Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Learning through observation


Just completed a ‘first pass’ through the interview data from my latest project: Learning a trade: becoming a trade person through apprenticeship. This involved a ‘frequency analysis’ through the transcripts, to identify how apprentices responded to the question, how did you go about learning your trade?  A list of ‘ways of learning’ was taken from the ‘vocational pedagogy’ report by Lucas, B., Spencer, E. & Claxton, G. (2012). Apprentices’ responses were then coded to the various ‘ways of learning’. Firstly, to find out how apprentices perceived they learnt and also to find out if specific trades had any ‘ways of learning’ that were more specific to their trade.

The finding, that every apprentice mentioned that they learnt by observation, is not unexpected. However, almost none of our tutor / teacher training hones in on teaching students how to learn by observation. Another theme that has arisen through the interviews is that apprentices generally did not display much meta-cognition about how they went about learning trade skills. They just ‘get on and do it’ and all learn the skills required to become productive and competent trades people.

My take is that the assumption is made that we are all able to learn by observation as this is something we have been doing since we were born. We learn many life motor skills by observing our parent, siblings, peers and later, teachers. I will need to get back into Rogoff’s work on ‘apprenticeshipin thinking’ to unpack the work in this area – of how children (especially in non-Western cultures) learn family culture / skills.

Meanwhile, will revisit the work on sports and skill acquisitionon ‘learning through observation’ and do a more thorough literature search on the topic. Will need to then synthesis some of the sports psychology work on ‘learning by watching / observation’ with the literature on expertise / deliberate practice to build up some sense of where to go next.