Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pedagogically correct...

The North East Association of Woodworking Teachers, NEAWT, has been meeting since 2001 and just had their biannual meeting from which has come a discussion (via email) of standard safety instruction that various members offer their kids. For many, it has been a practice to offer safety sheets to each student at the point at which various machines are introduced. The purpose, it is agreed, has less to do with the appropriate and effective theory of instruction, and much more to do with covering the school from a liability standpoint. If someone is severely injured using a power tool, parents and attorney's are automatically convinced that it has to be the teacher's fault, and by having evidence that each student has been instructed in the rules regarding each machine, has been effective in keeping the lawyers at bay, when various bad things have happened.

On the other hand, rules of instruction derived from Educational Sloyd and based on observation of how students actually learn would make it clear that starting out with safety sheets is not the best approach. Instruction should proceed from the easy to the more difficult, from the known to the unknown, from the simple to the complex and from concrete to the abstract. Safety sheets are abstract, particularly for students who've had no experience using a particular tool.

I have noticed among my own students, a growing aversion to paper. Sheets that are passed out are of little or no interest. Is that related to a growing sense that what's on-line and comes through magical digital devices is of superior significance? Who knows. But starting from the abstract form of something on paper is not the real deal and children know it, just as Pestalozzi's student wondered why they were looking at a picture of a ladder when there was a real one in the shed.

An approach that I liked best among those described by members of the NEAWT was to do an actual hands-on, and closely controlled and supervised use a a tool, followed by the safety sheet, safety test and signed contract with the student regarding safe tool use. For overly large classes, using power tools, this seems like the most reasonable approach to keeping children safe.

Today I'll be at work in my own shop making boxes. The photo above shows the work of a new 3rd grade student visiting the wood shop during yesterday's classes.

Make, fix, create and offer hope that others may love learning likewise.

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