How to analyse a breeder’s professional practice
Analyses of professionals’ practices can be an excellent trigger to identifying specific competencies and developing critical and creative thinking by comparing different styles of practices (a style is the specific resources the breeder implements to realize a practice; each farmer has a specific approach to milking a cow for instance).
If observation of a practice provides information, it is essential to ask the person carrying out the practice for the reasons for his or her choice and decision. The same practice can be carried out with very different motivations. It is therefore essential to understand what motivates the person's choices in order to avoid interpretations and misunderstandings.
But understanding the person's reasoning is not easy. If we question the person at the end of the observation of their practice, he/she is often led to justify himself, to generalize without really having access to the reasoning behind the practice. It is important to avoid talking about what the person thinks he or she should do, but rather to grasp what he or she has done concretely in a defined practice within a given time and space. In other words, it is important to make the difference between the task (which could be an answer to: what should be done, how to do it) and the activity (what is done really, how the worker does what he/she has to do). The activity is what the worker develops when performing the task: actions, hypotheses, decisions, how he/she manages time, the subjectivity of the conception of the task, of the animal (can the animal have pleasure, can it suffer?). The activity is not just what is done, but also what is not done, what the worker tries to do without success, what he/she avoids to do, what he/she considers to have to do and the reasoning which supports the activity.
If an activity is productive (the worker transforms his environment) in the short term, it is also constructive (the worker transforms himself) in the medium or long term.
Several methods of investigation are possible to collect the reasoning associated with the activity. We propose the one used to build the Anicare films, self-confrontation (see figure 1)
figure 1 : how to create a movie about a professional practice
The first step is to film the breeder carrying out his/her practice, then in a second step to show the film and ask him/her to comment on it, to explain what they did. The interviewer can support the breeder, considering the different dimensions of an action to help him/her to question the practices (figure 2).
Figure 2: dimensions to be analysed during a self-confrontation interview
These dimensions should be questioned according to animal welfare considerations.
The interviewer will take care to collect an analysis of the activity more than an explanation.
For instance, avoid the question, ‘”why do you do that?”, preferring “how do you do that?”.
The choice of the practices to be filmed is important. In the Anicare approach we don’t want to highlight what would be considered good practice but to have a panel wide enough to show several possibilities.