At some point, I am hoping to catch my breath from the torrent of work I am currently engulfed in… (undertaking two full Uni courses simultaneously, not one of my better ideas!)
When I do, I will start blogging some thoughts about World Congress, some thoughts that have arisen because of WC but are not necessarily directly related, and some random stuff from this summer!
For now, I am posting the presentation that Hannah and I gave, in which we discuss our personal and professional development on the conductor training course. Thanks again to everyone who helped make it possible for us to attend and present!
Hannah and Jalyss xx
Conductive Education World Congress 2013
The Makings of an Orthofunctional Conductor
Hello, I am Hannah Silcock, and I am Jalyss Zapf and we are 3rd year students at the National Institute for Conductive Education in Birmingham. Before we begin, we feel it is of the utmost importance that we thank all those who have made it possible for us to be here today. We would like to express our thanks to those who have supported us in the preparation of our presentation, to those who have been outstanding in helping us with the logistics of this trip and of course to our sponsors whose generosity has made it financially possible for us to be here. The support has been encouraging and invaluable, and we hope that this may prompt even more students to be involved in future World Congresses.
Asides from being very grateful, we are also very excited to be speaking at Congress, and are particularly passionate about what we have come to speak about. As students, we did not want to talk about topics that we don’t yet have much experience with, or understanding of, so have chosen to discuss an area of CE we know we are good at talking about, which is being a conductor student.
The objective of our speech is to share the changes we have noticed in our understanding of Conductive Education so far on our course. We feel in order for these changes to occur, and for us to develop an adequate understanding of the principles behind CE, at least three years of structured training is necessary.
Over the past 2 years, we have had countless conversations about everything we have experienced so far in Conductive Education. Three interdependent themes seem to emerge.
The first is that conductor training is about changing what we think rather than simply changing what we do. Just as the participants learn to understand what they are doing and why so that they can change their intention rather than just their behaviour, conductor training is about shaping how we think and not simply about changing what we do. We have been noticing changes in how we think and have been analysing them every step of the way.
In order for these changes to happen, our second theme occurs – the deepening of our understanding of CE. Just as we think we have got a grasp of what it is we are talking about, we experience something inspiring in a practice session or have an exceptionally eye-opening lecture prompting our conversations to expand and deepen.
It is the explicit, algorithmic information, which is built up across three years of lectures and closely monitored placement that has enabled our understanding to evolve to a point where we are changing our behaviour based on our developing beliefs.
With this, our third theme emerges. We are finding that these changes in our thinking haven’t just refined our understanding of CE; they are being absorbed into our daily lives.
We would like to discuss how these themes have presented themselves in each of the three years on the course.
Our first year began with what we refer to as “the chat”. We were told that every year we would revisit the same areas of CE but learn something new which would expand our understanding. We would start the 1st year at the “what” level, progress to the “why” level in the 2nd year and graduate having learnt “how”. We thought “why would they break it down? I am sure we could manage it”. Now as third years we can fully appreciate the necessity to build up the training because there was a lot of “WHAT?!”.
1st year is about us as students. What we are doing, thinking, experiencing, understanding, NOT understanding. It is a seemingly selfish year because we selectively observe what we need to observe (despite being told we should try to observe everything). This isn’t because 1st years don’t have the desire to observe everything, there is simply too much to absorb. In the first year, we could observe if a participant completed a task, but didn’t always notice how they completed the task. We knew if they couldn’t do something, but didn’t know what to observe to understand why they could not do it. In the first year we learned about the symptoms of the participants which enabled us to observe and facilitate the individual physically. It wasn’t until we were familiar with the physical symptoms that we could then, in the 2nd year start to understand how to facilitate their psychological and cognitive needs. We knew that these physical symptoms and the personality of the individual should not be observed separately if learning and orthofunction is to be achieved but we needed more than just the first year to achieve this holistic view.
The relationship between tasks, programmes, and the daily routine is another example of something we needed to continually come back to over the years. In first year, we thought we understood the algorithmic relationship, but we now realize, in third year, that we had only touched the surface. As first years, we facilitated and observed programmes independently of each other, without fully grasping how they fit together into the wider daily routine.
When our second semester came and we began to lead, our ability to see the bigger picture was perhaps even more skewed, as we primarily tended to focus on our own performance. Our main concern was making sure we had memorized the task series properly; saying the words correctly and in the right order. In our first year we used what we call “the formula.” In order to lead a programme we “just” needed to have “prevention, task, feedback.”
Though we had had many lectures, we did not fully understand the importance of using language as a tool to link cognition, intention, and action. We were simply using the formula to get through the programmes. So we were using the tools, but did not really understand them.
Looking back on first year in second and third year we sometimes think, “that was so easy! We hardly did anything.” However, at the time, it was difficult, just in a different way to the following years. In first year, everything was new, we didn’t know what we were doing or how to do it, we were learning so much in a short span of time. For example our first year we would get annoyed about things like having to set the room up completely by ourselves, in third year, we know realize how important that was. Because we did that, we knew exactly WHAT everyone needed, and then had more of an ability to expend energy on understanding WHY they needed it. As the year progressed and our understanding of the “whats” were cemented we were able to start to make room for the “why’s.”
Once we became more familiar with the tools in CE, practice and lectures could start to provide us with a better understanding of why we were using them so that we could start to lead programmes with a better grasp of the Conductive Education ethos.
The teaching in the 2nd year placed a massive emphasis on the theories behind CE. To name a few, we learnt about Vygotsky (and strived to understand the ZPD and potential), Pestalozzi and the important role of the teacher, and Makarenko’s theory on group learning; to create a functional and collectively beneficial lifestyle. We then proceeded to learn about a multitude of theories on group learning, group dynamics, learning as an individual, and play, working alongside CE that can be applied to benefit our practice further. All this background information was pivotal in our understanding of “why”.
However, despite our best efforts, implementing our new knowledge into practice was very difficult. We found it was much easier to appreciate these theories from the sidelines because there was still an overwhelming fear of leading. This fear intensified at the start of each term as the programmes we were leading became more complex in terms of planning and application of theory. Not only did we need to get the words right, we now needed to start to consider the role of the leader as an all-encompassing, interpersonal motivator. The 2nd year was becoming less about what we were doing and more about the interaction between what we were doing, and what the participants were doing.
The participants were becoming more than a collection of symptoms we had memorized, they were individual people with differing learning styles and needs. We started to appreciate that participants receive prevention and feedback differently and so began to use positive and constructive language before, during, and after the sessions. We were overcoming our first year desire to use manual facilitation to correct everything and began to gradually explore the use of psychological and verbal facilitation. We were using the less visible tools in CE.
Our language also changed, initially it changed in conductive settings only but in second year we started to use it in our everyday lives because it was becoming a personal conviction.
The things that had been drilled into us first year began to come out more spontaneously and organically.
In first year we thought that the conductors were just being overly picky when we were instructed to say for example that, “a participant can stand for up to 30 seconds” rather than “cannot stand for more than 30 seconds”. Conductors made, what seemed to us, tiny changes to the way we worded our aims in our programmes, in second year we started to recognize their importance. There were marked differences in the way we spoke about our participants and the way other professionals did. The conductor training was beginning to help us see not just the problems, we were learning to see the ability and go from there.
In second year we began to implement the various forms of observation we were being taught to use, in a more holistic and intentional manner placing particular emphasis on the group. Rather than simply looking to see if each member had completed a task we were observing how they completed the task, individually and as a group. We could then start to differentiate tasks for individual and group task success. Our RI was also affected by our observation; we were using intonation to facilitate things like group cohesion and group task completion rather than just saying it verbatim as we had in first year. As our observation improved our feedback became more relevant to the aims we had set (as we had specifically observed for them) rather than what we had just happened to haphazardly notice.
Second year our focus was on learning about and allowing the philosophy to impact our thinking and then our behaviour.
It started to click. It wasn’t just about what we did, but how we thought.
We can’t say that we are experts when it comes to third year, as we have only just started. However, we have already noticed a few differences in the way we are thinking and the conversations we are having compared to the 2nd year. Meeting new conductors in different settings is helping us start to consider how we may fit into the wider profession of CE and appreciate to a greater extent the inevitability of cross-disciplinary work. Our ability to distinguish the tools and beliefs that are unique to conductive education has also just begun to develop as a result of conversations with other professionals in our current placement. Just as our view of the participants has become increasingly holistic, our view of ourselves within CE, and CE within the world has also.
We are starting to find our role within the team; we don’t feel like we are getting in the conductors way quite so much these days. We were told in the 1st year that everyone is equal in the team but to us it felt like the leader had a significantly more important role. On experiencing groups with too few facilitators or facilitators who have not been conductively trained, we have realised that the leader and facilitators truly are equal. The leader’s aims cannot be achieved without the help of the facilitators; the best plans of a leader will go nowhere without adequate support from the other team members.
Just as we were coming to the end of the 2nd year we were beginning to interact with the team as a facilitator and a leader much better than we did in the 1st year, due to an increase in both confidence and ability. Directing the facilitators is less intimidating now because we have a better handle on what it is we need from the team and how we can use them to help the group meet their aims. We are confident enough to instruct the other team members what it is we would like to get out of the session and can communicate this verbally and nonverbally, before and during a session. We are also starting to take the facilitators’ feedback after a programme and carry it forward to improve our next programme. Facilitators are much more than simply a few extra hands; they are a vital part of the team.
The relationship between a conductor and a participant is also vital for the success of conduction. By building trusting relationships with the participants, they become more comfortable and confident, enabling them to execute tasks to the best of their ability. Being able to see their highest level of current ability makes it possible for us to assess their potential and now at this point in our training, start to actually act upon it.
We feel our newly established conductive mindset has made us more confident in our facilitation and we are willing to take more chances, without being guided step-by-step by a conductor.
With the opportunity of going to a different centre for practice, we have been able to respond to our initial observations in a new environment and transfer our knowledge to the participants in a more spontaneous manner. Now that “what” and “why” have been tackled “how” doesn’t seem as daunting as it once did.
We are progressively understanding more about why we use the tools that we use in CE, but it has been a long process. Without structured and specific input across three years we would be practicing CE on a surface level, as we did in our first year of training. In third year, with a better understanding of the principles of CE, we are now starting to explore concepts that we could never have handled in first or second year and it is enabling us to the tools in an increasingly effective manner. We believe this development in our thinking is vital in achieving orthofunction as conductors.
CE is moving beyond a methodological approach in our understanding to a holistic system that impacts our thinking and beliefs both within and outside of a conductive environment.
If this speech is anything to go by, understanding CE takes a LOT of time and reflection. We have mulled over and rewritten the majority of this speech many times so that we could truly express our changing understanding of CE, over the past 2 years. Coming here to congress, we have deepened our thoughts ever further. (So we have been scribbling all over our presentation!) The ability to be concise and articulate is a result of a continually deepening understanding of CE, and is an example of one of the many things we have transferred from the course to our everyday lives.
For the profession of CE to continue to move forward we, as new conductors, must learn to articulate our beliefs and in order to do that, we must have a deep and holistic understanding of the philosophy of Conductive Education. Our experiences have led us to conclude that in order for this understanding to develop, adequate time is needed on the conductor training course.
CE is about more than changing what we do, it is about shaping how we think. This shaping is what we refer to as the makings of an Orthofunctional conductor.