if it is continually reiterated and evolving.
Like you both say, we need to reflect on what impact our actions might have, and to be honest about that. Have you read some of the ‘Myths of Education’ books? Didau, Bennett, Christodoulou… all speak about how the unresponsive application of any to-down philosophy is ineffective at best. Equally so, unreflective continuation of ‘what feels good’ is also flawed because of human bias, especially when we are tired and busy (very often!). Kids really have no baseline comparison to what is ‘good’ in a classroom. I imagine for much of the UK, kids not misbehaving is the baseline for whether our teaching is effective, and exam results is the next level. There is more to learning and flourishing and humanity than that.
I think that too much T&L in corporate contexts is driven by the need to prove summative impact, so human thought and behaviour in the classroom is perhaps reduced to us only noticing the easily measurable stuff. By that I mean we risk turning the human experience of learning – with both its difficulty and joys – into data. That is fine and somewhat necessary in itself. However, those numbers can easily become the only thing that we consider important in measuring T&L impact. So for example, you might measure how much further I can throw a javelin after training (and for me that is terrible!). But perhaps the experience trailing a sling-shot method of propulsion is qualitatively different and challenging, and my attempts to transform my approach is a more holistic experience than a mere number.
I would argue this has happened for many decades. Post WWII economic measures of success have overwhelmed political or social measures in the West, leading to the numerical measurements of success not only being presented as the most important measure, but perhaps as the only measure. I think we can be better.
As an expert in your subject, you possess tacit awareness of the difficulties of particular students in specific situations. If I was your student who wanted to improve my throwing technique, then my experience is beyond the increased measurement of my throw. I would need to consider my relationship with my body, and perhaps cope with deficiencies in my grace and coordination. There is a social/emotional element that cannot be comfortably quantified, even if I report those experiences to you.
I think by embracing, if possible, the interpretative power of expert teachers, we can celebrate the messy humanity of learning. Situated success, if experience in multiple contexts, can feel like flourishing. For example, I used to run 18 minute 5ks. After injuries, running for 3k non stop at a 25 minute 5k pace is a success for me. The social/emotional element is vital because it is situated and celebrates the interpretative power of the individual.
I think there are also interesting elements to your profession that help us across the board. There are models that consciousness is physical, and that all credible thought requires manifestation: https://www.jstor.org/stable/2939634#metadata_info_tab_contents . In other words, no thinker can operate without movement and activity. Walking is not just a pretty past-time. Why can’t revision and workouts synergise? Fit + Lit?