High School Internships: Challenges to the Common Wisdom

January 5, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Social Science, Psychology
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High School Internships: Challenges to the Common Wisdom David Thornton Moore New York University December 10, 2010

The Problem • Original mandate: How experiential learning in the school (and related interventions) might have an impact on workforce readiness • Revised: How and under what conditions does experiential education contribute to students’ building what the conference is calling ‘cognitive’ skills, especially as those have a bearing on both college and career readiness?

Forms of Experiential Learning • • • •

Internships Service-learning Cooperative education Others: – Community-based research – Job shadowing – Career academies – Experience-based career education

The Common Wisdom: Claims • Academic reinforcement: – Reading, writing, problem-solving

• Skill and career development: – SCANS-like skills – Knowledge of careers, industries, professions

• Youth development – Psychosocial maturation, responsibility, teamwork

• New modes of thought – Problem-formation, flexible solutions, higher-order thinking

Sources of the Approach • Pragmatism: – CS Peirce, William James, John Dewey

• Interactionism – GH Mead, Herbert Blumer, Howard Becker

• Constructivism – Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner

• Activity theory – LS Vygotsky, A. Luria, James Wertsch

• Situated cognition, situated learning – Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger, JS Brown, Lauren Resnick

The Basic Position • People ‘learn’ by participating in communities of practice in which certain kinds of knowledge and skill are deployed in the service of accomplishing certain kinds of collective, meaningful purposes • The nature of thought, knowing, and learning varies according to the features of situations in which they occur • Thinking and learning processes are mediated by history, culture, and tools • Thinking and learning are social as well as psychological processes; that is, knowledge-use is stretched across participants in situated activities, not just located inside heads

The Radical Challenge • Activity systems think and learn: the construction and use of knowledge happens not just inside brains, but in systems of people, activities and tools • The objective is not to ‘build better students,’ but to create opportunities for students to participate fully in contexts where knowledge is being constructed, distributed and used

The Studies • School for External Learning – Big-city high school granting academic credit for work experience – Observed and interviewed 35 students in field placements

• Working Knowledge: IEE/Teachers College – Variety of career academies, experience-based high schools, and cooperative education colleges around Northeast – Observed and interviewed 25 students in field placements – Observed school classes where experiences were part of the curriculum

• Teaching from Experience – Seven higher-education institutions in New York metro area – Observed and interviewed 12 students doing internships with related classes, both on site and in class, and interviewed six interns not doing related classes

Task Analysis Framework • How tasks were – Established – Accomplished – Processed

• Features of the work – Socio-cognitive task demands: ‘content’ – Pragmatics: • Centrality and demandedness • Error cost • Prestige or status

Environmental Analysis • Features of the activity system – Production process: division of labor (cognitive, physical, social) – Distribution of and access to knowledge • Bernstein: classification and frame

– Workplace culture

• Features of the larger environment – Market conditions: competition, demand – Regulation: government, labor unions – Technology: pace and nature of change

School-Based Elements • What does the school do to – prepare the student for the placement? – process the experience during and after? – connect it to other learning?

• Examples of school-based strategies – – – – –

Pre-field seminars Matching process Learning contracts Journals and writing assignments Concurrent seminars

Case One: History Museum • Student: Heather – Upper-middle class, white, strong grades

• Setting: the education department – Flat structure, mostly volunteers (docents) – Culture of learning, fascination with history

• Task activity: the class tour – Regular sequence of interactions, each with embedded knowledge and skill, participation structures – Specific incident: ‘doing the artifacts cart’

• Key aspects of learning experience – Access to full participation, authentic role – Scaffolding: gradual removal of supports

Case Two: Veterinary Clinic • Student: Fred – Working class, white, small-town – Interested in animals, but a mediocre student

• Setting: two-vet animal hospital – Hierarchy: vets, technicians, clerks, intern

• Tasks: – For vets and techs: operations, spaying, diagnosis – For Fred: cleaning cages, walking animals, setting up equipment for operations

• Factors shaping learning – Strong classification: professional work by vets, support work by staff, marginal (‘pick-up’) work by intern – Framing: culture of deference; error cost; legal regulations, licensing

Assessing the Claims: 1 • Academic reinforcement: – Not much school-like knowledge-use – Not much interaction between work-knowledge and school-knowledge

• Skills and career development – Some limited skill acquisition, but in specialized form; raises transfer of learning issue – Narrow vision of career and profession

Assessing the Claims: 2 • Youth development – Interns did experience responsibility, being ‘treated like an adult’

• New modes of thought – They were often thinking in ways not done in school: more practical, more technical, more teamoriented and collaborative – They did not do much planning, complex problemsolving, problem formulation, higher-order thinking

Conclusions • Current practices – Not much better than vocational education or part-time jobs – Not designed to enhance academic learning, prepare students for college

• Reasons – Student roles tend to be peripheral, low-level, rarely working toward full participation – Teachers are not trained to process experience, and tend to focus on career preparation – Epistemological gap: knowledge used at work is not easily mapped onto knowledge in school

Suggestions • Deep processing: lead students to analyze experiences in more rigorous terms – Organizational behavior, workplace culture – Psychological issues: motivation, satisfaction – Ethics, history, literature

• Critical pedagogy: give students opportunity to interrogate their experiences critically – Ask why things are as they are and how things might change – Resist tendency to reproduce class structure – Cf. Paulo Freire, Henry Giroux, Ira Shor, Roger Simon

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