I’ve just completed a six-month sabbatical (Jan-Jun 2010); I was in residence as a Visiting Professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design, usually known by its acronym “SCAD”. I stayed busy!
- I taught a couple of classes in a new creative MBA program (that’s actually an MFA) called “design management,” with the titles “facilitating creative thinking” and “managing the innovation process.”
- I worked on a campus-wide strategic initiative called the Collaborative Learning Center.
But most exciting for me was the research I did while there: I did an ethnography of their culture of teaching and learning for creativity. I videotaped studio classes, and interviewed professors and students. And because I was a professor there, I was a “participant observer” as the anthropologists would say.
Education researchers have long observed that many of our schools are dominated by a model of teaching and learning called instructionism: the teacher delivers relatively superficial information to passive students. This is a problem, because cognitive research suggests that students learn most effectively when they are active, particularly if we want them to learn deeper conceptual understanding, and how to think creatively with what they’ve learned.
So a few researchers have gone in search of “communities of practice” that have different, more active and participatory, approaches to teaching and learning. The most obvious one, found in many of the world’s cultures, is apprenticeship, and studies of apprenticeship have recently had a fairly strong impact on educational theory.
The model of teaching and learning at SCAD is closer to apprenticeship than it is to instructionism. But it’s really a totally new alternative to instructionism, a third way that you might call the studio model. What’s exciting is that many features of the studio model are surprisingly similar to the latest research about how to best teach math, science, and history. So I hope that what I’ve learned at SCAD can help us expand how we think about teaching and learning in all subject areas.
I’ve gathered a lot of research data, and in the next few years, I’ll be publishing articles analyzing the studio model and identifying important lessons for enhancing student learning across the board.