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High School Internships: Challenges to the Common Wisdom David Thornton Moore New York University December 10, 2010.

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Presentation on theme: "High School Internships: Challenges to the Common Wisdom David Thornton Moore New York University December 10, 2010."— Presentation transcript:

1 High School Internships: Challenges to the Common Wisdom David Thornton Moore New York University December 10, 2010

2 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?

3 Forms of Experiential Learning Internships Service-learning Cooperative education Others: – Community-based research – Job shadowing – Career academies – Experience-based career education

4 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

5 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

6 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

7 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

8 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

9 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

10 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

11 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

12 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

13 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

14 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

15 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 team- oriented and collaborative – They did not do much planning, complex problem- solving, problem formulation, higher-order thinking

16 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

17 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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