G’Day ‘learners’.

Today’s blog will help sports coaches (and all caring adult stakeholders) to:

Consider the idea of inter-disciplinary sharing to better inform the practice and future of your own and peers’ efforts with learners…

Two of the great mysteries that I have come across since teaching in pretty much every context is these:

1) Why are university faculty with a research background expected to teach even though they mostly don’t possess a teaching degree?

2) Why do the big sports’ corporations’ leading coaches often travel on ‘junkets’ to USA and European professional set-ups, when they would learn so much from their neighbouring coach at the field over the fence in a different sport?

I have spent the best part of a decade working on finding answers to these questions… One day I might understand these bizarre processes but I fear it will not be until my death bed.
Here below is an example of a local AFL club in Australia looking at the rugby league club next door for help in keeping their players’ safe! Well done Wilston-Grange Gorillas of AFLQ where I have so far worked on ‘contact’ safety in teams and with coaches from U/11 right through to seniors including some of the senior women’s last year’s state flag winners! In any case cross code sharing seems oddly rare at the ‘coalface’ in Australian sport.

Although, I retired from a decade’s work teaching at universities last year, the Gunn household is very lucky as both Therese (my wife) and I have worked or in her case are still working as a university lecturer. It is of course, most unfortunate for our kids when our morning pot of tea questions turn to improving unique individual learning outcomes for students. Therese is not a trained teacher but may as well be as she has levels of EQ that I only dream of and is always looking at bettering her craft. As such, she is almost finished her PHD, and presents her final seminar this in June this year.

She is also very, very, very clever! Below is her sideline business that she has created and runs with three peers. It provides a virtual environment for student radiographers to gain confidence and skills before and after their hospital placements. The idea here of course is so that if the knowledge and manipulations of machines becomes more automated, then the students can focus on the ‘real’ stuff: patient care.

This I feel is akin to the first teaching practicums of school teachers where you are placed in a school environment with a mentor and learn more about the relationship side of the profession, rather than the actual ART of teaching. I remember it being in my second year for example, and you got to teach very small and rare segments only. AND of course. all the mentor really wanted to see was how well you relate and if you had presence. Well that’s what I got out of it and passed it on ‘in kind’ to the university students I taught at schools or universities!

This is the business referred to above! It’s called ‘medspace.VR’, . In this clip you will hear the beautiful tonal treats of Dr. Peter Bridge from the University of Liverpool.

Which brings me to the point of this piece: can Virtual Reality (VR) simulations learn from Physical Education (PE) teaching models? Therese Gunn thinks so of course in suggesting that importantly for health educators using technology or aids:

requires the educator to understand the technical possibilities of the technology as well as have a thorough understanding of the content. Awareness and the acceptance that “it depends” is the key.
— Therese Gunn, 2019

You see, like any interventions in PE and many education interventions like computer laptops rolled out in schools, Therese makes the point that the unique learner is key, including the teacher. The quote above comes from an abstract that’s been accepted by an upcoming conference on the use of simulation in health. It does not feature in her PHD. However, a morning chat between us on Mosston and Ashworth’s (2002) ‘Spectrum of Teaching Styles’ alighted within in my great teaching mate a possible future direction on the learning journey to ultimately improve students’ learning and subsequent patients’ care outcomes.

YES, there are always ‘gimmicks’, ‘fads’ or better named teaching ‘models’ that are available for any educator or coach to use. Take the below work from the Australian Sports Commission, now Sport Australia. Not too long ago I believe we led the world in sports’ coaching research through engaging resources and interventions, like, “Playing for Life”, “Sporting Schools”, “Game Sense” and “Yulunga”.

A great teacher knows that ‘one size does not fit all’. It never has. It never will. AND of course, the dynamic nature of learning evolves moment by moment. Yet, despite not having a teaching degree, Therese through her research had worked out that just like in PE, Sports Coaching and all educational sectors, their are many well thought out interventions sitting idle and gathering dust… Because, ‘It DEPENDS’ on so many factors. For example, anybody who calls my own coaching here in Australia ‘Gunny Madness’ and “gunny Chaos’ or worse has not seen me teach contact. Here is where the beauty of Mosston and Ashworth come in!

Even on film my director mate, Anthony of AOB Media says, I’m one of the easiest presenters to work with. I’m just “GUNNY”! AND, even though I get into a ‘zone’ my 1000s upon 100s of sessions, contexts, students, changes etc etc leads to me sometimes using different parts of the ‘Spectrum’. That’s not to say I don’t plan. I elicit from coaches I work with what problem they want players to solve and I get them to bring all of this out in full colour. Then, like a MAD scientist, I splash a bit of this, and reduce the heat on that, and stir vigorously that etc… This is the ART of teaching. And of course it’s something that Therese will explore through Mosston and Ashworth’s legacy, including leaning on the shoulder of the odd PE teaching peers of mine like Dr. Sue-See and Dr. Pill. Probably plenty more too!

Of course, I firmly live in the ‘grey’ of no right or wrong so I am biased but I have a feeling my wife is onto something here. Knowing subject matter yourself doesn’t mean that you can get others to learn. And just as the GREAT Muska Mosston tried to show us teaching is a complex series of decisions to be REapplied, REobserved, REflected on and then REbuilt or REpealed or REvealed.

And yet again I wonder about REsearch. REflection:

Why the constant drive for ‘new’ contributions to knowledge? What’s wrong with a REturn to the ‘old’? How often are interventions REleased that are simple REhashes of things that worked or didn’t work many years ago? As a teacher, of course when was the most REcent time you truly REvolutionised your teaching through REspecting differentiation of learners. EXAMPLE: Some students will thrive in a VR environment just like some will prefer closed drills in PE. When has there been a moment where you REinvigorated your teaching through this REality?
As a REflection of my own and REminder of how this began I will retell an anecdote that leads High Performance coaches of the learning from the discipline next door:
I was once fortunate enough to work with an academy from a professional AFL team. I gave my feedback and one of my examples caught the Head Coaches’ interest. “This tennis ball technique of yours was taught by to us at _______________ by All Black, _______________ , when I played at ________________ (played over 300games). “Well,” I replied, “I first came across the method in 1986 and it was taught to us by Christian Brother _________________ (so long ago I forget).
Yes my teaching peers, when have you openly and genuinely sought out learning from your teaching peer next door? Whatever the discipline… There is GOLD I tell you over the fence OR around the kitchen bench!

Yours in learning,