Section 3Can we apply this process to education?
In section 2 I have developed quality - the search for process, this was exploratory in the sense that it was more discursive and not summative. In this main essay I will attempt to be more concise and try to encapsulate the exploratory process; you might therefore wish to consider this essay alongside the exploration.
As this is a philosophical enquiry I can begin to look at a determination of quality. "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" [Pirsig p210]. I am going to start from the basis that defining quality is restrictive but that does not prevent me from determining an understanding. Words like soul and spirit have to be freely used in academic religious work without definition so I am asking that quality be placed in a parallel philosophical context. Whilst religious people have an understanding of soul and spirit without having to define it, I want to develop a similar understanding for quality in a philosophical context.
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. At the beginning of the discourse Socrates asks Meno for his definition of Virtue. Gradually he demonstrates that the definition was not complete:-
"Soc.:- When I was only in quest of one virtue, I have, it seems, found a whole swarm of virtues" [Meno p5], and
"Soc. You say (it is virtue) to be able to govern. Shall we not subjoin the (word) justly, but not, unjustly?
Meno:- I think so. For justice, Socrates, is virtue.
Soc.:- Is it, Meno, virtue, or some virtue?" [Meno p7]
In this manner Socrates demonstrates that it is pointless to try to define virtue. In conclusion Meno p48 he states that "virtue can neither come by nature, nor yet be taught, but by a divine fate is present" [Plato p48] in those we see as virtuous.
Later I hope to refute that it cannot "yet be taught" but in this statement Plato supports the contention that virtue or quality cannot be defined, that it's presence is a divine fate. In this context of defining quality I maintain that Plato supports the contention that quality can be conceived as a philosophical undefineable like the soul or spirit.
This also helps in developing an understanding, if quality is "present by divine fate" this helps us to direct our thinking into areas of divine understanding. We accept or we do not accept the existence of God but we all have some understanding of what those who are ascribing as divine mean.
I want to examine the position of quality within the phenomenological research paradigm. I want to begin by looking at the use of the term noumenon. Noumenon was introduced by Kant in "The Critique of Pure Reason" 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. This is again consistent with a divine view of quality but in a global sense.
In a later part of Socrates' dialogue with Meno, Plato points to attributes that were essential for actions to be virtuous. "This then is virtue, the power of obtaining good things... to be added to this act of acquisition, justice or prudence or sanctity or some other act of virtue" Plato [pp15-16]. In other words living a quality life is doing quality acts, striving for quality throughout.
Other attributes of quality can be recognised such as originality; 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, so although we cannot define quality we can recognise it.
Quality-in-Action is the intention of Schon's 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.
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.
On Schon2 [p13] he gives the premises of this professional artistry:-
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.
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", Schon2 [p81], are ways used to describe these covert things in professional artistry. 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?"
Another description for these covert things might be perceptions. Three years after studying maths for many years, I was having late night drinks and discussion. I remember having a mental flash/perception about the importance of isomorphism in all the maths I had learnt - I remember thinking that the patterns of the different branches of maths were all the same. It further crossed my mind why couldn't I have thought that while I was learning maths; that insight has been of no 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?
In the concept summary of the development section I listed the following attributes of quality:-
Artistry (see Professional Artistry above)
Covert things (see discussion above)
Thought Control and Mood Management
An Understanding of Quality - Conclusion
I have tried to show that we cannot define quality, paraphrasing Plato it is only by divine fate that quality is present. But a definition is not a prerequisite for understanding. It is accepted that we all have different religious concepts of soul and spirit and it is not an academic necessity to define these terms in order to use them. In the philosophical field quality need not be defined, however we do need to try to understand it.
Quality is inherent in actions, and these actions come from a quality person. What constitutes this quality person? These are attributes such as virtue, honesty, self-knowledge described in the above concept summary. How do we know quality actions? Because of our judgement as a teacher, we see that a student is producing quality work, clarity and precision in maths, creativity in art, etc. It is a perception, a recognition of covert things, "if you got to ask what is all the time, you'll never get time to know" Pirsig [p222].
One attribute of quality is professional artistry, with all that Schon has written this will help in looking at processes to quality and achieving quality education through educating the reflective practitioner.
Understanding quality is like trying to understand the divine, it is an understanding we can never achieve but we can learn a great deal trying.
B) TO DETERMINE PROCESSES THAT CAN LEAD TO QUALITY
We would all like to attain some form of quality but if we leave it as undefined then how do we attain it? I draw a parallel with soul and spirit, some would claim that they live in tune with their soul or they are living in divine grace, with spirit. Without defining people make these claims and some would attest that some people do live in these states. I would claim that some people can perform quality actions but where do these quality actions come from? By promoting attitudes or approaches to particular problems then through their resolution quality actions have occurred, these attitudes or approaches I have called processes to quality. Recognising these processes to quality will hopefully engender more actions we would call quality.
As I have just mentioned it is the adoption of proper attitudes and approaches that will lead to processes to quality. Firstly I want to consider the state of mind. Can an agitated mind having difficulty focussing on the problem produce quality work? I contend no. There must be peace of mind, and one process that can lead to peace of mind is meditation, whatever method of meditation.
To understand a bit more about meditation and peace of mind it is necessary to consider a little the action of the mind. Thoughts come in and out of the mind, like butterflies they flutter in and out of the mind. But they can gain strength if we become preoccupied with a thought. For example we might become jealous because the wife has a cleaning bill for a suit that is not yours, and although we trust her the jealous thought grows in strength as the mind focuses on doubt. We cannot achieve quality whilst the mind is focussing on another thought. Krishnamurti describes meditation as the control of the movement of thought by watching and concentrating, and he describes concentration as focussing thought in one direction. If we develop peace of mind by controlling the movement of thought by concentration and meditation then we have a greater chance of achieving quality.
One description of this process would be to say that through concentration and meditation we have developed the peace of mind that could open up a channel to quality. By this I mean that we have the capabilities of producing quality within us but for various reasons we are blocked from doing so. Perhaps we don't have the skills, but then even with the skills we don't always produce quality work because we are not focussed, we are too emotional, preoccupied with a quarrel. I would claim that the channel to quality has been blocked and we need to try to keep it open.
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.
Now Pirsig might describe Removing Hang-ups as 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. 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, the answer is inside you - expand the roots of what you already know.
Schon describes professional artistry as an attribute of a reflective practitioner, I would claim this was quality; therefore the processes that lead to being a reflective practitioner would in my words be processes to quality. This Schon describes as reflection-in-action when he says on p49 [Schon1] "Let us search for an epistemology of practice implicit in the artistic, intuitive processes which some practitioners do ring to situations of uncertainty, instability, uniqueness and value conflict."
In Educating the Reflective Practitioner he describes Reflection-in-Action by three processes:-
Knowing-in-Action - "Common sense admits the category of know-how, and it does not stretch common sense very much to say that the know-how is in the action"
[p50], and "it is also true that in much of the spontaneous behaviour to skilful practice we reveal a kind of knowing which does not stem from a prior intellectual operation"[p51].
Reflecting-in-Action - "When intuitive spontaneous performance leads to surprise, pleasing and promising or unwanted, we may respond by reflecting-in-action... reflection tends to focus interactively on the outcomes of action, the action itself, and the intuitive knowing implicit in the action"[p56]. Such reflecting-in-action is covered by phrases such as "thinking on your feet", "keeping your wits about you", and "learning by doing"[p54].
Reflecting-in-Practice - "When a practitioner reflects in and on his practice, the possible objects of his reflection are as varied as the kinds of phenomena before him and the systems of knowing-in-practice which he brings to them. He may reflect on the tacit norms and appreciations, which underlie a judgement, or on the strategies and theories implicit in a pattern of behaviour. He may reflect on the feeling for a situation which has led him to adopt a particular course of action, on the way in which he has framed the problem he is trying to solve, or on the role he has constructed for himself within a larger institutional context"[p62].
"Reflection-in-action, in these several modes, is central to the art through which practitioners sometimes cope with the troublesome "divergent" situations of practice"[p62]."When someone reflects-in-action, he becomes a researcher in the practice context. He is not dependent on the categories of established theory and technique, but constructs a new theory of the unique case. His inquiry is not limited to a deliberation about means, which depends on a prior agreement about ends. He does not keep means and ends separate, but defines them interactively as he frames a problematic situation. He does not separate thinking from doing, ratiocinating his way to a decision, which he must later convert to action"[p68].
Schon counters technical rationality with his reflection-in-action, how can we have professional artistry if people follow a skills manual rather than applying their intelligence. This is supported by Pirsig [pp35-36] when he describes at a garage "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." If there is no identification with the job there is no channel to quality as there is no focussing on the task at hand.
Finally I want to look at what are wrong processes. We have just touched on one - technical rationality, solving problems by following a rulebook. 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]. By considering this dualistic process in the context of channels to quality then there is a clear parallel. By joining the mechanic to the motorcycle through a channel we produce quality.
One final example of a wrong process is the career feudalism of Beverley Potter, which she counters by the Way of the Ronin - a process to Quality. 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].
I have tried to establish a number of processes to quality:-
1) Channels to Quality through peace of mind, meditation and concentration.
2) Removing Hang-Ups
4) The Way of the Ronin
5) Removing Wrong Processes
Although there is much overlap in these processes to quality they are workable processes to be considered for the coming parts of the Study Module.
C) TO DETERMINE WHETHER THESE PROCESSES ARE APPLICABLE TO QUALITY EDUCATION
In the last section, outcome B), we described 5 processes to quality:-
1) Channels to Quality through peace of mind, meditation and concentration.
2) Removing Hang-Ups
4) The Way of the Ronin
5) Removing Wrong Processes
I want now to see whether these processes, if applied to education, would actually yield quality.
1) Channels to Quality through peace of mind, meditation and concentration.
Let me begin by looking at channels to quality. Much of this was developed from work by Krishnamurti. He describes learning as "observing and listening and doubting and being sceptical. It means that you are not conforming, not obeying, not repeating, 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).
He describes meditation as "constant observation and learning", keeping the mind open, keeping the channel to quality open. For this we need concentration, and 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.
Learning comes from a peace of mind that creates open channels to quality and therefore quality education. There are many schools, schools teaching adults about coping with life, religion etc, which teach meditation techniques but we don't teach them to our children - why? It is not a question of whether this is an applicable process for producing quality education, it is a question of why it is not applied.
2) Removing Hang-Ups
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." Undoubtedly these emerging factors can lead to quality. But how do we consider this in the context of quality education? As it is a technique which can provide emerging factors leading to quality then we need to promote education processes where you can just stare and think", "search randomly", " go and come", and "factors emerge". This is quality education. The real question is "How do we provide a programme of study that leads to this?"
Schon wrote a book entitled "Educating the Reflective Practitioner". In this he was trying to provide a practicum, a place of learning and style of teaching and learning, whose end result was professional artistry. This could be the same as Providing Quality education, an approach to some processes to quality". As we are examining the question as to whether these processes are applicable to quality education, the answer is in general yes, if we can educate a reflective practitioner we can apply this process to quality education.
4) The Way of the Ronin
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].
Implicit within this description of the Way of the Ronin are several strategies for quality education:-
1) Teaching a code of adaptability
2) Teaching a code of autonomy
3) Teaching a code of excellence
4) Following interests (including making lateral moves)
5) Becoming generalists with specialities
All of these Ways of the Ronin (processes to quality) can lead to quality education but how do we achieve this education platform?
5) Removing Wrong Processes
Here we have several processes, which can be recognised as wrong in terms of quality education. As they are clearly defined as opposed to other aspects of this module it is reasonably easy to recognise that their removal can be applied to an education process. But is the will there to do it?
I was examining Socrates' dialogue with Meno with a view to comparing Virtue with Quality, and the more I read the greater I saw the comparison. But then came Plato's conclusion, and this frightened me:-
"Virtue can neither come by nature, nor yet be taught, but by a divine fate is present" [Plato p48] in those we see as virtuous. Plato is saying virtue or quality cannot be taught.
Socrates questions whether others can teach virtue using examples of parents who were unable to make sons virtuous. Using a discourse with a slave he demonstrated that certain knowledge could be elicited from the slave even though the slave had not been taught, laying an argument that the soul contains the essence of this knowledge. And as result of this he claimed the above, that virtue is a divine gift and cannot be taught.
In the introduction [Plato p1] it is stated that "virtue is not a science, it cannot, like a science, be made the subject of teaching". For me teaching virtue or quality hinges on the heredity/environment argument. Using Plato's notion that quality is a divine gift, how does that gift come into fruition? It is nurtured, but not by someone defining quality and then telling the gifted person that they should behave in a certain way. Equally the gifted person is not told you are gifted so go away and be gifted, be virtuous, live a quality life, do quality acts. An art teacher is not necessarily a better artist than the gifted artist, but they can teach approaches that will help the artist. The author can be helped to be a writer by someone who cannot create a literary masterpiece. If the teacher is a person who can only teach by being superior in the particular field to the students then society has a problem. When we are teaching students are we as teachers more intelligent than students? Not necessarily. When I teach maths I know more maths than the students because of age and experience, am I a better mathematician than the student? Not necessarily.
I would therefore contend that absolute quality can never be taught but we can teach towards that goal, enhancing the gift of quality in the student but not necessarily reaching the absolute. But being realistic when in education do we ever achieve anything 100%? But the problem with quality is that we don't really try.
Despite Plato's conclusion to the contrary I believe I have countered to suggest that a process to quality ought to be possible within the realms of education, in some way teachable. Education is a force, a process which is shapeless and amoeba-like attaching itself to the boundaries and limitations of those to be educated and pull them towards Quality/arete, the attitudes of the truly educated."
D) TO DETERMINE HOW WE CAN ACHIEVE QUALITY EDUCATION
In the last section we saw that processes to quality can be applied to quality education but can we actually achieve it. For Schon to achieve reflection-in-action it was necessary for him to describe an alternative institution, a different way of teaching - the practicum. I would maintain that the apprenticeship-like system of a practicum, a work environment has to be the best way of developing quality because of all the motivational and other aspects favourable to such an environment in comparison with an academic institution.
Can progress be made in existing institutions? We need to examine attitudes to these institutions by society, students and teachers, and by the curriculum developers. If society does not want to invest in quality education it will never get it. There is an argument that some students are kept at schools to keep them off the streets. If there are such students and they are attending the same institution as the ones who are after a quality education, how can it possibly work? Instead of students striving for quality gaining the attention and expertise of the teacher, that teacher is forced to focus her attention on the disruption of the enforced school attender. We must rethink how we value the need for quality education.
Let us think about the five processes to quality in terms of trying to achieve them in schools:-
Can we imagine the practice of building a channel to quality by peace of mind through meditation and concentration whilst there is a fight in the room or someone is throwing furniture?
When describing exam technique I say to students if you get stuck on a question leave it and go back to it later, and sometimes the answer comes. In other words there are applications for quality education but I don't think we can provide a programme of study. But it does point to a whole area of teacher education that could be developed more - the old wives' tips and tricks. Teachers should be encouraged to look at these tricks and pass them on to students. But is it appropriate in our current education institutions to try to teach removing hang-ups as a process?
Schon needed to advocate the alternative practicum in order to achieve his education of the reflective practitioner.
Can we imagine having adaptability, autonomy and excellence on the schools curriculum?
Surely we can remove wrong processes. Yes we can remove imitation, we can remove skills and technique teaching, and memory training, but what would we have left?
And would it be advisable, in my view removing these wrong processes is only advisable in the context of providing quality education. If we don't provide quality then we should at least give them the skills so that at a later date they can develop their own quality.
To conclude I believe that quality is something that can be taught through processes. However this is not practical in our existing institutions with society's current attitude to education. If we want quality we must decide to reward through recognition those with quality, and also provide institutions with the freedom and applicability to develop quality. But is that quality what the system wants?
Plato "The Works of Plato" Vol III. Translated by G Burges. George Bell
& Sons (1901)
|1 intro||2 Processes||3 Main||4 TQM||conclusion has been misplaced|