Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Apprenticeship Teaching

Benjamin Franklin apprenticing for a newspaper
Though I enjoyed taking the Teaching Perspectives Inventory and the class discussion that followed, I believe there is an inherent flaw in the process we didn't quite get to.

Let me begin by saying that I was pretty well-rounded in my responses. My dominant approach was developmental, but I also scored high (but within the mean) on transmission and nurturing. Strangely, I had no recessive approaches, though social reform and apprenticeship tied and eked above the mean by less than a point.

I must confess that I was somewhat surprised that I scored so low on the apprenticeship score. After all, I work in Grady College, which offers its students many skills-based courses in journalism, advertising, public relations, and media communications. For most students, these are professional degrees more than academic ventures.

At first I thought this divide was a problem until I started reflecting on my past teaching experiences. I worked at the University of Louisville as an adjunct and I essentially resurrected the PR writing course there. For each assignment I explained the importance of the writing task and how to accomplish it (transmission). I also worked with each student individually based on his or her ability to so that he or she could improve upon unique skill sets (developmental).

But within this mix I found the most useful moments came from relating assignments to my own professional experience and providing students with detailed examples of what these writing exercises should look like and how structure and content work together to achieve a desired goal. If that isn't apprenticeship teaching, I don't know what is.

Seeing as I received pretty favorable reviews for that class, I'm assuming I didn't screw the pooch, so why did I score so low on that scale?

I think the problem is one of perception. Namely, when taking the TPI, the focus tends to be on broader teaching and learning philosophies, not specific strategies or tactics within a given classroom setting.

As I've said before, I don't think learning is necessarily purposive or goal directed. Though knowledge undoubtedly has a use-value, it has intrinsic value as well. My belief score on the apprenticeship scale reflects that.

However, while that opinion reflects a general approach to teaching, a more narrow, course-specific view pulls out the practical side in me. I think the distinction between the broad and specific is important to consider when interpreting our TPI scores lest we pigeonhole ourselves and allow these scales to become self-fulfilling prophecies rather than the introspective exercises they were intended to be.

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