Sensing the tempo-rhythm of practice: The dynamics of engagement

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Practice, learning and change: Practice-theory perspectives on professional learning, 2012, 1, pp. 51 - 65
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Researchers have conventionally used objective, discrete and linear assumptions of time and space when constructing metaphors such as acquisition, transfer and progression to theorize learning and change. This chapter offers an alternative starting point. It suggests that the notion of practice-based learning and change is better conceptualized as dynamic patterns of human actions and materialities that are often comfortably familiar, yet paradoxically novel leading to possibilities for remaking those practices. Building upon philosophical and postmodern understandings of time and space, I introduce the concept of tempo-rhythm to highlight attention to the significance of practice dynamics for learning and change. Tempo-rhythm is a metaphor borrowed from the dramatic arts (Stanislavski, 1979) that describes how actors incorporate speed, intensity and variability into their movement and speech actions to engage the audience in the shared experience of character-building and performance. I illustrate how the tempo-rhythm of chefs engaging in practice together goes beyond what can be observed, experienced or designed to be purposive in vocational learning. This focus on practice dynamics suggests that learning of an engagement kind requires practitioners to interact in emergent ways that add novelty, variety and intensity to work practices, shaping meaning and commitment to the changing patterns of practice in everyday work life.
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