Psychological perspectives on progression and development within elite developmental performance domains
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Understanding the processes involved in effective talent development represents an aspiration for individuals involved in elite performance (Abbott and Collins, 2004). The available literature acknowledges a generally significant and extensive commitment required to effectively transition to an elite stage (Ericsson, Krampe and Tesch-Romer, 1993). The aim of this thesis was to explore the developmental trajectories of dancers in an elite dance company from the perspectives of staff and performers. The research deployed a series of qualitative methods (including observations, interviews, focus groups and audio diaries) to gain an insight into the conditions supporting and / or inhibiting individuals’ progression. The data were initially discussed in the context of two motivational theories (i.e., achievement goal theory, [Nicholls, 1984], and self-determination theory, [Deci and Ryan, 1985]). However, as the thesis evolved, the data increasingly challenged the utility of these respective theories. Subsequently, several sociologically oriented concepts developed by Pierre Bourdieu (1986) were introduced to better make sense of the findings. The introduction of the sociological perspectives was reflective of the evolving nature of the thesis; such an evolution was conceptual, methodological and personal in nature, and was documented in a series of reflexive ‘bridging commentaries’. The final picture that emerges is of an elite context characterised by social dynamism, historicity and complexity. In this regard, the thesis reflects the importance of taking an increasingly ‘social’ view of talent development; one that engages with the culture of an organisation, and how this culture both shapes and is shaped by the individuals who experience it.
PhD Thesis - School of Sport