Tag Archives: Donald Schon

Reading between the li(n)es: Policy Document Analysis

Fresh from a session on “Social innovation” (with a useful PhD writing interlude) I went to “What is… Policy Document Analysis?” These “what is…” events are put on by the methods@manchester folks.Sometimes ‘sage on the stage followed by q and a’ is okay. This was one of those occasions.

  • Imma bullet point it, (#wearealldeadalongtime)
    Documents aren’t just things on paper, can be photos etc etc
    “social facts, constructions of particular representation using literary using literary conventions” (Atkinson and Coffey. 2010)
    Not neutral, but a particular version of reality
    Policy is “statement of intent” with an “ought” function

Policy documents have specialised tones/registers, and don’t exist in isolation (intertextuality)
You can look at what is “in” the document – content analysis, thematic analysis, and/or at how the document came into existence (discourse analysis) and WHY (see my list of questions).

Three ways of looking at this
English for Specific Purposes (Swales, 1981, 2000)
Systemic Functional Linguistics (Halliday and Martin, 1993)
New Rhetoric (Miller, 1994). [I think Carolyn Miller] – Looking at attitudes, values and beliefs of the text users

“What the problem is represented to be” – Carol Bacchi –[Adelaide Uni!]  Foucauldian analysis. All policies designed to solve problems, also contain explicit and/or implicit solutions. Therefore can/should identify the problem representations and trace them historically [i.e. genealogy of…]

Sequence of document analysis

  1. Selection (get them all in one place)
  2. Familiarisation (skim etc)
  3. Reading
  4. Identifying extracts
  5. Developing analysis

Two observations from me

Two more  observations

  • It’s the silences that matter – not just which “problems” are off the table, but which “solutions” are off the table for the problems brought forward.
  • Policy documents are picked up and put down as needed (deliberate ambiguity within and between them, creating needed rhetorical wiggle-room in the unending legitimacy battles and turf battles). Policies that are inconvenient are simply ignored

Questions I like to ask:
Who wrote this document?
Who was paying them?
In response to what events/documents/problems?
Why did they write (beyond “following orders/pay the mortgage”)? What was the intended outcome?
Who is the intended audience for this document?
What has been elided? Conflated, either accidentally or on purpose?
What, in the eyes of critics, were the ‘hidden motives’? Is this a trojan horse for something else?
Who has ‘pushed back’ on this document – on what grounds (with what effect)
Did this document achieve its intended notoriety/fame/infamy/impact?

See also: Donald Schon “Beyond the Stable State

Future “what is” events

What is..? interviewing ‘elite’ groups
18 February 2015
1pm – 2pm

What is..? observation in the workplace
25 February 2015
1pm – 2pm

What is..? textual analysis
4 March 2015
1pm – 2pm

Barriers to Social Movement (reflective) Learning. Burblings

There are so many reasons we don’t DO reflective learning.

  • We live in our habits/routines/comfort zone (as as Charles Duhigg points out, habits can be Good things)
  • Time (lack thereof)
  • Energy (exhaustion)
  • It’s difficult to reflect. We get little or no training. It’s not something we are encouraged to do in school. It’s far more important to have the Right Answer and get the Smart Token in exchange.
  • Ego protection (you will be accused of thinking yourself too good, whereas reflecting might also lead you to think yourself not good enough). Easier not to go there…
  • Group ego protection (there are shibboleths, taboos)
  • Morale protection (“don’t open the can of worms,” “let sleeping dogs lie…”)
  • “Too navel gazing; we DO, not talk.” The NVDA crowd are impatient with “theory”, which is for Marxists. And for Marxists, they are impatient with any theory that isn’t explicitly Marxist…
  • Learn the “wrong lessons” (fight the last war)
  • Some reflections are just too personal,not easily transferable. Or so you might think stories “but that’s just me”

“If the only tool you have is a hammer,
all your tools begin to look like nails

There is I suspect a difference between passive and active barriers, internal and external barriers (though of course these distinctions are shifting, have fuzzy borders)

  • Not a habit for individuals
  • Not validated – doesn’t get you status tokens
  • It’s hard to do well and then to FOLLOW UP. The insight may be good, but changing own behaviours/actions/perspectives is hard enough, without thinking about the broader sub-culture/ecosystem, whichever phrase you want to use.
  • Badly-run reflection, ending in acrimony and discomfort can have long-lasting “prophylactic” effect
  • Limited individual and group capacity – “we tried that once, it ended with half the people in tears and the other half not coming back.
  • And of course, people have different types of learning styles – formal, informal, messy, and different types are more appropriate at different times.

WHAT, you might ask, are you TRYING to learn. And how/why. Not that learning can ever be so compartmentalised, I fear…

So, how to Make People Aware of the problem(s), , co-produce tools, get them believing that change is indeed possible? How to inspire, perspire the making and sharing of tools?
(Dropping boxes of tools on people’s heads – cartoon anvil style – just does not work)

Knowing what to reflect on (both failures and successes and everything in between)
how to do it
when to do it
why to do it (improve, transform, anticipate)
who to do it with (people you trust – but this takes time! Can’t be doing it with “newbies”, can you? [remember though, while people are “newbies” to you and your group, they have HEAPS of other experience(s)]

In order to have “capacity to reflect” (ctr) you need

  • high levels of trust between members (ergo, fairly stable groups)
  • high level of intra-group value attached to reflection
    (and therefore likely previously valorised examples of its effectiveness)
  • “Soft skills” up the wazoo.

These seem, imho, to be lacking. Not just from the ‘left’, whatever that is, but from ANYONE. Or am I missing something?

See also
Kolb learning cycles
Peter Senge
Donald Schon