Confronting Contexts - Professor Rachel Ellaway
In the August session of ANZAHPE Online, Professor Rachel Ellaway challenged us to think about context as active, pervasive, and powerful. Contextual competence was presented as an intriguing and thought-provoking lens through which to think about the capacity to adapt to new and changing circumstances.
The session was attended by over ninety participants from a range of different contexts. The majority of participants rated the session as excellent (60%) and indicated that they would have liked even more time to share and discuss experiences with others. Most were likely to attend future ANZAHPE Online sessions or to recommend to others (70%).
I hadn’t really thought much about context before, so it was good to get and overview, even to hear key words that I can now go away and find out more about. It was also good to talk to other people and get their views.(Participant)
Below are Rachel’s responses to several online questions:
Question: Other than asking "Why do you want to work here", what sort of questions can we ask in interviews to select for trainees with contextual competency?
Answer: A simple one would be to ask 'giving examples, can you describe how you have adapted to new and changing circumstances?'. Look for whether they have had to adapt, how often, to what extent, and how successfully. And then look for how thoughtful and skilled they are at adapting and how aware they are about these adaptations. As with everything, this is about potential - an applicant who has had less opportunity to travel say, may still have developed or show potential for contextual competence in other ways. We haven't done the work yet to establish whether CC is an intrinsic or a developed competence or some combination of the two, but either way it'll have implications for how we look for it.
Question: I wondered if you had any thoughts about the entangled nature of the things people do with the contexts they exist in?
Answer: This is what Cole (I think) described as the CHAT interpretation of context - contexts are dynamically created from moment to moment by the interactions of the agents (human and otherwise) within them and about them. Socio-materialist perspectives are intrinsically contextualist and vice versa. People and things are part of the contextual web. However, while SM tends to focus on why things are the way they are, contextualism is more about why and how things change and the cascades of further changes that change triggers.
Question: How do you think contextual competence relates to the development of self-regulated learning?
Answer: CC could very reasonably be seen as a dimension of SRL - and could be a useful way of thinking about SRL. CC requires that a person can 'see' their context, that they can perceive its affordances before anything else. From that they need to be able to interpret what they see, predict and plan, and then take whatever action they need to. I don't know whether affordance is a part of the SRL discourse, but the intersection of SRL and CC would certainly raise the opportunity to explore this.
ANZAHPE members and paid attendees can access the recording of Rachel’s session here.