ERG SES G 05, Vocational Training and Education
Bildung and its English cousin liberal education are often construed as the opposite of vocational education, especially the non-academic kind. This contributes to, but is by no means even the main source of, a de-emphasis on the pedagogy of vocational education perhaps best exemplified in the treatment of skill learning. Skill learning tends to be viewed narrowly as the repetition of specific actions in order to master the ability to achieve specific outcomes. The conceptual consequences are that skills and skill-sets or complex competencies are not thought of in connection with issues central to the Bildung tradition such as ethics, context and relationships, aesthetics and biographical meaningfulness. The practical consequences are far reaching modularizations in VET where the perceived technical or rational components of skills are heavily subdivided to form checklists while other aspects of vocational training are left more or less tacit.
These remarks are not novel by any means, there are a number of contemporary scholars who have engaged with the issues in different ways (Billet 2011, Dormer 1994, Dunne 1993, Frayling 2011, Sennett 2008, Winch 2012). What has not been so directly dealt with and discussed is the existence of Bildung traditions outside of the academic, philosophical one, ie. of traditions within non-academic VET that have developed in their own context. This is especially difficult to pursue since the non-academic VET traditions (such as those of apprenticeship) have, until relatively recently, been largely oral and practice oriented and thus have left little in the way of a written Bildung philosophy or pedagogy.
One way of reconstructing such traditions is through biographical inquiries in which the experiences of receiving a vocational education are recounted. This is particularly well suited to Bildung related questions since an important current in the wider writings on Bildung consists of the so-called Bildung novels (classical examples being Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister and Rosseau’s Emile). Bildung is by most accounts a biographical process where matters of insight and understanding, morals, growing autonomy and character formation are central to it (Rittelmeyer 2012).
In the following study one such biographical case, chosen for its unusual richness, is to be analyzed: the case of Mr. Wolfgang B. (born 1935) master of bookbinding, gilding and engraving with training in Stuttgart, Germany, Stockholm, Sweden and Paris, France.
The German idealist Bildung philosophy (Rittelmeyer 2012) is the main conceptual framework but used not in its original sense of educational aims but rather as a lens through which to identify similar elements and processes in fields of education not originally thought of as possible parts of a Bildung oriented curriculum.
Christopher Winch’s (2012) discussion of skills, capabilities, technique and expertise as well as Joseph Dunne’s (1993) on technique and praxis are the main frameworks for discussing skills and technique in relation to the case study data.
Teaching technique can be an issue of drilling someone to become proficient. There is no lack of examples here.
What about training in technique that instead focuses on the pedagogical potentials inherent in the technique itself? What kind of recollections does such training evoke years later?
Billet, S. (2011). Vocational education. Purposes, traditions and prospects. New York: Springer. Brater, M. et al. (2011). Kunst als Handeln – Handeln als Kunst. Was die Arbeitswelt und Berufsbildung von Künstlern lernen können. München: Bertelsmann. Brater, M. et al. (1987). Fachausbildung + Künstlerische Übungen. Ein Weg zur Förderung beruflicher Handlungsfähigkeit. München: Rainer Hampp. Brater, M. et al. (1986). Brücke zwischen Schule und Beruf. Der Förderlehrgang Voith. München: Rainer Hampp. Brater, M. et al. (1985). Fachübergreifende qualifizierung durch künstlerische Übungen. München: Rainer Hampp. Dormer, P. (1994). The art of the maker. Skill and its meaning in art, craft and design. London: Thames and Hudson. Dunne, J. (1993). Back to the rough ground. Practical judgment and the lure of technique. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. Elbaz-Luwisch, F. (2014). Auto/Biography & Pedagogy. Memory & presence in teaching. New York: Peter Lang. Ertl, H. (2002). The concept of modularisation in vocational education and training: the debate in Germany and its implications in Oxford Review of Education, Vol. 28, No. 1, 2002. Flyvbjerg, B. (2006). Five misunderstandings about case-study research in Qualitative Inquiry 12:2, 219-45. Frayling, C. (2011). On craftsmanship. London: Oberon Books. Gessler, L. (1988). Bildungserfolg im Spiegel von Bildungsbiographien. Frankfurt: Peter Lang Kemmis, S. & Smith, T. Eds. (2007). Enabling praxis: Challenges for education. Sense publishers. Lange, U. et. al. (2001). Studienbuch Theorien der beruflichen Bildung. Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt. Larsson, S. (2009). A pluralist view of generalization in qualitative research, in International Journal of Research & Method in Education, (32), 1, 25-38. Løvlie, L., Mortensen, K. L. & Nordenbo, S. E. (2003) (eds) Educating Humanity. Bildung in Postmodernity. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Rittelmeyer, C. (2012). Bildung, ein pädagogischer Grundbegriff. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer. Thompson, C. (2006). Adorno and the borders of experience: the significance of the nonidentical for a “different” theory of Bildung in Educational Theory vol 56, no 1, 2006. Roth, W.-M. ed. (2005). Auto/Biography and Auto/Ethnography: Praxis of research method. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. Sennett, R. (2008). The craftsman. London: Allen Lane, Penguin Books. Vinterbo-Hohr, A. & Hohr, H. (2006). The neo-humanistic concept of Bildung going astray: comments to Friedrich Schillers thoughts on education in Educational Philosophy and Theory, Vol. 38, No. 2, 2006. West, L. (2001): Doctors on the edge. General practitioners, health and learning in the inner-city. London: Free association books. Winch, C. (2012). Dimensions of expertise: A conceptual exploration of vocational knowledge. London: Continuum.
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