Section 2Quality - Search for Process
Quality began for me as a theme in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It is pleasing to see that Pirsig, an alternative writer of the 70's, is quoted in books that are now heralded by the system. Much more important is the fact that quality is a concept that the system is trying to encompass within its process.
Defining quality is a problem - I don't want to restrict quality by applying a limiting, verbal definition. Here is a non-definition given by Pirsig1 [p210] to his class who demanded a definition "Quality is a characteristic of thought and statement that is recognised by a non-thinking process. Because definitions are a product of rigid, formal thinking, quality cannot be defined."
One issue concerning definition is the mind - reason. Care must be taken because mind has the propensity to try to control, to apply definitions where they do not belong, and to give a phenomenal structure to noumena yet still pretend that it is noumenal (for an explanation of my approach to the dichotomy of noumenal/phenomenal, see phenomenological paradigm later). To give a quality definition of quality must in itself reduce the quality but in order to reach the educationalists and to restrict the opportunists an approach must be sought with minimal damage. A trap is still a trap even if you see it coming, but seeing it perhaps reduces the impact - perhaps not?
At the same time we must try to prevent the misappropriation of quality by quality assurance. In the UK, by government initiative, quality is being taken over by opportunists who are equating quality in education with quality control on the factory floor so Doherty's knowing what quality is is certainly not enough when career and financial reward are stronger guiding lights than educational improvement. Unfortunately the noumenal area of quality lends itself to this opportunism by the very nature of undefineable noumenism. We all know what is true, what is honest and what is integrity; but these opportunists want a definition to hide behind when their fundamental purpose, directed by their greed and profit, is often the opposite.
As can be seen in Pirsig quality is a spiritual journey; introducing quality systems, TQM, BS5750 (BSENISO9001) and quality assurance cannot truly begin to encompass all that is needed by the student to say that she has produced something of quality. To begin to do that one must in some way attempt to start students onto this spiritual journey, onto this discovery of quality.
Education must avoid the worst aspects of quality control, it must be positive about attaining quality rather than, sadly, developing approaches to avoid managerial chastisement, clamouring for government finance and, generally, pandering to a bureaucratic assessment of education as a service industry (BSENISO9001). Quality control is a statistical approach to the factory belt. We must adjust our factory machines so that the weight of our biscuits will only be significantly underweight 0.1% of the time. How does this measure up to a spiritual journey yearning for quality in education? The quoting of Pirsig could be a fashion, or even an admission of guilt, it is certainly not an attempt to maintain faith with the concepts and direction therein explored. Doherty bluntly offers a patronising "whilst the journey may be fascinating" he claims that "he does not produce much that will help the educational programme designer" even though "there is plenty that might help the programme deliverer" [Doherty p7]. Emotionally I reject this and intend to establish, through Pirsig and others, some form of meaningful criteria.
Pirsig was quoted as "Hold quality as undefined. That's the secret". This is not an enigmatic escape clause because Pirsig thoroughly analysed and intuited what was not quality before establishing the above cover-all. Assessment of quality in this context cannot be limited to a simple phrase, and for academics to search for a quick answer in a book of a spiritual journey shows a misunderstanding and a fashionable misappropriation.
To begin with this is an unashamed journey of idealism but with a pragmatic target. These more esoteric areas of quality, virtue even spirit, I contend are those which are most deeply affected by alienation, and for this reason alone they need to be analysed. "Delivering quality systems" is important but students’ receiving those systems as quality education is much more important.
Perhaps the most important lesson that Pirsig can teach us about quality was the struggle. He had to struggle for quality - he even spent time in a sanatorium because of that struggle. Where is that struggle in our education system, and for later discussion why are the alienated going to struggle for quality?
Instead of a definition I want to begin by examining the position of quality within the phenomenological research paradigm. Next to act as a bridge between the phenomenal and the noumenal, I want to try to develop processes to quality - and as part of this examine wrong processes making the removal of wrong processes an integral part of quality education.
Aspects of quality can be recognised such as originality; but how is originality defined? Everything has a sense of uniqueness even the most plagiarised - perhaps the grossest plagiarism is unique for its grossness. We can however look at characteristics or aspects of quality [Pirsig1 p211] "such as vividness, authority, economy, sensitivity, clarity, emphasis, flow, suspense, brilliance, precision, proportion, depth" - he was looking at aspects of quality concerning creative writing. Some of these can translate to other areas, yet if we examine each concept we see they also are subjective and not readily defined; in fact if we define them they become restricted and lose depth in the same way as quality. A creative writer teacher can recognise these attributes in students' writing, an art teacher can recognise sensitivity, a maths teacher can recognise clarity and precision, and so the real problem for the teacher is how do we teach them?
Teaching quality brings into question the ontology of teaching institutions, are they institutions of education, attempting to truly educate or teach quality, or are they institutions providing society's workforce? And is quality of education a requirement of the workforce? Is quality control applied to education really quality restriction - not quality of perception but intellect applied to exam passes? This is the education dilemma in another form, when education is dominated by the needs of business and finance what does education lose? And then what does finance lose because they want quality of personnel? Perhaps they don't want some of the consequences of that quality - perception as to the fruits of capitalism in the Third World? Do they want the honest realisation that comes with the intelligence to recognise the holistic consequences to the environment eg petrol pollution means tax the petrol profits, chemical pollution means reduce the profits to maintain the environment. These are qualities of intelligence in a real situation without rhetoric, political reasoning and immoral pragmatism diverting truth. But such perceptions are an anathema to business interest - the dilemma is it education for quality or education for business? But this dilemma is not addressed in practise so let's remain with that approach and take the view that quality is desired.
Education cannot be a prescriptive defining and didactic demonstration of quality because one person's quality is another's imitation so we have to look towards the processes that lead to quality. We teach quality by finding processes, which allow the students to exhibit their own quality. As we cannot legitimately define quality and yet we desire it, then we must see education as an enabling organisation or institution. We must enable the students to achieve quality by forcing them to look inside themselves and discovering the quality therein. Can this be done in an institution, it is very personal?
Quality in the Phenomenological Paradigm
It is my intention to examine quality using a qualitative method, for a full explanation of my choice of the qualitative method please see the section "Why Qualitative" in my dissertation Also in that section I have considered whether noumenal notions such as quality are considered in the phenomenological paradigm. As that is not relevant to the determination of processes to quality I want to simply note here my use of the term noumenon. In "The Critique of Pure Reason" Kant introduced noumenon as a contrast to phenomenon. "In Kant" noumenon is "an object of purely intellectual intuition devoid of all phenomenal attributes" - The Oxford English Dictionary Vol X. Isn't an object a phenomenon even if it is an object of intuition? In maths my intuition tells me to start the problem with such and such an axiom, that axiom is the object of my intuition and is a phenomenon. I intend to proceed by using the term noumenon as being that which produces the object, that which intuits. This usage of the term is then consistent with other dualities such as spirit-matter, unmanifest-manifest, and is consistent with the use of spiritual terms such as Tao, Virtue, Quality etc.
Plato in The Meno gives suitable justifications for the lack of definition of virtue, and therefore in my view for the lack of definition of the comparable quality, but quality is totally at home in the phenomenological paradigm. Within the bounds of the qualitative method quality can be discovered, under the emerging paradigm Pirsig's quality is merely on the fringes.
Processes to Quality
As Plato makes clear an attempt to define quality would be arrogant but it is not unreasonable to begin to look at ways in which people achieve quality - processes to quality. These cannot be prescriptive, everyone who follows these processes will not necessarily achieve quality but they ought to help. At a later stage I want to examine certain processes which can only cause harm in the move to quality, and this section I will call Removing Wrong Processes.
To begin with I want to examine processes that Pirsig has described:-
Removing Hang-ups is a Process
Pirsig1 [p61] "A hang-up. You just sit and stare and think, and search randomly for new information, and go away and come back again, and after a while unseen factors start to emerge." Pirsig1 [p172] "I've heard it said that the only real learning comes from hang-ups where instead of expanding the branches of what you already know, you have to stop and drift laterally for a while until you come across something that allows you to expand the roots of what you already know."
You just sit and stare and think - concentration. By that very process of concentration your mind clears and becomes focussed on the hang-up. A channel opens up, and the hang-up is now a part of you. When you come back to the problem the natural order of the mind has subconsciously been at work and "unseen factors start to emerge". Alternatively you just sit and stare and think, and by this process of concentration you realise the answers do not lie in the direction you are looking. Instead of expanding the branches of what you already know, you find the answer elsewhere - stop and drift laterally for a while, but the answer is inside you. Expand the roots of what you already know.
Either of these processes of concentration, hinged on the hang-up, are processes of quality. Looking at certain religious practises can help us in developing processes of quality. Meditation is an important technique in all religions, by repeating mantras you concentrate. Some meditations ask you to concentrate on a word or saying, concentrate on the word peace, think about Koans or enigmatic phrases - the sound of silence or the sound of one hand clapping. These are religious hang-ups, and by concentrating people learn - attempt to reach enlightenment etc.
Attitude to Learning
Pirsig1 [pp35-36] describes at a garage what seems a prevalent attitude in the classroom, "they sat down to do a job and they performed it like chimpanzees. Nothing personal in it.... But the biggest clue seemed to be their expressions. They were hard to explain. Good-natured, friendly, easy-going, and uninvolved. ... There was no identification with the job."
In my experience this is exactly what happens in the classroom, the students don't care, in fact in many cases they are neither good-natured nor friendly. This is why there is so much emphasis on the teachers to provide quality materials because teachers are being forced to replace this natural involvement in education with materials that give a short-term buzz and inspiration. Thus effectively training through student "adrenaline" replaces students having the correct attitude/discipline in the first place.
"Identification with the job" is important. Students don't identify with the work in the classroom, it is not their work. "Or rather, they had something to do with it, but their own selves were outside of it, detached, removed" [Pirsig1 idem]. How often do students try to trick you with red herrings, attempt to get the teachers to talk about pet subjects that are not the syllabus work/lesson topic? Do they do this because they are interested in what you have to say? No, they are trying to get you away from your plan. In other words the plan is what they are forced to do, and the red herring ploy is an escape from that plan. Where is the mature involvement in that learning?
Quality learning has to involve students in their work but this is not a teacher-imposed involvement. Quality teaching must "force them to look within themselves, the only place they would ever get a really right answer" Pirsig1 [p204]. The system, not just the teachers, has to involve students in their work. Primary school children have the natural enquiring minds of that age, by the time students reach secondary age they are not interested. It now seems accepted that teenagers should be like that, that they should reject education. But why? There is no theoretical basis at the root of this rejection; it is simply that their view of society teaches them rejection. Maybe they sense the hidden rejection of society possessed by their parents and other adults. Maybe the fragile grip, on the way society is, possessed by many adults is not enough for teenagers whose simplistic view of what is right and wrong is perhaps more acceptable than the rhetoric and half-truths offered by adults and authority.
Pirsig1 [p226] "A real understanding of Quality doesn't just serve the System, or even beat it or even escape it. A real understanding of Quality captures the System, tames it and puts it to work for its own personal use, while leaving one completely free to fulfil his inner destiny." Is this too esoteric a motivation for students? Certainly it illustrates the dilemma for business, if they want quality personnel who has who captive?
Examples of Processes
One process Pirsig1 [pp194-196] described was a narrowing-down process. Setting an essay to describe Bozeman (a town) produced no result, to describe the main street no result, but then a building brick by brick forced out individuality. "The narrowing-down to one brick destroyed the blockage because it was so obvious she had to do some original and direct seeing" Pirsig1 [p196].
Another approach he used [Pirsig1 pp 197-203] was the removal of grades, it left a gap because the students had no goals, and to replace the goals he introduced quality by comparison, asking students to rank pieces of work. He described this as students beginning to know what quality was as their rankings and his corresponded.
Peace of Mind
"Assembly of Japanese bicycle requires great peace of mind." quoted by Pirsig1
[p167]. Instead of Assembly of Japanese bicycle use quality or learning in this quote. He then goes on to discuss the professional artistry of a craftsman. "The craftsman isn't ever following a single line of instruction." Compare this with the technical rationality of Schon2. "He's making decisions as he goes along." Compare this with Schon's reflection-in-action. For that reason he'll be absorbed and attentive to what he's doing even though he doesn't deliberately contrive this. His motions and the machine are in a kind of harmony. He isn't following any set of written instructions because the nature of the material at hand determines his thoughts and motions, which simultaneously change the nature of the material at hand. The material and his thoughts are changing together in a progression of changes until his mind's at rest at the same time the material's right"[p170]. Peace of mind has to be a condition within Schon's practicum, it has to be a condition of quality learning.
Removing Wrong Processes
One important process of teaching quality is removing wrong processes, removing processes that get in the way of quality - create blocks. One such process is the limiting of learning to skills and techniques. Certainly there are skills and techniques that need to be learnt but quality learning is in the intelligent application of these skills. From a personal point of view I find myself arguing for greater skill teaching because students are unwilling to apply their intelligence because they are disinterested and lacking in motivation. However when they get into the real-life situation of work they are forced to apply their intelligence or they lose their jobs.
Although working on the development side of computer such as software design etc is creative, I feel that if a computer can carry out the task then quality is not being applied. Many tasks have become automated, and in my view this is for two reasons. Firstly investment in plant is cheaper than in labour but secondly automating tasks reduces mistakes caused by poor human activity. But where does this poor human activity come from? I would claim it is because they are not interested in the work, they do not concentrate and then mistakes. Often factory belts are designed to keep human tasks simple but I would argue that this increases the likelihood of mistakes because they will not be interested in boring repetitive tasks.
So we have a catch 22 situation. Humans make mistakes because the work is not quality interesting work so they don't concentrate. Management recognises that the workers do not concentrate enough and therefore make mistakes so they introduce tasks that require less involvement. Humans concentrate less on the tasks because they are low level and make more mistakes. Hence there is increased automation, and less jobs.
But the very introduction of the computers is a process of automation, a programmed technical rationality. So although few can actually create the software etc, the software is only a technical rationality programme. Or alternatively they are tools in which case the tool users can be creative if they understand the software. So I maintain that tasks, which can automatically be carried out by computer, are tasks which are not quality tasks, and as such asking students to perform these tasks is a wrong process.
Adopting styles is not an approach of quality. Van Gogh made original paintings but forgeries are not quality work they are imitations - better or worse. Understanding how Van Gogh's approach produces quality art is important but imitating it is not quality. In training an art student might have to copy the technique in order to develop better brush control, and see the effects that can be created - in the same way they might try to copy others at the beginning of the learning process. But quality learning only occurs when the art student starts to apply his personal style on the imitated styles and produce original work.
Another wrong process is the one that might be called a dualistic process as described by Pirsig in terms of motorcycle maintenance. "You are the mechanic. There is the motorcycle. You are forever apart from one another. You do this to it. You do that to it. These will be the results" [Pirsig1 p285]. Here again we are talking about a lack of unity. I have experienced something similar with my low-level work with computers. You can take a manual, read it and apply instructions but invariably they don't work the first time. Often I need to go away and often a subconscious process takes over, and I realise that it doesn't fit with this part of the system or that part. Sometimes I come up with a solution through this process. But it is only when I try to understand the whole system (including myself) from my limited perspective that I begin to resolve the problem. Pirsig claimed that "Arete implies a respect for the wholeness or oneness of life" [p384], and this was soon after he had exclaimed "Quality! Virtue! Dharma! That is what the sophists were teaching! ..... Arete!" [p381].
One final wrong process I want to talk about is something raised in Beverley Potter's book "The Way of the Ronin", this wrong process she calls career feudalism. Potter devotes a whole chapter to this concept but it is summed up by the quote by Albert Camus at the beginning of the chapter "Without work all life goes rotten but when work is soulless, life stifles and dies"[p31]. As you can imagine from the chapter title career feudalism is the process whereby the career is used to control the workforce through company practices that often leads to a soulless work environment. I could paraphrase the Camus quote to illustrate how I feel this type of feudalism in the teaching situation. "Without learning all life goes rotten, but when education is soulless quality learning stifles and dies".
One aspect of career feudalism that stifles in the same way can be paraphrased as exam feudalism. Instead of learning being a creative act many students recognise that what they need to do to achieve in life is to get good qualifications so they focus on how best to pass those exams. Revision by rote learning becomes a required skill for passing exams but is that a quality skill? Should you be considered intelligent and employable if you have a good memory? I feel that the employers are employing you for your academic discipline so in this sense exam feudalism can be seen as an extension of career feudalism. In practice however I am an exam feudalist. The way that job opportunities are structured, the greatest learning I can give to students is 3 A's at A level. I perceive UK education as offering opportunities to students, not opportunities to quality learning but opportunities to material success through well-paid employment
Many religious philosophers have given us guides to a journey to quality although their terminology might not appear the same. Krishnamurti was one such philosopher whose approach bridged the religions of East and West. In terms of religion I want to examine some of his thinking to help guide me towards quality, but first I want to examine the notion of channels to quality - I am sure this is a notion inspired by Krishnamurti.
Channels to Quality
In order to understand this concept of channels to quality I want to begin by examining meditation and concentration as perceived by Krishnamurti. One of the greatest anomalies of education is the lack of serious thought that has gone into the question of concentration. How many times as teachers do we admonish a child for not concentrating because we saw carelessness or clear evidence of lack of thought. But what do we actually mean by concentration? How should we try and teach concentration? I would claim that the lack of concentration in UK schools at the moment is perhaps one of the most significant contributions towards the falling standards and lowering discipline in the schools. As an aside I often consider concentration as the baby that was thrown out with the bath water with the educational move to discovery learning. When you have motivation you have concentration, if you only motivate through the quality of, and therefore the interest in, teacher materials then the majority of the time, the rest of the materials, there is no interest and therefore no concentration. All teachers know of examples where intelligent and not-so-intelligent students write and say the most ludicrously stupid statements through disinterest.
I have introduced here the link between concentration and motivation, this is the way that we normally think of concentration. If we are motivated we concentrate. Because we want to do something then we focus our minds on the task at hand and then do it. What do we do when we are doing this focussing? We look at a problem, eg a maths problem on quadratics. Then a friend disturbs us talking about the football, and then we come back to the problem. Then we read the question and start thinking about a problem with the girlfriend or look at the librarian. Then we focus on the question, and when the only thing we are thinking about is the question on quadratics then we begin to be able to answer the question. The focusing and maintaining interest in the quadratics problem is called concentration.
But can there really be intrinsic interest in a question which say "Find to 2 DP the solution of the equation 3x2- 7x -2 = 0"?
I don't think there can, you do it because you are told to or whatever other motivation guides you - parents, passing exams etc. So if your concentration is always linked to motivation and if that motivation is so intrinsically weak as in the above example then the student is not likely to concentrate and can become distracted or disruptive.
But what if we taught concentration per se? In "Victorian" schools, and I use the term loosely, students were silent. They were given work to do, and although they became mentally distracted because there were no physical distractions - other students etc - they eventually focussed on the work and solved the problem. The very silence created the conditions that led to the students concentrating. Our classrooms now are not silent; in fact silence is a very rare commodity anywhere, so it is difficult to concentrate. As adults when we concentrate we create a kind of silence in our heads by shutting out the noise so that the only thing we are hearing is how to solve the problem, and we often get irritable when we are trying to concentrate and the neighbour's music is blasting.
In effect we create a kind of silence, a peace of mind, that leads to concentration but we still have to focus on the question. So silence and peace of mind, no distractions, is a precondition for concentration but it is not concentration itself. Concentration is the focussing of the mind on a particular problem eg the quadratics. Concentration is bringing the mind back when it starts to wander, in other words concentration is "control of the movement of thought", "focusing thought in one direction" [Krishnamurti].
I would maintain that concentration is a skill that can be taught. Here is an exercise. Focus on a yellow dot inside you head. Can you see it? No. Try to see it. Can you see it yet? No. Keep trying! Do you have it now? Yes. Keep it there. Are you thinking about your partner? Stop. Go back to the yellow dot. Keep doing this for as long as possible. Several minutes of this and you are tired but you can increase the time with practice, you can learn the power of concentration.
I was taught this type of exercise by theosophists as a prelude to meditation where I was trying to focus on an uplifting concept such as peace or love or unity - or Quality. I maintain that developing concentration in this way can help with learning because it would help students focus on work and not be distracted. Rather than continually being distracted students could be taught such processes. In practice trying this had limited success - although I was never very serious - mainly because students are becoming more and more externalised by entertainment and spend less and less time focussing on the internal.
I want now to consider the question of intuition and how this is connected to concentration. When I have a difficult maths problem how do I start it? How do I know where to start? As a student the process usually involves reading the question trying one or two approaches and then maybe giving up. Others they will try different approaches just like previous questions so many teachers do past papers so that the students have seen previous examples. But what about the spark the intuition that helps students start the other questions. Here I can only describe the process in a mystical way. The students concentrate on the question and by concentrating they open up a channel to quality and somehow the quality intuition comes. It is as if the intuition is there, you just need to clear the mind, hook up the intuition and bring it down.
This process of quality leads to other ideas such as channels of learning, how do we open these channels? How do we help students open these channels? How do we keep these channels open? If we don't have open channels then the channels are closed - closed to quality learning. What closes those channels? If we are distracted and not concentrating then the channels are closed. If we are too emotional then our minds are clouded so we are not thinking clearly because our minds are constantly chattering with emotion. Therefore the channels to quality are blocked - closed. One important consequence of this is the effect of alienation, which will be discussed later, but if someone is alienated for whatever reason then they cannot fully concentrate on keeping the channels open.
"What remains to be seen, the things to be analysed, is not quality, but those peculiar habits of thought called "squareness" that sometimes prevent us from seeing it" Pirsig1 [p222]. Above we have examined the need to keep the channels to quality open, and have seen that emotions etc close those channels, but attitudes of mind keep the channels closed - squareness. Can schools be "hip" - to use Pirsig's analogy? In the end if we want quality education we must at least introduce an element of hipness into the four walls.
Throughout this discussion of quality I have been avoiding directly religious material, I have found this difficult when considering channels of learning, meditation, quality and reflection-in-action. In looking at hang-ups I moved even closer to these religious standpoints by mentioning some of their approaches. Perhaps it is better to confront the issue by presenting some of these religious approaches as an aspect of academic knowledge, which can be equally refuted as any other knowledge. Whatever my personal views on these matters are, as an approach I hope this would be academically acceptable.
Now I want to look directly at the work of Krishnamurti
It is my intention in discussing these religious matters to quote Krishnamurti's approach. Although an Indian he takes a non-doctrinal approach (it could be said that it is still dogma) he specifically states the importance of doubt, "Be sceptical about books, gurus, politics etc. Scepticism sharpens the brain and gives clarity" Krishnamurti [Talk 4 - Brockwood Park 1981].
"Self is not, beauty is." By self here he is talking about the problems of everyday life. Remove these problems and you can experience the beauty, if the mind is preoccupied with problems - relationship or emotional - how can beauty be experienced?
Concentration is "control of the movement of thought", "focusing thought in one direction"
On Learning & Meditation
Learning is to observe, listen, doubt and be sceptical. It means that you are not conforming, not obeying, not repeating, and not following. When learning you try to understand the implication of all systems. He sees knowledge as occupying the brain, and learning as a process of listening with unoccupied brains (certain knowledge is a requirement of daily life eg in one's profession).
Meditation is constant observation and learning, and brings with it order and discipline in daily life - a disciple is a student, one who learns from Jesus, Buddha etc. In my terms Krishnamurti's view of meditation is a learning process, a process of quality.
Krishnamurti's approach can be seen as quality. If we are not preoccupied with the problems of everyday life then we can open the channels to learning, we can focus on the beauty that exists around us - by not being preoccupied we are open to beauty, quality. If we are constantly learning then we are observing and listening, we are not students who are saying that teachers are wrong - as students are encouraged to do in the current education climate (pre-97). That is not listening blindly but listening with questions, not of whether the teacher is right or wrong but how does that knowledge fit in with my way of thinking and doing. It is not a rejection of facts but neither is it an acceptance of opinion as knowledge. Opinion is to be analysed in an open and listening fashion.
Next I want to examine Schon's ideas and try to discover from his work processes to quality ie examine reflection-in-action and fit some of his processes into mine with proper academic justification.
Quality-in-Action is the intention of reflection-in-action. When you examine the difference between the individual who opens the book at technical rationality #137 and the artistry of the reflective practitioner, that difference can completely be described as quality. When I first read Schon my immediate reaction was to say that this was unattributed plagiarism (subconscious?) from Pirsig, however examining the biography discounts this and leads to wider notions about the contemporaneous development of quality ideas encapsulated in Pirsig's view that quality is a post-survivalist concept. We have the technical know-how and the educational ability to feed the world, now we need the quality awareness to actually do it.
It is clear that the processes for educating the reflective practitioner can also be seen as processes for educating for quality. Replace the words some professional performances as superior to others in this quote from Schon2 [pp12-13] with quality and we have the exact same scenario as Pirsig's scenario concerning the class's analysis about grades and which were better. "The difficulty is not that critics fail to recognise some professional performances as superior to others - on this point there is surprisingly general agreement, but that they cannot assimilate what they recognise to their dominant model of professional knowledge." The model of professional knowledge Schon2 refers to is that of technical rationality, compare this model with Pirsig's Church of Reason. Instead of asking, "what is this professional artistry?" we could equally validly be asking, "what is quality (-in-Action)?" Schon2 continues "So outstanding practitioners are not said to have more professional knowledge than others but more "wisdom", "talent", "intuition" or "artistry" - are these not descriptors of quality?
On Schon2 [p13] he gives the premises of the book:-
"Inherent in the practice of the professionals we recognise as unusually competent is a core of artistry. Artistry is an exercise of intelligence, a kind of knowing, though different in crucial respects from our standard model of professional knowledge. It is not inherently mysterious; it is rigorous in its own terms; and we can learn a great deal about it - within what limits we should treat as an open question - by carefully studying the performance of unusually competent performers. In the terrain of professional practice, applied science and research-based technique occupy a critically important though limited territory, bounded on several sides by artistry. These are an art of problem framing, an art of implementation, and an art of improvisation - all necessary to mediate the use in practice of applied science and technique.
There is a sinister element to this question of professional knowledge referred to in the Schon2 quote above, there is an avoidance of the recognition that these better practitioners have more professional knowledge, and that their better professional knowledge is attributed to the noumenal qualities such as artistry, talent etc. The reason for this avoidance is because these qualities are not accessible to all. Higher quality is not rewarded in business if accompanying that higher quality there is not a deference to certain elements in the system, which lack quality vis-à-vis humanity, environment etc. Within the term professionalism are the qualities of good work, discipline, consideration etc essential for good teamwork, but also hidden in the term are negative aspects such as not putting people and the environment before the interests of the company. In education this professionalism can manifest itself in terms of accepting the direction of the headteacher because of his position, teaching to examinations, sending home students without uniform, and many others. Equally professionalism has its positive side such as helping with personal discipline by adhering to deadlines, or informing colleagues about matters involving them before discussing with the hierarchy amongst others.
Covert things in professional artistry, hidden curriculum in education, are very important for quality. "Judith was not thinking architecturally" Schon2 [p80]. Lauda is "intelligent, articulate, comes up with something that works, but architecturally it's horrible ... because he has not internalised the covert things", a description in Schon2 [p81]. These then are described as a paradox of learning - "a very Kafkaesque situation" where the "tone of voice" is supposed to show the student they understand when they don't. Schon2 quotes Plato in Meno "How will you look for something when you don't in the least know what it is?" I remember leaving university and going for a job interview as a statistician/consultant - it was a good job, and I got it. When I asked my interviewer one time why I got the job, he told me that I had given a good answer to a particular question. He failed to ask me whether I was mature and whether I really knew why I wanted the job. As a statistical consultant the man was probably a professional artist (he certainly appeared so to me at the time), but as a human being I lacked the quality to stay in the job and find out. Maybe not, I certainly lacked quality in the job but I didn't really want it. That's why I didn't perform well - as well as being immature and ill-disciplined as many are who leave our education system with postgraduate qualifications thinking they are mature enough to fulfil a job - in truth, arrogant. I also remember the same consultant saying to me "Before you can work well for us, you have to forget all that you learned at university!" He didn't just mean that the computer could do it all.
Another word for these covert things might be perceptions. Three years after studying maths for years I was having late night drinks and discussion. I remember having a mental flash/perception about the importance of isomorphism in all the branches of maths I had learnt about - the patterns of the different branches of maths were all the same. I also remember wondering why hadn't I had that thought while I was learning maths, that insight has never been of any use (except now?).
To quote Pirsig1 [p222] on covert things "If you got to ask what is all the time, you'll never get time to know." Soul. Quality. The same?
Quality & Experience
The design teaching situation with Quist in Schon2 Part 2 leads to a number of questions about Quist:- is he a man of quality or is his ability through experience? The results of his artistry are no different depending on the answer to this question but for educational purposes on one level it is a significant question. With regards to the teaching situation of the practicum the question makes no difference. His evaluation of the situation, and his ability to work around the slope suggesting a new discipline, are clearly marks of a person who knows their job. He was able to show Petra what to do.
But was what he was explaining quality? I don't know I'm not an architect. Was he able to do better than Petra? Yes. Would anyone with more experience have been able to help Petra? Yes. Would their work have been better than Quist's? I don't know I'm not an architect.
As a description of a teaching situation - the practicum, this is a fine example and must be noted, and as an example of a situation in which some degree of professional artistry has been passed on this is also a fine example but does it answer the real issues? Firstly was Petra educated by the process, in other words did she produce professional artistry after the experience? I would claim that the answer is partly independent of the practicum. If she had quality she would have learnt a great deal from the experience, and if she didn't have quality she wouldn't have learnt as much. The process of reflection-in-action was a good process because of its requirement that Petra be thinking about the job and concentrating but the above answer about quality still applies, if she had it she would learn a lot, if she doesn’t....
Reflection-in-action is a process which helps to produce quality or professional artistry, helps to educate quality, and the practicum described by Schon2 is a medium for doing this but I still have concerns about the all-encompassing nature of his approach. What other processes can lead to professional artistry, as reflection-in-action is a process and not an end result (professional artistry)? Ultimately what I am saying is that the process of reflection-in-action might not lead to professional artistry if the student is not a quality student. But then quality is not a black and white issue; some students have more artistry than others, however their actions are quality or not. Back to a dilemma, I'll be here often!!
Reflection-in-action is a process in teaching that has to be remembered by the students. I teach a class quadratic equations; can they all do it? Some can, some can't. They ask questions, more can do it. Then they do 20, and when it is marked I know most can do it. When they have all done corrections and done a revision exercise of 10, they all can do it. Boring but it is still a teaching process that works in part. This is an example of a teaching process, which has many faults, but it illustrates that the process has variable results depending on the student. In the boring approach the able student is stifled as they have understood quadratics quickly, have to wait for the questions, have to do 20 instead of 5, will do 3 corrections from carelessness, will do another 10 they don't need to do, and will finish a long time before the others - and possibly have to waste time. When you look at the variability of the students' learning then any one teaching process cannot be the answer; reflection-in-action is an approach that takes account of this because it depends on the student.
Does the boring approach produce quality? No, I would say that it positively discourages quality because it bores the able student. Does reflection-in-action produce quality? More so because the able students are continually challenged.
How much is the classroom a practicum for reflection-in-action? Aren't teaching methods more guided by the financial restrictions of the institution and the time restrictions of the individual teacher than the theoretical basis on which the teaching methodology is founded?
One problem concerning the boring approach is that skill teaching is required, the exams test skills. But in industry is skill teaching required? A computer can solve the quadratics, can solve skill problems, can work out techniques, so is skill teaching required? And the answer really is an internal yes, and in most terms an external no. Externally (ie business) the skills are not required, quality such as interpretation is required, but in part business requires the skills because business requires exam results and exams require the skills. If education is to be dominated by business, which in my view it is, then why doesn't business get its act together and think seriously about what it wants instead of just complaining that teachers don't provide it? Do they only want quality students and the rest can clean the streets? Then put them on the streets and employ more police. Unfortunately in reality crude business demands cannot be met because of the social unrest that would be caused if the reality of these demands were blatantly expressed, so we get complaints - status quo. The real answer is for business to meet its own training needs by in-house practicums but in the UK they complained that apprenticeships were too expensive and now they complain that students don't have the skills the apprentices had!
Sounds fair to me!
MOMENTS of Reflection-in-Action
This is Schon2 p28 moments.
STAGE 1 - Tacit Knowing-in-Action
STAGE 2 - Surprise
STAGE 3 - Reflection
STAGE 4 - Produce new strategies
STAGE 5 - On-the-spot experiment
Thoughts on Reflection-in-action
Quality actions are performed. What makes them quality? The performer does because not all actions are quality even if the person has received the same training. There is something quality about the performer, and that Schon2 refers to as professional artistry. Schon2 draws a distinction between different types of quality actions describing them as knowing-in-action and reflection-in-action. Certain actions are performed without any deliberation - knowing-in-action, and other actions are performed whilst deliberating - reflection-in-action. This is perfectly consistent with any approach to quality. Any person of quality must of necessity be involved with both types of action, a person of quality cannot expect that every action performed will be instantaneous quality, it will require professional reflection.
However the real essence of this line of thought is that quality/artistry has to be inherent in the person, it is only a person of quality who can perform quality actions of either type, reflection-in-action is an attribute of the artistry and not a cause. The reflective practitioner is simply a description of one of the attributes of a person of quality or professional artistry. Educating the Reflective Practitioner is one process which leads towards educating one phenomenon of a professional artist but even if you educate the reflective practitioner that does not necessarily produce quality because quality has to be inherent in the performer/professional artist.
When he describes catching the ball he describes various physical adjustments made when catching the ball - knowing-in-action. Can we all catch? I can certainly remember playing cricket and knowing that if a catch went to a particular person it would be dropped. That person was not a quality catcher. Now what about the professional cricketers who take their "eye off the ball", they drop the catch. When the golfer moves her/his head whilst playing the shot, the shot goes in the bunker. The snooker player who moves her/his head when playing the shot misses the black. All of these are techniques that any player - not necessarily a quality player - knows, but the professional plays them better because they have quality. But even with quality if they don't CONCENTRATE then their quality doesn't happen. For quality-in-action an essential is the ability to concentrate, and this concentration is an extremely important quality process, and the training of concentration is an extremely important requirement of an education system.
As an aside concentration, as mentioned above, was perhaps the most important baby that was thrown out with the bath water when the radical changes of discovery learning etc occurred in the 60's and 70's. When the middle-class educators allowed undisciplined minds to reject all the traditional learning of revision, silent learning, children struggling in their seats trying to solve a problem but scared to ask, concentration disappeared. Students began to say, "if I'm not interested I'm not going to do it". They complained about the work and since then teachers have gone on a fruitless journey to determine materials that will interest students most of whom only want the stimulation of video games. Here in Africa where such advantages of civilised living have not reached the poor, there is not the demand from the students for such materials; their only demand is if the material is on the syllabus, and sometimes the teacher from England's pet project is rejected for that reason - even if it is excellent for motivation and discovery learning.
So my contention is that for knowing-in-action/professional artistry/quality to occur the person has to concentrate, and the conditions for concentrating are very important for quality actions - channel to quality.
Reflection-in-action however is interesting from the concentration point of view, if your reflection-in-action is serious then you must be concentrating. If concentration is the opening of the channel to the person's quality then what we have with reflection-in-action a process of opening the channel leading to the understanding and therefore it is not surprising that such a process produces quality action.
The term surprise here is interesting here because what does surprise do? It
focuses attention, and therefore induces concentration even if the person is not trying to concentrate!! Quality by accident!
Equally it is not surprising that a quality action cannot be described. If you are simply opening a channel to the inherent quality what are you describing? "Err ... I am opening a channel to my artistry, man!!"
Construction here is important as teachers. The professional artist need not concern her/himself as performers but the teacher must because that is their job, to construct the learning processes to allow the artist to become professional and perform.
This notion of surprise as keynote is important for its drawbacks especially with regards to educational institutions; over the long term they are not surprising. By their very nature at all levels they are boring and dull. So how do you spark the artistry by surprise on a regular basis? The teacher starts her/his first lesson with a surprise and the students respond well, then the next lesson there is also a surprise and they still respond quite well, then soon the response becomes "Oh no, this damn teacher is giving us another surprise, I can't be bothered". The point here is the same as the one above about discovery learning, the work can spark interest for a while but creative work per se is not enough for quality learning. Concentration and learning is a discipline, it is a frame of mind, an attitude taken by a student, and as all practising teachers know, not all students are disciplined. But we don't actually teach discipline, discipline is imposed usually through punishment but discipline should be positive. It should not simply be a set of school commandments; although school rules are required to promote consideration amongst students, discipline should be a positive framework for learning.
Silence and discussion are issues to consider in terms of discipline. The traditional dragon catholic schoolmarm walks into the classroom and immediately the students are quiet. She starts teaching and they listen because they are frightened of her wrath if she catches them not having listened. Fear of the dragonlady produces concentration but fear has its counterpart, it can block learning because it closes the channel leading to quality. But suppose the outward form of the discipline just described actually came from the students. Suppose the teacher walks into the room and the students are quiet out of respect for the teacher's learning. The teacher starts talking and the students are quiet because they want to learn, and they concentrate for the same reasons. This time the channel to quality is opened by the concentration as before but also it is not closed by fear. This is positive academic discipline. What is the purpose of discussion? You ask a friend in order to solve a problem, therefore the discussion is short. If it is group discussion then the discipline keeps the discussion on track.
So discipline-in-action has just been described but what is discipline? It is simply a form of concentration, it is concentration on the desire for learning. "Did you watch the football Saturday? Yes, let's talk about it at the end of the lesson." "My mother was really unfair she should have given me more money for food. I must stop thinking about that and concentrate on the lessons." "Stephen and John are talking about girls they met last night. Let them talk, I will listen now - I can talk about the girls later if I want." "Those two students are about to start fighting, what can I do to stop them? Perhaps if I can persuade others to help me to divert their attention then they won't fight and we can continue learning." Many of the pressures are peer-group and revolve centrally around the issue that learning is not valued sufficiently by the students, and therefore they don't concentrate on the desire for learning.
Reflection-in-action occurs as a matter of practice so it is important to see what Schon2 considers is good practice [p35]. "Professional artistry is understood in terms of reflection-in-action, and it plays a central role in the description of professional competence.
On this view, we would recognise as a limiting case the situations in which it is possible to make a routine application of existing rules and procedures to the fact of particular problematic situations. Beyond these situations, familiar rules, theories, and techniques are put to work in concrete instances through the intermediary of an art that consists in a limited form of reflection-in-action. And beyond these, we would recognise cases of problematic diagnosis in which practitioners not only follow rules of inquiry but also sometimes respond to surprising findings by inventing new rules, on the spot. This kind of reflection-in-action is central to the artistry with which practitioners sometimes make new sense of uncertain, unique, or conflicted situations."
He continues on p36:-
"Underlying this view of the practitioner's reflection-in-action is a constructionist view of the reality with which the practitioner deals. This constructionist view leads us to see the practitioner as constructing situations of his practise, not only in the exercise of professional artistry but also in all other modes of professional competence." In the constructionist view our perceptions, appreciations, and beliefs are rooted in worlds of our own making that we come to accept as reality. Communities of practitioners are continually engaged in what Nelson Goodman(1978) calls "worldmaking".
Through countless acts of attention and inattention, naming, sensemaking, boundary setting, and control, they make and maintain the worlds matched to their professional knowledge and know-how. They are in transaction with their practise worlds, framing the problems that arise in practise situations and shaping the situations to fit the frames, framing their roles and constructing practise situations to make their role-frames operational. They have, in short, a particular, professional way of seeing their world and a way of constructing and maintaining the world as they see it. When practitioners respond to the indeterminate zones of practise by holding a reflective conversation with the materials of their situations, they remake a part of their practise world and thereby reveal the usually tacit processes of worldmaking that underlie all of their practise."
Meditation and Reflection-in-action
Schon2's five moments of reflection-in-action described on p28 have similarities with meditation as put forward by Krishnamurti. The stages are:-
1) Tacit knowing-in-action
4) Produce new strategies
5) On-the-spot experiment.
This tacit knowing (stage 1) is the knowledge of daily life referred to above but the point is that it should be minimal - not a technical manual. Through surprise develops concentration producing reflection and new strategies (stages 2, 3 & 4), a process of learning which understands the implication of the systems and not conforming or following. This is a process of learning or listening with unoccupied brains, not insisting on a way of knowledge as a doctrine but reflecting on what is happening and developing a strategy. Finally on-the-spot experiment (stage 5) is applying the approach in daily life ie in the situation of the job. In my view meditation and reflection-in-action are similar processes. If reflection-in-action is a process of quality as postulated, then meditation can also be seen as one.
Design is a Process
"Designing, broadly speaking, is the process fundamental to the exercise of artistry in all professions." Schon2 [p41]. At first glance this is an all-encompassing phrase grown out of inspirational thinking, teaching design however is a process of quality so this needs to be examined." A preliminary plan or sketch for the making or production of a building, machine, garments etc." Definition of design from the Concise Oxford Dictionary
What follows design? You build the building, you fashion the garment, you make the machine, all of these are technical/practical skills. Although there is
craftsmanship (a certain type of quality) within the application of these skills, if there is quality then it is in the design. Therefore we are dealing with a process of quality - design.
Design is a problem however. Sayings such as "it's not worth the paper it's written on" apply, Centrepoint and similar tower blocks are symptoms of design problems. The advantages of design cited in Schon2 [pp78-79] are positive advantages but how valid are they for the inexperienced? Can Petra frame the problem, determine the features to notice, impose the order, decide on the direction to effect change? The answer is no, why? She has not had the experience.
Schon2 [p77] "The architect's sketchpad is an example of the variety of virtual worlds on which all the professionals are dependent." But this sketchpad and the virtual world it represents "can function reliably as a context for experiment only insofar as the results of experiment can be transferred to the built world. The validity of the transfer depends on the fidelity with which the drawn world represents the built one" Schon2 [p77]. Can Petra provide that fidelity? Without experience it is unlikely.
Schon2 recognises a gap between technical rationality and professional artistry but he sees this as an incomplete system - the theory is not valid/complete. But isn't there a gap between design and practise? He suggests there is, and that gap can be filled by reflection-in-action. Is that true? Petra's filling of that gap only occurred because of the input of Quist, was that input just reflection-in-action? No, his input was quality input based on his own professional artistry, which had been gained by years of experience. Reflection-in-action cannot be a substitute for experience or quality.
The practicum is the place where the practise takes place, so it is important to understand what provides a good situation and what factors we are looking for to give us that situation. "A practicum is a setting designed for the task of learning a practice" Schon2 [p37]. Students learn by doing tasks, often not real world, undertake projects that simulate and simplify practise or they take on real projects under close supervision. The practicum is also the place where the process to quality takes place, we must consider this place carefully.
One book I want to look at is The Way of the Ronin by Barbara Potter. Here the author is working in an American business school lecturing to the finance sector as to how they can improve. This must be practical, after all they pay her. Therefore observations from her book that would fit processes to quality have the backing of financial real life, if my contentions are supported in that sector legitimate questions can be raised.
There "is emerging a new breed of worker, the Ronin, who has broken with the tradition of career feudalism. Guided by a personally defined code of adaptability, autonomy, and excellence, Ronin are employing career strategies grounded in a premise of rapid change. By making lateral moves that follow their interests, they become generalists with specialities" [Potter pxi].
There are a number of key aspects here which relate to quality but the most interesting I feel is her notion of the personally defined code. Where does this code come from? A Ronin must have come to terms with her/himself, and determined a code, a way of life - her true path. Fullan's change agentry springs to mind when the Ronin is considering strategies that are "premised in rapid change". "Following interests" is an important idea when considering the questions of motivation and lack of alienation, and "autonomy" is a key concept for a process of non-alienation. And finally there is the term "excellence" used by Pirsig for arete, this could be an alternative word for his quality. Potter discusses the way of the Ronin as the way of excellence on pp68-70. Although not directly using the term quality I would claim that Potter's way of the Ronin could be viewed as a path to quality.
This pleases me in this context. Business practice is beginning to recognise that human potential is being wasted through its practices of what Potter calls "career feudalism. This potential is being limited by wasteful practices of poor motivation, alienated workforce, and a lack of quality that comes from individuals whose involvement in their work is purely career and remunerative - in other words achievement-orientated. Poor motivation with alienated students working in an environment whose only involvement is achievement cannot better describe a school classroom, the arguments presented throughout Potter's book have a clear application to schools whilst at the same time supporting the need for quality education. When discussing the notion of burnout she claims that "the underachiever has already burned out, probably in high school or even earlier. Our schools are part of the feudal system, preparing us for corporate life. A person who loses the desire to strive to reach a goal, to achieve has a malaise of the spirit. The spirit, that which is uniquely human, has been damaged or impaired by career feudalism, being rendered powerless to accomplish work goals" [Potter p50]. Strategies that she uses to encourage the way of the Ronin could also be considered as processes to quality in schools if applicable.
On pp54-56 she describes paths to personal power as follows:-
Thought Control and Mood Management
and then she describes "Four Promoters of Good Work":-
Acknowledgement (reward and reinforcement).
If, and this is a big if, our students were able to develop paths to their own power by following some of the above strategies then we would begin to develop quality education. It is a big if because our education institutions need to be adapted to consider this and there is neither the finance nor the will to do this. But in a philosophical enquiry it is appropriate to raise these paths.
Aspects of Quality
[Pirsig1 p211] "such as vividness, authority, economy, sensitivity, clarity, emphasis, flow, suspense, brilliance, precision, proportion, depth" - he was looking at aspects of quality concerning creative writing.
Artistry (see Professional Artistry above)
Covert things (see discussion above)
Thought Control and Mood Management
Processes of Quality
Reflection-in-action (see discussion above - Thoughts on Reflection-in-Action)
Design (see discussion below - Design is a process)
Narrowing down process - focussing
Removal of grades and ranking quality
Opening channels to students' quality
Develop involvement from within them (see Attitude to Learning)
"Four Promoters of Good Work":-
Acknowledgement (reward and reinforcement).
In this section of the study module I have developed an approach to quality education through consideration of various texts many of which have had an immense impact on my personal life. This was exploratory hopefully elucidating the more obtuse aspects connected to the notions of quality and spirit, and having completed this minor exploration I shall be considering how they apply to the four learning outcomes of the ISM proposal -
a) To determine an understanding of Quality
b) To determine processes that can lead to quality
c) To determine whether these processes are applicable to quality education
d) To determine how we can achieve quality education
|1 intro||2 Processes||3 Main||4 TQM||conclusion has been misplaced|