Epistemic Trajectories: Mentoring in a Game Design Practicum
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Innovative professionals rely on a specific ways of thinking to solve the nonstandard problems that come up in practice (Goodwin, 1994; Schön, 1983, 1987; Sullivan, 1995). The professionals have ...
Innovative professionals rely on a specific ways of thinking to solve the nonstandard problems that come up in practice (Goodwin, 1994; Schön, 1983, 1987; Sullivan, 1995). The professionals have reproductive practices for transmitting these ways of thinking, such as practica (Shön, 1987). In this paper, we examine the learning relationship between a mentor and team of college students through an ethnographic study of a game design practicum at a European arts school. To examine the role that the mentor played in this practicum, we used two theoretical constructs. Epistemic frames – the configurations of the skills, knowledge, identities, values, and epistemologies that professionals use to think in innovative ways – provide a model for examining professional expertise (Shaffer, 2006a). Epistemic network analysis (ENA) (Shaffer, et al., 2009) is a method for quantifying changes in epistemic frames (Shaffer, 2010). Our results here suggest that the mentor leads the team on a path that illuminates the nature of learning to think professionally, as well the function of a mentor in that process. We argue that the mentor, rather than providing a direct map to a professional vantage point, scaffolds aspects of the epistemic frame of game design, that in turn, aid in the development of a more professional frame. Using ENA to understand the way mentors help coach learners to develop epistemic frames should be useful for further studies of professional education, as well as for studies of apprenticeship-based programs for youth.
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