Teaching, football and facilitator metaphors

iStock-509861764 Martinina CROPI am presently enrolled on the Postgraduate Certificate for Academic Practice, and am writing a blog as part of the Designing Courses module. We were asked to read an article by Anna Sfard on acquisition and participation metaphors in learning, and consider how these apply to our own practice.

After watching a football game whilst reflecting on this task, I was struck at some of the emergent similarities between the role of the referee and how I perceive my role as a teacher during our simulation training on the course I am designing.

To qualify the above – the cliché goes that a referee is having a good game when you do not notice them. That is, they are performing their role of controlling the match, time-keeping, and factoring in internal/external factors without being the a discussion point during or after the game.

I cannot help but notice the similarities between this and the teaching metaphors I have applied when thinking about my role in the simulation course I am designing.

Prior to “kick-off” I will devote time to creating a safe teaching environment, explaining the nature of our learning, and ask participants about their expectations for their own learning. Carey defined facilitators in the teaching setting as being “seen as resources for learning rather than as sources of information.” (Carey, 1993) I take a view that the entire course environment has been set up to try and facilitate learning. The scenarios themselves have constructively aligned to achieve particular learning objectives, and we envision the scenarios themselves guiding the students so that they naturally achieve the learning objectives during the scenario.

In our scenario debrief we explore these learning objectives further with the participants, but this discussion is led predominantly by the participants themselves. In our initial pilot in December 2016, we played back recordings of our debriefs and found over  80% of the debrief to be analytical conversation from the participants themselves: explaining their actions and why, with feedback from their colleagues. The remaining 20% was either questions to guide the discussion from myself, or small points of fact where there were particular gaps in knowledge. The ‘take home messages’ are also led by a combination of the participants themselves, plus a resource sheet we provide at the end of the teaching.

When considering the metaphors raised by Anna Sfard, I see my role in this as a teacher as being ‘actively passive’ – guiding our participants accordingly through our learning objectives, much like a referee is ‘actively passive’ in guiding players though a match. I hope that this encourages development of some of the ‘higher-order’ learning objectives we have created.

Further reading:

Doris M. Carey (1993) Teacher Roles and Technology Integration:, Computers in the Schools, 9:2-3, 105-118, DOI: 10.1300/J025v09n02_10

Sfard, A. (1998). On two metaphors for learning and the dangers of choosing just one. Educational Researcher 27(2), 4-13.

Chris O’Shea

Chris O’Shea is a Clinical Tutor Associate on the MBChB programme in the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine and is currently undertaking the Postgraduate Certificate for Academic Practice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *