Friday, August 13, 2010

child as craftsman

David Henry Feldman, in a 1977 paper, "The Child as Craftsman" described the role of metaphor in formulating the scope and method of education. What he described as the earliest metaphor he labeled as the individual differences/traits metaphor
The child's traits or capabilities would determine the extent to which he could absorb the knowledge presented by the teacher...The teacher, by virtue of having mastered the knowledge himself, did not need to demonstrate any special ability to teach. His responsibility was to determine what was taught, and when and how.
In other words, the child was an empty vessel and the teacher was a pitcher of knowledge prepared to pour until the child had reached his or her own individual capacity.

What Dr. Feldman called the environmental patterning metaphor made the assumption that
the "basic mechanisms of learning are the same for all individuals (even for all organisms) ... and the amount that one learns should be a direct function of the environmental experience one has had...The environmentalist metaphor... removed the responsibility from from the shoulders of the overburdened child and placed it on the shoulders of the now overburdened teacher. No child was deemed to naive or dull to learn. Learning was a function of the environmental arrangements that a good teacher was able to make.
The third metaphor which Feldman called the stage development metaphor "is loosely based on the work of developmental theorists, Piaget, Erikson, Kohlberg, Werner, Loevinger, and others."
The child is seen as proceeding through a series of qualitatively distinct stages, each of which provides powerful rules for interpreting reality and guiding behavior.
If you look at modern education, you will find evidence of each of these three metaphors variously applied, giving foundation to various schools and methods, and shaping the objectives of various teachers in classrooms in America. Looking at the state of American education one would assume that a new metaphor might be in order. In his 1977 article, Feldman offered "The Child as Craftsman" as a fresh alternative.
To see a child as a craftsman means to see him as a person who wants to be good at something. It also suggests that the child continually takes pride in accomplishment and has a sense of integrity about his work, regardless of the actual level of the work produced. The notion is somewhat akin to Robert White's competence motivation, except that White's notion implies more of a need to feel mastery over uncontrolled forces in the environment. The child a craftsman no doubt is move by what White refers to as "effectance motivation," but the metaphor is intended to go beyond this to include a more direct link to specific fields of endeavor and to suggest why some activities are so much more compelling to a given child than others...

Perhaps the most important implication of the metaphor is to suggest that it may well be the main purpose of education to provide conditions under which each child will identify and find satisfaction through a chosen field or fields of work.
I will be offering much more on the "child as craftsman" in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:01 PM

    A child with blocks is a builder, instinctively. With paper and scissors that child is an artist. The "empty vessel" isn't all that empty after all.