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trade school not only seeks to do " practical " work, but en-
deavors to have it done on commercial orders, " to meet
the requirements of the market." The best agricultural
schools are to-day teaching the boys " farming," through
making them small farmers by means of the " home proj-
ect " method carried out on a commercial scale. Engineer-
ing colleges are striving to introduce a measure of practical
experience into their offerings by requiring students to de-
vote one or more vacations to the acquisition of practical
experience " in the field " before completing their work. A
few schools for the initial teaching of salesmanship (not ex-
tension courses for persons already employed) require that
the learner shall " work by selling " every Monday and Sat-
urday, and throughout the entire month of December (peri-
ods when opportunities in mercantile establishments can eas-
ily be procured). Almost all forms of vocational education
in very recent years have strenuously endeavored to increase



122 Vocational Education

their facilities for " practical work " notwithstanding the
very persistent opposition of the strongly entrenched teach-
ers of the technical subjects. The force back of the demand
for more practical work has been, of course, public opinion
and expressed requirements of employing authorities who
are always competing for that service which is most nearly
ready to meet their needs.

E. A fifth variety of school designed to procure basic
vocational training (technical knowledge plus practical ex-
perience) appears when the school, instead of attempting to
maintain hospitals, shops, farms, homes, offices, or sales-
rooms of its own, uses for its educational purposes commer-
cial or other " going " agencies already in existence. In
fact, the " home projects " in farming, and the use of de-
partment stores in teaching girls salesmanship included
under D above are somewhat of this order. The best
known examples are the " part-time " experiments in Fitch-
burg, Cincinnati, Beverly, and other places. Where contin-
uation school attendance is obligatory some devices have
been evolved which belong properly under this class. A few
colleges send their advanced or graduate students to serve as
apprentice teachers under the direction of the training insti-
tution, in the surrounding schools.

For each of the foregoing types of vocational schools,
doubtless, fundamental methods of organizing and conduct-
ing instruction and training of particular kinds will have to
be evolved. But, as has been noted before, back of all prob-
lems of vocational education lie certain fundamental prob-
lems growing out of the economic changes which, long per-
sistent, increase now at a geometrical rate of speed. Few
writers on education have as yet given adequate attention to
modern conditions which tend to increase regimentation of
production.

Types of Vocational Education. The simplest types of
teaching in vocational education, are, of course, to be found



Principles of Method in Vocational Education 123

when the elder worker, or more skilled worker, shows the
younger or less skilled. At bottom there exists in all per-
sons in some degree genuine instincts of teaching, other-
wise to be described as instincts of showing, leading, helping,
suggesting, instigating, directing, controlling, governing, or-
ganizing, commanding, etc. On the other hand, under the
right social stimulus, there doubtless also appear always the
" learning " instincts instincts of following, imitating,
yielding, inquiring, submitting to authority, desire to be
shown, etc. The operation of these social instincts can be
seen on any playground, in any school, shop, or other theater
of social activity.

The most complicated types of vocational teaching are to
be found in large schools of vocational training where teach-
ing functions are highly subdivided, where, for example,
one teacher, who, perhaps, has never practiced the vocation
itself, imparts certain technical knowledge, another directs
certain experimental work, and still a third supervises ini-
tial efforts at practice. Subdivision of vocational teaching
of this character can now be seen in normal schools, agricul-
tural colleges, medical colleges, schools of navigation, and
the like. In not a few commercial departments of high
schools, one teacher takes charge of stenography, another of
typewriting, a third of commercial law, a fourth of English.
A few of the larger trade schools exhibit similar tendencies.

An intermediate stage is found where one teacher or type
of teacher is responsible for " practice " and another for so-
called " theory " or the " related technical subjects." In a
few cases of half developed vocational schools, a teacher of
" manual exercises " has been found, who is not himself a
master of the trade being taught, but who could teach on a
manual training basis, some of the manual training activities
involved in it.

There are good grounds for believing that an ideal voca-
tional education, at least for the non-professional occupa-



124 Vocational Education

tions, can best be given by one person who is at once master
of its practical phases and at the same time intimately ac-
quainted with its technical aspects and who, with these pow-
ers combines a large vision as to the possibilities of the right
exercise of the calling, to affect for the better, society and
the personality of the worker. If we could find a worker
with this equipment who is also a gifted teacher, beginners,
at any rate, would, tinder his direction, probably grow faster
in vocational competency than in any other way. Some suc-
cessful experiments in agricultural education have been ex-
ecuted on this basis (based upon the " home project," the
pupils putting in something over half their time on these
home projects, visited by the teacher).

But there is little indication that this method of vocational
education will prove successful except in those two classes
of callings which in many respects are still in elemental or
primitive stages of evolution, namely, farming and home-
making. The same method should be capable of application
in many monotechnic industrial occupations (specialized
machine processes or subdivisions of trades), but teachers
equal to the responsibilities of this position are hardly yet
available.

It is highly probable that in most forms of vocational edu-
cation, teaching processes will be specialized and even that
others than teachers will be required for special phases -
business agents to take charge of the administration of work,
coordinators to arrange for and supervise, on behalf of the
school, pupils assigned to part time productive work in shops,
etc. Probably developments in this direction can best be
considered by taking the different classes of vocations suc-
cessively.

Vocational Education for Specialized Pursuits. It has

everywhere and always been the tendency for men advancing
in economic power to specialize their vocational pursuits.
This tendency is furthered by all exploration, invention, use



Principles of Method in Vocational Education 125

of capital, improvements in transportation, demands for su-
perior service, and the employment of regimental organiza-
tion in production.

We find early developments of territorial specialization of
production. Furs came from one quarter of the world,
spices from another, silks from a third. Complicated sys-
tems of exchange of commodities early appeared in the ef-
forts of men to obtain from the regions producing them re-
spectively precious metals, tin, copper, iron, wines, and dye-
stuffs. Later, the production of woolen goods, whale oil,
dried fish, leather goods, jewelry, and other art products
in localized communities laid the foundations for special-
ized production and commerce of the middle and later cen-
turies.

The application of steam power to manufacture and trans-
portation has enormously increased the processes of territo-
rial and personal specialization of production. Certain areas
and populations of the world are now engaged chiefly in
manufacture; others in trade and commerce; others in fish-
eries; others in production of temperate zone food prod-
ucts ; and still others, in growing tropical products for food
or manufacture.

The invention of machinery has been one large contrib-
uting factor to this process of specialization. Improve-
ments of rail and water transportation have been essential
to the development of any considerable territorial speciali-
zation of production. Power using tools have made neces-
sary large use of capital in production, thus causing each type
of industrial production to enlarge its units and, frequently,
to aggregate these in specialized communities e.g. cotton
products in Manchester, edge tools in Sheffield, firearms in
Connecticut, pottery in the Ohio Valley, meat packing in
Chicago and St. Louis, etc.

Agriculture tends always towards specialization. Fron-
tiersmen live by hunting and trapping ; their immediate sue-



126 Vocational Education

cessors support themselves by lumbering in some regions and
by stockraising in others. Tillage, often miscellaneous at
first, gradually settles down along the lines of production
most adapted to the locality cotton in the Southern states,
wheat in the northwest, fruit in California, cotton in the
Southern states, coffee in Brazil, bananas in Costa Rica, wine
in Italy and France. Experience and scientific inquiry re-
veal the desirability of " complementary " farming corn
and hogs, beets and cattle in individual units, for maxi-
mum use of either land or labor, and also of rotation of crops
for soil conservation. Concerted social action may prevent
overspecialization on one type production e.g. cotton in
Southern states and so tend to promote an "optimum"
diversification. But however far this may go, it is clear
that the future will see steady increase in specialized pro-
ducers from the soil.

In commerce and manufacture there seem to be no limits
to specialization of individual workers as regimentation de-
velops and mechanism is perfected. The application of
power has tended to make of the worker a " machine
tender " as one can say disparagingly, or a " machine user "
or controller if one thinks of the increased control of pro-
duction resulting. The driver of a locomotive, the pilot or
captain of a ship, the typewriter, the loom operator, the
hoisting mine engineer, the gunner firing a modern cannon,
the wireless operator, the street car motorman, the farmer
driving a harvester, the drill press operative and the book
pressman all have this in common each controls many
and involved processes through complicated and costly
machinery and in every case the enlargement of working
units and the perfection of devices tends to simplify his
work and to enable him to give his fullest attention to the
immediate service he is employed to render.

The degree of native and of acquired intelligence called
for in each case as well as capacity to take responsibility



Principles of Method in Vocational Education 127

necessarily varies. We think of any man or woman but
not a child as being capable of caring for, and using, a
watch, a cookstove, or a sewing machine. We look with
more solicitude after the qualifications of one offering to
drive an automobile, a team and mowing machine, a steam
drill, a planer, a street car, an office-building elevator, or a
loom. Only to exceptional men do we entrust the naviga-
tion of a ship, the drawing of an express passenger train,
the boring of large cannon, the operation of a newspaper
printing press, or the rolling of heavy plates. But wherever
we can simplify the work of the machine director, make his
tools " fool proof," diminish the element of the " personal
equation," we do so and our action in that direction ac-
cords with the best efforts of civilized society to transfer,
first to beasts of burden, and then to inanimate forces, the
drudgery of production. It may be that sometimes we keep
the young worker too long with one tool, that a certain
amount of shifting would give a better " physical and intel-
lectual development from work," and that our means of find-
ing the maximum use for the abilities of any one individual
are not yet at all what they should be. But these constitute
problems of adjustment, not to be solved by the restoration
of the conditions of hard production formerly prevailing.

It would not be wholly illogical to assume the existence of
a fundamental social tendency towards such harnessing of
natural forces that eventually man would be called upon to
perform no drudgery. This has long been the dream of
toil worn humanity when it should arrive at the land flowing
with milk and honey, the New Jerusalem beyond the grave
where none need work, and where each artistic soul " in his
separate star shall paint the thing as he sees it, for the God
of things as they are."

But for the present we cannot escape the conviction that
man's increasing wants tend at least to keep pace with his
increasing productivity, and that therefore the development



Vocational Education

of greater earning power (in terms of want-supplying com-
modities) does not lead to diminution of effort. This is
especially seen among prosperous farmers, middle class pro-
fessional men, and operators with moderate amounts of cap-
ital everywhere. The effects of specialized production upon
the probable needs for, and character of, vocational educa-
tion are referred to elsewhere. What the effects will be on
methods of training and instruction it is too early to predict.
In many cases it will greatly increase the needs and require-
ments of managerial education. For others it creates acute
needs for specialized training in skill, and especially for
situations involving combinations of speed and skill. We
are now within sight of practicable experimental investiga-
tions here.

The "Project" as a Teaching Unit For purposes of

school-room administration, the subject matter used to real-
ize any particular purpose in education must be broken up
into subdivisions so as to form serviceable " teaching units."
Broadly speaking, a subject itself is such a unit e.g. his-
tory, American history, geography, French. An amount of
one of these subjects suitable or convenient for a year's
work (or other long period) gives us the "course" an-
other type of unit. We speak of a course in First-year
French, Advanced Mathematics, etc. Also, for purposes
of convenience, we divide courses into subdivisions of vari-
ous sorts e.g. the book, part, chapter (at least in the text-
book), section, topic, lesson, etc. For pedagogical rather
than administrative reasons, these divisions are also often
broken up into sections, such as definitions, exercises, expla-
nations, assigned readings, references, rules, questions, vo-
cabularies, conspectuses, tables, etc.

Now the primary purpose of making all these divisions
and subdivisions is, of course, some form of efficiency
efficiency of organization, of accessibility, of mastery. Usu-
ally, as in all other forms of activity, we prefer to have the



Principles of Method in Vocational Education 129

dividing lines or boundaries in educational subject-matter
fall where nature itself or the work of man has created chan-
nels, cleavages, or natural classifications. But if this cannot
be done, we create purely arbitrary divisions. To use com-
parable situations in other fields, we find that a grain of
wheat, a natural subdivision of " wheat," is too small for
practicable handling, but a " field " of wheat too large.
Hence we arbitrarily subdivide into bushels, centals, or
" sacks " where " manhandling " is necessary. But in ren-
dering a beef portable we first naturally " quarter " it, and
these we again divide, partly along natural lines. For ease
of ascent we break a steep slope up into " steps " and we also
often create larger divisions by landings.

Sometimes we find we have pushed the subdividing pro-
cess too far or in wrong directions. We are trying to blend
elementary algebra and geometry, botany and zoology, etc.
Or we subdivide what before was merged e.g. physical
geography and commercial geography, English language and
English literature, etc. We have given up the old catecheti-
cal unit the question and the answer; and in such subjects
as geography and history, the lesson (which was usually
based on one day's working energy of the child in a stated
subject, and hence could rarely be a " natural " unit) has
largely disappeared. It can still be retained in reading and
" language lessons " because these consist largely of exer-
cises which can be cut off at any point suggested by the lim-
itations of energy on the part of the learner.

The importance of having good teaching units in educa-
tion is no less than is the importance of having good working
subdivisions of time, matter, force, distance, difficulty, etc.,
in practical activities elsewhere.

In packing goods we devise packages adapted to, or con-
trolled by, the conditions to be met. A box or small crate
of cantaloupes may be very light for a man to carry, but a
larger box would result in damage to the melons. But



130 Vocational Education

these small boxes can be crated for handling by trucks.
Wheat is sacked in bags adapted to a strong man who must
" use no hooks " ; while fabrics can be boxed in packages that
no man can lift because truck handling with hooks is prac-
ticable. The size of a newspaper, the weight of a volume,
the length of a sermon, the duration of a call, the size of a
" portion " of food, the height of a table, the width of a
farm, the length of a day's work, the height of a room all
these units or divisions are the resultants of certain natural
conditions working in greater or less opposition to man's
forces and necessities. They all represent compromises,
gravitating towards optimum standards.

Varieties of Teaching Units. But in the organization
of the " means " of education the studies, lectures, " tell-
ings," discussions, experiments, exercises, assigned read-
ings, memorizings, reports, activities, problems, trials, tests,
examinations, etc., through which w r e achieve our desired
ends we have given, as yet, insufficient attention to the or-
ganization of effective teaching units of the smaller kind
those that would be especially significant to the learner.
The " question and answer " unit as seen at its best in
the catechism was the smallest unit ever devised. It was
in part definitely pedagogical and in part definitely logical.
It was eminently suited to an age in which authority was the
source of all knowledge for the learner, and verbal memor-
ization the chief means of fixing in the minds of each new
generation the dogmas and other authoritative teachings of
the older generation. This unit had also the peculiar ad-
vantage of being most easily handled by unskilled and unin-
formed teachers.

The " lesson " unit was in part a pedagogical unit that
is, based upon the powers and weaknesses of learners
rather than a logical unit that is, based upon the inherent
characteristics of subject matter. It was, of course, not a
true pedagogical unit that is, taking account of all of the



Principles of Method in Vocational Education 131

characteristics to be found in the child as active learner; it
might be called a unit based roughly upon the capacity of the
learner to give attention, to endure application, or to give
working time. It was, in other words, a convenient task, a
sort of day's work, so far as a particular kind of activity
was concerned. It was often an arbitrarily sliced-off por-
tion of subject matter, and represented frequently no logical
division of that subject matter at all resembling, there-
fore, as a unit, a stated length of board or cloth, or a slice of
bread rather than tree trunk, a garment or a biscuit.

The " topic " which in many studies succeeded the lesson
as the teaching unit of chief importance was especially
characterized by its logical relation to some larger unit or
" whole " of subject matter, while at the same time it was
endeavored in it to take account of the possible focusing of
interests and the intellectual " spanning powers " of young
learners. In many respects it was therefore an advance
upon units previously developed. It lent itself especially
well to teaching in which some reasoning, inference, and
comparison on the part of the learner was sought in lieu
of the verbal memorizing which had formerly prevailed.

A few years ago some of us began Using the word " proj-
ect " to describe a unit of educative work in which the most
prominent feature was some form of positive and concrete
achievement. The baking of a loaf of bread, the making
of a shirtwaist, the raising of a bushel of corn, the making of
a table, the installation of an electric bell outfit all these,
when so undertaken by learners and handled by teachers as
to result in a large acquisition of knowledge and experience,
were called projects. Projects of this kind might be indi-
vidual or joint (cooperative). They might be executed in
an ordinary lesson period or they might claim the efforts of
the learner for one or more hours per day for several weeks.

The following were the primary characteristics of proj-
ects as thus conceived: (a) the undertaking always pos-



132 Vocational Education

sessed a certain unity; (b) the learner himself clearly con-
ceived the practical end or outcome to be attained, and it
was always expected that this outcome was full of interest
to him, luring him on, as to a definite goal to be won; (c)
the standards of achievement were clearly objective so
much so that the learner and his fellows could, in large part,
render valuable decisions as to the work in an amateur
or in a commercial sense of the product; and (d) the un-
dertaking was of such a nature that the learner, in achieving
his desired ends, would necessarily have to apply much of
his previous knowledge and experience perhaps hereto-
fore not consciously held as usable in this way (e.g. art,
science, mathematics, special tool skill) and probably
would have to acquire also some new knowledges and
skills.

As in many other forms of learning, the objectives held
in view by learner and teacher were often unlike. What the
learner imagined as an end the teacher conceived often as a
means to some remoter end.

The Project in Vocational Education In the early

stages of the development of certain forms of agricultural
and industrial vocational education, a number of educators
favored the project as the chief pedagogic unit of organiza-
tion. In a sense any concrete job undertaken in a voca-
tional school where the realization of valuable results in
product constitutes an important end, might be called a
" project " ; but to be an " educational project " such a job,
e.g. turning a spindle, wiring a room, growing a half acre
of potatoes, taking commercial charge of three cows for a
year, cooking family breakfasts for a month, making ten
saleable shirtwaists, cooperatively building and selling a
cottage, etc., must be of such a nature as to offer large oppor-
tunity, not only for the acquisition of new skill and expe-
rience in practical manipulation, but also for application of
old, and learning of new, "related knowledge" art, sci-



Principles of Method in Vocational Education 133

ence, mathematics, administration, hygiene, social science,
etc.

The alternatives to the project as a teaching unit in voca-
tional education are several, nearly all of which are exem-
plified in any commercial school. They include: (a) the
" practical exercise," the processes of which resemble in many
respects the actual processes of the practical world, e.g.
typewriting, stenographic drill, bookkeeping exercises, but
which give no marketable or otherwise usable product; (b)
technical subjects, organized topically, but commonly not
definitely related to practical exercises then being considered,
e.g. commercial arithmetic, business English; (c) joint
enterprises of practical but nonproductive character, e.g.
commercial school banks, or offices; and (d) jobs on a
" gang " basis, largely for the commercially profitable ends
of the institutions (not found in commercial schools, but of-
ten characteristic of the " practical " agricultural school with
a large farm, and of institutions, as seen in chair caning,
tailoring, gardening, dish- washing, etc. ) .

In industrial schools the alternatives to the project chiefly
found are: (a) the practical job contributing towards build-



Online LibraryDavid SneddenVocational education → online text (page 11 of 48)