Exploring the Impact of Prior Experiences in Non-Formal Education on My Pedagogy of Teacher Education

May. 15, 2014

Source: Studying Teacher Education, Vol. 10, No. 2, 103–116, 2014
(Reviewed by the portal team)

The purpose of this article is to use self-study methodology to uncover what effects these experiences had on the development of the author's pedagogy of teacher education and so he needed to find a way to extract ideas that were relevant to his practice as a teacher educator.

The author has decided to construct short narrative descriptions of some events that were critical to his learning as a martial artist. He calls these short narratives episodes.

The author presented three episodes from his experiences in judo and two different kinds of karate, with the understanding that they represent not the entirety of his experience, but touchstones that allow for productive investigation. The episodes are presented in chronological order, dating from the early 1980s to the late 1990s.


At the end of the article, the author draws several links to self-study literature and to his own understanding of teacher education. In doing so, he demonstrates the value of examining the impact of non-formal education experiences as a teacher educator.
Garbett’s (2011) fascinating self-study of the ways in which learning to ride a horse encouraged her to reframe her pedagogy of teacher education was a significant catalyst for the author's decision to think critically about how martial arts training has affected how he understands teaching and learning.

The judo episode causes the author to think about the challenges of learning to teach during practicum placements. The feeling of pride after winning my division that was quickly replaced by the feeling of frustration after a subtle admonishment by his sensei reminds him of how even well-meaning feedback from associate teachers and teacher educators can have unintentional emotional consequences.
A feeling of success because a particular goal was accomplished can fade quickly if an associate teacher or teacher educator moves on to a new requirement. In his experience as a teacher candidate, the result can make it seem like learning to teach is an insurmountable obstacle, as there will always be something that requires improvement.

The first karate episode brings to mind the work that many scholars have done on the process of becoming a teacher educator. When the author entered a new martial arts school, he relied heavily on his prior identity as a judo practitioner to bolster his confidence in the new environment. There is considerable evidence in the literature that beginning teacher educators use their prior identities as K-12 teachers to try to navigate the tumultuous waters of academia.

Finally, the second karate episode is a powerful reminder of the importance of revisiting one’s professional knowledge. The author was initially sure he had expert knowledge of how to do a particular karate form. He had received feedback and been graded on his abilities and he taught other people how to do the form at his first karate club.
Yet the comments made by his new sensei caused me to reframe his prior knowledge.
By deliberately giving himself an opportunity to learn old knowledge from a different perspective, the author opened up the possibility that his confidence would be replaced by a feeling that perhaps he did not know as much as he thought he did. In this episode, the author put himself in a position in which he could remember what it was like to learn difficult new material.
This self-study has enabled the author to reconnect with the many hours he has spent as a martial arts student in the non-formal educational setting. Constructing episodes proved to be a productive historiographical tool that enabled him to move beyond personal stories and make explicit connections between his experiences as a martial arts student and his pedagogy of teacher education.


The conclusions he draws from this self-study are twofold:
(1) There is considerable value in re-experiencing oneself as a learner by examining one’s own life history in order to challenge how we know what we know about teaching. His experiences as a martial arts student have direct relevance to how I think about teaching teachers.
(2) If we accept the idea that prior experiences as a student and as a teacher influence our work as teacher educators and professors of education, then our prior experiences as a learner in non-formal settings offer a rich context for additional analysis through self-study.
The author concludes that an analysis of non-formal educational experiences can provide rich content for examining our ontological commitments to self-study, teaching, and teacher education.

Garbett, D. (2011). Horse riding 101: The role of experience in reframing teacher education practices. Studying Teacher Education, 7(1), 65–75.

Updated: Nov. 30, 2016