Working to Learn - the Apprenticeship Experience

Article excerpt

A working-to-learn experience allows students to apply classroom knowledge to the real world. With the guidance of faculty mentors, student apprentices assume various responsibilities, develop strategies for teaching and learning, and work under supervision.

The cooperative link between a student and a faculty mentor is an opportunity often provided within undergraduate programs at colleges and universities. Typically termed the "apprenticeship," it allows students to become involved in a class taught by a faculty member, to perform specific tasks, and to assess personal strengths and weaknesses. This direct involvement in teaching and learning allows an apprentice to gain greater firsthand awareness before the student teaching experience. Under the guidance of a mentor, students have a chance to apply classroom knowledge in a practical way.

In the Department of Health, Leisure and Exercise Science at Appalachian State University (Boone, NC), students preparing for a career in teaching must complete an apprenticeship, a two-hour laboratory course for one semester hour of credit. They are expected to take initiative, assume responsibility, and work cooperatively with a mentor in an activity course. At the outset, students attend a seminar which continues for six meetings scheduled at intervals during the semester. They also select faculty mentors. Guidelines are discussed (figure 1) and preliminary procedures detailed. Students then contact their faculty mentors and negotiate contracts which are signed, dated, and returned to the apprenticeship coordinator (figure 2).

Intended Benefits

This practical experience in teaching physical education activities under direct supervision is intended to offer student apprentices a variety of positive outcomes. Apprentices identify teacher behaviors appropriate to different situations; observe and analyze skill behavior; determine basic procedures required to conduct a course from beginning to end; formulate corrective feedback for learners; enhance planning and teaching skills; and provide a link between the students enrolled in the activity and the course instructors/mentors.

The seminar sessions provide discussion and interaction on topics such as career planning (interviewing, resume' writing, filing placement papers); the potential of graduate education; grading issues; discipline and classroom management strategies; teaching behaviors; state certification requirements; and student teaching. Guest lecturers and resources are featured when appropriate. Students are encouraged to take an active role in an occasional debate or structured discussion.

Expectations of Apprentices

Early in the experience, student apprentices are asked to write what they hope to gain from the cooperative link with their mentors in the activity course. They write that they expect to gain confidence in their teaching, expand their basic knowledge of the activity, explore varied strategies for organizing and presenting, and learn to relate successfully to their students. One apprentice expressed it this way:

This apprenticeship should provide me with the chance to gain confidence in my ability to teach. I will develop the skill as well as the authority to maintain a productive activity setting. I will learn from my mistakes and build on my strengths to become a better teacher. Figure 3 summarizes apprentices' expectations, expressed during the first seminar session.

Firsthand Impressions - A

Progress Report

Firsthand impressions of the apprentices as the experience began reflected anxiety, nervousness, uncertainty, and awkwardness with peers. Stress was evident, as the apprentices were "not the teacher and not the student" in th e activity course. (Figure 4 indicates an overview of typical firsthand impressions offered by apprentices.) Early in the experience, apprentices perceived the importance of be ing strong, positive role models who could assume responsibility and motivate students with a desire to succeed. …