Wednesday, 18 July 2018

The Wrench, a new MSc in Engineering Education, and Blogging as reflective practice

During the International Symposium for Engineering Education 2018, which has taken place at UCL over the past two days, I have recommended The Wrench by Primo Levi to two engineering educator colleagues, so I'm including it here too - one of my favourite books, essential reading anyway in my view, but it happens to be about the trials, tribulations and achievements of an engineer, the main protagonist....a wonderfully wise and life-affirming novel (?) which I have written about before.

My Optimistic but Sceptical blog has never exactly become extinct, but I have made very few posts over the past five years.  I am hoping to be able to post more often now, for a number of reasons: first, I have come to the end of my stint as Programme Leader for the Institute of Education post-compulsory PGCE, and second, I am teaching and leading one of the core modules for an exciting new MSc here at UCL Institute of Education, in Engineering Education.

The first change means I expect to have a little more space and time for musing and reflecting on the issues and ideas that arise from my work, and for sometimes at least writing them down.  The second development has come about as a result of my Ed D thesis study, now completed in draft, and awaiting the final stage of formative feedback before formal submission in September.  This study is about the contribution of informal aspects of workplace life and activity to effective practice, practitioner learning, and innovation.  My research sites included a Further Education college and the R&D division of a large engineering company.  My department at the Institute of Education has teamed up with the UCL Faculty of Engineering in a number of different projects, one of which is this new MSc, and I am leading one of the core modules, on Engineering and Education: Practice, Innovation and Leadership. 

This module will cover such topics as:

  • Persuading more girls to study engineering

  • Organisations and change: the engineering workplace as a site for learning and innovation

  • Preparation for C21st engineers: innovative design in UG and PG engineering programmes

  • Apprenticeship as a model for learning engineering in times of change

  • Approaches to leadership in multinational engineering partnerships

  • Policy development and organisational strategies for an uncertain future

Anyone interested in finding out more about this programme should contact me here.

A third reason for coming back to my blog is that one of the stand-out findings of my research is the importance for effective practice, and especially for innovation, of 'writing' on the one hand, and of 'peer review' on the other.  By writing I mean any form of representation of any aspect of practice, including the most informal or temporary incidences of writing - doodles and scribbles for example, also notes, drafts, rough drawings or charts, and more formal types of writing such as reports or position papers, hether or not for publication.  By peer review I mean any kind of evaluative feedback, whether formal and written, or informally and unplanned as part of a conversation. Organisations which enable and encourage these practices as key elements of work, in terms of making space and time available for them, are likely, my study suggests, to be more effective and more innovative.  A blog is both a platform for writing in different degrees of formality, and a medium for sharing and potential evaluative feedback.  So I'm aiming to practise a little of what my study appears to teach.

My final reason for taking up the blog again is that my colleague working on the new MSc, Abel Nyamapfene, blogs regularly about Teaching and Learning in Engineering - see the link over on the right - and I like the idea of occasional blog conversations, especially as we work in different buildings!

Primo Levi

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Professional Judgement and Standards in Educational Assessment

Note: This is a slightly adapted version of a lecture given to Adult Literacy Organisers in Galway, Republic of Ireland in April 2013, under the title: Initial Assessment - What Works? The lecture was organised by The Republic of Ireland's National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA). A video of part of the lecture is available here.

I’m here to talk about Professional Judgement and Standards in Assessment.  Most of what I want to say doesn’t just apply to initial diagnostic assessment in Adult Literacy work, but to teaching in general, and to many other areas of human activity.  It builds on a paper written for my doctorate (Derrick 2013).

I want to start by giving you all some questions to think about.  How much experience do you have as an adult literacy practitioner – hands up: more than ten years?  Five to ten years? Under five years?  Anyone in their first year?  Can I ask the people with more than ten years’ experience – would you say you are good at Initial Diagnostic Assessment?   What is it that makes someone good at it?  For example, is experience essential?  How important is formal training?  How can you learn to get better at it?  Is there a formula, or a recipe for getting better at it?  Is Initial Diagnostic Assessment a science?  Is there, or could there be, an instruction manual for it?

The answers to these questions are vital for sorting out the role of standards, skills frameworks, levels, etc in the work of adult literacy teaching.

The three main propositions of my talk are these:

  • Expert teaching (and within this, expert assessment) is essentially about the exercise of professional judgement in making decisions
  • Professional judgement can be supported by all sorts of tools, resources, measurements, rubrics, standards, etc, but cannot be replaced by these
  • Learning to become better at teaching and assessment is a process of training professional judgement.

30 years ago, Donald Schön, writing about professional practice in general, said this:
In the varied topography of professional practice, there is a high, hard ground where practitioners can make effective use of research-based theory and technique, and there is the swampy lowland where situations are  confusing ‘messes’ incapable of technical solution.  The difficulty is that problems of high ground, however great their technical interest, are often relatively unimportant to clients or the larger society, while in the swamp are the problems of the greatest human concern. (Schön 1983 (1991), p42)

Schön suggests that professionals need to be able to deal with, not just technical, generic problems for which there is a recognised procedure, a standardised routine, but also other, more complex, essentially unique problems for which there is, and can be, no standard ‘correct’ response, and which are therefore amenable only to judgement calls. 

A practical example of this type of problem might be the question of whether to take a child into local authority care, which has to be considered all too often by social workers.  There can be no absolute instruction manual for making a decision like this, because every situation is uniquely different.   

Standard procedures, checklists, etc are helpful, but in the end a decision like this is not reducible to standard procedures – we can only try to ensure that they are made by people highly motivated to make the best possible decision, and who have as much knowledge as possible of the particular situation – and note that ideally this knowledge is not just technical knowledge of the law, of child and of family psychology, etc, but also personal knowledge of the unique pattern of the individual circumstances of the people involved.

Schön’s work is a sustained argument against the dominance of what he calls the ‘technical-rational’ view of professional practice.

Procedures and rubrics are models or hypotheses which always simplify and ‘clean-up’ the ‘messiness’ of real-life situations.  As Goethe warned:
Hypotheses are scaffoldings erected in front of a building and then dismantled when the work is finished.  They are indispensable for a workman, but you mustn’t mistake the scaffolding for the building.’ (Goethe Posthumous (1998), p154)

The scaffolding is useful, even perhaps essential, but it cannot replace the building which it supports.  This it seems to me, is an accurate metaphor for the role of rubrics, standards, technical terminology, pro-formas, skills frameworks, assessment criteria, grade descriptors, diagnostic assessment tests and procedures, and the like.  They have their uses, but ultimately teachers need to make the decisions, because each situation, each learner, is essentially unique.  This is why we should resist talking about education as if it was like mass-production – it is not about using standardised raw materials to produce identical objects.

Addressing educational problems as if they can be reduced to a technical model of one kind or another ignores the local knowledge, practical wisdom and perhaps the long experience of the professional in making similar decisions.  It also ignores the moral dimension: that the professional is motivated to find the right way forward for the clients and others concerned – by which I mean the best and most just response to the situation, not just a technical solution which ‘will do’.   A hypothetical model cannot be relied on to do this because it is a simplification of the situation, and by definition ignores factors in it which in a particular case may be critical.

The holistic argument I am making here highlights the importance in decision-making of local distinctiveness: a nuanced awareness of what is distinctive in the features of a particular locality or situation.  Schön might put it as appreciation of the distinctiveness of each particular ‘swamp’, so as to make informed decisions about appropriate actions.  This view is a critique of the kind of overly-simplistic ‘technical-rational’ modelling of situations that  makes decision-making (for example about whether to build a new supermarket in a country town) appear to be easier, perhaps to the long-term detriment of the locality and its community.  Sue Clifford and Angela King (2009) argue against the homogenising tendency of technical-rational modelling in all aspects of life, emphasising the importance of detail, particularity, patina, authenticity, fineness of grain, divergence, messiness, and quality in the everyday.  This may be caricatured as a conservative critique of regulation through standardisation, of technocratic policies and procedures: but it is an argument primarily against shoddiness, against work in any field that will merely do, rather than reflecting the best efforts of the practitioner.  Research (eg Black and Wiliam 1998, Hattie 2009) tells us clearly, for example, that teachers’ sense of the particularity of situations is central to their understanding of the specific needs of individual students at a given moment in the learning process: this sensitivity is also undoubtedly a foundation of trust and mutual respect between learner and teacher.  It is clearly possible to teach without this detailed knowledge of students and their situation, and perhaps even to teach ‘adequately’, but professional practitioners are deeply and morally concerned about ‘local distinctiveness’ as part of doing the job as well as possible.  Attempting to encapsulate this sensibility in a rubric will always tend to diminish it: minimum standards tend to produce work that simply satisfies the minimum acceptable level of quality. 

In England, much has been made in recent years about the use by teachers of data in their decision-making: it has been suggested, perhaps with some justice, that they have relied too much on hunches and on their intuition, and not enough on ‘objective’ data about their students’ progress.   There is also evidence that teachers and other professionals have sometimes been discriminatory in their practice (for example, having lower expectations of students from particular backgrounds), and this too has been used to support arguments that their work should be regulated within procedural and externally-imposed quality standards.

In my view this is to throw the baby out with the bathwater: it is to argue that the work of teachers is simple rather than complex; it is to argue for the production of an instruction manual for teaching, one consisting of a highly intricate flow-chart, that would provide teachers, whether qualified or not, with a procedure for correctly addressing every teaching problem, or, in terms of our topic today, for correctly the assessing the skills of every new student.

I think that most people would agree that this is not what teaching is about: they recognise that the work of teachers is essentially complex and cannot be reduced in this way.  On the contrary, teachers should be supported to develop their intuition and their capacity to make good judgements, just as surgeons, doctors and social workers do.  So what is the role of all these frameworks, rubrics, standards, pro-formas, tests, etc? It must be to provide information that teachers can use in their decision-making, and in discussing with students their learning goals, their attainments, feedback on their work, and, most importantly, how they can get better at supporting their own learning – in a word, these tools can be used to support formative approaches to learning, provided the information they provide supports, rather than determines, the authentic judgements and feedback of the teacher.  In this way, tools can also support teachers’ own professional learning.

From this perspective, it is not the tools themselves that are good or bad, it is how the teacher uses them that matters.  It is important, though, that teachers are free to determine for themselves how best to use them.  If they are not free in this way, then a particular technical-rational model is being imposed on them, and this may lead to students being sold short, and also to the deskilling and demotivation of teachers.  The problem for policymakers is that education is full of swampy, messy situations, which by definition are hard to predict, control and regulate.  To make the best of them we need teachers who are confident in weighing up situations, highly effective communicators in terms of knowing the kinds of questions to ask and how to listen, expert at qualitatively judging students’ strengths and weaknesses, and motivated to make the best decisions possible about the right courses of action for the student and for the next stage of teaching and learning.  They are very likely to find supporting technical information useful in making these judgments and decisions, and they should certainly pay attention to such data.

It is difficult for policymakers to regulate teachers without imposing limitations on their professional autonomy which may limit their scope for action, as well as reducing their motivation.  But this difficulty does not justify the misconception of learning as merely a technical issue of standard procedures, and teaching as a simple, technical job involving the obeying of standard rules.

If we had time I would invite you all to consider how best we should organise the training and development of adult literacy teachers in a non-technocratic policy environment.  Instead I’ll leave you with an inspiring story of exemplary professionalism that illustrates many of the issues we have been addressing here: on January 15th 2009, a commercial aircraft with 150 passengers and crew on board took off from La Guardia airport in New York.  The pilot in command was 57-year-old Capt. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, a former fighter pilot who had been an airline pilot since leaving the United States Air Force in 1980, and who is also a safety expert.  During the plane’s initial climb, it struck a flock of Canada geese. The bird strike, which occurred about three minutes into the flight, resulted in an immediate and complete loss of thrust from both engines. When the crew of the aircraft determined that they would be unable to reliably reach any airfield, they turned southbound and glided over the Hudson, finally ditching the airliner in the river about three minutes after losing power.  All 155 occupants safely evacuated the airliner, which was still virtually intact though partially submerged and slowly sinking, and were quickly rescued by nearby ferries and other watercraft.  The recording of the incident makes it clear that, immediately following the bird strike, it was obvious the plane had to land as soon as possible, and there was intense radio communication from the air traffic controllers, concerning availability of nearby runways, and the distance to each one.  After about a minute of listening to this information, the pilot asked just one question about the possibility of landing at New Jersey but then suddenly seems to make up his mind: ‘We are gonna be in the Hudson.’  He then said nothing more, apart from ‘Brace for impact’, until the plane was down.  In interviews afterwards he said that there were two factors that helped him pull off the manoeuvre safely: that the plane’s design was state of the art, and that he himself was 55 rather than 25.  ‘In a sense my whole career had been training for this event’ (Couric 2009).

This story illustrates how all sorts of tools, procedures and data made important contributions to the successful outcome of this manoeuvre, but these would have been irrelevant without the skills, experience and professional behaviour and attitudes of Captain Sullenberger and his crew.  None of these guaranteed success, because off the technocratic map (ie, when the unexpected happens) success is never guaranteed.  The experienced and motivated professional aims to optimise the chances of success.  Even though teachers rarely deal in life or death decisions like the ones Sullenberger found himself taking, in reality the various parts of their job, including initial assessment, are more often off the technocratic map than on it; and this means that the question ‘What Works?’ is misconceived. 

Black, P. and Wiliam, D. (1998).  ‘Assessment and classroom learning: Principles, policy and practice’. Assessment in Education 5 (1), pp 1-78
Clifford, S. and King, A. (1993: 2009 edition). Losing Your Place, in Local Distinctiveness – Place, Particularity, Identity.  Accessed 05-04-13 at 
Couric K (2009).  Interview with Chesley Sullenberger accessed 05-04-13 at
Derrick, J. (2013). ‘Practitioner learning’, not ‘professional learning’: towards a non-technocratic model of autonomous development for post-compulsory sector teachers.  Research in Post-Compulsory Education. 18 (3) pp269-279
Goethe, J.W. (Posthumous, 1998 edition). Maxims and Reflections, ed P. Hutchinson . London: Penguin
Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning. Abingdon: Routledge
Schön, D. (1983, 1991 edition). The Reflective Practitioner: how professionals think in action.  Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Happy New Year! And a plug for Eddie Playfair's blog

Very pleased to discover recently that a colleague who has worked for many years in FE in London is also a blogger (much more productive than me!), and seems to have many very similar interests and enthusiasms.  This is Eddie Playfair, whose blog is now listed in the right column of this page.  I have been particularly stimulated recently by his posts on the keyboard and the music and on xenophilia.  The keyboard one follows on nicely from my last post on Thelonius Monk.  Eddie has also posted on William Morris, xenophilia, Hugh MacDiarmid, and George Clinton, just to give a hint at his eclectic range of references - but all are related brilliantly to arguments for more progressive policies and practices in further education, particularly as these affect young people in East London.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Monk's wisdom

Here is a terrific, witty, but also slightly scary image of one of the most creative and innovative musicians of the last century, together with some handwritten advice aimed at musicians he's playing with.  I think some of these guidelines have relevance in much more general contexts too.

For me they have great resonance, as I am a very amateur and inexperienced keyboard player in a rather good pub band, which for me is an intense context of rather feverish learning!  The next step up for me is for a one verse solo in the middle of a standard Bluenote number such as Horace Silver's 'Song for my Father' to become something I can attempt without feeling I am doing a slalom without ski-poles down the steepest run at Val d'Isere.

The assumption in Thelonius's notes that everyone is learning, even if they are good enough to play in his band, and that this is a collaborative process taking place as a result of doing the job itself, is very encouraging for novices like me....

At the last gig I managed to survive at the bottom of two solos, hot, breathless and excited - and as Marcus encouragingly pointed out, that's more than the number of goals scored by Rooney in the World Cup!

Thanks to Perse for these gems, and for his excellent and formative leadership!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Angelus Novus

A Klee painting named ‘Angelus Novus’ shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such a violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

Walter Benjamin, On the Concept of History IX, 1940

Benjamin is reported to have owned this little Klee drawing and to have carried it around with him, presumably among the notes for his Arcades project, also carried with him on his ultimately futile flight from the Nazis.  I heard that it had disappeared after his suicide.  Klee actually produced a number of similar drawings.  I was disappointed that none of them are included in the numinous Klee exhibition on at the Tate Modern at the moment.

Teachers and the cult of amateurism: enthusiasm isn’t enough


Would you want your child to be taught by the person appointed to this post?  If not, why not?

The coalition government has removed the basic requirement that teachers should be qualified for many state-funded schools and for all institutional providers in the Further Education sector.  An opposition motion that teachers in state-funded schools and colleges should have to be qualified or working towards qualification, was debated three weeks ago in the Commons, and defeated by about 40.   ‘What next’, asks Mark Steel in the Independent, ’surgeons and submarine commanders?’

 Of course all teachers need training, just as plumbers or brain surgeons do, for the protection of the public if for nothing else.  Teachers are brain surgeons, for goodness sake, the only difference is that, for better or worse, they operate on everyone, not just people who are ill.  To argue against the need for training is to argue for teachers to be cowboy traders, when actually more than ever we need them to be professionals, trusted as a body to set their own entry criteria and standards for working in the field, in the same way that doctors, lawyers, physiotherapists, plumbers, and the police now do.   To argue against the mild and practical motion debated in the Commons three weeks ago is to resurrect the Victorian cult of amateurism, which has many virtues, but which doesn’t cut the mustard in occupations as critical to an advanced 21st century economy and society, as teaching. Competitor economies such as Germany, China and South Korea recognise the importance of nurturing innovation, which requires critical and collaborative thinking, creativity, team-working and research skills as well as knowledge.   The effective development of these capacities depends, for better or worse, on teachers.  

As well as subject knowledge, teachers in any setting need ‘know-how’ about the application of that knowledge, and also ‘practical wisdom’  a term used by Aristotle 2500 years ago to mean expertise in managing the vagaries of human behaviour and motivation for the benefit of the individuals and of the community.   Without ‘practical wisdom’ teachers will be less able or interested in inspiring and motivating learners, or encouraging and supporting them through difficulties: they will miss insights and unexpected ‘teaching moments’ that bring about learning breakthroughs, because they won’t be looking for them.  Their emphasis and focus will be on the content rather than the process and purposes of learning, on the subject rather than on the learner, on the shortterm, narrowly defined outcome rather than on learning for the future. 

Good teaching is not just a matter of knowing stuff, and then following a checklist of simple rules.  What works in one situation may well not work in another, because one group of learners is not the same as another group.  OFSTED regularly amends its list of quality criteria, and no doubt it will do so again, because they are trying to pin down something which cannot be pinned down.  Teachers so glibly described as ‘brilliant’ by one politician after another, cannot be certain they will do well on the day they are observed by inspectors, because teachers are like navigators – however good their subject knowledge, they can and do find themselves steering a leaky boat through a storm.    Teaching is an inherently complex business, requiring not just expert subject knowledge and technical knowledge about pedagogical practices, but knowledge of the world of work and of people, empathy, superb communication skills, and an unpredictable range of different kinds of knowhow.

As Aristotle recognised, it is also an essentially ethical business, aiming to support good outcomes for learners, communities, and society as a whole.  Its practitioners need the capacity to make judgement calls as they work, which bring into play each teacher’s individual dispositions and character, as well as their previous experience, and of course, their knowledge and skills.  This is because a key part of the teacher’s task is not just to know about, but to model appropriate roles: as an adult, as a citizen, as a more experienced practitioner.  Initial training helps start and focus the process by which teachers develop these capacities, skills and dispositions.

In further education there have always been teachers who started work unqualified, coming into FE as experts in various vocational or creative industries.  Most of them appreciate that training has helped them to present their experience and knowledge of practice and of the world of work more effectively than enthusiasm on its own could do.   Teaching is a very serious business: the days when it could be left to amateurs, however enthusiastic and well-meaning, are long gone.

Photo: Hubble
Toni Fazaeli from the Institute for Learning has made similar arguments in a recent Guardian blog-post, whose title echoes mine: Bring back FE teacher qualifications: learners deserve more than pot luck.  Her article responds to another by Ian Pryce, Principal of Bedford College, who argues the opposite.  I think he's wrong: his college's students, like those of many other colleges over many years, have benefitted from the freedom they have had to use vocational and industrial experts who have not been trained as teachers, and there is no suggestion that this should change, though it is being suggested that these people should be supported to develop their teaching skills. 
What is really needed for the post-compulsory, lifelong, or further education sector, whatever you want to call it, is a discussion about what professional development all teachers need at all stages in their careers, and what infrastructure is needed to support it properly.  Ian Pryce admits that even good teachers can improve.  He denies that there is any danger of employers exploiting learners using government funds, and suggests that quality assurance can be left to OFSTED: 'Many people fear that if qualifications are optional then colleges will simply replace qualified staff with unskilled, lower-cost people. But colleges deliver state-funded education and are accountable to the government and Ofsted.'  The trouble with this is firstly that the advert at the top of this post demonstrates that it is likely that some employers in the newly deregulated sector will all too readily take the chance to draw down government funds to pay for second rate educational opportunities for students who can't afford to go to the high quality college in their town; and secondly, that relying on OFSTED for quality assurance is no more than shutting the door after the horse has bolted.  They can close down a low quality provider, but not before hundreds or perhaps thousands of students have been sold short, not to mention the tax-payer.
Ian Pryce also suggests that the present teaching qualification is a one-size fits all model: this is absolutely not the case, or at least, it doesn't need to be.  The programme I work on serves the enormously complex and diverse post-compulsory sector in London - it couldn't do this effectively if it consisted of one size fits all.  The issue isn't how the training is organised, at what point in the teacher's career it takes place, or the content of it: all those things can and should be updated continuously to reflect the needs of the local and regional sector, local and regional employers, and its students.  His argument brings us back to Mark Steel's question: if teachers don't need training, what about plumbers, police officers (who as a matter of fact have a new Police College), and paediatric nurses?  Where does this argument end?  What next, volunteer teachers?  There are already an alarming number of internships being used to provide teachers in classrooms, in front of real students.  This seems to me an inevitable consequence of deregulation.  Professional standards aren't just about knowledge, but about behaving as a professional and a responsible person, as I argue above.
It is absolutely essential that we have a professional teaching and support staff workforce so that public funds are spent as productively as possible.  All the international evidence supports the view that high educational attainment at a national level is associated with highly-trained teachers who enjoy high status culturally and in their communities.  

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Ken Bodden, an inspirational life

A wonderful guy I got to know over the past three years, as a conga player and singer with King Toadfish, who died two weeks ago.  I keep discovering more things about his extraordinary life.  He was born in Panama, half Irish-Jamaican and half Honduran, became almost blind in early childhood, was fostered for a part of his childhood in Manchester, a piano tuner, pub musician and songwriter, crosscountry skier and para-Olympian, Manchester United supporter, communal housemate, community and political activist, inveterate maker and keeper of friends.  So many people were at his funeral yesterday (in spite of appalling rain) that about 50 couldn’t get into the crematorium.  Wonderful explicitly atheist event with South African songs, Irish ballads, Bob Marley songs, and very moving tributes.  
This is an obituary written by his anti-apartheid comrades:

This is a youtube of Kenny playing at a party in his house in Hackney:

(l to r) Bob Peachey, Pete Lamont, Kenny, Tsafi Ledermann and Percy Aggett, playing at a King Toadfish street party gig, Harberton Road London  N19 in summer 2012

'Kenny, it always looked as if we were leading you, when in fact it was you leading us' (John Maloney, tribute at the funeral)


Sunday, 15 September 2013


‘Man makes plans,’ goes the Yiddish proverb, ‘and God laughs.’

‘To draw up in advance an exact and detailed plan is to deprive our mind of the pleasures of the encounter and the novelty that comes from executing he work.  It is to make the execution insipid for us and consequently impossible in works that depend on enthusiasm and imagination.  Such a plan is itself a half-work.  It must be left imperfect if we want to please ourselves.  We must say it cannot be finished.  In fact it must not be, for a very good reason: it is impossible.  We can, however, draw up such plans for works whose execution and accomplishment are a mechanical thing, a thing that depends above all on the hand.  This is suitable and even useful for painters, for sculptors.  Their senses, with each stroke of the brush or chisel, will find this novelty that did not exist for heir minds.  Forms and colours which the imagination cannot represent to us as perfectly as the eye can, will offer the artist a horde of these encounters which are indispensable to giving genius pleasure in work. But the orator, the poet, nd the philosopher will not find he same encouragement in writing down what they have already thought.  Everything is one for them.  Because the words they use have beauty only for the mind and, having been spoken in their head in the same way they are written on the page, the mind no longer has anything to discover in what it wants to say.  A plan however is necessary, but a plan that is vague, that has not been pinned down.  We must above all have a notion of the beginning, the end, and the middle of our work.  That is to say, we must choose its pitch and range, its pauses, and its objectives.  The first word must give the colour, the beginning determines the tone; the middle rules the measure, the time, the space, the proportions.’  (Joseph Joubert, 1798, The Notebooks)
‘The power of a country road is different when one is walking along it from when one is flying over it by airplane.  In the same way, the power of a text is different when it is read from when it is copied out.  The airplane passenger sees only how the road pushes through the landscape, how it unfolds according to the same laws as the terrain surrounding it.  Only he who walks the road on foot learns of the power it commands, and of how, from the very scenery that for the flier is only the unfurled plain, it calls forth distances, belvederes, clearings, prospects at each of its turns like a commander deploying soldiers at a front.  Only the copied text thus commands the soul of him who is occupied with it, whereas the mere reader never discovers the new aspects of his inner self that are opened by the text, that road cut through the interior jungle forever closing behind it: because the reader follows the movement of his mind in the free flight of day-dreaming, whereas the copier submits it to command.  The Chinese practice of copying books was thus an incomparable guarantee of literary culture, and the transcript a key to China’s enigmas.’ (Walter Benjamin, One Way Street, 1925-26: Chinese Curios)

I'm not sure I agree wholly with Joubert that the work of poets, orators and philosophers is qualitatively different to that of painters or sculptors, so that the role of planning is different.  From a craft perspective, all planning is to some degree provisional, hence the truth of his aphorism: 'A plan is however necessary, but a plan that is vague, that has not been pinned down.'  Joubert's view is that 'sticking to the plan' reduces the possibility of surprise and pleasure in the work, but Benjamin says something stronger: that over-reliance on planning results in the shutting off of possibilities, the denial of perspectives.  Over-dependence on planning suits those who want to avoid surprises, who wish to control, and those who are afraid of freedom.  In some sad cases it is all of these things.
Perhaps also relevant here is Andrew Lang's remark, which was actually about statistics rather than planning: 'He uses planning as a drunk man uses lamp-posts: for support rather than illumination'.