Wednesday, June 01, 2016

A practical guide to craftsmanship

Disclaimer, I am cited in this report.

From the prolific pens of Professor Bill Lucas and Dr. Ellen Spenser comes another piece of work commissioned by City and Guilds. This piece of work, focuses on craftsmanship. The website provides a link to the short (33 pages) final report. This report follows on from previous work on how to teach vocational education  which I summarised on this blog a couple of years ago and a more recent report on 'remaking apprenticeship' also commissioned by City and Guilds.

The report begins with an overview of the historical connotations of 'craftsmanship', arguing for whether it is appropriate in contemporary times and whether aspects of being a craftsman springs from expertise or attitude. In short, craftsmanship need not be limited to trade or manual occupations. As per Sennett, (see this blog for summary of the book 'the craftsman'), craftsmanship is an innate human desire to 'do things well'. So craftmanship aspects are desirable in the creative arts, computer programming (notice how many books there are out there on the craft of coding), teaching, health care etc. (see my article on how workplace culture impinges on how apprentices attain craftsmanship traits for discussion on craftsmanship and another on the learning of judgment)

The report is written chiefly for a UK audience - as per the sub-title - creating the craftsmen and women that Britain needs - so the two case studies used may resonate more with an anglo audiences.

The real gem within the report is the section on the pedagogy of craftsmanship - starting on page 11. Here the philosophies (signature dispositions, visible learning), the 3 strands of craftsmanship (learnability, becoming and culture) and challenges and presented and discussed.

Signature dispositions are a slant on signature disciplines - something perhaps still difficult to quantify due to the diversity of contexts in which craftsmanship traits are valued and promoted. An example I often use is from 2011 my study with apprentices in NZ. Glazing apprentices complete their apprenticeship in three distinct work organisations. Domestic glaziers install and fix windows in small buildings, commercial glaziers work with construction companies to install large windows in large buildings often using cranes and abseiling skills, and auto glaziers install vehicle windows. Each is a glazier but with a diverse range of skills pertinent to their work. 

Visible learning is based on the work of Hattie (see this blog for summaries on visible learning for teachers and visible learning and the science of how we learn) - for me, an extension of some of the precepts of cognitive apprenticeship.(see post applying to mobile learning) and aspects of deliberate practice (see summaries from this blog of books 2006, 2009 and critiques).

The table on page 15 provides a good overview of the report's direction, linking the desirable outcome of craftsmanship with the two philosophies of teaching (signature dispositions and visible learning) to dispositions (developing the techniques of persisting, envisioning, expressing, observing, reflecting, risk-taking, and understanding the domain). In turn, connected to the three strands (learnable, becoming and culture) to techniques for teachers. Each of the items in the three strands then discussed with examples and some guidelines.

Page 28 provides recommendations to vocational education teachers on how to go about 'changing your own approach'.

The report than concludes by returning to the discussion on the term 'craftsman' - should it be retained or an alternative sought?

Two pages of pertinent references provide a source for further exploration,

In all, a readable report pitched at practitioners that does not shy away from providing citations to support the concept. The synergy of approaches shown to work in the compulsory school sector and the requirements of industry is one of the strengths of the report. 

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