(17.) On the Classroom as a Craftsman’s Workshop

(17.) On the Classroom as a Craftsman’s Workshop

(17.) On the Classroom as a Craftsman’s Workshop

  • Where each student is an apprentice in the craft of learning.

“Apprentice,” from the French word for “learn,” and from the Latin word for “apprehend.”

THE STUDENT. An apprentice in the art and craft of learning; to learn how to learn, but also to learn the idea of intellectual work, of being responsible for one’s own learning; to engage in the rigor and discipline of mastering a process which results in a skill, in this case the skill of learning with deep understanding and wisdom; to participate in a dynamic relationship with the master/teacher which leads to satisfying achievement, strengthened learning skills, and the foundation for moral and intellectual virtues. The goal is for the student to enjoy the rewarding discipline of an apprenticeship.

THE TEACHER. The classroom master, a practitioner in the craft of learning; the experienced craftsman who engages the apprentice/student actively and fully; a flexible coach who embodies the most important skills and attitudes and practices taught to the apprentices; nurtures the wholesome and rigorous kind of relationships which lead to satisfying achievements, understandings and personal growth; focuses on how something is learned as well as what is learned.

The master/teacher shows by example, demonstration, instruction and correction as the apprentice/student works and develops the craft of learning; the apprentice/student learns through imitation, practice, trial and error, reflection, application, and relationship.

As learning develops, the master/teacher tests levels of competence, has landmarks of growth to gauge progress; student is expected to produce a “masterpiece” at the end of the apprenticeship to demonstrate the skills learned and understandings achieved; the apprentice can then proceed to the next level of mastery; the apprentice thus has an inherent purpose, a reason to study, a context in which to learn, achieve goals, and progress.

THE CLASSROOM. The workshop, the place in which the master not only works his/her trade or craft, but also teaches the apprentice how to do likewise, with every method of the craft at the master’s disposal. Remember, the craft in this case is education.

The master/teacher is seen as an expert who is still learning, offering a rich environment, materials, information and relationship, which would increase the opportunities to inspire and engage the apprentice, and add a sense of exploration and discovery to the process of learning.

In the craftsman’s workshop, there is an eager sense of solid progress, and an impetus to accomplishment; the student/apprentice sees where he has been, where he is going, and has a personal stake in what is going on. It is highly motivating for the apprentice to be in an environment of learning professionals, as with a master carpenter or craftsman, with high standards, progress, successful achievement from one step to the next, and in which the master is willing to work shoulder to shoulder with the apprentice and come alongside the student in the process.

[a primary source for this idea is The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach, 1991, Howard Gardner, Harvard University]