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Nicolini practice practice theory

Thoughts on: Davide Nicolini – The practice turn as an invitation to a common inquiry (2014 lecture)

Nicolini has been recommended to me for some time as someone with a practical grasp of “practice theory” (he makes the point that this isn’t really a theory at all) and this opening lecture from what appears to be a conference/symposium at Universiteit voor Humanistiek in 2014 offers a handy primer to some of the core ideas at the heart of all the various flavours of this way of thinking.

This is largely a transcription of my scrappy notes taken as I watched the video.

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Kemmis practice theory

Thoughts on: Ecologies of Practices (Kemmis et al., 2014)

Thoughts on: Ecologies of Practices (Kemmis at al, 2014)

After finding Kemmis and co’s work in this space in Chapter 2 kind of interesting but perhaps not exactly what I was looking for, I started reading chapter 3 on ‘ecologies of practices’ (very important that these are both plural evidently) more from a sense of due diligence. And for maybe 80% of the chapter I thought my previous thoughts had been confirmed.

I’m still not a huge fan of his/their writing style, reading this particular section is like wading through thick syrup. (Not in a good way)

We are not so much interested in saying that, in general, practices and practice architectures of professional learning shape practices and practice architectures of teaching, for example, as in showing how in practice the particular practices and practice architectures of one practice come to share or be shaped by the practices or practice architectures of another practice

Kemmis et al. 2014 P44

For my money, the word practice appears about five times too many in that sentence. I was eventually able to sort the uses of practice as a verb vs as a noun but I honestly struggle to see the meaningful difference between the two examples. Not to worry as it comes together quite well in the end and has now set me off on a number of rabbit holes relating to my research in particular on the practices of edvisors.

In a nutshell, the most useful part of this chapter explains the purpose of much of the book, exploring the interdependent practices that can be found in education. Subsequent chapters explore each of these five in depth and their relationships and I think I am probably going to have to keep reading this at some point.

In what they call “the education complex” (p.51), they identify 5 key practices (I would suggest practice areas or clusters to be honest):

  1. Student Learning
  2. Teaching
  3. Professional Learning (initial and continuing teacher education and continuing professional development)
  4. Leading (educational leadership and administration)
  5. Research (educational research, critical evaluation and evaluation)

I would argue that the last three of these align in one way or another to various edvisor activities and knowledge areas and that exploring their interrelationships and also how they tie to teaching specifically could offer some valuable insights into edvisor roles and their relationships. (I am less keen to focus on student learning as this seems a step removed, sitting on the far side of the teachers that we work with).

One other valuable point that Kemmis et al. make is that meaningful educational transformation needs to address all five of these practices (practice areas) simultaneously.

If change in education is to be wrought, then all five of these practices need to be changed in relation to one another… transformation of each requires the transformation of all five, in all their ecological interdependence

Kemmis et al. 2014, P.51

Ok – the rest of this post is now my scratchy notes. Honestly, you’ve probably read the best bits now – be warned

Ecological arrangements feature interdependence between practices and among the practice architectures. So the sayings/doings/relatings of edvising become part of the practice architecture for teaching (or leading). I can kind of see how things influence other things but to be honest, I still need some convincing in this specific instance. The inferior power status held by edvisors and the mostly optional nature of the advice/support that they give feels as though it’s impact on other practices is diminished in reality.

I might also want to look at the practice architectures that exist between the edvisor role types – so ‘learning designing’ and ‘academic developing’ etc become (clunkily named) practices in their own right. Again, I think I prefer Shove’s sense of these being more like practice clusters than individual practices.

Less about how different edvisors inhabit a site and more about how their practices inhabit/share a site.

Overall I feel like the human element is a little too removed in all this theorising. I also really question whether it is possible to find a universally applicable model for something as diverse as the things we do.

Our attention is not on how different participants co-inhabit a site, but on how different practices co-inhabit or co-exist in a site, sometimes leaving residues or creating affordances that enable and constrain how other practices can unfold

Kemmis et al. 2014 P.41

Kemmis et al spend a little time exploring the origins of the term/concept ‘ecologies of practices’ – maybe being a little pedantic for my liking, fixating on the presence or absence of ‘s’ in the terms. This dismissal of work by Stronach et al felt a bit like it missed the point (and makes me want to explore that work further)

According to Stronach et al. (2002), the ‘ecologies of practice’ refer to the sorts of individual and collective experiences, beliefs and practices that professionals accumulate in learning and performing their roles. They refer mainly to craft knowledge and may be intuitive, tacit or explicitly

Kemmis et al (2014), P.44

Personally, I think that experiences in particularly – but also beliefs – are slightly lacking from the practice architecture currently proposed. Or maybe it is there but I haven’t seen in explained tangibly enough yet.

In continuing to discuss Stronach’s work in “empirical studies of professionalism and professional identities in nursing and teaching”, Kemmis et al quote Stronach et al to describe their perception of the Stronach and co take on ecologies of practice

… comprised the accumulation of collective and individual experiences of teaching or nursing through which people laid claim to being ‘professional’ – personal experience in the classroom/clinic/ward, commonly held staff beliefs and institutional policies based upon these, commitments to ‘child-centred’ or ‘care-centred’ ideologies, convictions about what constituted ‘good practice’ and so on… (p.122)

Kemmis et al (2014) quoting Stronbach et al (2002) P.44

The meta-thinking about practice seems to be something of value.

The interdependence theme continues, expressed a little better this time

We might ask, for example, whether we see evidence that practices are inter-dependent (that each depends on the other to persist or to be reproduced) and whether this interdependence can be seen in the form of a network of interrelationships

Kemmis et al, 2014 P48

This seems more concrete somehow. It helps me to think about interview questions for people in different edvisor roles.
Do or how do LD practices rely on ETs?
Is the connection more with teachers (and also admins?)
I need to think more about how the different (distinct) edvisor role type practices connect. (There are many of these that are shared – need to consider what that says too)

One more good question for interviews – In your role, in what ways are you reliant on (role X) doing their job for you to do yours?

Long story short, the interrelationships and dependencies between practices deserves greater attention. Kemmis, S., Wilkinson, J., Edwards-Groves, C., Hardy, I., Grootenboer, P., & Bristol, L. (2014). Ecologies of Practices. In S. Kemmis, J. Wilkinson, C. Edwards-Groves, I. Hardy, P. Grootenboer, & L. Bristol (Eds.), Changing Practices, Changing Education (pp. 43–54). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-4560-47-4_3

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Kemmis practice practice theory Schatzki

Thoughts on: Praxis, Practice and Practice Architectures (Kemmis, 2014)

It’s been a while since I’ve dived into the literature but now that I’ve analysed my pilot survey data and have made some sense of it, it feels as though theory might make a little more sense. A big part of my research is looking at what edvisors do and how this shapes them and their world. The practice theory that I’ve looked at so far – mostly Shove (Social Practice theory) and Schatzki (more general practice theory) – broadly states that there are three parts to practice. These are the material things you need to perform the practice, the knowledge you need and the surrounding cultural context in which the practice occurs.

Given that I’m also very interested in how edvisors work together and with others, the fact that Kemmis thinks that something he calls “relatings” is a key part of practice makes his work worth further exploration.

I have to start by saying that I’m not fond of Kemmis’ writing style. The ideas are there but it is a slog to get to them.

From here I’m largely going to transcribe the notes I took as I read this chapter, adding pertinent quotes along the way. To be honest, it may not make a lot of sense, given that I’m also working out how it connects to the analysis that I’ve done, which I haven’t discussed. Mostly this is for my own notes.

Praxis – practice transforms the practitioner, as well as the practicee. It (may) also transform the world. This is praxis.

Aristotlean praxis – an action that is morally committed and oriented and informed by tradition in a field
Marxist praxis – action with moral, social and political consequences for those involved in and affected by it.

Schatzki (2010) calls an activity a temporalspatial event – because it occurs at a point in time and space.
Practices have material, semantic, social elements (2010 ,p.51)

Social practice – an open, organised array of doings and sayings.

A practice has 4 parts:
1) Action understandings – knowing how to perform the action, how to recognise it and how to respond to it.
2) Rules – instructions/directives to do or not do certain actions
3) A teleoaffective structure – acceptable or prescribed aims and ways to achieve these aims, as well as acceptable emotions/moods relating to it
4) general understandings about matters germane to practice

Kemmis – P.30
“Making ‘relatings’ explicit brings the social-political dimensions of practice into the light, draws attention to the medium of power and solidarity which attends practice and invites us to consider what social-political arrangements in a site help to hold a practice in place”

Practices are enabled/constrained by three kinds of arrangements that occur at sites – cultural-discursive, material-economic and social-political.

My thoughts – If teleoaffective relates to the common ends of practices – or clusters of practices – maybe this could be applied to the different kinds of pedagogical activities split between LDs and ADs

Internal goods and teleology can be considered as the project of a practice/s – what it is trying to achieve

Kemmis sees a practice defined by the relationship between practitioners in a practice. Where they use language tied to the practice (sayings), do things in a suitable place/time (doings) and engage with others tied to the practice (relatings). This forms a practice architecture.

Kemmis’ working definition of a practice (p.31)

A practice is a form of socially established cooperative human activity in which
characteristic arrangements of actions and activities (doings) are comprehensible
in terms of arrangements of relevant ideas in characteristic discourses (sayings),
and when the people and objects involved are distributed in characteristic arrangements of relationships (relatings), and when this complex of sayings, doings and
relatings ‘hangs together’ in a distinctive project.

“Characteristic arrangements of relationships” – relatings
I’m not sure these are so well defined for edvisor practices. This chapter leans very heavily into the idea of projects driving practices – I don’t know if this aligns very well with a lot of business as usual edvisor support work. Can something be a project if it doesn’t have an end date?

Practice traditions further shape practice architecture. I think I prefer Shove’s take on all of this.

My thoughts – Cultural-discursive arrangements – these are the knowledge areas I am tying to the activities. It kind of fits but not quite – less about how to actually do the thing.
I think Kemmis is missing the skills aspect in this discussion about practices.
If Kemmis is right about practices being part of projects, what do perceptions about project management tell us. (My survey data indicates that LDs and ADs don’t think ETs do much project management, ETs disagree)

Kemmis says Schatzki says practices are always contextual, shaped by the where and when in which they occur – “activity timespace”

Kemmis says the sayings, doings and relatings are already in the site and practice picks them up and orchestrates them? So it doesn’t bring them to the site?

Practice architecture:
Sayings – Cultural-Discursive – the why (and when/where??) (Meaning)
Doings – Material-Economic – the how and what
Relatings – Social-Political – the who
Not sure if this as my understanding of it all quite tracks with the theory yet.

My thoughts – I don’t like the assertion that a practice has a tidy beginning, middle and end. I guess a performance does though.
Also still struggling with this idea that the practice is the “site” (p.36) – bringing together the semantic space, the physical location and the social space.
In these ways, the practice engages with and becomes enmeshed with the practice architectures in a site, becoming part of the living fabric of the place. Within the place, the practice is itself a social site organising what happens: the practice is a site that meshes together a semantic space, a place existing in physical space-time”

“Dispositions”
Sayings – Cognitive knowledge
Doings – skills and capabilities
Relatings – norms and values

I think sayings and doings can be seen in the knowledge areas. Relatings need to be teased out further in next phases of data collection. Overall though, this definition seems to explain things better than the last 20 or so pages have.

Dispositions link to Habitus

Relatings means that a practice is about all the people involved, not just the practitioners.

Ecologies of practice – Knowledge and activities are distributed among participants. Participants and participation are distributed in particular kinds of relationships to each other.

Ultimately I think this chapter gives me the language to link my ideas and findings to theory, so that’s something.