Friday, June 25, 2010

The Apprentices' Sources

I have always favoured the apprenticeship model of learning. A good apprentice-master demonstrates habits of mind (thought, perception, planning and discrimination) while acting out the outcomes of these habits in real life.

The apprentice learns these habits, applies these habits, and in time learns to debate the master's actions — just as the master would contest his own decisions in the theatre of his head. Eventually, the apprentice learns from what is done, what is not done, and why things were done or not done.

The problem in the Citadel of the Wyverns right now is that there are few masters who can apply habits of mind to the teaching of the craft. In fact, there are few masters — the rest are journeymen or senior apprentices pretending to be masters.

I have a sample size of about 40 apprentices in this 2-year batch of about 900 students, roughly 5% of the population and somewhat statistically significant. They can't do proper references and citations, have little knowledge of the technical vocabulary of their areas of knowledge, and come up with spurious ideas which have no basis in research or reality.

It is shocking, in particular, to find out that the apprentices often have no idea of how to obtain source material, evaluate such material, or craft an argument out of such material. When I ask them, "What is your source?" they cannot reply; when I ask them, "What is the difference between X and Y?" they give me irrelevant excursions from the path of academic righteousness.

Yet, they are spending hours with their 'masters' every week. So what is being taught? I know that there are still some good teachers there; you can tell by what the apprentices do when you force them to do work on the spot. But some are completely at sea. About five of them, just in the last month or so, have told me that they have learnt more from one session with me than 15 months at the Citadel.

I am not sure that this means I am that good a master. It could mean that they have had the misfortune of having a journeyman or senior apprentice fobbed off on them as a master. It could mean they have been sleeping at lectures. It could mean that I am a convincing trickster.

But whatever it means, this must indicate a problem of some sort — the Citadel is behaving badly, the students are behaving badly, or the students are now more easily conned than they used to be. If there are problems, they need to be solved.

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Blogger Sorrows said...

Ha ha, I remember I had a dream this morning that I sent it to you and your reply was something sarcastic along the lines of "if you're lucky, you might even get a C!" Lol.


Sunday, June 27, 2010 2:15:00 am  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

Well, that's funny because I just made that comment several times today!

What irritates me is that some of the C->B fixes are very obvious. Remove the jargon, don't use words of more than four syllables (like 'epistemology') and use four-syllable words sparingly, spend the time working on clarity of expression and structure.

Sunday, June 27, 2010 2:40:00 am  
Blogger Sorrows said...

Heh, not so much a dream then; rather, a nightmare.


Sunday, June 27, 2010 3:14:00 am  

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