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Science or Art

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a speculative analogy - how is teaching like building a birchbark canoe?

a speculative analogy - how is teaching like building a birchbark canoe?

Published in: Education, Technology

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  • 1. Is Learning a Science or an Art?
  • 2. Characteristics of science:
    Systematic
    Replicable
    Reliable
    Standardized
    Measurable with accuracy
  • 3. Characteristics of art:
    Individualized
    Unique
    Hand-crafted
    idiosyncratic
  • 4. Analogy: building a canoe
    Need to make cedar ribs
  • 5. Cut on a saw
    • Uniform dimension but does not take into account particular characteristics of each piece of wood
    • 6. Knots, cracks, weaknesses
  • Split by hand
    Can adapt to peculiarities of each piece
    But more time consuming and less consistent dimensions
  • 7. Question:
    Is consistent dimension the most important measure of a canoe rib?
    Or are flexibility and durability more important?
  • 8. Apply the analogy to students
    What are the most important qualities students will have on completion of a unit/course/program?
    • What functions should they be able to perform under what conditions?
  • How critical are undetected weaknesses?
    Will the student float?
    Survive the rapids?
  • 9. How important are the precise dimensions of the canoe to its ability to function successfully?
    It must have sufficient length, depth, width and shape to carry its intended passengers and cargo, but there are many suitable variations
  • 10. Does the way we design courses, classrooms and assessment allow for this variability?
    • Or do we push everything through a pre-set jig and expect to discard a certain percentage as substandard and unusable?
  • The factory model
    Groups of students
    Common curriculum
    Scheduled time/duration
    Standardized exams
    Focus on acquisition of a common set of facts/knowledge/skills
    Time is fixed, level of success is variable
  • 11. The artisan model
    Pre-assessment
    Individual projects
    Office hours (personal contact)
    Focus on development of interest, unique abilities
    Time required to achieve success is variable