PROFESSING THE LIBERAL ARTS

By Lee S. Shulman

(Adapted by Julian Hermida)

 

The challenges of liberal learning (the three horsemen of the liberal learning apocalypse):

 

       Amnesia: I forgot.

 

       Illusory understanding: I thought I understood it.

 

       Inert ideas (Alfred Whitehead): I understand it, but I cannot use it.

 

Principles of professional learning:

 

       Activity

o   Authentic learning occurs when the student is an active agent in the process. Student learning becomes more active when through experimentation and inquiry, as well as through writing, dialogue, and questioning.

       Reflection

o   Activity alone is insufficient for learning. We do not learn by doing; we learn by thinking about what we are doing. Students have to go meta. A very high level of carefully guided reflection is blended with activity.

 

       Collaboration

 

o   Difficult intellectual challenges are nearly impossible to accomplish alone, but are readily addressed in the company of others. Collaboration deepens the understanding of ideas. Reciprocal teaching.

 

       Passion

o   Authentic learning is not exclusively cognitive or intellectual. There is a significant emotional and affective component. Authentic learning occurs when students share a passion for the material, are emotionally committed to the ideas, processes, and activities, and see the work as connected to present and future goals.

 

       Community

 

o   The processes of activity, reflection, collaboration, and emotion work best when supported, legitimated, and nurtured within a community or culture that values such experiences and creates many opportunities for them to occur.

 

Pedagogy for Professing:

Cases as conduits between theory and practice.

Whether as case analyst or case writer, the case learner becomes an active agent in his or her own understanding.

Every undergraduate who is engaged in liberal learning should undertake the service of teaching something they know to somebody else. They should also write about the experience as a case, describing both teaching and student learning. They should write for the other members of the community. Then, they should form small case conferences where groups of students come together and exchange their cases. Then, the teacher tries to help students elicit the general and common principles of the cases.

 

We need to move from individual experiential learning to a scholarly community of practice.

 

Aristotelian notion of teaching:

In order to teach something to someone else, you have to engage in an act of reflection on and transformation of what you know, and then connect those insights to the mind, experiences, and motives of somebody else. Teaching is a dual act of intelligence and empathy.

Teaching is the distinctive sign of a man who knows deeply that he can teach what he knows to another.