EDUP106 Phase 2, Task B4

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Chapter 3 of Tripp.

In analysing events to create critical incidents, we are usually trying to confirm (verify) something we already suspected (hypothesised), but analysis can also reveal something entirely new. Whatever the outcomes, thorough, systematic, accurate and clear analysis is essential to good professional practice because diag- nosis and critique questions what is, and enables us to think of what might be.

Here Tripp goes on to discuss four approaches to the analysis of critical incidents:

  • Thinking Strategies: A process that help frames the type of questions that will begin to produce a deeper meaning:
    • Non-events = asking why something didn’t happen
    • Plus, minus, interesting = identifying good, bad and interesting elements
    • Alternatives = what could have happened instead
    • Point of view = what would someone else think about it
    • Parts and qualities = break down into different components
    • Reversal = reframing the event from the opposite
    • Omissions = what is missing from the event
  • The `Why?` Challenge: To ask, and go on asking, why? ending up with either…
    • Because that’s how it is – reification
    • Because that’s how it ought to be – normative
  • Dilemma identification: Recognising a situation as a dilemma enables us to deal with it more clearly
    • READ Dilemmas of Schooling (Ann and Harold Berlak)
    • Involves identifying the moral contradictions in an event and seeking to establish what could or should be done
  • Personal theory analysis: an articulated set of beliefs that informs or professional judgement and thereby our actions
    • Looking at an event for signs of personal theory influencing the actions or outcomes

Additional notes

  • One does not have to disagree with something and wish to change it to make critique worthwhile.
  • Building and clarifying rationales for professional judgements is an important form of personal-professional development.
  • Teaching decisions are, by and large, matters of choosing between mutually exclusive options; what they choose is a matter of professional judgement.
  • The overall schooling process contains a number of major contradictions:
    • eg – make children independent learners by teaching a prescribed curriculum
    • eg – use extrinsic rewards and sanctions to develop intrinsic motivation
  • The value of critical incidents is that they can reveal how the habits we have and the tendencies we form influence aspects of our teaching, thus increasing our understanding of our practice and informing our actions. (p54)
  • Without knowing who we are and why we do things, we cannot develop professionally. (p54)

Consider these approaches and apply them to the critical incident you have identified. Make notes detailing what you learned by applying these different approaches.

My critical incident = use of neoliberal practices in education – attainment data collection

Thinking strategies – plus, minus, interesting

  • PLUS = collating data is helpful to identifying trends that help improve universal learning
  • NEGATIVE = validity of attainment data is still so questionable so why bother?
  • INTERESTING = I really enjoy statistics so whilst I question the rationale, I enjoy the practice of data collation

The Why challenge

  • We are asked to report on pupil attainment. Why?
  • Because the LA wants to be able to measure how well each school is performing. Why?
  • Because the LA has a responsibility to ensure all pupils are learning as per expectation. Why?
  • Because government has set expectations that children of a certain age should be able to do certain things. Why?
  • Because our standing as a nation is dependent upon children reaching predetermined, international comparable milestones. Why?
  • Because we exist in a globally competitive market where everything (including education) is ranked.


  • What is expected v what is best
  • Personal values v professional responsibilities
  • Politics v personal stance

Personal theory

  • My own personal stance has evolved over the past 18 months against neoliberal practices. The “businefying” of education is something that I have started to notice more acutely and have started to reject more overtly. But, this is my personal theory and will be influencing my interpretation of events.

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