"If the Age of Sport has been all champagne and roses hitherto, then expect our love affair with its newly-acquired prominence to become increasingly tainted by scandals about cheating. Sport is losing its shine and allure"
-Attributed to Martin Jacques
Recently, an event occurred that captured the attention of the entire country and evoked outrage, disgust, and feelings of betrayal by the everyday citizen.
Members of the men's Australian Cricket team were caught cheating.
Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull labelled it "a shocking disappointment" and the furore on social media has been predictably savage. There are, I think, two parts to the conversation that we as a country need to have.
Firstly, why are we surprised? I have been refereeing football (soccer) for several years (though taking a year or two off to be with Ms One) and I have heard from coaches, from parents, from players a disturbing amount of vitriol that all amounts to win at any costs. I have even seen this in under five's football. Five year old children being told to "cut him down," "run harder," and "what were you thinking? that was a stupid pass."
What message is being given to our kids who idolise so many sports stars when this happens, what message do we give them when we coach our local Underage sporting team and we give messages akin to win ant any costs? We get athlete's who lose sight of professionalism, ethics, self-pride, and do whatever they can to win.
Steve Smith, now ex-Captain of the men's Australian Cricket Team, said in his emotional press conference that "We spoke about it and thought it was a possible way to get an advantage. Obviously it didn't work." The Rules of Cricket (rule 41.3.2) state that "It is an offence for any player to take any action which changes the condition of the ball." Therefore, any action in breach of this, such as using sandpaper to scrape the ball, is cheating, not a possible way to get an advantage.
What message are we sending to our kids when we coach them when we scream from the sidelines about how they are not trying hard enough or making stupid decisions? Are we in fact coaching? Or are we confusing them and hurting their ability to learn given that there is (generally) one coach for the team and it is probably not you?
When I was a pre-service teacher, I was involved in helping coach the school's Touch Football Team and attended a Gala Day with them and the actual coach, another teacher. We had one student in particular who was one of those kids; brilliant at any ball game he tried his hand at. He was, unquestionably, the star of the team and had a hand in nearly every try that was scored.
Between two matches (we played four matches that day), he was involved in some deplorable sledging against another team, using language that I would never accept in the playground. I felt that it was enough to pull him from the team for the remaining games, and if it was my choice, I would have pulled him and had him returned to school immediately, with a long conversation about appropriate language, sporting conduct, and the role that off-field behaviour has for selection. However, I was over ruled. He was too important to the team and we did not stand a chance without this boy on the field.
What message does that send? How will you address this cheating with your children? With the kids sports team that you coach?
The second conversation that I think we need to have is why is this the thing that grips the nations attention and creates a furore and a national sense of self-righteous indignation and a feeling of betrayal, and demands for a change in culture and that action be taken, with the three players involved handed lengthy bans?
Why was it not the 2002 Cronulla Sharks' pack-sex assault against a nineteen year old woman? Why was it not in 2009 when Adelaide Crows gave an indefinite-ban to Nathan Bock after was admitted to assaulting his then girlfriend but lifted it a week later because they were playing a strong team the next weekend? Why was it not a few years later when Bock received a two-match suspension for dodgy gambling about his own matches - a sentence twice as bad for hurting gambling as for hurting another human. There are so many other incidents that could be pointed to that it is not worth listing them. Credit to Clementine Ford for those I have listed, drawn from her article on 27 March, here.
I have to admit that I got caught up in the indignation and shock when I first heard about the cheating by Smith, Warner, and Bancroft. When I stopped to analyse it though, I think it was because we have become so used to hearing about various incidents from other sporting codes, such as rugby league and AFL, that it's not a surprise to hear about issues in those sports. For cricket, however, it did come as a surprise.
If you coach, or are a parent with a child who plays sport, consider the message you are sending when you yell and shout and carry on at sporting events. Think about the message it sends about the value of a game compared to the value of a person's dignity.
“Seeking out people with different views, different perspectives, different ideas is often challenging, because it requires us to set aside judgment and open our minds. But we have to remind ourselves that to get beyond where we are, where I believe most of us are, we would all be be well served to choose our music carefully, to stop talking and listen to one another.”
― Susan Scott, Fierce Leadership: A Bold Alternative to the Worst "Best" Practices of Business Today
How often do you get to engage in research and conversations about what you have read in research with colleagues?
I have engaged ain and heard many conversations in staff rooms and classrooms across NSW. Many of them, most of them if am being honest, are about anything but pedagogy or education research. I peppered a colleague with questions about L3 when they were being trained in that, and learned a lot about it, and I have had sporadic conversations but there has never been a sustained focus.
Recently I was visiting schools in regional NSW as part of my role with ClickView and happened to be able to tee up a time to catch up with Pete van Whiting and John Catterson. I was expecting to catch up for dinner and a few drinks at a pub; but they had other ideas and roped me into joining them as they recorded an episode of their podcast, Teachers Talking Teaching.
I had only started listening to the podcast recently, but had managed to catch up and I thoroughly enjoy it. The banter is amusing, however, I enjoy listening to the conversations about educational research, or about articles that have been published about education. It is my experience that learningful conversations are not very common and so to be able to engage with the podcast is actually quite mentally stimulating. It also is interesting hearing two high school science teachers' thoughts on other sectors of education.
In this particularly episode, John was reviewing a book chapter which discussed the problems around having specific teaching standards and curriculum, while Pete was discussing an article about violence towards teachers.
It was a late night by the time I left, however, it was actually thoroughly enjoyable. The opportunity to engage in discussions around education theory, pedagogy, issues etc. is not one that comes up very often, and when it does, it has usually been with other primary teachers. So to be able to do so with two secondary teachers, who have a very different experience and perspective on teaching, was great.
If you have not listened to the podcast before, I do recommend it, as Pete and John are both quite articulate when they decide to be, and also hold some differing views in some areas which makes for great conversation. To be able to discuss education from a more theoretical-practical perspective based on the articles was thoroughly enjoyable from a professional level and a nice change from the typical conversations that I hear in staff rooms revolving around whether or not assessment tasks have been written, or around the activities of certain students, or what was on television the previous night.
Do you engage in pedagogy-based conversations at all? Occasionally? Sometimes but not as an instigator? I would be curious to understand why you do or do not. Leave a comment here or over on twitter.
"Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought."
- Attributed to Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
The penultimate unit in the Flipped Learning Level II Certification program was focused on understanding how to find and engage with research, and was with Dr. Robert Talbert of Grand Valley State University (MI). This unit I think was one that was extremely accessible for everyone and that all teachers should work through.
Given the rhetoric that is often present in the media and from politicians around the need for research-based teaching practice, this segment provided some very practical strategies for engaging with research. Robert acknowledged the challenge that paywalls present in preventing easy access to research, however, Google Scholar is a very good tool to utilise to help with that. It may be worth approaching a nearby university campus to see if you can arrange access to their library and therefore their databases and access research that way.
Anyone who has been required to read research will know that journal articles are often dense, long, heavy on statistics, and use overly-complicated language. One strategy, as obvious as it is, to help determine whether it is going to be worth reading an article or not, is to read through the abstract, which provides a summary of the article. I discarded a number of articles in my research after reading the abstract, however, I still found myself reading articles that I would decide partway through were not actually going to be useful for me.
Robert's advice was to skip straight to end and read the sections labelled discussion and conclusion. Robert pointed out that if these two sections, typically only a few paragraphs each in length, end up not yielding useful information then diving into the remainder of the article is not going to be worth the investment of time. It is such an obvious thing to do that I am disappointed in myself for not realising it while doing my own research.
Robert also spoke about some strategies to help determine if the research was quality, well-conducted research or not. Initially, this revolved around the clarity of the questions that the research was investigating. If the question being asked is not clearly defined or not explicitly stated that should raise some potential alarm bells. As part of this, any variables, or restrictions that relate to the research need to be stated, including any survey instruments such as questionnaires. Critically, the methodology needs to be laid out clearly in order to allow for replication. Good research should be able to be replicated and achieve the same or very similar results.
There does often seem to be a disconnect between research and the classroom, however, there does not need to be. Google Scholar allows you to set alerts so that you receive an email with the titles of a number of articles that meet search criteria that you set. This allows you to simply scan through and perhaps identify one or two articles each week that you want to invest the time into reading.
Another way of engaging with the research is to listen to podcasts where they explore research. Two very good podcasts that I listen to and recommend you listen to are The Education Review by Cameron Malcher, and Teachers Talking Teaching by John Catterson and Pete Whiting. Teachers talking Teaching is the less reverent podcast, however, both podcasts tackle education research and policy, and its implications for classroom and are worth listening to.
As always, thank you for reading.