Adam Woodage 2020
The word ‘education’ is used with great frequency.
Indeed, we often publicise Goalkeeping Intelligence as an online ‘education’ platform, and my planned (albeit in the long-term!) return to academia would be to study a course on ‘Education, Policy and International Development’. It is often considered quite vaguely, but generally - in the English language - with reference to organised and systematic learning environments. The word ‘educación’ in Spanish, and many other languages of a similar root, on the other hand, relates more to the holistic upbringing of a young person than the more linear and organised concepts we often associate with the word.
The two listed noun definitions of ‘education’, according to the Oxford Dictionary of English exemplify this dichotomy:
1. The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.
2. An enlightening experience.
Working with the Goalkeeping Intelligence platform, alongside all other coach education and teacher training bodies, we find ourselves in the slightly abstract position of providing education for those empowered with providing education. It makes sense, one might therefore think, to attempt the journey of understanding what ‘education’ relates to, or at least the role it plays in our contexts.
Having spent a large number of months (back when we were looking at ‘FootballEducation’, for a general football course platform) since someone first challenged me with what the idea of ‘education' actually meant in conversation, I have racked up a number of ideas about what specifically is the vehicle of learning, or change, hoped for within Goalkeeping Intelligence, digging deeper than ‘education’ in its vaguest sense:
1. Encourage discussion between goalkeeper coaches of existing beliefs, knowledge and ideas
2. Encourage contextual and applied consideration on any ‘stimuli’ (our encompassing term for training footage, opinions and analysis)
3. Encourage reflection on personal philosophies, beliefs, behaviours and practice (in a goalkeeping and coaching context)
4. Encourage critical evaluation of ‘stimuli’ and discussion, both that provided by the platform and beyond
5. Challenge existing perspectives of thinking, especially those dependent on dogma
6. Bring in new expertise, knowledge and opinions from other industries to challenge existing methodologies and ‘ways of doing things'
7. Open coaches to experiences of those working in vastly different environments
8. Allow coaches to speak with and share discussion with coaches in vastly different environments
9. Allow coaches to practice, improve and develop their analysis and critical evaluation
10. Provide new technical and tactical goalkeeping knowledge, evidence-based ideas and tools for supporting goalkeepers
I feel reassured that most, if not all of the factors and objectives listed above fit within our mission statement of ‘inspiring, stretching and developing a community of critically-thinking goalkeeper coaches’.
Being able to drill down into education further than the word in itself, however, has helped me not only to make clear and transparent our objectives within the platform (and therefore informing what success looks like, the most effective metrics for measuring progress, and assessing most impactful future direction and strategy), but it has also allowed me to apply this level of abstract thinking to other environments where we consider education to be prominent.
The last couple of weeks have seen the release and discussion of both GCSE and A-Level results in the public domain, which involves implicitly the conversation of career prospects for students, university places and the roles that typical educational institutions assume in the development of our young people.
I find it fascinating to consider the success of a school such as Michaela, with a selective independent school, versus a traditional comprehensive. Often, people are quick to criticise or champion one model of ‘education’ over another, but this reductionist view of the complexity that education involves surely leads to nothing more than inefficient discussion and trivial arguments. Often, myself falling culprit on many occasions, we make assumptions and judgements on what 'good education’ looks like, based on our understanding of what ‘good education’ would look like in the environment in which we’re currently working.
We often don’t start with the end in mind when we’re critiquing or praising an organisation, and often - especially in the footballing world - make sweeping and generalised statements without considering the ‘fuller picture’: just because a focus on player-led and ‘playground’ practice might be an important part of a foundation phase academy footballer’s diet within their training programme in England, the same may not apply to a player in Spain, whose footballing hours away from training are 10+ every week and whose societal values place a higher value on movement and unorganised play within daily life and away from the training field.
It is easy to champion vanity metrics, and praise - in another environment - actions and models that are similar to what we have seen as successful in our own world. From personal experience, I also know that the opposite is also easy, and one can find themself criticising another’s model of ‘education’ because it doesn’t happen to fit with the current cultural lens through which one is looking through. However, as Ben Goldacre would put it:
‘I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that’.
Jumping greatly (I’d like to cover the below within this blog post, and would prefer to touch lightly on two similar applied reflections than delve deeper into just one!), I am thinking and reflecting ever more on whether the same applies to the consideration that we give to global communities and economies.
I’m speaking with no expertise and little experience on the theme, other than having been fortunate enough to explore Spain and Portugal significantly over the past year or so. These are just my loose thoughts and reflections. However:
When considering the educational development of a nation, what does that actually mean? Do we give too much importance to success in linear, 'tangible’ educational metrics such as literacy rate and PISA scores, purely because they allow us to draw conclusions that we can compare across countries? On what basis can we say that the needs and requirements of education in a developed Western society are the same as that in a third-world country, or one with different Eastern values, on how a society thrives?
How much time do we spend delving deeper into the objectives of education in different communities (i.e what metrics does this community need to be judged on?), the vehicle through which education is delivered (i.e are we looking beyond schooling as the pure vehicle for education: are skills developed in the workplace considered?) or how an educational landscape may or may not be preparing its community for the future that follows (i.e what challenges is this community likely to face in the next ten years and what skills will their current education provide them with to thrive within that?)?
Disclaimer: These topics and themes fascinate me greatly. However, I have done very little specific reading (as of yet!) around the ideas and challenges I’ve posed in the above. I apologise in advance if I’ve neglected any tools that do exist to assess ‘contextual’ or ‘functional’ educational success (if that’s possible), and any other omissions or baseless statements!
Whilst this more global thinking isn’t necessarily world-changing, and I imagine is the model that existing academics and researchers already follow, there certainly is weight in bearing the ‘context is key’ mantra in mind when we’re criticising, reflecting on and delivering education in our own environments.
I’m certainly enjoying the opportunity to challenge our activities and priorities within Goalkeeping Intelligence with what education means for our members, as well as the different perspective it brings to considering coaching, and youth development overall:
If we’re not starting with the end in mind (i.e, what is the purpose of our teaching/coaching/supporting in this moment with relation to this young person’s life-long development?), how can we ever truly judge our own success, plan effectively or develop impactful youth development environments?
I think in most environments we most probably should take our strategical thoughts to the next level (what does development look like for this society, and how can I empower this young person with the skills they need to enable it?), but even with the base level of thinking it will bring a different definition to what we measure as success, and help us to remove the vanity metrics for what really matters.
The same applies, surely, to most elements of change management and developing a culture (which would also fit into many definitions of ‘education’); and hopefully these very loose and abstract thoughts about what education can mean, how we can consider it and my - very unqualified! - thoughts on the importance that we contextualise it, always, help to provoke some reflection and thinking about our practice, how we measure success and the way in which we design the educational vehicles that we are lucky enough to drive.
Yours in goalkeeping,