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 practiceKemmis 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):
- Student Learning
- Professional Learning (initial and continuing teacher education and continuing professional development)
- Leading (educational leadership and administration)
- 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 interdependenceKemmis 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 unfoldKemmis 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 explicitlyKemmis 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 interrelationshipsKemmis 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