Revealing what is 'tacit/rationally-invisible/in the background': an
online coaching pedagogy for developing improved leadership
practice through 'presencing empathetic responsiveness'
Abstract of PhD Submission to the University of Bath, 2012
This thesis reports on a self study into educational learning, energized and guided by the question 'how do I improve my practice?' (i), as I coach mature students on a distance learning Masters in Leadership Studies at Exeter University.
My 'living' educational inquiry(ii) captures and articulates the development of online
pedagogic practices which stimulate a 'virtual' culture of inquiry. These regular
'dialogically structured' (iii) web-based interactions help students successfully negotiate
learning barriers posed by the online medium, allowing them to notice and exploit the
variety of opportunities for learning and development available in their everyday lives, and the many different forms of knowing embedded in these. Through developing richer epistemologies and more resourceful ontologies, students increase their receptiveness and responsiveness to challenges in the situations they study and work in.
Through detailed analysis of textual and audio-visual data, I offer glimpses of such
learning and development, and the coaching associated with this, in fleeting moments of educational influencing which spark 'primitive reactions', in development episodes
where 'indwelling'(iv) transforms these into new 'language-games', and in reflexive
biographies which trace the longer term development of new ontological skills involved in 'knowing how to go on'(v).
At the heart of the online coaching pedagogy is an original 'inclusional'(vi) coaching
process I call presencing (vii) empathetic responsiveness which I use to encourage students to contextualise and presence their learning under conditions of epistemological and ontological uncertainty. This 'ontological' form of coaching enables students to become agents in the production of their own lives despite the masking and insidious effects of disciplinary power (viii), so they can learn to contribute effectively in a world characterized by 'supercomplexity'(ix).
The originality of the thesis lies in the synthesis of and creative linking between the
development of this situated learning, the methodological inventiveness (x) of the
pedagogy, key ideas on communication and learning from the literature, and the
embodied values that have enabled me to become a better educator.
i I use two meanings of the word 'practice': the first is the generally accepted meaning used to describe
what an individual habitually does; the second meaning looks beyond the individual to the complex of
interactions in a specific place and time in which she/he and others are embedded and responsively
involved in. The meaning I'm using will generally be evident from the immediate context of the
ii The question 'how do I improve my practice?' and the term 'living' educational inquiry come from the version of action research developed by Whitehead (Whitehead, 2009)
iii 'dialogically structured' is a term used by Shotter and refers to Bahktin's idea that 'every utterance
must be regarded as primarily a response to preceding utterances' (Bahktin in Shotter, 2008, p 51)
iv Polanyi's 'from-to' model of tacit knowing uses the term 'dwelling in the subsidiaries' to describe
what happens as one moves from 'tacit' to 'focal' awareness (Polanyi, 1983)
v The terms 'primitive reaction', 'language-game', and 'knowing how to go on' come from
Wittgenstein's ideas in Philosophical Investigations (Wittgenstein, 1958)
vi The term 'inclusional' comes from Rayner's work on 'natural inclusion/inclusionality' as are the
earlier terms 'receptiveness' and 'responsiveness' (Rayner, 2010)
vii This is a term coined by Scharmer (2005) combining the words 'present' and 'sense' to convey the
action of bringing into present reality a vision/idea from the future.
viii This idea from Foucault's Discipline and Punish refers to the subjugating effects on what people feel they can and cannot say, of exclusionary practices in mainstream discourse (Foucault, 1977)
ix The term 'supercomplexity' refers to Barnett's idea that knowledge in the modern university is
contested and uncertain, and that teaching/learning for operating effectively in the modern world,
should accordingly take place under conditions of 'epistemological and ontological uncertainty'
x This is a term used by Dadds and Hart to describe how developing the right form of methodology for a piece of research can become as important a source of motivation as the research topic itself (Dadds
and Hart, 2001)
You can download the PhD in the following parts in PDF format
Frontpage and Prologue pages1 & i-xii
Caveat Lector (2), Acknowledgements (3-4), Abstract (5-6), Contents (7-12) pages 2-12
INTRODUCTION pages 13-23
CHAPTER ONE: LIVING LIFE AS A 'PRESENCER OF DEVELOPMENTAL POSSIBILITIES' pages 24-47
CHAPTER TWO: THE COMPLEX EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENT OF THE COACHED MA pages 48-70
CHAPTER THREE: A 'LIVING' EDUCATIONAL THEORY FOR ONLINE COACHING pages 71-101
CHAPTER FOUR: FLEETING MOMENTS - NEW WAYS OF BEING-IN-THE-WORLD? pages 102-126
CHAPTER FIVE: DEVELOPMENT EPISODES - EMERGENCE OF NEW LANGUAGE-GAMES pages 127-153
CHAPTER SIX: REFLEXIVE BIOGRAPHIES - A LONGER VIEW ON DEVELOPMENT pages 154-182
CHAPTER SEVEN: TOWARDS A COACHING PEDAGOGY OF PRESENCING pages 183-220
EPILOGUE pages 221-222
BIBLIOGRAPHY pages 223-238
APPENDICES 1 pages 1-257
You can download all of the contents of the PhD in PDF format by clicking here. It is a 6.6 Mb file and will take some time to download with broadband