Enhancing coaches’ experiential learning through 'communities of practice' (Lave & Wenger, 1991)
University of Wales
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Significant work in the social sciences has argued the nature of learning as a collaborative, social process (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Similarly, research within coaching has positioned interaction and experience within practical coaching contexts as the principal knowledge source of both novice and experienced coaches (Cushion, Armour & Jones, 2006; Jones, Armour & Potrac, 2004; Potrac, Jones & Armour, 2002). Despite such developments, a dearth of research exists examining the complexities inherent in establishing, developing and facilitating such a social learning environment. This is particularly so in terms of exploring the effectiveness of pedagogical frameworks used to develop coaches' experiential knowledge. The aim of this PhD thesis was to explore how, through an action research based study, coaches' experiential learning could be harnessed and better developed within Lave and Wenger's (1991) shared "communities of practice" (CoPs). The study involved two groups of coaches; one of elite and the other of developmental football players. Using an action research methodology, data on coaches' learning were gathered both through on-going observations and focus groups interviews over the course of a nine-month season. The data were inductively analysed and presented as a series of unfolding narratives. The plot hinges on my attempts as a facilitator to encourage the respective groups of coaches to engage and develop within their CoPs. Findings revealed that whilst the developmental coaches were generally positive about participating in a "community of practice" (CoP) and appeared to engage with its processes, the elite coaches were much less cooperative. The results contribute to the body of evidence-based studies that seek to examine, problematise and build credible pedagogies for coach education, whilst bringing to light the issues associated with the messy nature of such research and the constant everyday demands placed on coaches working at a variety of levels
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