Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vygotsky & Theatre Training

I have been doing a little research lately on Vygotsky. Particularly with regards to scaffolding being used in mentoring relationships to help with increasing problem-solving skills for ill-defined problems. One of the articles I have been reading (Cognitive Apprenticeship in Educational Practice by Vanessa Paz Dennen) has been pretty interesting. I found the following particularly interesting:
Teaching and learning through cognitive apprenticeships requires making tacit processes visible to learners so they can observe and then practice them...
Modeling... the demonstration of the temporal process of thinking
Explanation: explaining why the activities take place as they do.
Coaching... the monitoring of students' activities and assisting and supporting where necessary.
Scaffolding... support of students so that they can cope with the task situation. The strategy also entails the gradual withdrawal of teaching from the process, when the students can manage on their own.
Reflection: the student assesses and analyses his performance
Articulation: the results of reflection put into verbal form
Explorations: the students are encouraged to form hypotheses, to test them, and to find new ideas and view points.

I find this relevant to the way that we educate young TD's and theatre technicians, because I think we skip a few important steps in the process.
First, I think that both modeling and explanation can be lacking. For instance, when I was in grad school, there were students that believed that 1x3 couldn't be used to build flats because the shop we worked in used 1x4. There were particular reasons that the shop chose to use 1x4 instead of 1x3, but most students didn't think about it and "learned" that all flats should be build with 1x4.

Secondly, I think we skim on true reflection and articulation of performance. There has to be an allowance for things not going perfectly - it is academia after all, but there seems to often be an attitude that failure isn't an option.

With the number of MFA students that continue on to teaching future theatre students out there - I often wish that there was a little bit more focus on how to teach instead of just content.

1 comment:

  1. You should consider reading Jeroen van Merrienboer's _Ten Steps to Complex Learning_. Building off a constructivist understanding of learning, he presents a fantastic teaching model that utilizes scaffolding and whole-task learning to approach skills that integrate multiple different skills in complex ways. (I can't think of a better description of what it means to be a TD than to have to integrate multiple skillsets--engineering, drafting, negotiation, planning, etc.--into one overarching approach to a situation!)