02 SES 09 B, The Contribution of on the Job Trainers
The focus of this paper is education for vocational excellence (the combination of virtue and good judgment or phronesis/practical wisdom). There has been an ongoing discussion of this in the field of academic teacher training but not in that of apprenticeships. My suggestion being that this has less to do with any tacit education for excellence than with apprenticeships having emerged from a tradition that was largely personal and oral, ie. unwritten. This leads to two kinds of questions or issues. On the one hand leaving such questions as virtue and good judgment unexamined allows for the inherent conservativeness of oral culture to remain, both for the good and for the bad. There are plenty of examples of apprenticeships in which neither virtue nor judgment were taught but rather vices. On the other hand we also pass by opportunities to find out in better detail what it is that does make apprenticeships such valuable contexts for vocational education and, what its characteristics are when it promotes unusual excellence. How was excellence taught? Thus the research question explored is:
How is vocational excellence taught in the double sense of considering the act of teaching itself and the extent to which such considerations of teaching episodes themselves in turn contribute to the development of excellence.
I will be considering this through the educational biography of a master bookbinder, gilder and engraver, Mr. Wolfgang B., and two stories he tells, one of his education in Paris and one of his own deliberations in teaching bookbinding.
In order to conceptually frame these narratives and place them in a context of contemporary debate on these topics I will turn to Aristotle and his distinction between techne (the art of making) and phronesis (practical wisdom) in The Nichomachean Ethics (2009). In developing these distinctions it is possible to clarify what the narratives are saying. They are instances of practical wisdom in that they speak of a particular situation, or string of them, and how the teacher dealt with it. Furthermore, the second narrative where Mr. B. talks about his own deliberation in a particular situation is a narrative where an instance of the relationship between practical wisdom and techne becomes visible in the process of education.
To make the context of the narratives clear as instances of practical knowledge I will also discuss narratives as a form of knowledge in relation to phronesis. My point, leaning on the work of (Caduri 2013, Gallagher 2013, Lewis 2011, Worth 2008 and others) is that since practical wisdom is about particulars, narratives as a form of knowledge representation are better suited to convey it than declarative statements. The main reason is because narratives remain in context. However, the caveat also needs to be made that not all good teachers of craft are good storytellers nor are narratives limited to the conveyance of instances of practical wisdom. They are just as well suited to convey instances of vice and folly.
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